Sanjay Beri is founder and CEO of Netskope which is a leading cloud access security broker. The company has raised $400 million at a $1B+ valuation. Investors include Lightspeed, Accel, Social Capital, and ICONIQ. Prior to this, Sanjay was the co-founder of one of the world’s first data center encryption companies, Ingrian Networks, which was acquired by SafeNet.
In this episode you will learn:
The chief enemy of innovation
The key ingredients to keep growing at scale
The four cornerstones of a great startup
How to deal with the politics of sales
The #1 piece of advice to carry with you when starting your own company
About Sanjay Beri:
Sanjay brings more than two decades of innovation and success in the cloud, networking, and security industries.
His unique business sense, technical acumen, vision for the future of the industry, and unwavering focus on culture have contributed to his building a world-class team and iconic company as founder and CEO of Netskope.
Prior to Netskope, Sanjay was VP & GM of Juniper Networks’ secure access business unit, driving it to market leadership throughout his tenure.
He is also the co-founder of one of the world’s first data center encryption companies, Ingrian Networks, and has held leadership positions across numerous other security and networking companies.
Connect with Sanjay Beri:
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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today, we have a founder that is going to teach us a lot about security networking. I think that he has a very interesting background, very diverse, and many, many things that he has done throughout his professional and entrepreneurial career. So, without further ado, I’d like to welcome our guest today, Sanjay Beri. Welcome to the show today.
Sanjay Beri: Thank you very much, and great to be with you, Alejandro.
Alejandro: So, originally, Sanjay, from Toronto. How was life growing up there?
Sanjay Beri: Life was great. Toronto is an amazing place. It’s very agricultural and diverse. A sprite people, you know, home of the NBA champions this year. So, we’re all very happy. Actually, a driving tech community nowadays. A great place. A great place to go to school. I went to Waterloo, and they had a great start for me.
Alejandro: Got it. Really cool. So, let’s talk about Waterloo. You were doing computer engineering, so how did you develop this love for computers?
Sanjay Beri: When you think about it – and growing up, I mention this. My first job before I went to University after I was delivering papers for 15 years was working at Microsoft in the IT shop to gain some money to go to college. Throughout that time, the ’90s, everybody was talking about the innovations people were making, whether it was tele mobile devices, laptops, computers, software. So, for a lot of us, a very exciting world. You could see it was the harbinger of where you wanted to be. But, frankly, a lot of us didn’t know a lot about it. So, I think going to computer engineering – it was one of the first years they actually had such a degree. For us, it was extremely exciting to be at that forefront of what would become a huge industry. That’s why.
Alejandro: Then, you graduated from here, and then you went to California. Why did you make the move?
Sanjay Beri: Yes, I definitely did graduate from Waterloo. [Laughter] The great thing about Waterloo is you can leave for four months and go work. So, I lived in the U.S. while I was in Waterloo. I moved to Seattle for a year, a year-and-a-half, worked at Microsoft as a developer. I went back to Ottawa, Montreal. Worked at some other companies. By the time I left, I had explored different areas in the world, and for myself, the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, I felt like that’s where it is. For what I want to do, that’s where I want to be. As part of that, I also knew that I wanted to take my hand at doing a Master’s. When I went to Stanford, and I saw the one-mile of palm trees if you compare it to my old university of Waterloo, which the engineering was a bomb shelter, you kind of went, “Wow. Okay.” So, I said, “I’ll go to California in the Valley, and try to learn more at Stanford.” That was the goal.
Alejandro: Were you shocked with the environment and with the mentality of hypergrowth and innovation that you encountered there?
Sanjay Beri: Yes. Other than being shocked with the number of the massive land, how beautiful everything was, yeah, definitely. What was amazing was just the amount of connectivity you could make to other entrepreneurs, other much more seasoned people, leaders in companies. It was just a very open environment, and I found more so than even what I learned at Stanford, which I mentioned what I learned at Stanford – one of the things I learned was I wasn’t a very good engineer. You just meet amazing people, and you have the ability to learn a lot. Not only tech but about business, about funds, you can gain great mentors. Yeah. A great experience.
Alejandro: I believe that this experience actually opened your eyes about the world of entrepreneurship, and you decided to start your first business. So, how did this happen?
Sanjay Beri: While at Stanford, with a professor at Stanford, we started our first company, and it was a security company. Before that, and then that’s where my career in security was born. I did it out of two reasons: 1) That was always what I liked to do. I like to build, innovate, and the chance to do it in that environment with some great people; I wanted to go do it. I did that while going to school. One of the things since I ended high school, I’d been working fulltime while going to school. I helped myself pay my way through school, but also, I just felt like the best learning was in the industry. Yeah, just a great experience. I learned a lot in that experience, good and bad. What not to do and what to do. I call it more valuable than any degree I ever got.
Alejandro: Absolutely. What was exactly the business model here of this business?
Sanjay Beri: Basically, it was an encryption company selling to enterprises. So, we powered a lot of the online retailers, and we were performing encryption of their sensitive data and their data centers. The model at that time was basically we sell them a box that performs this encryption with our software on it. They scaled by the capacity and number of boxes. The world is very different now. Our model is all subscription, no hardware, but back then, that’s what it was. It was sales teams on the ground selling to very large enterprises, and so you learned on the street, how do you really get business done in an enterprise. It’s not just about the product. It’s about a lot more. So, it was a great experience.
Alejandro: And the name of the business, Ingrian Networks. So, how did you guys capitalize the business? Did you guys raise any money?
Sanjay Beri: Yeah. It was venture-funded.
Alejandro: So, what kind of VCs invested in the business?
Sanjay Beri: Traditional VCs like early-stage to mid-CVCs. Like, for example, in our business day we have folks like Lightspeed, Excel, and others. Those types of VCs: early Series A, B, C-type VCs. Obviously, most of them have moved much later nowadays, where they’re investing all the way to public almost. But back then, those were the types of VCs that invested.
Alejandro: Got it. So, why did you guys decide to sell the business?
Sanjay Beri: I think one of the things I learned through that experience was building a great product is , but how you structure and how you scale your company from a go-to-market point of view is super important. How you build that large channel and system-integrated channel. So, I would say that one of the reasons that the company was sold was , but had a lot of work to do on how you build that go-to-market structure. As with many companies who maybe aren’t going to go all the way, in this case, it was sold so they could get a larger go-to-market structure, sales team, and frankly, they could integrate with a larger portfolio of product rather than trying to sell a point product because many large enterprises, obviously, they want a platform. So, those are some of the reasons.
Alejandro: Then you decide to move on, and McAfee was next. You did a couple of stints here, so you were doing marketing, sales, and product in several companies. So, what did you learn, for example, at McAfee, or let’s say at another company like Juniper Networks, which were the two most immediate steps before you founded your big, big business?
Sanjay Beri: Yeah. Absolutely. At Juniper, which is where I was for around seven-plus years. I started more in the product management area, so running the products, direction, working with customers, then ran marketing, and then for five years, I ran a business unit. A business unit was literally, you showed up every quarter, and you had your report-out numbers. You have PNL. You’re responsible for making sure you’re driving product, you’re driving the sales, and the people. So, you’re running this business. For me, that let me do it at scale. Understanding how to do things at scale is very important. How you build a channel, how you incent people, how you think about how important culture is. Having seen so many companies, that drove my realization of how important culture was. So, I think at Juniper, what I learned was really how to run a business from all facets, and it was great. It gave me the experience to play all those roles, and then for the last five years run and drive that business at scale, and pair that with doing that from the beginning. I feel like those experiences prepped me for building what I feel will be part of the security industry and my legacy, which is Netskope.
Alejandro: So, when you’re building a business at scale, what are the key ingredients that need to be in place in order to have the innovation moving effectively?
Sanjay Beri: One thing I’ll tell you is, some of your best learnings are through realizations or seeing when you don’t do it right. Everything that built me up to starting Netskope, I viewed the good and the bad as my biggest learnings. One of the biggest things, to answer your question directly, is culture. You know, the thing I start with? When I think about a company, I think about four things: team, which is team and culture. I think about vision and product. I think about go to market, and I think about the corporate foundation, the company foundation. So, the first: team and culture. I’ve been very focused and dogmatic that the culture that I believe will thrive in our specific case and in our industry is very open, very collaborative, no politics, no bureaucracy. I feel it’s the enemy of innovation. So, one of our focuses was, build that company with that culture. Easier said than done. When you scale, sometimes you deviate, and you’ve got to stomp it out. You’ve got to make it front-of-mind that culture is important. I feel it’s one of the biggest competitive advantages. For example, in the security industry where you just don’t have that across most companies – that good culture. So, that’s my #1 thing: culture. You bring people on that fit that culture, and I give this analogy to everybody we hire. Do not hire a person who is a 10 out of 10 in domain and expertise, but a 7 out of 10 in culture. Hire the opposite. Hire the person who’s a 10 on culture and maybe a 7 or 8 on domain because culture will get you through everything. So, that’s my #1 thing in building a company. Then, just to carry this forward – I hope it’s not too long an answer. The second is a product and a vision. When I started Netskope, my goal was a long-term vision. I did not want to build a company like my previous company that got sold. I didn’t want to build a company that was a niche product. I wanted to build a large, iconic, independent company that would stand the test of time. So, you have to be very clear about what you want to do. It is perfectly okay not to do that – to build a company that you want to sell and flip. That’s not what I wanted to do, and so making sure the vision of your company both from a what are you going to do, and you’re going to stand the test of time – then shoot, in our case, big. Go after disrupting the large industry. You have to have that vision and product very clear to the next level of detail on how you’re going to do it. And you have to be careful. Don’t listen to people too much. You have your views, and they’ve been espoused with your history. You get a lot of great advice, but you have a lot of people telling you to turn left or right, and you’ve really got to hold your guns and do what you believe in. That comes with it. You know, roadblocks, but you’ve just got to really keep that culture, keep that vision, power through it, build a great product, and then half of the battle or more is, go to market. If you don’t have a great sales team and you don’t understand how to sell, you don’t have a great channel, and so on, and you haven’t enabled them, then it won’t work. So, culture, product, vision, go to market. Then the last one, and I’ll stop. I’m very passionate about this subject is, you have to pick your investors and your board very carefully. Pick them like you pick your employee or your team member. If they don’t match and believe in the same culture, you believe in, or your long-term vision, don’t do it. In the Valley, sometimes, there are too many people who are picking it based on valuations. Don’t do that. Do it based on 1) people that you’d go to war with that literally fit your culture and believe in your company. Not everybody will, and that’s fine, but pick those people. Get to know them for a long time, and then bring them in. That builds a great corporate foundation. Those are the four things.
Alejandro: Got it. Now, going back to your experience. Here you are at Juniper networks. At what point do you start to think, “Maybe I want to go out and start this idea I have in mind?”
Sanjay Beri: Yeah. It’s a good question. Towards the last year at Juniper. I always had the itch to do this. In fact, even at Juniper, my business unit was very entrepreneurial. We were building new product. We were trying to educate people on how to sell it. So, for me, I kind of had that itch always in the last few years there. It was really in the last six months when I coalesced, “I’ve got to go do this.” I believed that all my learnings, successes, failures today had prepped me for it. So, when I did that, there was only one person I had to convince, and that was my wife, and she was fully on board. She got it. She understood why I always wanted to do this. So, then I left, and when I left, I didn’t have any funding. I didn’t have my co-founder, team members yet. I knew I knew what I wanted to do. I knew that the industry was changing as they transformed digitally. So, I just saw that opportunity, and I left. Then from there, started building.
Alejandro: Did you have any children at that point?
Sanjay Beri: I did not. I had my daughter two years – yeah, it would be like two years into starting Netskope.
Alejandro: Otherwise, probably the conversation with your wife would have been a little more tense.
Sanjay Beri: Yes. I’d probably have to convince my daughter at that point. Luckily, I didn’t have to do that.
Alejandro: So then, let’s talk about Netskope. How did you meet the other members in the founding team?
Sanjay Beri: First of all, when I left, and I spent a month or so just refining and putting in place what I wanted to do, I then knew who I wanted as co-founders. To be specific, the people that I picked were technical people. They were architects. The people who actually do the work in the beginning – who build the product. These were people like Krishna, for example. I had known him for 10+ years. He was the humblest person you’ll ever meet, yet he was one of the most accomplished engineering architects. He was super well-respected, tons of patents, and total cultural fit. Ravi Ithal, same thing. He was one of the early people at a company called Palo Alto Networks. They were security people. They fit our culture, and I’ve known them through either directly or through others. Those were the types of people that I knew would be with me for a long time, and they would go through the ups and downs because building a company is not easy. Most importantly, having the skill set. They had the culture, determination, and willingness, and want, and hunger to do it. So, that’s how I went about talking to them, and they then joined.
Alejandro: Got it. So, how were the early days like?
Sanjay Beri: The early days were a Starbuck’s office with an umbrella outside in the Valley where we literally would meet. We’d have our own personal computers, and we would talk through things about what we were building because, in the beginning, you’re building your product. You are talking to and focusing and honing in on that product. We always had our grand vision. We knew what we wanted to do, but got to build a product first – discussions at Starbucks and beyond. I had also gotten to know many investors over the years and people that I could trust, the people that I liked, and also working with them to eventually get our first and second round of financing. So, those were the early days, scraping, building, and just driving.
Alejandro: So, what ended up being the business model for the listeners to understand?
Sanjay Beri: Yeah. So, our business model was that we would sell to mid to large enterprises, so 1,000 people. We would sell them a solution that would secure their software service, basically, Cloud. We went after the area called Cloud Security. Our model was, we were a subscription, so no hardware. We would secure the Cloud from the Cloud, and it would be a per-user by year subscription model. So, nowadays, everything’s like that in the SaaS world. But in the security world, that was not normal. Most people were selling boxes, putting it on-premise. When we were doing this, this was sort of different and a little revolutionary.
Alejandro: So then, what were some of the challenges that you guys were encountering?
Sanjay Beri: One is, when you start something from scratch, and you have in the security industry these public companies, and after the first – we had our first set of people. The first thing is what people are buying into is your vision. You don’t have a product. So, when you recruit people, they have to believe in that. They have to believe in you and the vision. So, it was just educating them on that, get the next level of people, talking to in the Valley the investors who I knew. For me, I know that an investor and a board member can ruin your company. I always believed that you’ve got to find the people who are the right cultural fit. So, talking to them, explaining to them what we’re building, the market, how we’re going to go build a great go to market eventually. Those were the challenges. A lot of education. A lot of, frankly, talking to people, finding the right time for them to join, finding the right time to get investment, and so on. Yeah, everything was a challenge.
Alejandro: So, when you’re thinking about sharing your vision and onboarding folks, and perhaps even investors, how do you think about storytelling? How important is storytelling?
Sanjay Beri: Yeah. Those four things that I said: team, product, and vision, go to market, and your company foundation, I told my story that way. 1) What is an investor who is looking at a bunch of PowerPoints and doesn’t have the product, or customers looking at? They are looking at you, and they’re looking at your team members, and they’re saying, “Who are these people?” Obviously, when you got to know them. “Do they have what it takes to do what they’re saying? Do they have the intestinal fortitude? Do they have smarts? Do they have the right mix of people? 1) They’ve got to believe in your team. 2) They have to believe in your vision. Our vision was to change and transform the Cloud Data Network Security industry, and they have to understand that and believe in that vision. So many investors have their own thesis on what happens in these markets, and their thesis needs to, at some level, align with yours. So, those are the two most important things. Then, obviously, later on, then you can actually build a large team to go sell it. But that’s what they were looking for. So, I told that story of the industry we’re changing. Why did we put these people together and they’re the ones who can do it, and I was very clear with them that “Don’t come to Netskope if you’re looking for a company that sells itself. You’ve got to come somewhere and be part of us if you believe in the long-term vision and building a true large public company.” So, that filtered a lot of people by the way.
Alejandro: I can imagine. One thing I thought was really interesting is, you guys founded the business around October 2012, but already in January of 2013, you literally raised the Series A with social capital. How did this happen, Sanjay? That’s not normal.
Sanjay Beri: I’m a believer that in that day they’re betting on you, and they’re betting on your team. So, even when you think about our A, when you think about our B with Lightspeed, I got to know them many years ahead like through business, through building my network in the Valley so that when you look across at somebody, an investor across the table, you are trusting them with your future and being on your board, and they’re trusting you. The reason I was able to do it quickly, I got to know these people ahead of time. I got to know who they were, and they got to know me both my skill set, my enterprise, my drive. So, it wasn’t like the last time you want to go and try to raise capital is when you need it in the sense of that’s when you’re starting the conversation. That doesn’t work well for you in your ability to evaluate these investors and are they the right people for your business and your culture that you want to build. But it’s the same thing for them. That’s why; I got to know them. Then, it wasn’t about vetting, are we the right people? It was more about the idea at that point, and in our case, these organizations believed that was the future: the removal of your perimeter of your enterprise and making a Cloud edge. They believed in that. So, those are some of the reasons it was able to happen.
Alejandro: Because all in all, how much capital have you guys raised, Sanjay, that is reported?
Sanjay Beri: We’ve raised just over 400 million in capital.
Alejandro: Wow. That’s quite an amount. Can you walk us through all the different rounds you guys have done, and what did you learn from each one of the financing milestones?
Sanjay Beri: Yeah, sure. I’ll group them. In your first round, they’re truly betting, like I said, on you. Then they’re directionally aligned with the vision. In my Series B and C, I brought in Lightspeed and then Excel, two of the best, in my view, investors in the Valley. The reality is the same thing. Culturally, they’re investing in you again, the team. At that point, you have a larger team, you’re closer to product when you’re in your B and C Rounds, or maybe you have product. In that Round, they’re investing in the team, number one. But they’re also investing in proof points, meaning they can talk to customers who will validate that what you’re building is what they need. So, you’re putting in front of them, actually, some of your early people who you were working with when you’re refining your product, or they’re going to be your early beta testers. So, you’re putting in, for our case, CIOs or Chief Security Officers who could attest to that. That’s what they were looking for: product, vision, being aligned and having industry validation of that. Then, of course, always the team is #1. That’s how I thought of those early rounds. Then we just closed what I call a late stage round. We didn’t necessarily need the capital, but one of the interesting things is, every round for me, the same investors. Did we let in, for example, a later round, a newer one, ICONIQ? Yes. But the same ones that have been with me since the beginning, they have always led or participated in the round. So, as you get to your later rounds, your ideal is that your existing investors, they always believe in your vision and your people, and now, they know everything about your company, and they have seen, “Wow. This is coming true. There’s success.” And they keep wanting to invest more. What I decided to do was keep my board very small in the sense of investors, and that let me be very agile. I brought on an independent since he was actually my first board member to round out the board. Then what I did later on in the later changes like D, E, I brought on investors who could help us in a very specific way. For example, we brought on an investor that helped in Japan. We were entering Japan in our later stages. We wanted help in the go-to-market side. We brought on an investor that would help in Latin America and Baza. So, in the later stages, it’s more about your go to market, and your success, and your numbers, and how you’re building that sales funnel and channel and flywheel. So, that’s how I break it up: team, vision in the beginning, team, and product, and proof points. Then your go-to-market capability, your sales, and your numbers, how you’re building that channel, and then how you’re expanding your portfolio to have more product. That’s how I break up the A, B to C, D, E Rounds, and what they look for.
Alejandro: Something interesting here, Sanjay, is the case that you’re a Canadian that goes to the Bay Area, and then all of the sudden, you’re building your network from nothing. I’ve experienced that as well as a Spaniard coming here to New York City, and it’s not easy. I know that there are a lot of people here that are listening and wondering how did Sanjay, how was he able to land people like Excel, Lightspeed, social capital, and so forth. How did he build his network? What kind of tips, Sanjay, would you give people listening?
Sanjay Beri: It is a great question. First of all, I think if you’re sometimes in the Valley, or even in the scene in certain cities, it’s a little easier because you’re in the midst. For example, if you’re trying to raise capital from Valley, and you live in Denver, it’s harder. So, one, I had the advantage of physically being here, and working here for a while, and building my connectivity. So, how did I do that? 1) I made sure I was networking. From a customer point of view building my network, I did that because that’s when I was learning the business since I met them. But from a VC side, I made sure that I attended some of those events. Some of the people who became VCs, they’re background is they worked at these companies too. They worked in the industry. So, in some cases, I knew these people from the industry, and I got to know them, and then they went into the venture capital world. It’s usually rarer now that somebody is a VC and they’re a lifelong VC. A lot of them have some kind of operating experience. They come from the industry. So, one of the best ways to get to know the next generation of VCs is, make sure that your industry connectivity is strong to executives, to others. So, I made sure I did that. I made sure that I got to know some of the investors through networking. Maybe a friend knows that investor. “Let me just talk to them about what they’re seeing in the industry? Why would they want to meet me?” Well, what’s in it for them is that they get access to a view of the world. In industry, I could tell them what’s going on in the networking security world. They want information. Information is the lifeblood for them of their investment thesis. So, yeah, just focus on that network, building it, industry, and in the venture world, and you’ve really got to put effort. It doesn’t happen by accident. And don’t do it when you need it. It’s my #1 thing. If you think you’re going to do something in ten years, start building that network now.
Alejandro: Yeah. That’s very powerful there, Sanjay. We both know that the journey is not easy. It’s not as easy as they put it on TechCrunch or all these tech plugs where you see, “Ah, you know. This guy’s killing it,” or “This company’s killing it.” There’s a lot of sweat and tears that happen. For you, Sanjay, looking back what was perhaps a moment that it was challenging, it was a breakdown that really led to a really interesting breakthrough?
Sanjay Beri: First of all, there have been many. I kind of tell anybody that building a company is not easy. You go home, and there are so many times where – I’ll just give you examples of things. You’re building your product, and you architected it a certain way in the beginning. Then midway, you realize, “Oh gosh, I did something wrong, and it isn’t going to work. We’ve got to rip that out and do it over.” Maybe a big company, you could do that. But in a small company, that’s a big thing because you have a handful of people, and so there are those moments when you realize, by gaining more knowledge, that, “Wow. You know what? That’s going to slip.” Or “I’ve got to do that differently. Oh, no.” On the go-to-market side the same thing. You set a goal. You want to build and have this many customers. You want to build a channel this way. It’s always slower from a go-to-market perspective in terms of making and building that engine. When you have your own personal, “I’m going to do it by this time,” and then you hit roadblocks. Maybe like a big company comes in and says, “Hey, don’t bother with that company. You know what? We’ll give you x, y, z. You spent 100 million dollars with us. Why are you looking at that company?” When you are building a company disrupting others, you are like just a little ant, and all of the bigger ones want to step on you. That’s what you’ll see. So, you have to have the intestinal fortitude to know that you’re going to fight politics in companies where these entrenched vendors have decades of relationships, and even if you have a better product, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to fight that and just persist. You know what? In some cases, you’re not going to beat the politics. Those are the most, sometimes, disconcerting when you go, “Man! We had the right product; we had the fit, but we just didn’t have the relationship. Then you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and go, “You know what? That’s the way the world is.” So, all of those experiences, the product, the go to market, the fighting politics, they can really wear you down, but I think the #1 thing for an entrepreneur to know is to know that that is normal. Number two is, you’ve got to just stay true to your vision and fight through it, and look at it and go, “You know what? Why didn’t we think of designing it that way the first time? Maybe we weren’t thinking the right way, or maybe we didn’t have the right person in this domain on the go-to-market side. Why did we not fight through those politics? Hey, maybe we need to form our connectivity to these folks in a better way and change how we think about gaining that advantage. The channel – how do we use that to our advantage that they already have a lot of business with these other vendors. How do we turn that against our competitors?” So, I think it is, take every roadblock, and take what you can in the learnings, and then try to figure out, how do I use that in the future to my advantage? I tell people, it’s not for the faint of heart. Everybody I brought, in the beginning, I said, “Look. Don’t come here if you’re faint of heart because you’re going to hit these every day.”
Alejandro: I hear you. So, going back to Netskope. How big is Netskope today, Sanjay?
Sanjay Beri: Yeah, Netskope. We’re just over 800 people. We are over a quarter of the Fortune 100, our customers. We have offices now in every continent. So, we’ve grown. We’re in the Forbes top 100 Cloud companies. These are all great proof points for our company and success. The one thing I feel super proud of is just that we’ve been able to maintain our culture through that growth. We haven’t sacrificed our core principles, and that means a lot to me. So, that’s the scale we are. To be blunt, we’re small. I mean, in the grand scale of things, we’re sometimes fighting companies that are 20 thousand people. We are also self-aware that we’re just beginning, and we have a lot to prove, and a long road to go.
Alejandro: So, talking about company growth, Sanjay, and obviously incredible growth of the business, how have you been able to grow yourself as well as a leader?
Sanjay Beri: One of the first things that I realized very early in my career through people that I worked with, looking across, was that I wanted to hire people who fit that open, collaborative culture. As you grow, you have politics, and you have people with [36:42]. I don’t want any of that. One reason I’m able to grow is you hire people who are better than you and in every domain. Hire people who are on the sales side better than you, and on the channel side. One of the things of why I was able to scale was a) to find the right people from a cultural point of view who are great at what they do and really make sure that I empowered them. I’m not a micromanager. Let them do what they know they can do. Let them be entrepreneurs. Let them own their domains, and obviously make sure we’re stitched together, we’re aligned. I always tell them, “I’m here to help you. I am not here to tell you ‘Do this, and this, and this.'” Okay. We do have corporate goals, and everybody is aligned on certain things, but I think higher-grade people that fit the cultural fit that are better than you in what they do, and then give them the freedom and empowerment to unlock their entrepreneurial – that’s why they’re here because they’re entrepreneurs. Then your role is to support them, and then your role, that you never sacrifice, is if anyone deviates from the culture, then that can’t happen. So, that’s how I think we are able to scale and grow the company.
Alejandro: Got it. As you’re thinking about Netskope and also the space, bring us as insiders into what you’re seeing. Where do you see this security networking space heading?
Sanjay Beri: Yeah, that’s a great question. The whole security industry right now is being transformed. It’s being transformed because of some macro trends. If you’re sitting in a company and you’re at a board meeting, or you’re working with IT or hear the words digital transformation – it’s like some of the most overused words in IT. What does it mean? It means that companies have realized that, “Wait a minute. I want to get access to great applications. I don’t want to build massive IT infrastructure and data centers. I want to let my people work from home, use their own devices. I want to be mobile to enable productivity, all these things around transforming how people work. Of all of those things built these massive industries, 100-billion-dollar+ software as service. 100 billion dollars+ – AWS, Azure, GCP. That is ripping through the security industry. If you look at the security industry, it used to be all boxes sitting in your office that basically spoke the language of yesteryear. Nowadays, what people are realizing is, “Wait. How do I enable remote working? How do I enable data living in the Cloud? How do I say ‘Yes’ to SaaS applications?” The way you do that, that’s being transforming security. It’s transforming the network data security market, build Cloud security, and what we call a security cloud where your perimeter is virtual, and you have these security services no matter where you’re working, who you are, what apps you’re using, and you can protect your data. It is ripping through markets like the end-point market. Not a market we’re in, but it’s ripping through that market. I think security is in a big transformation. That’s why you see the traditional vendors. They’re declining year-on-year. They’re being sold to private equity, and so on. It’s in massive transformation, just like the application market is with Software as a Service, and a so on.
Alejandro: Yeah, absolutely. One question, Sanjay that I typically ask the guests that I have on the show is, knowing what you know now – I mean, incredible wealth of knowledge. You’ve been at it since 2012, so obviously many, many ups and downs, many successes, many lessons learned as well, but if you had the opportunity to have a chat with your younger self, that Sanjay that was coming out of Stanford that was about to launch the first business. If you had the opportunity to have that discussion and give yourself one piece of business advice to your younger self, what would that be and why?
Sanjay Beri: That’s a great question. I’d probably give myself lots of different advice. I could probably speak to myself for 30 minutes or an hour at least, or maybe two days. I think that one of the things I would tell my earlier self is, don’t ever sacrifice your vision, your mid to long-term for anybody or anything. What I mean by that is, when you go through building a company, there are times when you kind of turn left, and you get influenced. In your gut, you know, “I don’t think I should do that.” Then you go do it, and you realize, “Why did I do that? I should have just listened to myself. Listen and stuck to my guns.” So, I would tell my early self that, “Look. Do that.” I always believed that, but there are always occasions where you just get swayed. So, that’s the #1 advice is do what you believe in your vision, take in as much advice as you can, and realize there’s good and bad advice. Just chart that course, even if it’s unpopular. I think that’s what I would tell myself and reinforce for myself.
Alejandro: Really cool. For the folks that are listening and they’re starting to think about their own vision, their own business, based on what you’ve learned, Sanjay, what does a powerful vision look like?
Sanjay Beri: 1) I think a mistake a lot of people make is that the vision is around what you’re building and a product. That’s not the vision. You’re building a company, so your vision needs to be about your team and your culture first. What is my vision for my team? What is the culture I want? What are the paradigms I have around even how I’m going to build it geographically? How am I going to incent them, and so on? Build that vision. 2) You need to have a product, and a vision for your product that is disruptive that is maybe ahead of its time in some cases, and you need to have the details around that. Not just the first step, but what are you going to do in Step 2; in Step 3? What does it look like in three, five, or seven years? Challenge yourself to make sure you know what that is. 3) A lasting vision on how you’re going to sell. Don’t get a great product and then realize, “How do I sell it?” You’ve got to know that from the beginning. That’s how I think about a vision.
Alejandro: To put this into perspective and really hit it with the pragmatic approach, in a world where the vision of Netskope is fully realized, what does that look like?
Sanjay Beri: First of all, my belief is that it will never be realized because my vision in security, specifically, is that you innovate or you die. So, what that means is, you need to constantly be adding to your vision. But we have milestones. When you think about Netskope and where we are today, and where we want to be, we want to be the brand that when a CIO or CSO says, “Look. When I think about transforming digitally, I need Netskope.” When I think about working the way people want to work now, leveraging Cloud, working remotely, that’s what Netskope’s for. You want to be on the tip of their tongue in every geography. Yes, you want to be this company that is valued at 20 billion+ and all the rest. Those are all great financial validations, but I think we really want to be that top security company that a CSO or CIO leans on and says, “They are core to my business, and they’re a great partner.” Hearing that from all the CIOs and CSOs across the world, a large percentage of them, that would mean we would have achieved our goal.
Alejandro: Very cool, Sanjay. For the folks that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Sanjay Beri: The best way to reach out if folks have any inquiries, just feel free to reach out to me directly. I am on LinkedIn, and I get a lot of messages from people and a lot of requests like, “Hey, what do you think about this?” They message me there, and obviously through Netskope. You can message me there at www.netskope.com – I’ll be more than happy to answer questions. If you’re in the industry, I’ll probably see you at many events as well.
Alejandro: Amazing. Sanjay, thank you so much for being on the DealMakers show today.
Sanjay Beri: Thank you.
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