CEO vision: Leading the world’s fastest growing enterprise tech company

Bipul Sinha, Co-founder & CEO at Rubrik. Image courtesy of Rubrik.

Rubrik is a data management platform targeting multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments. The company was founded in 2014 and, after six years, now employs over 1,200 people and is valued at $3.3 billion. It has been hailed as the fastest growing enterprise technology company in history, and has taken unusual steps in ensuring company-wide transparency.

CEO Bipul Sinha, who co-founded the company along with three others, has spent the last two decades investing in and working at tech companies, including Oracle, Nutanix and Lightspeed. In addition, he holds several patents for distributed storage technologies. We spoke to him about cloud migration, the future of data management, and the importance of transparency within an organization.

What made you guys come together and start Rubrik? What did you see in the market that was lacking?

As a venture capitalist, I always focused on market transitions, or, a product-market angle that can start a market transition. If you go back to 2009, when I first invested in Nutanix, hyperconvergence as a space didn’t exist. The whole idea was to take out different technology silos that existed before Nutanix, and create a single solution that combines server and compute, some of the networking stack, and the overall control plane, to dramatically simplify data center application workloads and execution.

I always had this thought process: how is the market structured, and how are we going to enter the market and completely change the trajectory of the market?

If you look at Rubrik, the main thing that we saw was, in 2012-13, cloud was upon us as an enterprise solution, but people had billions of dollars in investments in data centers and they would continue to invest in them.

There was this significant market transition that was going to happen in the next 10 years, from data centers into one or more public clouds, and that transition was not going to be a one or two-year affair. Some applications would stay in the data center and some applications would be in the cloud. But how are people going to manage data across data centers and clouds? Application recovery is one aspect to the management, but how are people going to manage mobility of data across cloud? How are people going to manage security of data across clouds, and access to the data? How are people going to think about compliance and governance? And as more of our personal and professional information and workflows are getting digitized, there will more regulatory scrutiny of how businesses are managing, keeping, and mobilizing the data.

So there was a need for a comprehensive software solution that looks at data management holistically across data centers and public clouds, or across all public clouds. This creates a platform for application recovery, for compliance, for governance, for security, for mobility, so that folks can have confidence and visibility of what is happening with their data.

What advice would you give companies trying to transition into the multi-cloud or a hybrid environment?

Business imperatives are driving cloud adoption. And in some cases, cloud adoption is not a cost equation.

It’s not that if you go into the cloud, it’s lowering cost. Going to the cloud, I think, is about faster time to market, faster delivery of applications and services to the end-customer.

The real question that CIOs are struggling with is this: you have a situation where the tools and technology needed to manage them is just exploding. Because what used to be in one place now lives in multiple places — there is a massive fragmentation of applications and data across these environments.

In some ways, what we are doing is building what you could call a fast platform across data centers and the cloud, to be able to manage data using APIs — that’s Rubrik’s core business.

Is the core of it is the governance platform, from where you spin off applications such as backup recovery? How do you foresee this sort of platform evolving?

We built the data management platform as the core. And now we are laying out applications on top of it. That leverages the metadata that we accumulate across applications, users, and data, and then weaves in these very business-solution-centric applications that are solving very specific problems, whether it is ransomware around security or compliance with data classification, or orchestration with data mobility. And on this journey, we will continue to lay out more of governance, compliance, security applications.

Among your customers, or in the market out there, what application migration patterns do you see? And what advice would you give companies who are migrating their key workloads to the cloud for the first time?

There is a mindset of cloud-first across many of our customers, where they say, “When I’m developing a new app, I want to develop it in the cloud because it shortens the time to delivery, given all the toolsets and services that exist in the cloud.” So that is definitely a pretty strong trend.

When it comes to migration of existing apps that are on premise into the cloud, folks are taking a two-step strategy. One step is what they call ‘lift and shift’, which is, take an app as it exists on-premise and put it in a runtime environment in the cloud. After running it in the cloud for 18 to 24 months, they then start to chip away at re-architecting the app in a more cloud-native sense. Because doing the cloud-native re-architecture and moving the application into the cloud are two big changes in one shot, and folks don’t want to do two changes in one go.

Rubrik is helping in the first step of cloud migration because we have the technology to be able to instantiate a copy of the app in the cloud. And as folks are starting to think about taking the app as it existed in the data canter into the cloud, and transforming them into being cloud-native, they start to think about platform-as-a-service and the services that are available, whether it is a database service or other services. So we are also looking at persistent services, where you need to have recovery from failures and for other regulatory and compliance reasons. We are holistically looking at this landscape.

What does transparency in the company culture mean to you and why is it important?

A young company, when it starts to enter the market, has to be very focused.

I fundamentally believe that the advantages of a startup or a young company have less to do with technology and more to do with agility or speed.

Young companies can make decisions fast, can change faster, have more agility to navigate the product market landscape and hit the bull’s eye when it comes to what customers will buy. How do you align the whole company towards a common vision and common purpose, where everyone knows where they have to deliver?

My idea was to bring transparency into our organization and break the silos of information-holding and control – and the highest level of that is the board meeting where we can expose what’s top of mind for everyone, and how the different functions of Rubrik are executing towards our vision. Then, you break down the silos of communication and you can show everyone what it is that we want to achieve and why we want to achieve that.

I strongly believe that in the early days, the reason why we grew fast and had a focused strategy, is because we brought that level of transparency in terms of clarity of purpose and clarity of execution, which led to everyone marching in the same direction and understanding what we needed to achieve.

Valuation is just one aspect of success or growth. How we measure it is in terms of how many customers we serve, what the rate of customer growth is, and what kind of impact we are creating. If you look at Rubrik, in a short six years, we have had our product installed in 45 countries around the world. We are serving thousands of customers and that is the core of Rubrik’s goal and success parameter – are we positively changing the customer experience? Are we helping our customers on the journey, giving them a passport to the cloud?

What are your plans in the near future?

Our stated goal is that we want to build a long-term, iconic, independent company. We want to build the next 30, 40-year company. We want to be a company that helps businesses navigate the multi-cloud, hybrid-cloud world in terms of data management. And in this journey of 20, 30, or 40 years that we want to be on, competition will come and go, there will be newer competition coming in, and older competition will fall by the wayside. We are squarely focused on solving our customers’ problems.

If you put on your VC hat, which are the companies that you think are coming up right now, that you feel most excited about, or that you might have invested in?

I’m not looking into newer investments because I’m 300% into Rubrik and I have no bandwidth to think about anything else. When I look at the market, there are many companies that I really admire.

For example, one of my very good friends, Frank Slootman, is CEO of a company called Snowflake. They’re transforming the data warehousing market in the cloud, and their ability to really bring together all of the data on a common platform for data analytics, around business intelligence, is tremendous.

The thing is, we are truly in a transformational time in the industry.

In my 20-plus year career as engineer, venture capitalist, and entrepreneur, there has never been a time like today, where cloud is redefining almost every aspect of how businesses use technology.

And that transition, that upheaval that we are going through right now, is creating tremendous opportunity across many segments of the market. Our goal is to continue to lead this market transition as Rubrik and really create a new standard for data management platforms, in this hybrid multi-cloud world.

When it comes to specific technologies, which are the ones that excite you the most and which do you think are going to be the most disruptive?

I think blockchain will be transformational. I spent many years at Oracle building distributed database technology, and in some ways, blockchain is the next-gen distributed ledger technology that has implications into how information is consumed and disseminated. And there are many uses of such a technology, from how we do security, to authentication, to supply-chain management, to contract management, to partner management, to visibility into areas from sourcing the product to supplying solutions in different parts of market.

If you look at artificial intelligence and its applicability, I believe that we are just scratching the surface where it’s mostly analytics, regression, and they’re calling it artificial intelligence. But it is going to transform over time. Like any new thing, you have to have some baseline to start with. And the current baseline is trying to find a significant variable using regression, trying to figure out conforming variables in different parts of the computing paradigm.

I was in a CIO roundtable yesterday, where we were talking about what quantum computing could do to this data and AI landscape.

The biggest thing that quantum computing could do is to make it cost-effective to analyze low-value data, or what we consider low-value today.

And that low-value data, if you had compute that is cheap, could actually be used to derive intelligence that would be useful in the business. Maybe you could find some significant variable in a low-value data because computing is so cheap.

We are living in a truly golden age of data, compute, intelligence, universal productivity. That will lift the standard of living for millions around the world. It’ll have disruptions as well, in the livelihoods and the old things that people are working on. But it’ll also open up new areas, new vistas, that would create millions of jobs.

How do you see the Indian IT industry at the moment and how do you foresee it evolve in the near future?

If you look at the Indian IT industry, it came from this outsourcing angle, where businesses around the world gave Indian outsourcing system integrator companies most of their business processes management – from supporting large enterprise applications to creating workflows and managing business processes, technology processes, for large corporations.

What it has done to the techies in India is, it’s given them an appreciation and understanding of business technology processes across verticals. And if you look at the trend of automation of business processes and manifestations of that using SaaS, you can connect the dots.

In the next 15, 20 years, a number of SaaS companies will come out of India that will automate business technology processes for large corporations, and then deliver that as a service.

I think India is very uniquely positioned to deliver SaaS applications for global markets.