Neil Patel

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In the labyrinth of entrepreneurial ventures, where dreams take flight and innovation shapes destinies, few individuals stand as examples of relentless pursuit and unwavering commitment. Goutham (Gou) Rao is one such visionary whose journey from the bustling streets of Brooklyn to the innovation hub of Silicon Valley is a story of resilience, passion, and audacity.

In an exclusive interview, we delved deep into Gou’s life, tracing his trajectory from humble beginnings to soaring heights in the world of technology entrepreneurship.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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Born in the US and Raised in India

Born to immigrant parents, both doctors, in Brooklyn, New York, Gou’s early years were characterized by diversity and ambition. Raised in a community steeped in Indian culture, he navigated the nuances of identity while finding his path through the urban landscape.

However, fate had a different trajectory planned for Gou as he embarked on a transformative journey to India during his formative years. The transition from the bustling streets of New York to the vibrant tapestry of India’s cultural landscape wasn’t easy, and he had his share of challenges.

Amidst the chaos and camaraderie of India, Gou’s passion for technology began with engineering in Bangalore. In his opinion, the move to India was a blessing since he was tossed out of his comfort zone.

Gou grew up with two younger brothers, and since his parents were busy at work, he had to help take care of them. Dealing with the pressure was challenging but shaped Gou into who he is today.

Entering the World of Computers

The genesis of Gou’s love affair with technology can be traced back to his father’s gesture of gifting him a computer—a catalyst that would shape his destiny. Although he had a Commodore in the US, he had to give it up when moving to India.

But, sometime in 1986, Gou’s father brought him a computer, which he assembled himself since he had always been interested in electronics. Before going to college, he picked up coding books since they didn’t have the Internet.

Gou met someone who was a bit senior and started learning basic programming code from him. This learning ignited his interest in computers, and eventually, he got into computer science.

Gou got a degree in India and developed an interest in AI, which was not a big deal then but is everywhere now.

During his first year of engineering, Gou remembers hanging out with a few friends playing chess. That’s when he was inspired to write a program that could actually beat a human being at chess. He thought of training the computer to make moves using the Minimax algorithm.

At the time, the combinatorial explosion was an unknown concept, and the program would eventually become too slow, with people beating it easily with different cognitive thinking. But, Gou’s experience inspired an interest in algorithms and program-building.

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Returning to the US and Going to College

Upon returning to the United States, Gou embarked on a quest for academic excellence, culminating in a Master’s in Computer Science from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania.

During this pivotal phase, Gou encountered the love of his life, his wife, intertwining his personal and professional journey in an indelible bond.

Although Gou loved the East Coast, he had enjoyed spending vacations with his family in California, Disneyland, and San Francisco as a child. He also loved motorcycling in the mountains and the Mediterranean landscape.

Armed with a formidable arsenal of knowledge and experience, Gou set his sights on the hub of innovation—Silicon Valley. He made his foray into the world of entrepreneurship, spearheading groundbreaking initiatives in the field of technology.

Gou started out working on the Linux Kernel 64-bit architecture at Intel Corp. While he enjoyed working on the Linux kernel, he felt he needed to work on something he was more passionate about – something that he himself would use on a daily basis.

Building Net6 and Acquisition by Citrix

Gou started working on unique and novel ways for employees to access their enterprise applications.. That was the genesis of Net6. Gou has an interesting story to tell about meeting his co-founder, Murli Thirumale, who became the CEO.

Gou recalls how he was lucky not only to have met Murli but also to have investors trust him despite having only engineering accomplishments.

Despite being a first-time entrepreneur, Gou was able to inspire confidence and faith in investors and raise capital. This faith translated into a relentless pursuit of excellence and a passion for innovation.

He enjoyed building the product and proving that he could “knock things out of the ballpark.”

As Gou explains, at Net6, they were doing secure and application access. Ultimately, the company was acquired by Citrix for a reported $50M in cash. Gou continued working at Citrix in one of their divisions for a couple of years.

Gou also learned important lessons and mistakes at Net6 that he was careful not to repeat with his further ventures, including Ocarina Networks. For starters, he learned to pick his team carefully.

Another company culture that Gou shared with his co-founders was a relentless customer-focused work ethic.

Ocarina Networks – The Next Venture

Ocarina Networks was Gou’s next venture, which he started with Eric Brueggeman. Once again, they instituted the same customer-focused work ethic in the company. They also put together top-notch skill sets, people to whom they could impart their vision and passion.

In around 2006, with social media platforms like Facebook taking off, storage consumption was increasing quickly. Ocarina focused on data management using algorithms in a unique way. They used compression technologies and data deduplication.

As Gou recalls, there were a lot of technologies around back then that were doing data management using approaches like archival solutions or moving data around.

He decided to come up with a better way to manage data by tackling it at an algorithmic level and eliminating redundancy in the data.

In Gou’s opinion, if you can address a major pain point, there’s no better investment of your time and money.

Since there were fewer ways of solving the data management problem, they were able to come up with elegant solutions without too much disruption compared to the other technologies out there.

Gou underscores the importance of understanding that people evolve and that any product or solution they use must be rethought every few years. Entrepreneurs need to constantly think about how existing solutions can be redone with newer technologies.

Refreshing existing products and reimplementing them with modern technologies, usabilities, and techniques are the best practices to meet the contemporary appetite of the new generation.

Portworx by Pure Storage – The Next Venture

When building Portworx, Gou started on the premise that although storage had been around forever, the way in which people build applications certainly had changed.

He recognized that we live in the cloud-native era, and cloud-native architectures look very different from applications twenty years ago.

An entire application no longer fits into one computer but is distributed, so storage needs to be reinvented for the cloud-native era. The report works on the elegance of the solution, its usability, and how people interact with storage.

Portworx products resonated with the new-age DevOps audience and the new generation of system administrators who wanted to use storage. It’s still the number one data management platform for Kubernetes and cloud-native architectures. Eventually, the company was acquired for $370M.

When considering acquisition offers, Gou talks about his commitment to finding strategic partners who will ensure that their products flourish. He also stands by his financial responsibility to the people who invested in him.

Further, before selling, Gou works out if the deal will be financially beneficial for his employees.

He focuses on the different parameters of the transaction because while investors can get their money, employees have to stay and continue working with the company for at least another 3 to 4 years.

Gou remembers that when they sold Portworx, COVID was around the corner, and there was a lot of uncertainty about what was going to happen over the next four or five years. He considered all these factors and optimized for the best possible outcome.

His Latest Baby – NeuBird

When talking about his latest AI-driven venture, Gou starts by relating how they did a project on neural networks in 1995. At the time, he had built a three-layer back propagation neural network, which would take 20 minutes to train.

Although he considered the neural network an approximation of a brain, the computer power to see it in action was not available.

Fast forward to modern times, and thanks to companies like Nvidia and GPU, there are now 70 billion parameter models, which are a kind of approximation of the brain. In Gou’s opinion, in a little more than five years, every industry is going to adopt the transformative power of revolutionary gen AI.

A good example is the pharmaceutical company that is developing new recipes to make drugs because GenAI can go through and analyze clinical trials, reports, and data that human beings can’t do fast enough.

Coming from the technology space, Gou would want to be at the forefront of that innovation cycle on how things are being done. He is committed to understanding how technology works in his surroundings. He also likes to keep an eye on how things are evolving.

Gou stresses that he has spent his lifetime understanding algorithms and their applications and now wants to see how to apply GenAI to enterprise data. In his opinion, this problem is getting very big, and people need to be able to cope with the amount of data being generated.

The Flagship Product Hawkeye

The NeuBird flagship product is Hawkeye, which Gou and his team will be deploying soon. Hawkeye is about creating a digital agent, a digital workforce, and a digital IT ops engineer. Its job is to work alongside human engineers to address any kind of IT-related issue.

The IT ops manage the operations of an IT infrastructure, whether it’s cloud or on-prem, which are human-driven.

Humans are needed to respond to performance-related issues or, in case of a product outage, when something is crashing or breaking or optimization is required for which skilled talent is deployed.

Particularly, trained computer science graduates are needed to look at Telemetry Data Metrics and alert logs in real-time when a problem arises. The effectiveness of IT operations is measured in terms of the time to incident response or time to resolution when a problem occurs.

The time taken to fix the issue and the number of engineers needed are two variables that are being measured with Hawkeye. Gou has successfully raised $22M for the company from Mayfield, one of the top VCs today.

Storytelling is everything, which is something that Goutham (Gou) Rao was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

In Conclusion

Reflecting on past entrepreneurial experiences, Gou offers insights into lessons learned, particularly the importance of trusting one’s convictions and taking a proactive stance on critical decisions.

He advises aspiring entrepreneurs to have confidence in their vision and actively engage in shaping all aspects of their ventures, from product development to sales and marketing, based on their beliefs and insights.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • Gou’s journey from Brooklyn to India exemplifies how diversity fuels ambition and fosters resilience.
  • Gou’s passion for technology ignited during his formative years, catalyzed by his father’s visionary gift of a computer.
  • Gou’s pursuit of academic excellence at the University of Pennsylvania laid the foundation for his professional ascent.
  • Gou’s entry into Silicon Valley marked the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey, where innovation thrived.
  • Gou’s ventures, from Linux contributions to secure remote access initiatives, exemplify entrepreneurial resilience and innovation.
  • Gou’s series of successful acquisitions underscore his acumen and vision in shaping the technology landscape.
  • With NeuBird, Gou embarks on a new frontier, leveraging AI to redefine the future of technology entrepreneurship.



For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here). 

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Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.


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Neil Patel

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