Sujal Patel has not only started and scaled a billion-dollar company but is on his second venture that is on track to change the world.
Not only has Sujal already raised almost $200M for his startups, but he has done it through some of the most challenging times for fundraising in recent history.
During our interview on the DealMakers podcast, he shared his foundational experiences, why he chose Seattle over San Francisco, going through the M&A process, and pre-marketing your fundraise.
Entrepreneurship & Computing
Sujal Patel was born in New Jersey to parents who had immigrated from India. An entrepreneurial journey in itself. They pushed him to work hard, get good grades, and to go make something of himself.
His older brother talked their parents into getting an Apple II computer at home. Sujal immediately got hooked on it as a tool for both having fun and learning. He liked the ability to make an input and to get something back out.
This passion led him to get his computer science degree at the University of Maryland.
Seattle Vs. San Francisco
After school, Sujal set his mind on moving to the West Coast. He headed out to California, where he expected to find the heart of the tech industry.
In reality, he found California looked a lot like New Jersey. They had the same big highways and strip malls. Then he discovered Seattle. It was a vibrant tech city, and home to Microsoft.
There he got hired at RealNetworks. A place where he got to apply his love of computers. Within four months he was managing a whole team of software engineers. A few months after that he was innovating in building their backend infrastructure.
Problems & Solutions
What Sujal found at RealNetworks was that even though customers would pay a million dollars for their software, they might also be spending $6M on storage. Systems that weren’t even built to handle new digital content, and couldn’t scale to meet their needs. That of course impacted how effective their own products worked for their customers.
This sparked the idea for Sujal’s first startup Isilon. Founded in January 2001, Isilon was launched to build a new type of storage architecture that could scale, and solve this huge problem.
Fundraising Against The Challenges
As much as this founder seems to have a knack for trying to raise money during the most challenging moments, he also seems to be really good at it.
For a start, they were not the first mover in their category. There were around 300 other storage companies funded right around this time. 250 of them before Isilon.
At the same time, the world was reeling from the dot com bubble. Investors would take meetings, even multiple meetings, but then never write a check.
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