Sujai Hajela and Bob Friday took their own journeys before landing at the same company. Then they joined forces to raise $90 million to build a tech company that was recently acquired for over $400 million.
I recently caught up with cofounders Bob and Sujai for an episode of the Dealmakers Podcast. They shared how their unique paths led them to work together, how they selected an amazing lineup of tier-one investors, what makes a great CEO, selling their company to Juniper, and the advice they’d give themselves before starting another business.
The Converging Journeys Of Two Tech Founders
Sujai was born in New Delhi, India, where their motto is “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
Hajela came from a family of technocrats and saw his father do some great things in engineering. That gave him a thirst for solving problems and pushed him to study computer science.
Bob was born in Chico, Northern California. He developed his love for the technology back in high school, where he recalls building a hologram as his first science project.
The Road to Cisco
Sujai found a chain of opportunities that led him around the world and gave him a great framework for the business world.
After college, he was recruited by Siemens in Germany. Then he was recruited by HP. They first put him in Singapore, before relocating him to Santa Clara, California.
Then he was brought into startup Alteon WebSystems. They were bought by Nortel at a multi-billion-dollar valuation. He then joined Symbol Technologies as VP of Engineering.
Symbol was acquired by Motorola in a $3 billion-plus acquisition. That’s when Cisco found him and brought him in as a VP/GM.
Bob had gone to study at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Then headed straight to the world of startups.
After three years, he launched his first venture, Metricom-Ricochet. He saw it through an IPO. His next venture Airespace went through the fun of trying to raise VC money right after the dot com crash. They were bought by Cisco for around $450M.
The Birth Of Mist
Bob and Sujai found themselves working together at Cisco, creating a new $2.4 billion revenue stream for the giant. They even jointly led a $1.2 billion acquisition together. Cisco gave them the big picture of the market, customers and emerging trends.
After one dinner event, a customer who had just spent millions of dollars with Cisco asked how he would know if things were really working for their customers when Monday morning rolled around. There was no way to tell what the customer experience was.
This gave them the realization of the need for a new network architecture that focused on the end-user experience than just the network. They also saw that artificial intelligence technology was primed for the big time.
Mist was launched. Together they set about SaaSifying the networking business. They were bringing the customer into the cloud, and also developed new hardware.
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