Poojan Kumar has raised millions of dollars to build what’s next in the enterprise technology space.
On a recent episode of the DealMakers Show Poojan and I discussed the future of tech, SaaS startups, M&A deals, raising money and how to grow as a leader when your company is growing at over 200% per year.
The Engineering Of An Enterprise Level Entrepreneur
Young entrepreneurs seem to still be catching a lot of the media buzz. It’s great to see so many achieving great things at young ages. Yet, when it comes to enterprise-level startups founders seem to be a little more mature. Kumar says to start you need to be in a place where you’re both passionate about an idea and willing to go all-in, and you have to have the proven expertise
Poojan Kumar was born and raised in Hyderabad, India. It’s the country’s fourth-largest city and one which has seen a lot more happening in tech in recent years. It’s an environment that seems to be very conducive to cultivating the entrepreneurial spirit and delivering very well educated founders.
If you’re growing up in India and not going into medicine, you want to get into engineering and computers. Kumar got into IIT (Indian Institute of Technology), Bombay.
He was among only 150 of about 100,000 to make it into the computer science department. Then with just about a handful of those students made it to the US, and chose to study at Stanford.
Always interested in the practical applications, Poojan loved the rigorous Stanford experience while doing his Master’s in computer science, while gaining exposure to Silicon Valley startups.
He graduated right into the hangover from the dot com party of 1999. Being a systems guy, and wanting to work in an environment that offered hard problems to solve, he chose to work with Oracle.
There he learned a lot about what it takes to create a product, go-to-market, selling it, and running a big team. He also put in some time at VMware.
After finally getting his green card squared away he was ready to start his own company. He wanted to be involved in the big change that was happening in enterprise data centers.
Poojan’s first startup PernixData raised three rounds of funding. They completed a $7M Series A, $20M Series B, and $35M Series C.
While all of this fundraising might sound like a cakewalk when you read it, Poojan warns everything about it is going to be hard. Especially as a first-time entrepreneur. Even more so as a first-time CEO.
You had a better brace for a very steep learning curve across everything you are doing.
Poojan says the key to surviving this is surrounding yourself with the right people. Including advisors to the company, investors in the company, and your board members. It’s the only way you’re going to make it.
The cofounders never planned to sell the company. Yet, two years in and they were already being sent inbound offers.
They held out. Though it became clear that the best move was putting it in the hands of a bigger company that could absorb and integrate the technology, product, and talent. They were acquired by Nutanix, just four and a half years after launching.
Poojan Kumar’s next startup is Clumio. Knowing enterprise companies and platforms can’t be built on pennies, they went straight out to raise money. They would need to fund a team of 40 engineers building the platform in the public cloud over the next year.
They kicked off with an $11M Series A in late 2017. Then pulled off a $40M Series B, before their $135M Series C in 2019. In the last two years, they’ve pulled together around $186M.
Yes, it may be a little easier to raise for your second company, once you’ve proven you can go full cycle to investors. Yet, Clumio has also attracted big money from investors who are interested in backing the hard things.
Everyone is trying to pivot into the cloud. Specifically, the public cloud. Yet, if you only do the easy things, it is really easy for others to replicate you. Then you have no differentiation, and no insulation, pricing is a race to the bottom, and you’re toast.
The few that are looking 10 to 30 years out in the future and are purposely tackling the hard things in huge markets are those who can offer truly great opportunities to savvy funds.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Poojan 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.
ACCESS THE PITCH DECK TEMPLATE
Fast Growth Companies Need Leaders Who Grow Even Faster
Clumio’s team has grown by close to 260%. If you want to keep leading a company like that, you have to grow yourself as a leader at a fast pace too.
Poojan says the funding has helped. It has helped attract great talent. It gives them the confidence that the company is going to be around and that they’ll actually be able to execute on their work.
He also says that staying engaged on a daily basis, and inviting feedback from others, especially where you are not doing well is key. Stay humble and keep surrounding yourself with smart people.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Why Poojan left Nutanix to start his second venture
- Where technology is heading
- Why it’s so much easier to start a SaaS company today
- Why joining an early-stage startup can prepare you for your own
- Being ready for the 10-year journey
- How to balance optimism and short term realities