Meat startup Licious turns unicorn after $52 million funding

GraphWear: Solving a Holy Grail Problem to Save Billions of Lives

two men on blue textured background with GraphWear logo

Venture capital was created to partner with pioneers who dream big and succeed in making a huge impact on humanity. Our partnership with Rajatesh, Saurabh and the team at GraphWear, who just announced their $20M Series B led by us, with participation from Mission BioCapital and Builders VC, is an iconic example of such an opportunity.

GraphWear can solve the Holy Grail problem of extracting data from blood without breaking the skin.

They do that by combining three innovations:

  1. Working with a breakthrough material – the Nobel Prize winning nanoscale material which is able to measure molecules in blood.
  2. Inventing a new kind of transistor – one with a transient base.
  3. Innovating on process – a ruggedized and scalable one that delivers a delightful, consumer-friendly form factor that can be worn.

Their platform’s first target is to monitor blood glucose, the accepted metric to manage diabetes, using a continuous glucose monitoring process (CGM) – which, along with medication, diet, and lifestyle changes, has been proven to be effective in lowering blood glucose levels. CGMs are reimbursable by insurance companies and today, industry stalwarts such as Abbott and Dexcom are valued at over $60 billion, but their minimally invasive CGMs are only used by about 3.5 million of the over 400 million diabetics worldwide. At the same time, devices such as the Apple Watch, which shines light on the skin to get health data, combined with access to the cloud, have seen massive consumer adoption and have consequently democratized our access to care.

By eliminating our fear of needles, GraphWear will transform how diabetics and pre-diabetics (which together represent about 150 million people or 45% of the US population and over 400 million globally) live. And with future targets of their breakthrough platform to other markers in our blood, GraphWear has the potential to save billions of lives.

We brought a prepared mind to this investment. Mayfield has a long history of partnering with pioneers, beginning with the team at Genentech in 1970, through Amgen, Intuitive Surgical, Heartstream and many others. Over the last five years, we have continued this tradition by nurturing scientists and technologist entrepreneurs into company builders. Some recent partnerships include Mammoth Biosciences which is leveraging CRISPR to build a diagnostic and therapeutic platform company; Nēsos, whose purpose-built earbuds retrain neural pathways to control inflammation, creating the new category of e-mmunotherapeutics; Endpoint Health which is pioneering precision immune therapeutics for critical diseases like Sepsis that kill more people than all cancers combined and Tonal, whose smart gym has reinvented strength training.

At the same time, as a people-first investor, we keep an open mind and are always looking for entrepreneurs who want to change the world. Rajatesh and Saurabh were motivated to focus on this problem through personal experience. They started working on the science as nanotech engineers in graduate school and spent 5+ years of R&D to develop the product and plan.  Their superpowers include an obsessive focus on details, an innovate-from-first-principles approach, a culture of measuring everything and iterating fast, and a commitment to capital efficiency. They have tested their value proposition in a clinical trial, and are now refining their product to begin the process of securing regulatory approval. Having helped many companies on the journey from inception to iconic – Lyft and Poshmark to name a couple of recent ones – we are excited to join GraphWear on their journey to save billions of lives.

Congratulations to Rajatesh, Saurabh, and the entire GraphWear team on their debut – honored to be partnered with you to deliver the holy grail.

Leap raises $34 million in secondary funding

NoSQL Database Couchbase Makes Public Debut with IPO

Couchbase

Couchbase is on a mission to empower enterprises to develop, deploy, and maintain their mission-critical applications by delivering a high-performance, flexible and scalable modern database. Today the company listed on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol “BASE.” I sat down with Couchbase President and CEO Matt Cain to get a little more insight into how leadership and culture paved the way for Couchbase’s journey to IPO.

Congratulations on Couchbase becoming a public company! What role do you think culture plays in a company’s success?

I believe that the foundation of any leading company is its world-class team, a combination of industry leading talent and a set of values that enables those people to do the best and most fulfilling work in their careers. Culture is the product of those values in action, and leaders must be the stewards of ensuring the company is living consistently with them. When it comes to teamwork and communication, I have tried to create as many opportunities as I can to ask what’s working, what’s not working, and where the team needs help. At Couchbase our culture is a sustainable competitive advantage as we attract, develop and retain the highly-skilled talent necessary to execute on our business growth strategies. The leadership team and I work relentlessly to make Team Couchbase feel valued so they can then work together to create value for our customers, partners and shareholders.

Describe your leadership style and approach as CEO.

Several early-life experiences shaped my approach to leadership. First, my parents raised me with strong Midwestern values. I also developed a love and passion for teamwork and collective goals through competitive team sports. And going through a Jesuit education reinforced the concept of leveraging your talents to make the world a better place and act as a “person for others.” Roll all of these together and you get a servant leadership style with an emphasis on teamwork. I’m about the “extreme ownership” and “servant leadership” philosophies to drive the best results while building a culture that is durable– and wins. In this model, the leaders are ultimately responsible, but teams make the difference. My goal has always been to build, reinforce, and model a culture of openness, transparency, and trust that delivers results. And we have to have fun along the way!

Couchbase was founded in 2011 and you came on board in 2017 as a first time CEO. What was that like, stepping into a new role to lead a company?

So one of our company values is Attack Hard Problems, and that’s sort of the approach I took head on when I arrived at Couchbase. I think there’s a razor-thin edge that elite performers must balance between self-confidence, or a willingness to try new things, and humility, or knowing that you will get things wrong. With this mindset and when facing challenging times as a leader, I try to stay calm and work through things as a team. I also try to remember that I’m in service of others, like employees, customers, partners, and shareholders, to derive motivation to work through hard things. I can’t fix problems I don’t know about, so I work hard to maintain a genuine connection with as many of our team members and possible. As an example, in my first 100 days I committed to setting up at least 100 meetings with employees, customers, investors, partners, vendors and analysts to listen and learn. I’m a true believer that people can do amazing things when they work together and put the team first. I’m very proud of what we have accomplished so far as a company, and I think you can see some of that reflected in things like our Glassdoor rating and also in our business results which allowed us to become a public company today.

What advice would you give another CEO as they begin to prepare for the IPO process?

Surround yourself with a world-class team. No one person can go through this rigorous process alone– it really does take a tremendous amount of teamwork and collaboration. Invest in your people and your culture because at the end of the day, the results the team delivers are what are going to help position the business to go public. That and get ready for the grind! In all seriousness, it really does require a super talented team to pull it all off. I’m grateful for the team’s continued dedication and passion for our business, even in the face of a global health crisis. It inspires me every day.

Congratulations again to Matt and the entire Couchbase team on their IPO, which marks the latest milestone in our decade long journey – looking forward to all that is to come.

Hiring Success Platform SmartRecruiters Raises $110M Series E at a $1.5B Valuation

DevRev Launches with $50 Million in Seed Funding and a Dev-Centric CRM for the Product-Led Growth Era

Led by former Nutanix co-founder and CEO Dheeraj Pandey, the startup’s investors include Mayfield Fund and Khosla Ventures.

Mindfulness & Leadership with Nutanix & DevRev Founder Dheeraj Pandey

Listen to the Podcast:

In this episode, Nutanix Founder & former CEO Dheeraj Pandey shares his perspective on leading with humility, building empathy for customers, and having happiness as a core value in the workplace. He also discusses why he decided to leave Nutanix and the next steps for his journey at DevRev.

Mindfulness & Leadership with Nutanix & DevRev Founder Dheeraj Pandey

Christopher Lochhead:
Thanks for pressing play. Welcome to Conscious VC, where we have real conversations that explore how to build businesses that shape the future while making a giant difference at the same time. Hosted by Navin Chaddha, Managing Director of Mayfield and me, podcaster and author, Christopher Lochhead. On this episode, Navin and I welcome the founder and former CEO of one of the hottest enterprise tech companies in the last several years, Dheeraj Pandey is with us. Nutanix is today a six and a half a billion dollar company, and while Dheeraj could easily retire, he’s decided that he wants to keep going because he believes building businesses is a way to make a big difference and we dig into his philosophy on this extraordinary episode. Enjoy.

So Dheeraj, thank you so much for joining Navin and I.

Dheeraj Pandey:
It’s a pleasure.

Christopher Lochhead:
It’s great to see you.

Dheeraj Pandey:
Thank you both, and I mean Chris, yeah. Absolutely.

Navin Chaddha:
Yeah, Dheeraj, it’s a pleasure to have you here.

Christopher Lochhead:
Now you are doing, of course, your history, your past, you’ve done some very legendary things. You’ve been responsible for creating categories and companies and technologies and many billions of dollars worth of market cap and value, and you’re up to some pretty interesting things in this next phase of your life in your entrepreneurial journey. And one of the most fascinating things about what you’re doing is you’re tapping into this mega trend around conscious capital of the rise of the individual. And so maybe we could start there, Dheeraj. What does that mean to you and why is that a centering point for this new startup of yours?

Dheeraj Pandey:
Yeah, I was a developer about 10, 15 years ago, and the first 10 years when I was in the U.S., I was really taking care of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It was an immigrant, I was on H-1B visa. My first goal was take care of parents back home. I come from in a relatively lower to middle class family, and I had to do a lot to just come to the U.S. I had a fellowship from UT Austin and I joined the place, but then others helped me. For example, J.N. Tata Endowment Fund, which is one of the Tata’s foundation. And then K.C. Mahindra Education Trust, which is … Mahindra is another conglomerate in India.

So while UT had paid for my fellowship, I didn’t have enough money to really fly to the U.S. and I’d never taken an airplane before. I’d never flown before. And here are these two foundations that helped me come to the U.S. So they gave me $3,000. I left $1,000 with my parents. I bought a ticket for $1,000, and all I had was $900 to come to the U.S.

So I spent the first 10 years of being in the U.S. and really taking care of the basic things, and I learned engineering and coding and development and design, and many of the things that were just the foundation for who am I and what am I really built for? And I took one of the journeys, similar to what Navin did in the nineties, to really start a company in 2009 to say, can I be an entrepreneur? And that’s basically the journey of the last 11 years with Nutanix, where as a first time entrepreneur I learned a lot of things.

I learned to build a team and learned to build a company, and also a category. Lots of pitfalls along the way, great learnings, some near-death experiences, and I figured developers can do so much more with learning about the business and having the curiosity of the customer, being conscious of the world around them. And here I am one more time just thinking about in the infinite mindset, I’m 45 right now, do I hang my boots because I’ve made a few dollars or do I really go on and pick up from where I left off and learn about new business models and such?

Navin Chaddha:
And Dheeraj is right, having seen you over the last decade and having made my own mistakes and not partnering with you the last time, I’m correcting it by partnering with you this time. What I can say is from the distant and the near, what I’ve seen in you is how much you care about people. Because my belief is people build companies, it’s not the other way around. People make products, products don’t make people. And just the authenticity of your mission and the values you bring to the table have been enlightening for me.

And I wish a lot of entrepreneurs would start their journey by writing down their mission, their vision, and their values, and what they care about. And I know you care a lot about those things. So probably Chris, if it’s okay, shedding some light into what you did at Nutanix and what you’re doing today as it relates to your mission, your North Star, your values, and how do you set a culture to get everybody behind those things?

Dheeraj Pandey:
Yeah, I mean, it was a journey for sure. And as we all know, especially in the last 12, 14 months of our own journey of just all of human kind, I mean how fragile we are. And at the end of the day, we look at what really lasts is relationships. I mean, I tell people that look, it’s so much fun to do companies because you make lifelong friends and there’s nothing more sort of rewarding than the fact that you have lifelong relationships.

I’m thinking at 75, if I ever live that long, will they look back with so much of just a wistfulness of what were things like 30 years ago and how we actually navigated the impossible and broke through the incumbency and all that stuff. But more importantly, just had so much fun along the way and just fought the naysayers along. I think that’s the goal for me to really be in business, being an entrepreneur. We’re very, very mindful at Nutanix to have thought about simple words that describe values, like hungry, humble, honest. And then there was this notion of heart that we added later on, and that all relates back to the idea of giving and equity and inclusion and diversity and everything else that has become so important in the last several years of being of entrepreneurship itself.

And this was resonating with everybody. I mean, we have folks in Japan and folks in Saudi Arabia and folks all over the world who could relate to these simple words. So keeping it simple to the three, four words. I’ve added a fifth one now, happy. What does it mean to be happy in your values as well? And it’s not easy. I mean, you could say business is hard and category creation is next to impossible and all this stuff, but when you bring it back, if you can smile and be a little mindful of your present, nothing like it.

Christopher Lochhead:
Interesting that you add a happy. I’m reminded of our mutual connection and friend, Navin, Eric Yuan, founder of Zoom, and they centered the whole company on happy. I had him on my podcast early on and as he was talking about happiness, I couldn’t believe that this was the CEO and founder of this kind of a company. And of course, you saw it in a lot of his marketing. And so I’m curious why add happiness.

Dheeraj Pandey:
The world is already tough enough, especially the part of the world where we live. I would say it’s a non-stop game in many ways and happiness to me, and now as I think about what does it really give me. First of all, there’s the importance of home. How do you really stay happy with your spouse, your partner, your children? You’ve got to take care of the basics at home as well, as opposed to being a warrior who basically brings the war to home as well. Because it doesn’t work, you need to have peace somewhere and that peace needs to start with home.

And if you take that out, obviously, we are all thinking hard about our children. Many of us, even more middle class folks who always think about our children and they haven’t seen adversity and how will they go through education in schools and all that stuff. So I think it’s important we take care of that. Be happy about the fact that they’re also becoming folks who can take their own fight in the future as they grow up.

But if you bring that happiness to work, I think magical things happen. I mean, I was never angry at Nutanix and that was so important. And it ties back to breathing and everything else. I learned a lot from many others, not the least of which was this podcast I was listening to. It was actually a KQED forum program back in 2008. Paul Ekman’s program where Michael Krasny was interviewing him, and they talked about breath meditation, which is such an important piece of this consciousness puzzle as well.

And he said, the most automatic behavior is breathing, and if you can really control breathing, then you can control all the automatic behaviors of your life. And I feel like happiness begins right there. If you can breathe happy, you can take care of a lot of things in life, including everything that happens in business, because our biggest goal in business is conflict resolution, and if you’re going there with being charged up, nothing works.

Christopher Lochhead:
It’s interesting what you say, because my belief is no one group has done more damage to entrepreneurs in the last decade or so than what I call the hustle porn stars, and these idiotic guys on social media telling people, “Hustle, hustle, hustle. Work every day. Work 18 hours a day. You should work your entire twenties.” And all this sort of stuff. And they don’t even seem to realize that in Japan there’s a word for working yourself to death because it happens so often.

And so this idea that you’re bringing about that your home life matters, your spouse matters. Your spouse is the most important person in your life. Because if you get that relationship right, you have a foundation. If you choose to make people, then you have a responsibility to those people, you made them. And yet, this is not something you hear entrepreneurs talking about a lot and many have fallen into this hustle porn trap, and so I’m curious, you seem to be the exact opposite of that.

Dheeraj Pandey:
Yeah, I mean, I learned from even people like Navin. I mean, he does some of these yearly events where he basically brings people together and I see his family, his kids and our kids go to the same school, and I think there’s this groundedness of what it means to be an entrepreneur, be a venture capitalist. How do you just stay normal? Because we have come to define what sensational … I mean, a lot of Hollywood is now coming to the area and we just got to understand what will happen after all is said and done. It’s like, look at Hollywood now versus what it used to be 10, 15, 20 years ago. I think we need to really think hard about what being grounded means. And what does it mean to not just start a cult. And it’s really not about being that. As opposed to can we give our time and money and our wisdom or whatever we have gathered over time to others as well.

Navin Chaddha:
So switching gears. Right? Like Dheeraj, you’re an extremely driven guy. Right? You’ve been extremely successful over the last decade. And you mentioned you want to look at things 30 years back when you’re 75. But what are you looking forward to for the next decade? What is driving you to do another company? What gets you fired up? What gets you wake up in the morning and go about doing your life, both at work? And I know you’re working on a foundation, you are trying to give your time, money, everything and the learnings you had. Just I’m curious, what does the next decade look like for you?

Dheeraj Pandey:
In many ways it’s like starting over. I’m a big fan of Chris Stapleton’s song actually. And he was a five-time Grammy winner. The music is amazing and everything, but it looks like a reset, what 2009 was. And I’m trying to consciously say this to myself, that look, I’m nothing. I’ve achieved nothing. What I have is basically… I mean, when he said success, I don’t even think I’ve been a successful guy up till now. I think I’ve done very little compared to what I have the potential to do. And the learnings the last 10, 12 years to me around the business model, around distribution. I think that to me is so important. I mean, at Nutanix, we had great content, great heart, a great soul with customer success and net promoter score. Great high quality products that we built amazing culture within the company.

But we had a stale distribution model from the 1990s, which was appliance and hardware and channel and to cure and all this stuff. And obviously digital was right in front of us. This last decade was a decade of digital. Where you had to distribute with probably no human Salesforce. This is exactly what happened with the cloud company. They started out with credit cards and this idea that it couldn’t really get distribution going like the consumer internet dead, for 10, 15 years before that. I think that would be pervasive in SaaS, in business software. Whatever happened in the world of consumer internet is going to replicate itself in the business internet. And we’ve seen this time and time again, people used to laugh at and mock Apple back in 2011. If you go back in time, Dell, Cisco, HP, everybody had their smartphones and tablets because they didn’t think that Apple was ready for the enterprise.

And lo and behold, today we are here. The most secure and still the most elegant product out there for the enterprise is Apple. So I think we are taking a lot of pages out of that book of consumer internet and thinking, what would that mean for business? People have come to give it a term like we’d give it all the time PLG. But I feel like it’s really about this copy pasting everything from the consumer internet world. Where code will drive everything and they will be no span breakers between the developer and the end-user. So you’ve got to go figure what that means. So that’s a passion for me and our team here at DevRev, is to really think hard about the developer and make them part of the business. Make them conscious people about why they do what they do, as opposed to just worry about the what itself.

So DevRev is about starting with, why? And there’s a part of my brain. That’s the yin to the yang of DevRev, which is really about… I couldn’t invest. Not even an investor that way. So I found a friend who was, again, a very happy guy. He’s my high school friend who is now the chief investment officer of this fund that we have created. And we will be focusing on private on public equity mostly, but also in biology and things at the cusp of computing and biology. I couldn’t do a company in life sciences myself because it needs some context. But definitely we could vicariously learn about, what does it mean to age gracefully and in the process give back. So there’s a foundation. So between the foreign, which is called Paramahansa values and a foundation Paramahansa philanthropies, we feel like we’d go and learn a whole lot more.

I mean, it’s great to actually work with you and Rashid as well on this Nevin. I mean, kudos to Rashid for what he’s done in the last five years to redefine his own purpose. And it’s a bold and audacious move to actually go from software, which is a well-known thing to now the new software. I mean, I feel like what happened with, in hardware and software in the ’80s chemistry is and new hardware and biology is and new software. So a lot of pharmaceutical stuff will actually end towards software, which is biology and gene therapy and cell therapy. So I think there’s some great learnings there. I’d love to actually play a little role there as well with some of our investments.

Navin Chaddha:
Yeah. No, I think that’s very true. Chris and I have talked as part of conscious capital on how do you invest in companies which can help fit human and planetary evolution. And we have a strong POV, if you marry the engineering approaches of information technology with the advances in biology and chemistry, not only can you make people’s lives better, but you can actually save lives. But at the same time, you can take several industries in food, materials, fuels, energy, so on and so forth and make them planet friendly. Because it’s not just about sustainability, there’s not enough raw materials. There’s a supply problem today to serve the needs of the growing population.

And people reaching their Maslow’s hierarchy. They want to eat protein. They want to build houses. There is not enough supply. So the future, I agree with you, the next 20 to 30 years, it’s going to be this intersection of different technologies and sciences. And it will require entrepreneurs who actually come from outside those industries to partner with the scientists in these areas and bring the approaches. They have their businesses in the information technology arena and bring it to this field. Right?

Dheeraj Pandey:
No, I think it’s so well said. I mean, just today I was reading in FT about Tesla’s decision to back out of Bitcoin. Because it’s not environmentally sound. As a currency, at least. The fact that you can’t mine enough with those and to validate and verify ownership and everything else. And I think it goes back to, who’s the new customer? Are they millennials and the Gen Z’s. On one hand, they want to be really thinking ahead and say, can we hedge against the dollar and buy into Bitcoins and stuff? But in the other, they’ve all been raised in a world that’s a whole lot more conscious about the planet. I think as a generation, they’re more evolved on this than we were. So I think there’s going to be a real paradoxical or going on about technology. But at the end of the day, the new customer is extremely conscious about the world around them.

Navin Chaddha:
Absolutely. Right. And it’s my belief that today as leaders, whether it’s entrepreneurs, corporate execs, VCs, we need to help business for better rather than business for usual. And Chris and I, we have teamed up to make sure how do we evangelize this? Let’s do well, but do so for others at the same time. Right? And if they can do get good for other humans and the planet, nothing like it.

Dheeraj Pandey:
Well, I think it’s also good business. I feel like the more, as you said, you talked about all the verticals where software is required. I’m like, okay, well it’s oxygen now. So if it’s oxygen, then we got to act like consumer companies. With different consumer companies were extremely conscious about this aspect of, I mean, Nike and every everybody else. I mean, Apple. Think of Tim cook coming on in his last conference. And he spends the first five minutes about the environment. I’m like, he lives on the same planet that we live in. So if he’s talking about it and he knows it’s a good business because it’s customers are Millennials and Gen Z’s as well, just as much. I think it’s got to seep into the business internet.

Christopher Lochhead:
And the interesting thing about all of this is, and I want to bounce this off both of you. There’s one mindset, that’s a scarcity mindset. There’s only so much things in the world and therefore we fight over those things. There’s a different mindset, which we’ve all grown up in our industry. Which is the mindset of, when human beings collaborate, they can create abundance. And so to your point, Navin. Yes, if you look at what’s going on right now, the price of wood has gone up by three or 400%, some crazy percentage.

If you look at what’s going on with lithium right now and the chip disaster. And I think might’ve been Ford, came out and said, they’re going to miss their numbers because they can’t get enough chips because of course, today a car is a rolling data center. And so they’re limited supply of key resources on the planet. However, when legendary innovators come together and collaborate to create new technologies, new approaches, new categories, I know it sounds maybe a little kumbaya to some, but we truly can create abundance. And so I’m curious about in a way, DevRev to me seems a little bit like creating abundance in a new way. But I’m curious how you think about it.

Dheeraj Pandey:
Yeah. At Nutanix, we had almost 2000 people in engineering and decision-making was still very subjective. I think when there’s so much data all around and yet no meaning to it. It’s like, you have the ocean of salty water, but you can drink anything because it’s just not good for your health. And it’s the same thing we have. We have data everywhere. And tech companies have data everywhere. There’s data from customer. There’s data from your current code and the data from developers and support staff. And everybody has data of what’s important. And yet there’s no good system to really say, okay, how do we prioritize what we do? And it gets political. I mean, there’s name calling and the product managers, architects, development managers, developers, support managers, customer success, managers, sales managers and it all escalates to the founder. It’s like, hey, can you get this thing figured out?

Christopher Lochhead:
Is it like the teacher in the school yard?

Dheeraj Pandey:
Yeah. Absolutely. And in fact it looks like the only savior then is the CEO or some C-level staff. And it all happens with this escalation. When in reality, I think if you build a system of record that was curious and hungry about data and events, and then you made it engaging, you could let systems do more to really get people to agree more and probably focus on the customer because this is the paradox of growth as well as my friends at Bain Consulting call it. The paradox of growth is growth creates complexity and complexity is a silent killer of growth. So you’re in this cycle that can look very vicious over time. And the question is how can systems help? How can software help? And that’s what we’re really thinking hard about at DevRev.

We feel like the developer is the creator. And we talk a lot about creators, I’ve learned the word creator, I know you, Chris, you use the word creator quite a bit. At Adobe, we talk a lot about the creatives and the communicators and what does it mean to really think about giving them power and everything. And I’ve really come to appreciate the word creatives and creators. And in many ways developers are one of those people. And then you need to give them their platform where they can talk to the customer directly. I mean, 10 years ago, product managers were shy of exposing the developer to the customer directly.

Christopher Lochhead:
Some of them thought it was their job to keep the customers away. That the product manager, product marketing manager, they go talk to customers, they interpret what they say and they come back and tell the developers. That seems asinine.

Dheeraj Pandey:
Yeah, no, you’re right. And in fact, Slack came and changed all of it, completely changed. Because people wanted real time, high velocity and very genuine, authentic feedback to the customer saying, look, this is not possible. We have a bug here. We have an issue here. We’re working on it. And the reason why net promoter scores of companies are higher because they’re authentic. They’re not self-righteous, they’re honest about it. And they’re also vulnerable. And in the rise of this individual as you see this when the have nots from the customer side come out and they see vulnerability from the haves, which is the vendor and a software company, they appreciate that a lot more than anything. And I think this is the core of future communication, a lot of authenticity, which makes for conscious business.

Navin Chaddha:
What I would add to that, Chris, to your question and Dheeraj you mentioned it earlier. There’s a lot of learnings to be had with the consumer internet. Where businesses are built direct to consumer and developers have gained insight onto what the end user needs. I think that notion now is coming to the business world. Where, you’re going to go direct to customer, the D2C model. And actually the customer now will get direct the developer because as we talk about boundary-less organization boundary less companies, I think the world of collaboration will come together where can there be technologies available to make developers from humans to super humans. That’ll make their company succeed, they’ll be able to build products faster, build better products that are easier to use by their customers and solve real pain points and do it in real time. Because with analytics and data, you use them but if you look at the product development cycle in information technology, yes we have gotten one year development cycles to six months to three months to agile development daily builds.

But if you ask somebody what’s a painkiller feature on the companies I’m board of, it’s still unclear because there’s so many layers involved in the organization before the information gets to the developer. And my strong belief is the next generation of 10, 20, $30 billion companies, which will get created like HashiCorp, which I’m on the board of, will not only invent technology, but they’ll invent, Dheeraj what you said, distribution. They won’t be reliant upon others and multi-channel distributions, they’ll build roads direct to their customer. And in today’s world to create a mega company, which is built to last, I think technology innovation is not enough. You need to innovate on your delivery, distribution and business model. And more successful companies have a combination of two or three of these. And I think the limitless potential of what tech business models and distribution models can do is just very, very exciting.

Dheeraj Pandey:
No, you’re right. And by the way, this doesn’t mean that humans and the managers are any less important, but they need to focus, we need to elevate them to focus on customer success. I mean the rewards structure, the compensation structure. We all look at Amazon and Azure and say, wow, they did such big things but one of the biggest things they did was they redefined compensation of the sales force. And that sounds mundane but at the end of the day, they said, look, customer success is about consumption. If they’re not consuming it, you’re not getting paid. Even the most basic things in this new distribution model where people get elevated to focus on wastage and what really counts. If the customer didn’t use it, I’m not going to pay you, will really matter in this coming decade.

Christopher Lochhead:
It’s funny you say that I recently had John Rossman on my podcast and he was the executive at Amazon who helped build the marketplace business. And he’s written this incredible book called the Amazon Way. And one of the things he shared with me is how radical Jeff Bezos was about focus, time, money, and energy on the returns process. And most companies prior to that, did everything possible to make it impossible to return stuff. And the insight of Jeff, according to John was if the customer, if the consumer knows that we will take care of them no matter what, and you can buy anything you want on Amazon and returning it as easy and no hassle, they will turn to us.

In addition, and this is something I want to kind of tease out with you. Another thing John shared with me about Amazon, as we in the enterprise business look for leadership from the consumer side, he said that any new capability that they put out must be easy up and on no training. The first time he user sees it, they can do whatever the feature, whatever the function, whatever the initiative is. And until it is that simple, whether it’s AWS, you think of a startup can get an instance on AWS, they never have to talk to anybody. And it made me think of something I’ve been a customer of Amazon pretty much since they launched, I don’t think I’ve ever called them.

Dheeraj Pandey:
Well, it’s the whole idea and goes back to what good business is really subservience to the customer. I mean, what was Satya Nadella’s biggest contribution to Microsoft in the last seven years? Just a really subservient way of thinking about customers. Like we are not the end all and be all of all things Microsoft and Windows and SQL Server and all the assets of the last 20 years. We have to really think about humility. And I think Amazon in many ways personifies that as a company. I mean, we’ve heard all these anecdotal stories about how when packaging was difficult and one of these elderly women wrote to Jeff about it’s hard to open your packages as an old woman and how they completely turned that over and make it easy and all that. That, to me, that level of empathy is rare, but if you get it right. I mean as, Maya Angelou said this, during the hard times, and paraphrasing her, it’s not what you did for them is how you made them feel. In a return process how you make the customer feel, ease the magic of Amazon Prime. It’s not the fact that logistics is now way cheaper and commoditized. It’s like everything that I buy from Amazon is unquestionably returnable.

Christopher Lochhead:
Now I’d like to go back a little bit to you talking about why in the pandemic, and one of the interesting things that I’ve been talking to many and my friends and colleagues about is the pandemic has sort of driven, it feels like, the whole world to ask some pretty big existential questions. Why do I do what I do? Why do I live where I live? Who do I want to be trapped in a home with or in an apartment with? Et cetera, et cetera. So very big thoughts for many, many people. And one of the things that seems to be coming out and it’s something Navin and I have touched on as part of the rise of the individual is this concept of agency. That in order to design a legendary career and frankly a legendary life, the most powerful thing you can have is agency the ability to choose what you do, who you do with, et cetera, and work from home and all these things. So there seems to be a breakthrough in agency happening, and that breakthrough in agency is blurred in our work-life at home life, because now we don’t have a work life and a home life, we just have a life. And so it feels like to me, that part of what you’re doing at DevRev is sort of empowering this breakthrough in agency. But I’m curious how you think about it.

Dheeraj Pandey:
Yeah, it’s funny, you mentioned this because January, February of last year in 2020, I was taking a step back and thinking about me flying a quarter million miles a year. And in many ways I was kind of the agency for a lot of million dollar deals, we’re going head-on against some large incumbents. We have to figure out hybrid cloud, our relevance with our software and with the rise of the public cloud. And there was a new consumption model in front of us, which was, no pun intended consumption-based. And here we were till about couple of years ago selling hardware than software and now moving to subscription and so on. And I’m like, what’s the real agency of Dheeraj? Do I make myself be available, which I wanted to be with every salesperson, I’m like how can I help them?

So I had to fly down to teach them, to learn from them because the pulse of the market is probably the biggest role of a CEO. What’s the pulse of the market? Can you see, look around the corner? And then you use that gut with all the data coming from humans. So I was into that business of collecting all the data, building my gut on some of these things, but I was spending almost 250,000 plus miles flying around. And then I took a step back and I said, how could I be distributing myself better? And that’s when this idea of DevRev was in my head. Like if I built a company that was distributed better, that was more digital, then I could have more impact on my company, on the people, on our customers. Build a quasi D2C company, even though it’s not really a consumer company, but I look at developers as consumers. In fact, all day long I think about what does it mean to think of them as a consumer? What about their attention span? How do we have them stay in our dashboards and our software and our ecosystem? And like there’s this immense amount of thinking that’s going about thinking about the consumer and building DevRev into a B2C like company rather than a B2B company. And that to me is a bigger impact of me and my agency, including for my family to say, look, can I really do this better?

Christopher Lochhead:
Yes. And one of the things I know that you’re committed to is this notion of an infinite mindset of a life where we learn and grow consistently and constantly. And so I’m curious how that factors into your thinking as it relates Dheeraj to the building of DevRev and the new company, the new product, and of course the new category.

Dheeraj Pandey:
Yeah. In fact I have definitely learned a lot from people around me. And one of the people that I really learned a lot from is Simon Sinek and he inspires me every day. Every time he does something on LinkedIn I share and reshare and all that stuff. But I also want to take a step back and maybe read from a book that somebody had given me a snippet out of, this is about one of the chess champions who writes about himself. And the paragraph goes as such. So I quote, “When Der Spiegel asked me what I thought separated me, the world champion, from other strong chess players I answered, the willingness to take on new challenges.” The same answer I would give today, the willingness to keep trying new things, different methods, uncomfortable tasks. When you’re already an expert at something it’s what separates good from great. Focusing on your strengths is required for peak performance, but improving your weaknesses has the potential for the greatest gains. This is true for athletes, executives, and entire companies leaving your comfort zone involves risk, however, and when you’re already doing well the temptation to stick with the status quo can be overwhelming leading to stagnation.

So I really, really, really believe in this. You know, he also goes on to say, “To become good at anything, you have to know how to apply basic principles. To become great at it, you have to know when to violate those principles. This isn’t only a theory, it’s also the story of my own battles against chess machines over two decades.” And I was so enamored by that idea of what does it mean to violate those same principles? I mean, Nutanix was doing great, it had gone through three levels of business model transitions. And I’m like now the time for me to think of how a consumer thinks and in many ways to leave that, all that that I’d built for 11, 12 years and to go and start from scratch, was really starting from my weaknesses. One of the weaknesses that I had I thought was I need to understand distribution even better than anybody else. And that’s where I am.

Navin Chaddha:
Yeah. And I think listening to this, right? And I haven’t followed his work, one of the things I have learned working with entrepreneurs like you and through my own journey, both as an entrepreneur and VC is, you can’t get too comfortable with what you’re doing. And I believe in having a combination of a prepared mind with an open mind. Because what ends up happening is if you rinse and repeat what you know, you’ll keep doing what you have done. And yes, you can bike and climb new heights but if you keep doing what you’re doing, I sometimes joke and say, it’s like riding a stationary bike.

And then on your point on getting outside your comfort zone, I always tell myself when I get up in the morning and at board meetings to people, fear is the only thing that limits one’s potential. And as Einstein said, if you don’t fail enough, you’re not going to have big breakthroughs. So you need to face a lot of things that won’t work to create greatness. So I completely resonate with what I just heard. And there’s so many examples I can relate to from my personal journey. And also the journeys I’ve seen personally of like 50 plus entrepreneurs I’ve been on the board of, it’s just mind boggling, like people have FOMO and I think FOMO is for sheep. But they just can’t get over the fact that fear is the only thing that’s going to limit my potential and if I can define my North Star, it’s limitless what I can achieve. And I think I see that in what you did last time around and you’re throwing away everything you succeeded and trying a completely different thing, a different model. And I think sometimes having that open mind and an outsiders perspective into a market is where great companies can be created. Because the incumbents are going to be stuck as public companies in their business, their revenue models, it’s hard to keep reinventing yourself.

So sometimes it means an outsider who doesn’t come from that industry, but has the grit necessary to succeed against all odds. That fresh thinking, fresh perspective. And in physics, or like in math transforming what you know into what you’re dealing with now, great things can happen. But you need to be patient at the same time because company building, you take a 30 year perspective is like running a marathon, it’s not a sprint. So I can resonate extremely well with your journey. And Chris, the work you have been doing on the Creator Economy, I see this stuff all coming together. The next decade is all going to be about how do you collaborate and communicate and build companies which are boundary-less. People talked about supply chains integrating, I think now the distribution chains are going to integrate together where there’ll be no boundaries between the person who creates and the person who consumes.

Dheeraj Pandey:
Well said.

Christopher Lochhead:
Yes, very well said. Now, gentlemen, anything else you want to touch on before we wrap?

Dheeraj Pandey:
Well, for me, it’s just I hope the listeners stay safe and everybody gets vaccinated. I hope everybody does because it’s in the interest of everybody. And I am passing a politically incorrect statement here.

Christopher Lochhead:
You don’t think that the vaccine has a chip in it from Bill Gates so that he can track us? Is that what you’re saying?

Dheeraj Pandey:
Well, I mean again, we live in this world of bell curves and I just feel like there’s some things we just got to have some level of consensus on, and it happens to be one of them that I believe in. That if I want to go without a mask, then I want to make sure that people I’m talking to and I’m speaking with and sharing the same room with are also vaccinated.

Christopher Lochhead:
Man, oh man, does it feel good to be able to hug and kiss people that you love, that you haven’t been able to be close to for, oh, over a year now doesn’t it?

Dheeraj Pandey:
Surreal.

Navin Chaddha:
And I think my parting comments, Chris, will be to the listeners. A crisis is an opportunity for the board. Like I think it’s time to lean forward as I mentioned earlier, because fear is the only thing that limits one potential. So think big and redefine yourself, define your true north and get going with life.

Christopher Lochhead:
And on that note, gentlemen, I’ll thank you so much for your time. Dheeraj, it’s amazing to have you join Navin and I thank you so much. And of course we wish you legendary success with DevRev.

Dheeraj Pandey:
Fingers crossed, we’ll come back for more help from you as well, Chris, and Navin.

Navin Chaddha:
Thank you Dheeraj.

Dheeraj Pandey:
Okay. Thank you.

Christopher Lochhead:
Thanks for joining us on Conscious VC with Navin Chaddha, Managing Director of Mayfield and me, podcaster and author, Christopher Lochhead. You can find me on the internet at lochhead.com. Conscious VC is presented by Mayfield, visit mayfield.com today where you can learn more about the five pillars of conscious capital and much more. Thanks again for pressing play.

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