Every investor would like to help their portfolio companies at every stage of development, from first funding to IPO or acquisition.
In the case of Rancher Labs, Mayfield partner Ursheet Parikh did just that, say two of the company’s founders, Sheng Liang and Shannon Williams.
Ursheet and Sheng knew each other in the 2000s, when Ursheet was the founder and CEO of StoreSimple and Sheng had those roles at Cloud.com. After joining Mayfield in 2013, Ursheet immediately reached out to Sheng after learning that he and two of his Cloud.com co-founders were starting something new. The following October, he was named to Rancher Labs’ first board of directors. And in September 2014, Ursheet led Mayfield’s investment in a Series A.
For months after that, Ursheet and Sheng met every two weeks to discuss how to make money selling open source software, and to define products that customers would pay for in the crowded market that had grown around software container technology. “For the longest time, we just couldn’t figure out how to explain why we’re different from all the other Kubernetes distros,” says Sheng. “He helped us with that.”
Ursheet helped Shannon with GTM advice as well, and wasn’t a one-man band. Mayfield portfolio services leaders in business development, marketing and talent helped Rancher’s leaders develop new capabilities. Through messaging coaching sessions, the team refined their message and narrative. By leveraging the firm’s CXO network of leaders, the team was able to validate their pitch in front of senior IT leaders, and acquired Sophos as an early customer through introductions at a Mayfield event.
When times got tough, Ursheet didn’t waver — even when a pivot into that Kubernetes market put Rancher in direct competition with everyone from better-funded startups to enterprise technology vendors like IBM and VMware to cloud giants Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
“In Ursheet’s mind, there was never any doubt we would be able to beat those much bigger competitors. It was just a matter of figuring out how.” Ursheet did more than advise. He also brokered meetings with potential customers he knew, not just sharing names but setting up and sometimes attending the meetings.
One of those meetings, back in 2018, was with executives from SUSE, the big Germany-based open source company. For the following two years, Ursheet nurtured a continuing relationship, which culminated with SUSE offering to buy Rancher in mid-2020.
His work not done, Ursheet was heavily involved in the process, guiding multiple offers and helping Sheng make his final decision.
“This acquisition wouldn’t have happened if not for Ursheet,” says Sheng. “He’s been there every step of the way.”