When Portworx’ founders began looking for their first round of funding in end-2015, they were already a proven, self-confident team. They knew what they knew about building successful enterprise technology companies, and they knew what they needed help with. Which made Mayfield managing director Navin Chaddha an ideal choice as founding investor.
“Navin knows to ask no question before it’s time,” says Murli Thirumale. “A lot of investors ask stupid questions. Don’t ask us how we’re going to set a list price, before we even know how we’re going to create value yet. It wastes people’s time.”
That doesn’t mean Thirumale and co-founders Gou Rao and Vinod Jayaraman only wanted Mayfield for its checkbook. They knew Chaddha, a three-time entrepreneur himself and a founding investor in dozens of companies over a storied VC career, could help introduce them to potential hires, customers and other investors. With his experience, he had the ability to see patterns others would not know to look for.
That was instrumental early on, during whiteboard sessions on strategy. Having seen how other portfolio companies and their customers were adopting container-based software, he listened intently as the team debated whether to focus on building storage software for the traditional buyers of storage technology, data-center administrators, or whether to focus on DevOps leaders leading this new process for building and deploying apps. Using a Socratic method rather than dogmatically suggesting answers, he helped them decide on the latter.
“We were weaving in and out of those lanes, and he helped us see that the traditional buyer was not the right answer,” says Thirumale.
More broadly, Portworx’ founders felt what Chaddha has described as a zone of trust. “Navin and the rest of the Mayfield team operate as if they are part of the founding team,” says Rao. “They give you the amount of support that you need. They’re always there to help, without actually interfering with your operation, because they have faith in how you’re running things.”