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Q&A with Software Startup Druva

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Editor’s note: Druva’s inSync is a cloud-based unified solution for managing endpoint data in a mobile world. In this interview, Jaspreet Singh, founder and CEO, explains how the product differentiates in its market and how it provides value for enterprises. He also discusses an important attribute for startup CEOs. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation.

SandHill.com: When and where was your company launched?

Jaspreet Singh: We founded Druva in July of 2008 at Pune, India. We eventually moved to the United States after a Sequoia investment in January 2010.

SandHill.com: Please describe your product and your market.

Jaspreet Singh: Druva provides a unified solution to protect and manage endpoint data for enterprises. The solution integrates three functionalities — award winning backup, secure file-sharing and data loss prevention and analytics — to create a single unified cloud for IT to protect, manage and empower end users.

The enterprise endpoint landscape is ever changing. From PCs and laptops to smartphones and tablet devices and now a rising BYOD trend, enterprise data is spread across users, platforms, devices and geographies.

Data protection has been a crowded market space filled with legacy solution providers that have upgraded traditional server backup solutions to fit the mobile enterprise user. This has resulted in a lot of unhappy enterprises and great resistance from the end users to using those products because the solutions are resource intensive or do not offer sufficient security over public networks.

We built inSync specifically for the mobile user to address all the issues that legacy solutions were failing to address. The non-intrusive nature of the solution ensures that end users don’t even know it’s there. Our product helps users make the best use of the data and at the same time enables IT to protect and control the same information. The users can use Druva inSync to share and collaborate with peers on the data from any device. IT gets a single console to back up corporate information, visibility into what and with whom users are sharing, and is able to control the data using data loss prevention and analytics. It’s the industry’s first solution to integrate these features into a single unified solution.

SandHill.com: As the founder, what is your background and what led you to launch Druva?

Jaspreet Singh: My entrepreneurship journey started when I was in Germany on a student exchange program back in 2003. I loved cooking and became famous for it, when we hosted a small party for a few folks from my university (including all our guides). Eventually my friends and I started getting offers to start selling some meals, and we ran a very successful catering operation.

After that, I wanted to do a startup. First I joined a startup, Ensim Corporation, as engineer and was lucky to be part of a full product life cycle. While working at Ensim, I became well known in the open source community for my security and storage-related work and was invited to join Veritas (now Symantec) storage foundation group. I was the only undergrad working for that group, and that gave me an opportunity to learn without worrying about failures. Ensim was a good inside view of a successful startup. I left Veritas in 2007 to start Druva in 2008.

When I was at Veritas, I met Milind Borate (now co-founder and CTO of Druva), and our ideas matched. We shared the opinion that enterprise backup was a neglected area and wanted to change the way enterprises protected their data. We realized there was a need for a single solution in this space.

SandHill.com: Is there a story behind your company name?

Jaspreet Singh: In Sanskrit, “Druva” refers to the Pole/North Star and represents continuity. Our first solution focused on disaster recovery, but we soon realized that a greater need existed for a solution that would help enterprises protect their critical endpoint data.

SandHill.com: What challenges have you encountered in trying to market your product and grow your company?

Jaspreet Singh:  I think both the market readiness to buy such a solution and Druva’s brand awareness challenged Druva’s growth. Thanks to recent focus on endpoints and data protection laws, we are seeing better market acceptability of the solution. We are still doing our best to create a better brand for Druva.

SandHill.com: Which of your personal attributes or personality traits has helped you the most in efforts to grow your company?

Jaspreet Singh: Persistence is possibly the most underrated attribute for any entrepreneur. Being persistent and being hungry helped me the most. This has been true in numerous circumstances including winning large deals. My advice for other entrepreneurs is to stay hungry, stay foolish and be persistent.

SandHill.com: Please describe a pitfall you were able to avoid because of a mentor or other advisor’s advice.

Jaspreet Singh: For a growing startup, what not to build is often more important than what to build. After initial success with inSync, we were tempted to invest more in backup and offer the service to high-end servers. We did build an early prototype, which met with some beginner’s luck. But, when I met Yoram Novick (ex-CEO of Topio and now founder of Maxta), he advised us not to enter a mature market and instead focus energy on endpoints.

SandHill.com: What is the worst business advice you ever received, and did you follow it?

Jaspreet Singh: To change the sales model to sell to consumers instead of enterprises. No, I did not follow it.

SandHill.com: If you could spend an afternoon this month with a top executive in a well-established software firm to learn some insights from the exec, who would you choose?

Jaspreet Singh:  Marc Benioff.

SandHill.com: If you could go back and do it all over again, from the time you first began planning for your company, what would you do differently the second time around, and why?

Jaspreet Singh:  I would build marketing much earlier and much bigger. I think being a South-Asian entrepreneur I undervalued the value of good marketing and branding. It’s usually a mindset game more than a technology game once you start to scale up.

SandHill.com: Is scaling up on your agenda for the coming year?

Jaspreet Singh:  Over the next 12 months, we will focus on growth, sales and marketing execution and market expansion.

SandHill.com: Imagine that next week you have a full day with an empty calendar. What would you do that day?

Jaspreet Singh: First half: review sales/marketing forecast and plan/readjust the next few quarters. Second half: read a book or go for early dinner in the city.

SandHill.com: When and where was the best vacation trip you’ve ever taken? What was great about it?

Jaspreet Singh: A trip to the higher Himalayas in the northeastern part of India right after my marriage in 2008. It was memorable because:

a)     I was still trying to close some business in the evenings.

b)    It was not the best planned trip, but it was the most scenic trip, which was completely unexpected.

c)     We hardly had any money, and that made things even more precious.

Jaspreet Singh is founder and CEO of Druva. An entrepreneur at heart, he bootstrapped the company while defining the product, sales and marketing strategies that have resulted in Druva’s early and impressive success. Prior to founding Druva, Jaspreet was a member of the storage foundation group at Veritas. He also held a number of engineering specific roles at Ensim Corporation.

Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor at SandHill.com

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