My Lightbulb Moment – Why I’m Excited to Disrupt Networking
I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to the formation, growth, and success of many technology companies over the course of my career. Some companies were just getting started, while others were among the largest, most innovative, and well-known companies in Silicon Valley.
I’m often asked what excites me most about working in tech – and the answer is simply, everything. I love the innovation, the pace, and the transformative power of technology. I’ve learned that technology can change lives, businesses, and the very future of the world. I especially love when technology upsets the status quo because it’s those moments that define the essence of tech, and why people and money continue flowing into our industry.
There are countless examples of this – from the way cellular disrupted telephony, to the way the cloud disrupted storage and software, to Tesla changing the auto industry and Apple redefining the user experience. Sometimes, disruptive change comes from unique innovations that makes it possible to do something we couldn’t do before, like communicating with people while on the move rather than tethered to a phone line. Other times, disruptive change makes it possible to do something in a way that is better, easier, faster, less expensive, and/or simpler, like Netflix did for video consumption.
So, you might be wondering “What’s the next big disruption in tech?” I believe it will be in a space I know very well: the network space.
There is too much complexity in networks today. This has happened because leading incumbents have been doing what they thought was the right thing for far too long. They kept adding in new functionality to demonstrate momentum, and simply burdened the product with too much code and complexity. Somewhere along the way, however, these “leaders” lost sight of what customers really want: no staff, ease of use, and easy installation. Customers don’t care about the behind the scenes – what they really want is for you to give them what they want and need in a personalized way.
It’s for these reasons – and many more – that I am excited to be a co-founder of Nile with Pankaj Patel, Chief Executive Officer, Suresh Katukam, Chief Strategy Officer, and Sri Hosakote, Chief Product Officer.
When Pankaj approached me with the idea of building a new network business based on simplicity for network, I knew I wanted to be involved. Pankaj and I have done this time and time again. We are a team and we have managed to not only reinvent ourselves but also win each time we do. We did it in switching, routing, workplace collaboration, video, and a lot of other categories – and we always got to number one in market share. When you have a leader like Pankaj – someone you can trust fully, which Pankaj and I have learned to do after working together for more than 20 years at Cisco – paired with a great engineering team, you have an advantage. This is especially true when you can start with a clean sheet and no install base – with a start like that, you can engineer for the outcome you want to deliver without any technical debt.
For me, the true “lightbulb moment” behind Nile was that this was a market transition that was easy to understand. These kinds of technology inflection points flow from disruptive change. I know this because I’ve done it and I’ve been a part of it. One of the examples I mentioned earlier applies perfectly here – while at Cisco, Pankaj and I changed web conferencing and video, and then we eventually got beat by one of our own guys at Zoom. What Eric Yuan and Zoom did to WebEx and Telepresence is a classic case of disruption. Eric figured out how to deliver a simpler experience and changed workplace collaboration via video forever. (While the pandemic accelerated Zoom’s rise, Eric and his team are due credit for the innovative disruption they successfully built and scaled.) At the end of the day, it’s all about what customers really want – simplicity.
I’ve seen this movie over and over again. We’ve disrupted others and we’ve been disrupted. Now, armed with a track record, relationships, and trust that almost no one else in the networking industry has, Pankaj and I are going to take our playbook and cause some major disruption with Nile. With the license and experience to disrupt the status quo, we can finally deliver the change that customers are demanding – simpler outcomes for networks.
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