Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?
Vineet: While this story may not be uncommon, I arrived in the US with only a crisp $100 bill, and I knew just one person (someone I had worked with in my first job in India) who picked me up at the airport. I didn’t know anyone and didn’t have access to a car or tv in the first few months, so I went to the Office (Bechtel in San Francisco) on the weekends in my spare time. I began befriending everyone from folks on the CalTrain, my daily bus route, and even random people in stores.
Adam: How did you get here? What experiences, failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth as an entrepreneur and a leader?
Vineet: A large amount of “foolish optimism” and bouncing back from every failure and rejection are some of the traits that have become core to me. I was doing quite well at KPMG (my late 20’s) and yet decided to leave that job to do my own company, my own startup. When you are young, the self-belief bordering on being invincible was very high. My first company Valdero, focused on producing supply-chain management software to help companies manage their inventory. After selling, I felt that it wasn’t a great exit. It felt like a failure. My goal and hope with Egnyte has always been to lead us to be a product that customers love, a culture that anyone associated with Egnyte likes (mostly everyone), and a company that creates a lot of value for all its stakeholders.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Vineet: The most effective leaders are the ones who surround themselves with people smarter them on respective functions, create a culture where decisions are not made by consensus, and have someone – may be more than one who could one day replace them. And while building such a team, the leader remains secure and confident in their own role.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective entrepreneur?
Vineet: A consistent reminder that almost every day will be a grind, nothing good in life comes easy, and you have to deal with constant rejection – be it from prospects, investors, press, analysts or folks you are trying to hire. Hence, my reference again to “foolish optimism”. While you are dealing with all this, extremely important to find lots and lots of “pockets” of fun to keep an even keel.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
- There is no substitute for high integrity even if in the short term you may not get positive results.
- Try to meet at least 2-3 people every week outside work with “no” defined or designed outcome from that meeting.
- Learn to trust people and don’t second guess. Mistakes will be made by all including yourself.
Adam: What advice do you have on raising capital? Can you talk about your different rounds, what you learned from each one and what other entrepreneurs can apply to their endeavors?
Vineet: There is no one advice for raising capital since every round has its own nuances – what stage of growth are you at, how hot is your space, not everyone will find your story appealing but the most important of them all – if you are building a solid business which is scaling and the market opportunity is there, you will always find someone willing to invest.
Adam: What is your decision process as you whether, when and how to go public?
Vineet: Core business metrics have to be in place like revenue growth rate, have you hit the threshold in terms of ARR (applicable for Saas plays), the rule of 40 etc. Going public should be seen as an “interim milestone” and not as the final destination. Bulk of value creation happens once you are public.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Vineet: Leverage people’s strengths and work around their weaknesses.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Vineet: Everyone says that your customers come first, but I believe it’s your employees that come first.