Dheeraj Pandey of Nutanix and DevRev on product-led growth
In 2009, Dheeraj Pandey co-founded, a pioneer in hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), amid an economic downturn.
“We jumped in. I think we were good at being stubborn and listening at the same time. And obviously, there was luck…I mean, we had three near-death experiences in the first three years, and we didn’t give up,” he tells Siddhartha Ahluwalia on the 100X Entrepreneur podcast.
And when Dheeraj exited Nutanix in late 2020, an HCI and hybrid cloud software powerhouse by then, to start DevRev, many of his colleagues chose not to give up on him, joining his new venture.
These included Manoj Agarwal, Nutanix's former Senior Vice President of engineering and general manager of hybrid cloud, who is now DevRev's co-founder and president, and Madhukar Kumar, Nutanix's former VP of product and solution marketing, who is now DevRev's Head of Growth.
In this week’s episode of the 100X Entrepreneur podcast, Dheeraj shares his two-decade-old journey, insights into product-led growth, problem-solving tactics, and much more.
Finding Nutanix’s early customers
The initial days of Nutanix, says Dheeraj, were all about a drive to simplify things. “We knew that building just yet another mousetrap is not going to work… we needed a killer app—a use case—that could basically showcase the value of convergence.”
The idea was to meet some people working in the cloud and infrastructure business and talk about this new simplified experience. “We really did talk—look, we’ve converged everything into software, it’s running on commodity hardware. It gets rid of his dependence on too many other people, which is basically the shadow IT that public cloud,” he added.
He told them, “You can pay by the cent.”
According to Dheeraj, getting the first 10 customers involved a lot of begging, travelling and networking. He says, “The early on stuff is about friends. Can you find friends willing to make a bet on you?”
The next step was to reach the innovators and early adopters, who believe in the idea of rebellion.
Nutanix’s first million came during the company’s first-quarter of selling—in late 2011 or early 2012. In 2016, the company went public.
Different problems for DevRev
What is the aim of DevRev, a company so different from Nutanix?
For Dheeraj, the choice is not between a problem for a few and a problem for many.
He believes there needs to be a compromise. “I would say that the balance is, even if you’re solving a very large problem, find a use case that is easy to get dopamine on. And that is what becomes viral.”
“ You cannot build a vast amount of trust with anybody overnight. So that’s where the compromises are that you can provide this little dopamine every month, every quarter, and then your current users will try out new features and new capabilities and the expanded story from you.”
To know more, listen to the podcast here:
02:26 – Achieving Product Market Fit
05:15 – Identifying the problem statement for the first 10 customers at Nutanix
07:54 – Main value prop by Nutanix for early customers
13:22 – Whether to find a niche problem and then expand or find a problem statement of the larger market?
15:07 – What’s the first Aha moment for customers on DevRev?
20:04 – Zoho Sponsored – Prashant Ganti on Where do founders struggle with Payroll and how can they fix it?
21:18 – Why have Startups as the target audience v/s Large Enterprises?
27:10 – History of Product-led growth
32:50 – First principle thought behind Product-led growth with velocity
39:07 – How a B2B developer can think like a B2C developer?
40:23 – What are the risks of failure they need to think about?
41:40 – Building an entrepreneurial culture
43:47 – Dealing with the most difficult part of an acquisition (i.e. integration)
45:38 – An early childhood in Patna, graduating from IIT Kanpur & PhD dropout from the University of Texas
50:33 – Why did he choose to startup in the downturn of 2009?
54:07 – Milestones in Nutanix’s journey
58:31 – Becoming a public company
59:58 – Aspirations for DevRev