Tetrate: A Balanced Approach
Company is founded by Varun Talwar & J Jeyakeerthi
DTC invests in the company’s Seed round
Launch: Tetrate Service Bridge
Raise: $40M Series B
Tetrate is on a mission to simplify application networking for development at an enterprise scale. First-time founders Jeyappragash Jeyakeerthi (JJ) and Varun Talwar started the company in 2018 to expand on Varun’s work on Istio, an open source service mesh that lets organizations run distributed, microservices-based apps anywhere. With Tetrate, they are working with F500 customers to make service mesh enterprise-ready by helping platform teams deploy production-grade service mesh, achieve zero trust architecture, enhance infrastructure resiliency, and modernize microservices faster for application development teams everywhere.
DTC’s Deepak Javeenkumar led the company’s Seed round in 2018 and then recommitted, leading the Series A in 2019 and again investing in the Series B in 2021.
The First Investors In
As a first-time founder raising the Seed round for Tetrate, JJ felt like choosing the company’s earliest investors was a bit of a gamble.
“When you’re just starting out, you don’t know how involved you want your investors to be. You look for a good match on the personality side and then hope they will not be detrimental to the business,” said JJ with a bit of a laugh.
He was, however, certain that the early investors needed to be useful in navigating the enterprise.
“We knew from the start that enterprise-sized customers needed what we were building. What we didn’t know – we’re very technical founders, right? – is how to navigate selling to them,” said JJ.
One early-on challenge for enterprise-focused startups is earning mindshare. Large customers will not adopt new technologies on a whim. They’re looking for tangible performance improvements and/or cost savings. And, to adopt solutions from a startup, customers must trust the viability of the young company and its technologies.
“Just being associated with DTC gave us credibility very early on,” said JJ. “Who knows enterprise better than Dell?”
Having a name brand investor and differentiated technologies is not enough to break into the enterprise. It takes perseverance in product and marketing to get from “on their radar” to signed contract. Though marketing was not a natural flex for the Tetrate team, in 2019, Deepak counseled them to take an industry-level leadership role and build the case for service mesh technologies. He offered the full support of the DTC on logistics and networking for the event.
The effort took shape as “Service Mesh Day,” where for two days in San Francisco, Tetrate along with Google and CNSF hosted open source experts, cloud providers, customers, and industry influencers to explore the use of service mesh technology in enterprise environments.
Service Mesh Day “showed the strength of our team and technology and our leadership here,” said JJ. Putting Tetrate on the map, the event was the first touch point for several major new customers including a global financial network and a major US mortgage buyer.
One for All, All for One
Building a business from square one requires founders to develop a host of skills from perfecting physical presence and sales pitch acumen to understanding complex financial operations. When the global financial network customer first engaged with Tetrate at the Service Mesh Day event, they noted that while they liked the technology, the company at just 20 people was too small to be a vendor for them.
Knowing they had work to do to win this important customer over, Tetrate tapped the broader DTC to help hone their pitch and customer engagement skills. DTC Managing Director Tyler Jewell ran a rigorous messaging session with Tetrate, drawing on his experience of selling similar technologies while CEO of WSO2. Chris Hillock, head of portfolio development, jumped in as the company’s de facto first salesperson, working on the pitch deck, coaching on meeting presence, and cultivating customer confidence. Deepak introduced the company to several advisors experienced in customer acquisition, go to market strategies, and finance to further develop the team’s skillset.
The result: They landed the customer.
Over the next two years and under the leadership of Varun and JJ, the company has more than doubled in size to 40+ people. They’ve raised a significant Series B and have built out an enviable customer list that includes some of the world’s largest companies and organizations.
As the company has matured, JJ notes the experience with DTC is the same now as it was in the early days. “It feels like being part of a family. Everybody at DTC knows us and we have equal access to Deepak, Scott, Raman, Daniel, Tyler… really, everybody there. When we really need to think through something, I’ve never seen them not available for us. Ever.”