The DTC Interview: NetSpring Co-founder and CEO Vijay Ganesan
Vijay Ganesan has long had a front-row seat on the impact analytics can have on company performance. Ganesan spent eight years at Oracle, as technical lead for its flagship business intelligence product, then co-founded software analytics company ThoughtSpot, a leader in the space recently valued at $4.2 billion. Now he leads NetSpring, whose new operational intelligence platform pulls together disparate data to help businesses make decisions in real time.
DTC invested in the NetSpring team at the seed stage and then led their Series A. Vijay answered some leading questions we had about innovations in data, team building, and leadership.
WHY THIS, WHY NOW
The fundamental problem NetSpring hopes to solve is… There are two things happening in business: One is an increasing volume of data in this category we’re calling event data – data coming from sensors, devices, phones, product instrumentation. People are looking for tools to help make sense of that data, and the traditional reporting tools just don’t cut it. The other is a massive increase in business velocity. Businesses are moving faster; COVID has accelerated that transformation.
So the fundamental problem we’re solving is: people have business pressures to do better decision-making on data very, very quickly, and they’re struggling with a hodgepodge of systems to be able to do that. If we can build and provide a robust platform, we can massively impact the operational business agility at companies.
“What is available now really only works for the Ubers and the Netflixes of the world. And so, that convinced me there’s an opportunity for a company here.”
We started a company because… I spent six months asking: If I was consulting for a company that had a need for better operational intelligence, what would I do? And what I came away with was, right now, it is colossally complex. You have to string together a bunch of different tools to build something useful. What is available now really only works for the Ubers and the Netflixes of the world. And so, that convinced me there’s an opportunity for a company here.
“Stream processing has gone mainstream. It’s no longer that the data lands somewhere, and then it’s processed offline. People are processing data as it’s coming in… Which is a great enabler for us.”
The trends that make this the right time to build NetSpring are… There are two megatrends happening that are enablers for us. One is, stream processing has gone mainstream. It’s no longer that the data lands somewhere, and then it’s processed offline. People are processing data as it’s coming in, thanks to companies like Confluent and projects like Apache Kafka. Even in an average enterprise, it is entrenched. Which is a great enabler for us. Because you need to have the infrastructure to capture the data before you can have the analytics about that data.
The second big trend is the lakehouse movement. There’s this big debate going on – warehouse vs. lakehouse. I think it’s a major shift that’s happening, and we’re big believers in the lakehouse style of architecture. It means the central depository of data in your enterprise is your cloud data lake. It is not your data warehouse. If you think about it, for an enterprise the ideal scenario is that all data sits in one place. And cloud data lakes make that viable. They’re cheap. They’re secure. They’re highly scalable. They’re reliable.
LEARNINGS & INSPIRATION
One thing I’ve learned about startups is… the articulation of the pain point you’re solving for has to be crisp. Product is very important. But enterprises are bombarded by hundreds of startups. So you have to be very very crisp in articulating the value proposition. It’s not about your technology; it’s about their pain point.
A leader who inspires me is…Larry Ellison of Oracle. For just sheer grit and determination and getting the job done.
The key to building a strong team is…finding people who are driven to make an impact. In talking to somebody who’s potentially going to join us, I don’t sell them NetSpring. I tell them, “Look, you’re at Google, you’re at a fantastic place. You should be happy. You shouldn’t be leaving. You should be staying there.” And for people who are very passionate and driven, that sort of irritates them and their response is usual: No, no, no! That’s a trick I use. I flip it.
One thing I’ve learned about investors is… It’s like in a very fancy restaurants: you never see the waiters, but when you need them, they’re there. They’re watching you from a distance, and if you’re looking for a spoon, they’re there to give you a spoon. The best investors are like that. They give you the support you need when you need it, but they get out of your way. Because they trust you know what’s good for the company.
“The important thing with a team when you have a setback is, how are we going to fix it? It’s really always looking forward.”
One thing I’ve learned about setbacks is… how you manage it for the team. How do you react to it? Do you get agitated? Are you finger pointing? Or are you calm? The important thing with a team when you have a setback is, how are we going to fix it? It’s really always looking forward.
OFF THE CLOCK
I relax by… listening to Indian classical music. Music does something remarkable to your body and mind. It has this sort of regenerative impact. It’s like are change of the batteries.
Five years from now… if you walk into an enterprise and look at what they have for data and analytics, you should see three things: an event processing bus; a cloud data lake; and NetSpring. That’s what we call the modern data and analytics stack.
That’s our vision: We are going to be the predominant platform for data analytics for the enterprises in this new modern world.