In February 2014, I sat down in the Genius conference room at our offices in Menlo Park with two of our Entrepreneurs in Residence, Ajay Gulati and Kiran Bondalapati. Ajay and Kiran were ready to map out start-up ideas they had been working on and immediately started furiously white-boarding their ideas. Genius has a huge white board, running the length of the room, and they immediately divided it into two parts, with each of them writing furiously side by side. Kiran was sketching out the pros/cons of using an AWS-like cloud infrastructure while Ajay was scribbling out the benefits/challenges associated with using existing private cloud infrastructure.
Coming of out of that discussion was an idea that immediately struck a chord with me, and that idea would ultimately become ZeroStack.
It had to do with a novel private cloud platform, a way of making it really easy for every company to set up its own cloud, and make private clouds as simple and easy to use as public cloud via a SaaS based predictive analytics platform to detect and remediate performance issues.
It resonated with me right way, because earlier that week, I had met with one of my portfolio companies, and they had talked about the frustrations and limitations they were facing in setting up their own private cloud using OpenStack. I remember saying to myself, “if a company with 100+ engineers is struggling to use OpenStack and set up their private cloud, there must be a start-up opportunity here!”
Fortunately, for all of us, my partner, Adit Singh had prior experience in the problem space. He offered to pitch in as Ajay and Kiran developed their idea further. Over the following month or so, he worked closely with Ajay and Kiran helping them validate the idea with potential customers.
By spring 2014, it was clear to all of us that the pain point was real and there was a huge opportunity to provide enterprises with a “Private Cloud in a Box”; every IT Director we spoke to said they would buy one if someone could build it. At the same time, this was a tough technical problem requiring an interdisciplinary approach across compute, storage, networking, systems management and big data/predictive analytics. Ajay and Kiran clearly had the rare combination of passion and talent to take such a challenge head on, and so we decided to lead a Series A investment into the company.
And then the fun began! Ajay and Kiran were determined to launch the product within 18 months of closing the round, which is almost unheard of for enterprise grade companies. Initially, they continued to work out of our offices (hard to beat our snacks!), and Adit continued to work closely with them, helping them refine the product-market fit.
Less than a year after closing their initial funding, ZeroStack released an alpha version of their product. They now have many customers using the beta product, and tons more on the waiting list to try the product.
Today as ZeroStack comes out of stealth mode, it’s hard to believe that it’s been only 14 months since we funded the company. Ajay and Kiran have built an incredible team, and their determination is palpable. Congrats to Ajay, Kiran, and team from all of us at Foundation Capital.