By Greg Sandoval
In 2013, Bipul Sinha appeared well on his way to a stellar career as a venture capitalist (VC). As a partner at Lightspeed, he worked on investments in several promising startups, including Nutanix. And while he enjoyed identifying promising founders and helping them build generational success stories, there was one thing missing for Sinha: the chance to build his own.
In 2014, he and a group of co-founders launched Rubrik, a data security company. During the past year, Rubrik surpassed $500 million in subscription annual recurring revenue (ARR) and celebrated acquiring its 5,000th customer. Lightspeed partner Ravi Mhatre, who backed Sinha when he founded Rubrik, believes he understands at least part of the reason Sinha succeeded against all odds.
“Like many others in this country, he’s an immigrant,” Mhatre said. “He came here with the desire to make the most of his opportunity to be in the United States and to pursue the American dream. He is not someone who will ever choose the cushier road. Successful VCs and entrepreneurs take risks while also embracing opportunities, and that is Bipul.”
“Ravi has been on this journey with us from the time Rubrik began,” Sinha said. “He has a tremendous framework for thinking, in terms of go-to market, choosing talent, and knowing how businesses can succeed. Startups need a specific ecosystem built around investors and board members who have a growth mindset. Ravi helped us create that initial, winning framework.”
Lightspeed As Springboard
Lightspeed became a second home for Sinha, one that allowed him to analyze important markets from a broad industry perspective. At the time, backup and recovery was an established market with plenty of demand. However, the sector had become bereft of new ideas, resulting in little innovation. Meanwhile, data became the engine powering global business. Many companies began seeing rapid growth in data given the shift to digital transformation.
Sinha saw the implications in this trend, reckoning that anyone who could pioneer new methods to help businesses better manage their data and extract greater value from it would stand to benefit immensely.
To that end, Sinha teamed with Arvind Jain, Arvind Nithrakashyap and Soham Mazumdar and they went to work to create a blueprint for a disruptive, flexible backup-and-recovery platform built for cyber. Lightspeed also began finding ways to contribute that extended beyond providing capital, though it provided that too.
To date, Lightspeed has invested a total of $362 million in Rubrik.
“Lightspeed helped us tremendously in validating our idea,” Sinha said. “With Lightspeed’s live stream ecosystems, we went to technology buyers and got their feedback on how the product could be delivered, and how they planned to use it. A lot of initial validation happened within their ecosystem.”
Finding Rubrik’s ‘Killer App’
Sinha acknowledges that he and his co-founders knew that Rubrik’s original product wasn’t sufficient on its own to create a category-defining company.
Sinha couldn’t have predicted in 2013 that organized cyber criminals would soon launch a wave of ransomware attacks, in which data is essentially kidnapped. This type of crime would become a global crisis. With businesses looking for products to help safeguard sensitive information, Rubrik provided organizations with the means to make data more resilient across SaaS, cloud and enterprise environments.
From the beginning, that part of Rubrik’s business grew quickly.
Not only did organizations’ need for cybersecurity generate business, but Nithrakashyap says many at Rubrik were proud to be able to help a number of hospitals, schools, government agencies and businesses trying to shield themselves from ransomware. One of the high points for the company’s cybersecurity efforts came on March 9, 2020, when officials from the city of Durham, North Carolina shared how the use of Rubrik’s security products had been instrumental in the city’s relatively rapid recovery from a potentially devastating ransomware attack.
“We’re all humans and we’re all looking for purpose and meaning. Our partnership with the City of Durham is a true testament of how our employees, who we refer to as Rubrikans, help to make a difference in the communities we live and serve,” Arvind said.
Fever Dreams, Baby Showers, and Accepting Reality
Sinha traded VC life for the fever dreams and night sweats of an operator, which he experienced after realizing he was more than 45 days past launch and hadn’t hired anyone at Rubrik. He became the startup’s recruiter, despite not having hired anyone before. Eventually, Sinha got the hang of it, but only after spending many lonely days in a coffee shop across from Google’s campus, cold calling potential hires.
Sinha and his team once found themselves hosting a baby shower as part of an effort to win over the wife of a talented engineer they desperately wanted to hire. They agonized over the details, and left nothing to chance.Sinha and his team made sure to serve Mexican food, the favorite cuisine of the engineer’s daughter. Sinha noted with pride that the engineer remains a valued employee.
“We had situations when we were starting out, no product, no revenues, nothing, that we had to convince people with well-established jobs to join us,” Sinha said. And many families didn’t have two incomes. If you’re asking the primary breadwinner to leave a good job with a high-paying salary to join a startup, it’s not an easy proposition.”
No doubt that Sinha stays hyper alert to opportunities, especially in growing spaces like AI.
“What’s happening now is that because of AI, companies are pulling data across the enterprise, from all their different systems, which is creating a sweeping new surface area for attacks,” Sinha said. “The data has to be fed, discovered and labeled, with teams understanding the content and risk. That’s where Rubrik comes in.”
But to hear Sinha tell it, he’ll likely continue to choose the roads less traveled. He said that during his six years working as a VC, he adopted a critical philosophy, one that called for him to weigh the quality of his own perceptions and decisions against his own personal scorecard. He continues to embrace the idea.
“I remember the day I joined a VC firm for the first time,” Sinha said. “I had this clear thinking in my head that from this point onward, I’m making decisions to make myself happy as opposed to my bosses or other people around me. That was a clear inflection point for me. And it wasn’t egotistical. If I’m going to make decisions, particularly when it involves venture capital — with the huge bets and the huge amounts of uncertainty — I want to win or lose by my own intuition, as opposed to trying to make other people happy. I concluded that for good or bad, I’m going to make decisions based on what I truly believe is the right thing to do.”
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