Purpose Built: If You Don’t Engineer Your Rocket Ship to Go to the Moon It Never Will

The tech IPO market is either described in biblical terms — It’s a drought! There’s a flood! — or with language that focuses on the so-called IPO window, which invariably is either wide open or firmly shut.

If you are an entrepreneur (or an investor) you can safely ignore both types of discussion.

It’s not because market conditions don’t exist — they do. But both approaches to describing the state of the IPO market imply some outside forces that can either sweep a company along toward a public offering, or hold it back in some private market eddy.

The private technology companies that go public — especially now — do so because they were designed from the beginning to take that step. Drought or flood, window open or closed — doesn’t matter — these companies were engineered from the beginning to be large, independent, market-defining organizations.

Dheeraj Pandey and Nutanix’s first 100 employees at the NASDAQ Sept. 30, 2016

Nutanix who went public today at the NASDAQ is one such company.

As one of its early investors, that deliberate approach to company building is something we spotted in Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey and his team. They designed their company with as much attention and energy as they designed their product.

Here’s what the Nutanix team built into to their company that has enabled it to become that rare tech startup that can go public.

Technology that sits in the middle of a massive shift

Nutanix has solved a set of very tough technical problems, bringing together compute, virtualization and storage in one appliance. Accomplishing technical feats that others have failed at is the foundation.

As large companies shift IT infrastructure to public clouds, they are finding that not everything fits so easily into the model offered by the likes of the leading cloud providers Amazon, Microsoft and Google. That’s where Nutanix comes in.

The Nutanix appliance and management tools offer a solution for the workloads and applications that aren’t suited for the public cloud. You can think of it as the equivalent of a public cloud, but it’s an enterprise cloud where customers can still turn some of the dials.

Solutions to multiple problems

The Nutanix team could have built a single-point solution first, but instead it developed a platform approach that could solve many of the problems facing large companies as they transition to an enterprise cloud infrastructure. Nutanix applied their platform to one problem first, and is looking to knock off the rest. So there is that kind of product ambition.

A really, really big market

But their ambition also extends to the size of the market they are going after. If you believe that IT spending will migrate to cloud technologies, not only is the opportunity massive, the shift to enterprise cloud infrastructure is just beginning for companies like Nutanix.

An international mindset

That is where ambition meets company building. This is a global problem and opportunity. Whereas most Silicon Valley tech companies will dip their toe into a market outside the U.S. after three to five years in the market, Nutanix built a sales team that was global virtually from day one. Yes it was more costly, but if Nutanix was going to lead this market the company leadership made the decision to go international. They describe it as “controlled recklessness.” With international revenue comprising 37% of its total revenue for its 2016 fiscal year, this has turned out to be a very smart strategy.

Mixing experience with entrepreneurialism

The Nutanix team has also been very deliberate about its people. They’ve hired an even mix of “adults” who can bring their experience to bear, and younger talent that bring a lot of passion and hunger to the business. What has happened is this youthful “why can’t we do the impossible?” spirit has combined with the steady hand of experience to make the seemingly impossible a reality. The mindsets rub off on each other and both talent pools — and the company — are better for it.

The goal isn’t to go public, it’s to succeed

If you want to ultimately have a company that has a chance to become a long-lived, successful business, chances are you will be running it in a way that you could be a public company. It’s that, or your company won’t succeed. In that context, being public isn’t the ultimate goal for Nutanix, it’s simply the byproduct of being a well-built company.

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