This article was published on June 6, 2017

How a startup that was formed in a closet grew to over 300 employees

How a startup that was formed in a closet grew to over 300 employees Image by: Unsplash
Josiah Motley
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Josiah Motley

Every startup’s story is different. Sometimes, you hit the ground running with office space and sometimes you start in a closet. Enterprise file service company, Egnyte, falls into the latter category. “Well I always like to joke with people that we actually started the “Work from Home” culture back in our startup days 10 years ago. Our office was so small that if all four of us (the co-founders) tried to come in, we could not close the office door. And, since no one wanted to sit in a doorway with their back to the entrance, we had to create a WFH Calendar so we could schedule days for one of us to work from home at all times,” recalls co-founder and CEO of Egnyte, Vineet Jain.

Those four co-founders, Vineet Jain, Rajesh Ram, Kris Lahiri, and Amrit Jassal have all been there since the beginning, way back in 2007, and are all still with the company. “In those days we also all wore different hats and took on multiple personas. As CEO, I would be spending one minute designing a product feature and then spend the next minute doing a sales call, all while trying to put together a pitch deck to get our first round of funding,” says Jain.

Now that the base had been formed for the company with a focus on transforming business through smarter content for enterprise level companies, it was time to scale. How does a company that was working from a glorified cubicle manage to scale their business?

“In my office, I have a line borrowed from my CFO – “does it scale?”? All ideas presented to me have to pass this acid test. While we have tried many things, and surely made mistakes along the way (which is a part of business), scaling responsibly came down to building our direct sales model. While we made attempts along the way to try grow via the channel, we found more success in selling direct. Software as a service models are still a bit of challenge for resellers who are used to selling perpetual licenses.

Another extremely important part of scaling the business is continually evolving the product. In the world of SaaS, it is expected that your product grows with your customers and innovates for their future. Therefore, we have always prioritized keeping an open line of communication with our customers and creating a valuable relationship, rather than just being a vendor. We consider it creating a partnership with our customers.

More often than not, these partnerships have resulted in us making improvements to the product that end up being widely successful not just for our current customers, but for prospects as well. It goes without saying that this helps in all areas of the business – creating new revenue, reducing churn, and so forth,” states Jain.

As their business grew, so did the need for employees, and it didn’t take long for Egnyte to find themselves with employees in more places than their home base in Mountain View, CA. With employees starting to pop up all over the world, the next big hurdle had presented itself to Jain and the rest of the team. With their business already scaling to meet demands, it was time to focus on their employees.

“No question one of the biggest challenges in growing the business was going global. There are so many barriers to entry from an external standpoint and an internal standpoint. Beyond the obvious things like time zones and language barriers, managing the employees is very difficult because of the different laws, regulations, cultural differences, etc.

For example, in the US we have no limit on PTO, but Polish laws are very specific about sick leave and PTO, so we cannot offer that to them. Therefore, HR policies have to be flexible across regions and those employees have to be managed differently. Another challenge is to replicate your company culture, while also holding onto uniqueness. We want all of our employees to bring their unique traits, or their “Spark” as we like to call it, to their respective offices and help create a culture that is theirs.

However, we also want to make sure we are capturing the essence of Egnyte so that you recognize the brand and our culture no matter where you are in the world. Though it is a challenge, I think it is one of the most fun parts about going global – learning about different cultures and different people, while bringing them all together to achieve something great,” says Jain.

With their last funding round coming in 2013, Egnyte doesn’t carry the weight that many companies face from massive funding rounds and impatient investors, allowing them to focus on the things they feel is most important to the growth of their company. When asked about advice for other entrepreneurs entering the cloud market, Jain stressed,

“I think a lot of people get hung up on the word “cloud”. When we first built Egnyte, we set out to build an on-demand file server, before the cloud was a fully evangelized concept. As it happened, the cloud has become the next stop in the evolution of technology. Moving beyond hardware, the cloud has become a new way for us to store data, deliver products & services, and innovate for the future.

My suggestion is to not get hung up on the cloud per se, but to focus on the product or service that you are trying to build. You should figure out an economic business model fairly quickly and look to gain market validation. Then, you build your product or service with an agnostic view for the future, having the ability to work with any cloud such as AWS, GCS, or Azure.”

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