The Cloud-First Approach
I believe that the public cloud represents a generational platform shift that has delivered not only the fastest growing enterprise software ‘company’ of all time (i.e. Amazon Web Services (AWS), if it was a standalone company), but will also deliver repeated opportunities for tremendous value creation and capture. The $3.5T spent on IT annually is now under attack from cloud vendors, agile startups, intelligent automation and open source. At Floodgate, we back Prime Movers – the entrepreneurs who start iconic companies with the biggest impact, and who, through the dint of their will and skill, create massive outcomes from nothing. We’ve been fortunate to back Prime Movers like the founders ofTwitter, Lyft, Okta, Chegg, Demandforce, Xamarin and several others and we believe that Prime Movers with deep technical insights are the ones most suited to capitalize on this inexorable shift away from ‘on-premise, legacy IT’ to agile, intelligent, cloud-first solutions.
Going on the cloud side of things, how have you seen the evolution of cloud and its entry into the enterprise world?
While ‘the Cloud’ may be a relatively newly coined term, the underpinnings are deeply rooted in the past. Virtualization – one of the key building blocks – was brought to x86-based systems in the late 90s by VMware, but was originated by IBM in the mainframe era in the 1960s. Offerings like Sun Grid in 2006 were early attempts at Infrastructure-as-a-Service, but it was AWS with S3 in 2006 and EC2 in 2007 that launched today’s Public Cloud movement. By unleashing pay-as-you-go, elastic, virtualized resources that could be programmatically controlled, AWS kicked off the next generation platform of our industry.
The ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’ were Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) looking to ‘Cloud-enable’ or ‘Saas-ify’ their applications, and technology startups. Startups were able to cost-effectively experiment until they found product-market fit. SaaS vendors were able to deliver their solution at global scale, without the heavy lifting of running their own datacenters – tasks companies like Salesforce had to undertakein the pre-AWS era.
You shouldn't be in the business of running computers; you should be in the business of accessing compute
Once AWS delivered additional ‘enterprise-ready’ services and certifications, the more ‘mainstream’ enterprises also started to adopt the Public Cloud. Furthermore, offerings from more traditional vendors like Microsoft and IBM further increased the comfort for enterpriseslooking to moveworkloads to the public cloud.
In addition to traditional enterprise workloads, the cloud also accelerated and fed on the ‘Big Data’ trend, by delivering the ability to store, analyze and learn from data at scale and in real time. While AI and Machine Learning are older concepts, the ability to cost-effectively deliver solutions has been accelerated by the services offered by the Public Cloud vendors.
What about Hybrid Clouds, and how can Enterprises leverage the cloud?
Moving to the cloud is a journey; It's like modernizing a city. You don't build a new city and make everyone move to that city instantaneously. These transformations take time. This is evinced by the fact that we still have mission-critical systems running on mainframes at several organizations.
As Marc Andreessen said, “Software is eating the world”. Pretty much everybusiness needs to become software business. But that doesn't mean that every business has to be running its own data center. While we can expect most organizations to maintain an on-premise footprint for a while, especially for legacy systems, it is difficult to envision many scenarios in which that footprint grows dramatically. You shouldn't be in the business of running computers; you should be in the business of accessing compute.
Every industry is under attack from a slew of startups. Enterprises that focus on being resilient by being able to adapt with agility can use their size to their advantage.Amazon moved away from their large monolithic application to a fully micro-services driven application over the span of several years. Following this transformation, Amazon is able to be significantly more resilient and agile – traits that allow it to innovate much more rapidly than its competitors. And, with the largest R&D budget in the world amongst enterprises, it doesn’t show signs of slowing down.
Where do you feel interesting opportunities lie for startups?
Broadly speaking, I believe there aretwo massive types of opportunities for startups to pursue.
Firstly, startups delivering solutions to helpenterprises transform into being resilient, agile, data-driven, intelligent organizations. These startups will drift off the disruption the platform vendors like AWS, Microsoft and Google will unleash, rather than complete with the platforms.
Secondly, startups that directly take on incumbent enterprises that are not yet resilient enterprises.
If you have a startup in one of these areas, we’d love to chat!