Pure Storage: Built to Disrupt

By John “Coz” Colgrove and John Hayes

Technology companies may often be described as disruptive in their early years – but the real question is how do they sustain these qualities? As the co-founders of Pure Storage, we’re proud that CNBC has included our company on their Disruptor 50 list for the second year in a row. Still, the honor raises a pretty basic question. What does it mean to be a disruptor, anyway?

One classic characteristic of a disruptor is their ability to introduce something new to a given market that existentially challenges incumbents. This happens much faster than anyone expects and yet there is often a long history leading up to that point of disruption. For example, flash has dramatically changed the enterprise storage industry today, but it was first used in consumer products over a decade ago, based on technology (called NAND) invented in the 80’s.

Pure Storage was created in 2009 with disruption in our DNA. Our big idea was that legacy enterprise storage providers had gotten stale – they’d stopped innovating. Appreciating that many enterprise technology buyers are reluctant to take a risk on a new company, for Pure, it was out of the question to endeavor to offer a product that was just a little better. We wanted to come up with something dramatically better. Flash was at the crux of this: it solves almost all performance problems so we could focus on cost, reliability and simplicity.

So how do you know if your technology is disruptive? Here’s a recipe we believe in:

  • It must enable you to stop using another product – and the more products eliminated, the better. (Hello, iPhone!)
  • It has to solve the main problem in question better than any other product can or has. Familiarity is important, but so is a return to fundamentals and that means building features that exist for the customer’s benefit rather to serve as workarounds for technology limitations.
  • It must trigger a rethink of how the product is used. Very disruptive products redefine the boundaries between a product’s initial intended use and the unimaginable. Meaning, over time and in a good way, the product is so disruptive it delivers customers benefits which they only knew prior as previously inconceivable.

At Pure we have combined the power of world-class engineering talent with a plan to disrupt enterprise storage using the power and speed of flash. We seek the smartest people we can find to help us rethink the ways in which companies operate. And we gave them one simple mission: Figure out the best way to store data.

We built Pure to change the industry from the beginning and going forward we will continue to emphasize the importance of innovation. Pure will continue to recruit world-class talent to work on game-changing projects, to ensure that the disruption factor of our technology never ceases. We always want to top what we’ve done before. But more than that, we live to find the best solution, the solution that is unimaginable, to build storage technology that customers really do love.