This morning, Pure Storage announced that Frank Slootman joined its Board of Directors. A revered veteran of the enterprise data storage and software industries, Slootman was one of the company’s earliest supporters and angel investors. He is currently the CEO of ServiceNow. When he’s not building world-class enterprise companies, he sails competitively with his oceanic regatta team, which we think is just awesome (he’s at the helm of ‘The Invisible Hand’ in the picture below).
We caught up with Frank to talk with him about his experience leading one of the largest IPOs in storage history and why he’s joining the Pure team:
No doubt you get a lot of offers to join boards of directors. Why did you choose Pure?
I’ve been involved with Pure as a private investor from the very beginning. I liked the basic thesis of bringing flash storage to the broader primary storage market, quite reminiscent of what Data Domain had done with disk in the data protection market. Pure is also focused on building the next great storage company, they are not looking for a fast turn. Very refreshing, these days.
You’ve succeeded in driving hyper-growth in both the storage and SaaS markets. What is your recipe?
You need a big market, a major disruption and a team willing to drive the business much harder than most will think is sensible. You have to lean in hard, and apply resources at a rate that may feel quite uncomfortable. We have a saying: “get comfortable being un-comfortabe”.
Pure has been called the Data Domain for primary storage. What similarities do you see? What differences?
It’s similar in the sense that Pure is attacking what is inhibiting the adoption of a new generation of storage technology. A lot of the barriers are just disbelief in what’s possible. You have to show users that a better experience is possible, which means execution was extremely important at Data Domain, and that’s true for this new all-flash primary storage market too.
It’s quite different in the sense that this is primary storage, a market notorious for its challenging performance characteristics and ultra conservative buying behavior.
Why was Data Domain successful in disrupting its target market?
Data Domain had highly differentiated technology. To this day, people are struggling to figure out what makes it go. It was a very focused company, applied its resources very precisely, and drove the business very hard. It had a very strong business culture that made for a very strong, cohesive team.
What are you looking to see from Pure in the year ahead?
Pure needs to continue to floor it, run at the opportunity as hard as it can. The product is there, there really is nothing holding it back other than normal go-to-market friction.
Being CEO of another high growth company has got to be a stressful job. What do you do to unwind?
We are oceanic regatta sailors. We just last month sailed and won the Transpac yacht race from Los Angeles to Hawaii (over 2,000 nautical miles) on our boat, the ‘Invisible Hand’. Unwinding may not be the best description, it gets quite intense on the water.