The Timeless Formula for Market Traction – Sell-Build-Sell (Amitabh Sinha, CEO Workspot)

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Detailed transcript :

Amitabh: When you’re trying to build a new product, sell the product first, the idea, the vision of the product, refine that. And if people actually want to buy it, then go build it. And then if people actually buy it, then go build it and then sell it after that. Right. So it was sell- build- sell.


Ankur: Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Zero to Exit. This is Ankur and Neelima, your hosts. In today’s show, we’re delighted to have with us Amitabh Sinha, Co-founder and CEO of Workspot, a cloud native SaaS platform for virtual desktops. Prior to Workspot, Amitabh ran the desktop and apps business at Citrix, where he was largely responsible for turning it into the multi-billion dollar juggernaut that it is today. Amitabh also co-founded Everypath, a mobile task automation software company back in ‘98 before mobile was a thing as an entrepreneur. 

If you’re unsure whether you are too early or too late for the market, you don’t want to miss this episode. 


Welcome Amitabh. Welcome to the show.

Amitabh: Hi Ankur. Hi Neelima.

Ankur: It’s great to have you. Thanks for taking the time. I want to kick things off by asking you, you’re all about virtualization. You’ve spent at least two decades in that business. How’s kind of the whole virtual and remote work been working out for you and your team. And do you have any survival hacks for our listeners?

Amitabh: We sent everyone home here and in Hyderabad in India in the first week of March. Nobody’s gone back to the office yet. And I don’t think we’re all going back till the vaccinations are all done. So probably not till the summer. All our customers who use us for working from remote locations are doing the same things. And we have lots of stories from customers basically saying- Hey, your team is helping us be safe and productive at the same time. It’s tough. I think all of us are realizing there’s no more hallway conversations. Everything has to be a meeting. People are pretty zoomed out right now.

Neelima: Was there any impact on the sales initially?

Amitabh: I think we grew by 50% sort of as a company in one month in March last year. So that’s a big bump up in the March quarter because every single one of our customers pretty much doubled in the month of March.

Neelima: So we’ll start a little bit with your founder journey. You co-founded Everypath in 1998 for mobile task automation. This was even before mobile was even a thing. So, tell us how the idea came about.

Amitabh:So this was one of our, we had four co-founders and one of them was in Yosemite looking for apartments there. This was when the browser was fairly new. Mobile barely existed. He basically said, I wish I had the same tools I had on the browser on my phone. So I could go look up the nearby hotels, do price comparisons and pick the right thing. And so we got the company started back in I think it was 1998. Most people probably don’t remember this. There was this protocol called WAP Wireless Access Protocol back in ‘99- 2000 timeframe. So this was before 3g. I think the only country which had wireless data really seriously was Japan at that time.

Ankur: Yeah. I remember the WAP protocol back in the days.I think Symbian and what was the other operating system Brew? 

Amitabh: Yes, while Qualcomm had Brew, I think Sun had J2ME. Yeah, it was early days of mobile, super early days of mobile.

Ankur: So back in the days if my information is correct, you’ve raised a monster round. At least back in the days, I think it was a hundred million dollars. What was the investment climate? How were you able to raise such a big amount back in the days? I mean now a hundred millions is like nothing but back in the days, it was a big deal.

Amitabh: Our investors correctly believed that mobile was the next big thing back in 2000. And so we never had a problem raising money. In fact, I think we could have raised $200 million if we wanted to, at that time. People just wanted to give us money and we didn’t know what to do with it at that time. So, in a span of less than 12 months, I think we raised a series A, a series B and C. I think all together about a hundred million dollars between the three rounds.

Ankur: Yeah, pretty incredible. So one of the questions that I had for you was Everypath, obviously back in the days you were the innovator, early stage of the market but didn’t have quite the outcome that you or the investors desired. And founders often think about it. Is that okay? Well, are they too early for the market or too late? Because innovation inherently requires you to make a bet on something that’s not commonplace, what was obvious back then to you. In hindsight, what would you have done differently? I mean, you saw the mobile movement. Obviously, Apple iPhone were not around but you saw an opportunity. What would you have done differently?

Amitabh: I think there’s nothing we could have done differently except exit faster, if you will but I mean, we just felt it was the right product but seven, eight years before its time. So we raised a monster round. We had six years to go find product market fit if you will and we didn’t. And, when we finally gave up Apple announced the iPhone six months after that, right? So those are things you can’t predict. It was the right idea just too early and we waited for the mobile infrastructure market to appear and it just didn’t happen until the Apple iPhone happened.

Ankur: Yep. And it is a bit of a cliche in the Silicon Valley- follow the market, follow the tailwinds of a given situation. But I think Everypath is a classic example where if you’ve got a big enough market, you’ll kind of figure out a way to build the right product. Was that sort of one of your key takeaways out of the entire journey at Everypath?

Amitabh: I think, first of all, you have to go after large markets. I think if you can find a large market, that’s really interesting but maybe the thing we should have learned was to see if that product market fit wasn’t happening early on, recognise why. And maybe pivot more than we did.  So we went from initially the product we were building was a platform product, the best platform for you to build mobile applications, come build your favorite mobile apps. And then too late, we realized that nobody knew what apps to build. And so then we started building our own apps. But by the time we really did that pivot it was four years later and that was too late, I think. And I think there were mobile app companies, a few email companies that did well in that time, so mobile email companies. So I think of it as an app where you’re closer toward the end user needs and maybe that was a learning lesson, which is if you build a platform too early and nobody uses the platform then, it’s not good enough. And you’ve got to think of what apps people need to use. So focus on the apps and the use cases.s

Neelima: Sounds like there was also a marketplace effect, so to speak, right? So by itself marketplaces and if you were building a platform and it was a marketplace form by itself, it takes a lot of network effect. You need a lot of people on both sides to kind of start that engine. And the infrastructure that was on top of it or below it was actually very nascent. So it may have fed into each other. Do you think that was the case because when the iPhone came in, they did come up with their marketplace as well with the apps.

Amitabh: So there were a couple of problems before that which Apple solved in fundamental ways. Right? So, one was that the user interface was quite bad. So people were trying to do data applications on top of phones which had very small screens, pared down versions of the browser, if you will. And it is really difficult to build anything useful on that platform. That’s number one. Number two data was too expensive. It wasn’t bundled into the platform. So, when the iPhone came out, they actually solved all those problems together. If you remember, the iPhone had actually a functional full browser. You could actually build real applications on top of it. So the fundamental limitations of the mobile platform back in 2001 to 2006 that Apples solved massively. So after that it was possible to build apps and other things on top of that platform.

Neelima: Yeah. You mentioned that there was an opportunity or may have been an opportunity to exit early, before the eight years. Was there an opportunity and how did that pan out?

Amitabh: I can’t describe it but yes, there was an opportunity. And I remember one of our investors basically, who had recently made a lot of money, told us that the exit wouldn’t change his lifestyle. We should be patient and go for a bigger exit. One year later, two years later. In hindsight, it would have changed our lifestyle (Laughs) and we didn’t take the offer actually. And that was a mistake.

Neelima: Okay. I recall you mentioning that there was a team effect, that all of you had just started and you were all in and there was also a team bonding happening. So, you asked your team and there was also an opinion that we can kind of do that. Was that a factor as well?

Amitabh: Well, that was with Workspot. So with Everypath, we didn’t even go to that stage because we, the founders rejected the offer. But with Workspot,  yes we had an early offer. And our team, which was small and just getting started really wanted to see how big we could make the company. And so as a team at that point, this is at the seed stage, we actually rejected the offer.

Neelima: Got it. Yeah. We’ll definitely double click on that one. Last question on Everypath, so what was the thought process? Like, now we need to move on. Was there an aha moment there, or why not? Why  by Five years? Or by seven years? or by 10 years. Is there a pattern?

Amitabh: I think everybody was frustrated and sort of lost patience. Every year we used to say the next year is the year of mobile. And at some point I think everybody collectively gave up and said, you know what this isn’t going to happen.

Neelima: Got it. And then you joined Citrix as the GM of the desktop and apps group. Citrix for our listeners is a desktop and app virtualization company. Amitabh, can you describe to our audience the desktop and app virtualisation technology? What it does and who are the big players in that market?

Amitabh: Yeah. So when I joined Citrix, I actually joined the Advanced products teams to build new products. And then a couple of years later transitioned to this desktop and apps role. But when I joined Citrix, it was an app virtualisation company. Essentially what it did was there are apps for example, the SAP app that is used by everybody in large organizations but it was super difficult to install it and maintain it on people’s endpoints. 

So in the beginning, the client was installed in the data center and people pushed the bits and bytes over to people’s screens. So from a central place, you could have one version of the app running and everybody could access it from any device they had. So I think around 60%, 70% of SAP deployments back in 2008- 09 were deployed on Citrix. The same thing was deployed by healthcare providers for EMR systems, financial services companies. Right? So, lots of these very security conscious, critical apps were deployed on Citrix. But back in 2008 and 2009 customers had always been asking -why can’t I get the full desktop with all the apps in it? And when I switched over, we were very early on in the life cycle of the desktop product. And that’s the product I transitioned into a VP of product management role for.

Ankur: Thanks for that great insight on Everypath and it’s early days.  And, sometimes you only hear success stories but there’s a lot of learning there about things that don’t go so well. 

Moving on to your next venture which is where you’ve spent a lot of time, many, many years, which is at Workspot. So, you’re doing desktop and application virtualization delivered as a service. Before we go too deep into it, explain to our listener what the desktop and app virtualization technology means. What are the use cases? Who are the primary customers? Why virtualization? I mean, I’ve got my laptop, I can access all my applications. Why does it need to be streamed over the cloud from somewhere else? So explain the technology in simple terms and we can then talk about the company and what you’re doing there.

Amitabh: Yeah, so conceptually it’s very simple. The way I describe it is instead of buying a physical PC or a desktop, laptop from HP, Dell, Lenovo, you’re buying a cloud desktop from Workspot. It’s basically the software running inside your PC, right? So it’s your windows operating system. It’s the apps inside. It’s a security stack and all of that runs in the cloud and the reason people do that and what to put up in the cloud is it enables you to do a few things, which you can’t do otherwise right to the physical device. So one is. You have better control over the security of what’s running in the windows desktop because it’s constantly connected to the network. It’s constantly up to date. All the security stack is up to date. So security is probably the number one driving reason. Number two is when you actually can’t even give the person a physical device, right? So if you hired a contractor/ consultant, you can’t really give them a physical device because it’s just too painful. It’s too difficult. And so, if you have hired a contractor, let’s say it’s Wipro in India. You give them a cloud desktop and they use the cloud desktop and they’re operating on your assets, your IP but it’s always under your control and they use their own Wipro, desktop, or their personal desktop to access the cloud desktop. So it’s a way of having very tight, secure control over your own IP while giving people inside the organization who might be remote or people outside the organization who have devices you cannot control, access to your IP.

Ankur: Got it. And has the tech matured sufficiently where the user experiences as though the application or the desktop is running locally? Have you gotten that place or users would still feel like, Oh yeah, something is getting streamed from somewhere in the cloud.

Amitabh: Actually it’s the two things that have happened and as a result of which the performance is incredible. So, with the public cloud, if you think of Microsoft Azure, Google cloud or even Amazon web services, these guys have all installed data centers all over the world. So I think Azure has 50ish, Google has 35 or 40, Amazon has the same number all over the world, And so these data centers are within 15, 20 milliseconds of every human being on the planet. Now that’s number one. 

Number two is most of us now have upwards of 10, 20, sometimes even hundreds of megabits per second connection up into the data center.

So the two things that were always a problem, one was latency which was when you did it On-Prem. The user would be in India, the datacenter was in New Jersey and a 100 millisecond latency, 200 milliseconds latency killed performance. So now that’s no longer an issue because if the user is in India, you can put the desktop in one of three, five, seven different regions in India.

And two, that user has fantastic connectivity up to the desktop. So what we find actually is the performance in most cases is as good, if not in some cases better than physical PCs. So, we have customers today, for example, we’re replacing $10,000 liquid cooled workstations with Workspot cloud workstations because the performance from the cloud is actually as good if not better, compared to that physical workstation.

Ankur: Got it. You started the company in 2012 where AWS was still mostly EC2 and S3, early days. Did you always think about delivering this as a SaaS or that was a change that you made in the technology stack over time? Or was this always SaaS to begin with?

Amitabh: No, we knew we couldn’t do SaaS early on because when we were doing VDI back at Citrix, the storage was too slow. I think VDI killed the data center infrastructure because just the amount of storage performance it needed, couldn’t be delivered. So out of the box, we didn’t try to solve the cloud desktop scenario. We were trying to do a hybrid scenario where most of the stack lived in the cloud but you ran the desktops on premises. And then in about 2017, we started working very closely with Microsoft and the Azure team because at that time we felt that the infrastructure was ready. So in 2017, we did our first product release, which was cloud desktops, which was Workspot managing desktops running in the public cloud in Azure. And the performance was amazing. And over time we basically jettisoned our hybrid business. We still have customers running that but 95% of our revenue now comes from the cloud desktop and we don’t even sell the hybrid product anymore.

Neelima: So, here comes my original question. For the first three years, I remember you had mentioned that you were building something that the customers didn’t want or the technology stack for your thinking was not ready in Workspot. Is that a correct statement?

Amitabh: Yeah, I think the customers didn’t want and this is very interesting, which is at Everypath we build something brand new and the world was not ready for what we’d built. In this case, the customers wanted to consume VDI but they wanted it really simple. So I remember one of our early customers saying I don’t want to buy hyper-converged infrastructure and do hybrid because I’m still doing all the work. I don’t want to buy Siebel. I want to buy Salesforce. So come back to me when you actually have a fully turnkey solution in the cloud because I want to skip over this infrastructure layer and I want to go straight all the way to the cloud.

Neelima: Got it. And this time was the pivot to work with Microsoft from your end or it was just the timing and everything just fell in at the right place.

Amitabh: I think the timing fell in the right place because we had two customers essentially saying the same thing in a span of three weeks which is, why can’t we do it in the public cloud? Why can’t we have a turnkey solution and probably the last critical factor was until March of 2017, Microsoft actually did not let anybody run windows in the public cloud. And in March of 2017, they enabled the licensing to do that. And so that’s when everything came together, the technology, the licensing and we were able to bring the solution to market that from a technology perspective and the licensing perspective couldn’t have been done any sooner.

Neelima: I think it’s always key to be ready and be able to pivot because at this time it seems like you pivoted and from there on it took off. I also remember you had mentioned that “the market always wins”. Right? So in this case, how did that statement hold?

Amitabh: This is Marc Andreessen’s statement, right? When you have a team versus market question, the market always wins. And this was one of those instances where you could see the market shifting because in 2017, we were selling both the hybrid and the cloud desktop product. So you run everything in the cloud or you run some things on the desktops On-Prem. The customer feedback was 90%, I want to do everything in the cloud. I want to simplify my life. And 10% was, I want to control things. And at that point we just decided and it seemed clear that we had all the technology things we needed and the market. Microsoft, Amazon and Google was not there at that time. They were making tremendous amounts of investment in trying to convince customers to go to the cloud. So it just felt like the tailwinds for people to go to the cloud were being created by massive entities, with massive amounts of investment and it just made sense to follow them down that path.

Ankur: Got it. One of the things that I read somewhere is you talk about the three different peaks in a startup journey. Interestingly enough, we were talking to a seasoned CEO, actually he’s an entrepreneur running a multi-billion dollar company and he goes that there are three orbits. There’s an orbit one, where he has seen that a lot of Indian startups get stuck at. Kind of 50, 100 people or a few hundred million dollars here and there but not able to scale beyond that. Can you describe the three different peaks in the startup journey that you’ve written and talked about for our listeners’ benefit.

Amitabh: Yeah, The first Peak is when you have built the product but you have either zero or very few customers. So probably less than one or 2 million in revenue. At that point, a large strategic buyer could come in and acquire you for technology. That’s the first peak. It’s almost before you can be measured on revenue, you’re measured on IP.

The second peak could be two years later, which is when you’re at about 10 million in revenue where you’re now no longer just valued for your IP but you’re also valued for showing that people want to buy that IP. There’s product market fit, if you will, at 10 million in revenue. And that’s the second peak.

And then the third peak could be another two to three years later when you’re a hundred million in revenue, where you can be a standalone company that can have sort of dreams of going public and so on. So, if an acquisition happened, it’s a much larger acquisition at that point. So the universe of people acquiring people at a hundred million in revenue is much lower. So those are the three peaks I think this is what I described. One of our investors, actually our first angel investor, described it as the three peaks and said, you got to time your exit to one of those peaks, which is either it’s IP audits, 10 billion in revenue or then you just slog it out longer. 

Ankur: Yeah. You have spent some time at Citrix and Mark Templeton was really famous for how he ran the company and the culture. As you grow from no employees to now hundreds of employees, what are some of the key things that you have learned about retaining and hiring top talent? What have you learned over the course of building and scaling the company across these three peaks? Obviously.

Amitabh: Mark has actually just come on board as a member of our board. He’s super excited to be with the company. He essentially said a lot of the things. He talked about vision-wise, use case scenarios are now being made realistic with what we have built. And so he’s come on board to help us to make us bigger, to provide guidance in terms of vision, as well as his support. Mark’s incredible. You were there for a few years at Citrix, he’s just an incredible leader, right? I don’t know if you ever met him or not but he remembered everybody’s name. I don’t think I know anybody who remembers everybody. He is just incredible. I think there were two or three things. I remember in the early days of VDI, we used to talk about unfair competition from some folks that we were competing with. And I remember him remarking about how Citrix would compete fairly because we would all sleep better at night.

He had incredible vision. He has the ability to see around corners is what I would say because he would spot technology trends and was always aggressive and ambitious in sort of how to steer the company towards that new technology trend. So, he jumped in wholeheartedly into the VDI game.

He’s the one who did the server virtualisation acquisition, NetScaler, Sharefile, Zenprise. Just all those were seeing around the corner and seeing what the next technology trend would be that Citrix needed to participate in. And I haven’t seen anybody with that skill actually.

Ankur: Yeah. I’ve had a couple interactions with him. My favorite memory was when we had to do some UX presentation. He was big on design. So, he had to look at  it. We were launching a mobile application and we spent weeks and weeks on prepping and then the second question he asked got all of us stumped. We had no idea how to answer that question and we’ve had so much prep time and he has had none. And how did he think about something that we didn’t spend any time on. So, yeah. The thing is there are people like Steve Jobs, very detail oriented,  eye for design but then Mark also had the knack for being very personable. He didn’t make us feel like shit. He always made people feel really, really good about themselves. And he was very detail oriented. That was kind of his brand. What have you learned from him or otherwise in general about just getting the right people in the door and retaining them and continuing to hire talent. Any learnings obviously from yourself  or from Mark that you’ve learned over the years?

Amitabh: I think probably the biggest learning for me was my EveryPath experience which is being honest about why something was not working in the company. At Everypath when we didn’t find product market fit, I think we went through maybe three VPs of sales, two CMOs and it was really not a marketing and a sales problem. We just didn’t have a product that people wanted to buy and no amount of people turnover was going to solve the problem. And it actually extended a learning cycle because we blamed it on an individual or a function. And maybe that was my key sort of learning which is when you don’t find product market fit, that’s your number one goal.  It’s like your team can help you get there, but until you find the product market fit, don’t blame the team for not finding it which is don’t leave the team functionally, right? It’s everybody’s job,  product, market and sales to go find Product market fit. And so I think my only advice to people doing it now would be you’re in a very tight learning loop for the first two years because everybody in the company is trying to figure out what you are building and how you’re going to sell it. And it’s a learning loop. And that’s probably the biggest lesson- which is to have faith in people and focus on identifying the problems you need to solve and trusting the people to solve that problem.

Neelima: So I have a related question, Amitabh. You mentioned in the tight loop for the first two years, you should be figuring out what to sell. And you had also mentioned the sell-build and sell framework around that. The question is how can you sell something you’ve not built yet? selling ideas then?

Amitabh: Yeah, exactly. So the guy who hired me to Citrix was Murali Thirumale and he did two startups after Citrix. The first one Ocarina, he sold to Dell and the second one Portworx to Pure Storage. Murali’s mantra in life was Sell- Build- Sell which is when you’re trying to build a new product, sell the product first, the idea, the vision of the product, refine that. And if people actually want to buy it, then go build it. And then if people actually buy it, then go build it and then sell it after that. Right. So it was sell- build- sell. And, I don’t think there’s any truer philosophy. I wish we had done more of that at Everypath and we try to do a little bit of that at Workspot but I think that’s the truest philosophy ever, which is sell the vision, people buy the vision and then you sell the product that you’ve built.

Ankur: I thought I’d heard all one worders and one phrases in sentences but this is a new one: Sell- build- sell for entrepreneurs. One of the things that you face at Workspot is partnership with cloud providers but there’s also competition, Amazon virtual desktop products and maybe it’s at nascent stages right now, same thing with Microsoft. We work at Palo Alto networks and it is always top of mind – like, Hey, the things that we’re doing will the CSP do it? And to a large extent they have started doing it. What do you think about these large platform providers? Do you think that fundamentally the industry is different now than it was back in the days where you could disrupt an IBM, Intel, Cisco, no big deal. Does it feel like these trillion plus dollars behemoths now are different and that the rate of innovation in a sort of perverse kind of way may actually slow it down because these people are eating everybody else’s lunch. How should people think about these big boys who can enter big markets and go from there? What’s your take on that?

Amitabh: I feel actually it’s easier now than before which is when you had a dominant player in the market it was much more difficult to execute. Our experience with working with multiple cloud providers has been that their primary mission is to drive cloud consumption. Whether you’re Microsoft or Amazon or Google, you’re driving, cloud consumption. And if there is a workload that is driving cloud consumption, they will support you. So even if they’re trying to compete with you at the end of the day, I think all of them recognize that the customers can choose the right solution for them. And so we have found them to be incredibly supportive in terms of helping us win customers to bring to their platforms. And the fact that they have three humongous companies competing with each other with resources means that we’re not tied to any one. So it’s a multicloud world. It’s going to be for the rest of time. Nobody’s going to have 80%, 90% market share and be that dominant that you have no other choice in the market. I think for the second part: customers also have to look at it and say, do they want a mono cloud solution which is if they buy a solution from the cloud vendor, they’re making a very, very long-term decision not to actually work with anything else. And I think increasingly in companies, if you look at what’s happening with Snowflake right now, building the right solution that is multi-cloud is actually really important to customers because nobody believes that they’re going to be on a single cloud forever. In fact, I would say it’s scary but in some ways the dynamics of the market are pushing people to think about multi-cloud strategies, which helps startups that embrace multi-cloud strategies.

Ankur: Yeah. And not to mention that the way, especially Amazon is organized and so is Microsoft, every service is a different business. You would think that the same VDI or PaaS service that relies on the compute infrastructure has no unfair advantage over any other vendor because the compute folks have to make their margins. So ultimately if you build a deep tech, multi-cloud is definitely one, if you build a tech that’s going to be superior to what the cloud providers provide. I mean, you’ll have a big opportunity and you’re right, Snowflake is a classic example of that.

Amitabh: Yeah. And I think that’s increasingly going to happen, which is that these cloud providers are making such large CapEx investments in their infrastructure that they have to drive as many properties they can to consume that infrastructure. So Amazon has to do both Netflix and Amazon prime. And I just think that’s gotta be everybody’s game, which is that the customers want choices and  I don’t think there’s going to be many solutions that service a hundred percent of the market. I mean, we will be happy with 5%, 10% of the market. We don’t need to own a hundred percent of the market to be successful. Very successful. 

Neelima: Yep. We see that a little bit in the security industry as well because competition is very rife but what we are seeing is this infrastructure alignment is also driving coopertition because you can only be good in one space and getting that 5% or 10% is enough. Good enough. And then complement with other technologies that you can partner with.

Amitabh: I think it’s happening in all spaces, Data warehousing and security. I think it’s just fundamentally true now because if it’s going to be a multi-cloud world, they’re going to be multiple players. 

Neelima: Absolutely. So talking of security, pivoting into a very hot topic which we bring up in almost every other pod which is SolarWinds. Since SolarWinds has happened, a zero trust is something which is on top of mind for security professionals along with a lot of other technologies and point security, how do you do vulnerability management but organizations are now becoming way more serious about zero trust. Can you give us your take on zero trust and how does what you do at Workspot tie into that?

Amitabh: Yeah. What we do is fundamentally enable zero trust and point strategies for customers and they’re two different paths to zero trust for companies. So, the full trust path which is what people have been for the last 20 years is, you have a windows PC that’s connected to the corporate network. 

If you’re remote, you connect back to the corporate network using VPN and as more and more people go remote this structure just becomes really untenable because if you want to patch the PC, you want to put security updates on the PC then the user needs to be connected to the network. So the windows endpoint becomes highly vulnerable and a single unpatched PC in an organization can introduce ransomware, malware into the organization and really bad things happen. I mean, everybody’s seen how companies have been ransomware, even very large companies. And so increasingly the companies are looking for zero trust strategies where either the end point doesn’t need to be trusted or the end point is highly trusted from a security perspective but it’s not windows. So for example, we have customers saying, I will let the users use their own device, but they can only connect to the cloud desktop running in the cloud and so all my security controls are on the cloud desktop. I don’t care what the endpoint is because there’s only streaming bits going to the end point. There’s no IP going to the end point. 

The other option sort of for the end point is where the endpoint is like a Chromebook where it’s inherently more trustworthy but even then you treat it like a thin client .

And then the third option is I think folks like yourself at Palo Alto networks are working on is all the network level security stuff.  Which is where you access from the browser and security is monitored in the cloud with deep packet inspection and all these other things. Companies like Zscaler do this. 

So there’s two different fronts. One is a windows PC running in the cloud and all the security is in the cloud. And the other one is when you’re actually using a browser. There is no border to the network and you’re going through these cloud security technologies that Palo Alto has and Zscaler has. And so on.

Ankur: Got it. So, when you talk to customers, even at Workspot, do you see a play for security for a technology like that? Or is it mostly about productivity and enablement for remote workers or are you increasingly seeing security play for technologies like desktop and app virtualization.

Amitabh: Number one reason is security. Number one reason. I would say there’s not a single large enterprise customer that we haven’t talked to that wants to do Workspot cloud desktops for security reasons. Every single customer wants to get to a posture where the endpoint doesn’t need to be trusted. And then the IP and the trusted assets are highly controlled either in the data center or in the cloud.

Neelima: Yeah, I think Ankur, maybe zero trust is going to be that driver where virtualisation and infrastructure security come together. On the endpoint side, it has been tried several times. McAfee tried it with Intel. Bromium tried it, but it was just never successful because I think it takes the whole organization to come together to make that happen. Maybe zero trust would be that. What do you think about that?

Amitabh: We’re seeing that with some of our larger customers. We have customers who run their cloud desktops in Azure with us and then they’re sending the outbound traffic through cloud security. Like for example, Zscaler. So that seems to be a configuration people are doing. We have customers integrating security feeds from Workspot into Splunk. So, the driving reason is M and the amount of data we are collecting on security events, we’re collecting from Workspot  from all over the place. The end point, the desktop itself has grown 20X in the last two years because our customers just want more.  99% of the load on our systems right now is data. It’s actually not related to desktop virtualization at all.

Ankur: interesting. It’s a very interesting sort of buyer influencer journey because the budgets are coming from CSO but then CIO and the IT teams are implementing the technology. So it’s a pretty interesting song and dance you have to do across multiple stakeholders in the company.

Amitabh: a hundred percent. I mean, the CSO is a significant driving factor in many scenarios or they get involved later on because when they realize that there are desktops in the cloud and that we can provide them data. They get really interested because they are all trying to correlate the data streams coming from different places and analyze it using their favorite SIM system.

Ankur: Yeah, totally awesome. This was a fun conversation and you know, I’ve spent the last decade in security. But prior to that, a whole bunch of years in virtualization, so we can riff all day long. But I know, we’re short on time, so I’m going to move us right into our rapid fire round. We’ve got a few questions for you. Are you ready? All right. 

GME and AMC are at their monthly lows. Are you thinking about getting in next week?

Amitabh: I don’t buy stocks. I’m just an index funds guy. (Laughs)

Ankur: Yeah. Wise words. Kids out there, stop following slash WSB. You know, it is just all fickle and temporary, you may lose a lot of money. All right. Okay.               If you’re an index fund, so S&P is about 3,900 right now. What’s your prediction by the end of this year? You can give me percentages, whatever, whatever works.

Amitabh: I think it probably stays within 10, 15% of where we are today. Up or down. I don’t think it moves a lot this year because there’s so much stimulus being put into the market. I just don’t know whether it will change this year.

Ankur: All right. Amen to that. If you had to be locked in a house with one historical or current figure, who would that be? For a day or a week.

Amitabh: Historical or current figure, I think, it would be the founding members who signed the declaration of independence, that entire team, because it would have been fun to understand how they actually came up with the document. It is an immensely powerful document. And I read a lot about what happened in that room and it would just be fun to be in that room.

Ankur: love it. Yeah. Have you heard of Clubhouse? 

Amitabh: Just joined. I haven’t done anything yet but it seems like there’s an interesting conversation every day.

Ankur: Yeah. So do you think Clubhouse is a fad or do you see it becoming a 10 to 100 Bn dollar company in a few years?

Amitabh: I don’t understand social media at all but this feels real. I haven’t joined a single conversation yet but I think people just want more ways to connect and this just feels more visceral than almost anything else we have on the market right now.

Ankur: Yup. A book that has had the biggest impact in your life.

Amitabh: I would say the most fun book I read is Ben Horowitza The Hard thing  about Hard Things. That’s probably the most fun I’ve had reading any book in the last five years.

Ankur: All right. And the last question for the day- Prediction for the super bowl tomorrow.

Amitabh: I’m going to go against what everybody else is predicting and say, Tampa Bay in a low scoring game.

Ankur: I mean, is there even a question anymore that Brady is “the goat”, maybe across all the sports.

Amitabh: I don’t think there’s any question about that. My first six years in this country was watching Michael Jordan play for the bulls and I think that’s the only person who comes even close. But I think in a team sport, physical sport, like football, to reach the finals 50% of the time with two different teams. That’s incredible. I don’t just think that anybody could do that ever.

Ankur: Yeah, He’s a freak of nature. All right, that wraps up this episode. Thank you so much for taking the time. It was great having you.

Amitabh: Thanks Ankur. Thanks Neelima. That was fun.