It is generally difficult to speak with a CEO of a startup in stealth-mode. Today, we pick the opportunity of the close of a $40m Series B funding round (read here) to interview Peter Godman, CEO of Qumulo, a Seattle, Washington-based enterprise data storage company.
FinSMEs: Hi Peter. Can you tell us a bit more about you? What’s your background?
Peter: I am an engineer by background. In 1998 I worked as a young software engineer at a company called RealNetworks here in Seattle. It was an interesting time, as digital video and audio was just starting to become more prevalent on the Internet, but it was still early days. I met a lot of interesting and smart people there including Sujal Patel – another young software engineer at the time. In 2001, Sujal left RealNetworks and co-founded a company called Isilon in the area of data storage. Initially I thought “data storage – that sounds painfully boring.” But after speaking with Sujal and others, I decided to give it a try and I joined Isilon in early 2002. The company was at the early stages of designing and developing its first product and, somewhat surprisingly, I found the problems in storage much more interesting and challenging than I had originally expected. None of us really knew much about data storage at the time, so it was a completely new adventure for all of us. Over the course of the next six years, we built scale-out Network Attached Storage (NAS) products that enabled enterprises to make the leap from storing several terabytes to storing many petabytes of unstructured data and digital content all within one single expandable storage system. Isilon had a successful IPO in December 2006 and I became the Director of Software Engineering until I left in 2008. I just had a fantastic time working at Isilon. It wasn’t just a peak career experience for me at the time – but rather a peak life experience. I made some great friends at Isilon, learned a ton, and became convinced that it was the kind of experience that I hoped to have the opportunity to pursue again at some point in my future career in technology.
FinSMEs: Let’s speak about Qumulo. When did you start? What’s the opportunity you want exploit in the market?
Peter: Qumulo was founded in early 2012 three co-founders: Neal Fachan, VP Engineering, Aaron Passey, CTO, and myself, CEO. The three of us worked closely together and became good friends as the early technical team at Isilon, which created scale-out NAS and was later acquired by EMC for $2.5 billion in 2010. Collectively, the three of us are named on 55 of 62 of the patents for the core Isilon OneFS software. Anyway, in early 2012, we had the opportunity to get back together and create a company in a field (storage) that we all really enjoyed and one that we thought was ripe for a disruptive new technology to come along. We had some ideas on what we might do – but we decided that we all wanted to build a company that was driven by what customers wanted and needed – not by what we thought they might want or need at some point in the future. So we created an organization focused entirely on doing primary customer research – talking 1:1 directly to as many different people as we could about their day to day experience with enterprise storage. Over the next two years, we conducted more than 600 customer interviews – held user groups in Vancouver BC, Los Angeles, and Seattle- while a core engineering team began building the foundational elements of a new distributed scale-out file system from scratch using the latest technologies.
FinSMEs: How does Qumulo work? Can you tell me something about the features…?
Peter: We are currently in stealth mode so we can’t tell you about our product or technology just yet–but we can talk to you about the problem we are trying to solve. Enterprises are grappling with how to understand, store, and make sense of an enormous number of files and digital assets—and this number continues to grow at an exponential rate. Today’s storage systems provide very little actionable insight into the data that is being stored, and how users and applications are interacting with it. Essentially, you can think of today’s enterprise storage as big, dumb expandable buckets that companies keep pouring more and more files and digital assets into. We see an opportunity for software that makes data visible and physical storage invisible…at a scale, simplicity, and cost that the next decade will require.
FinSMEs: Can you introduce the other team members?
Peter: We have assembled a really talented leadership team, board of directors, and group of investors who are committed to building Qumulo into the next major player in the storage industry. Along with my three co-founders mentioned above, we have Jeff Cobb, VP of Product Management. Jeff was employee number three and Chief Scientist at Wily Technologies where he pioneered the application performance management category (APM). After Wily was acquired by CA, Jeff was named SVP of Strategy and a Distinguished Engineer. Mary Godwin is our VP of Operations and a 30 year expert at operations, supply chains, and processes. Mary was at EMC/Isilon during a time where they scaled the business by five-fold and solidified Isilon’s dominant position in the industry. Brett Goodwin is VP of Marketing and was employee number 15 at Isilon, led marketing and business development through Isilon’s successful IPO in 2006, and helped scale the business from pre-revenue to $100 million. By the way, it is total coincidence that Qumulo has a Godman, Godwin, and a Goodwin on its management team. However, we are always on the lookout for a Goodman to run the table :). Our investors and board members, including Sujal Patel, founder of Isilon, Wen Hsieh from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Matt Mcilwain from Madrona Venture Group, Peter Bell from Highland Capital, and Harry D’Andrea from Valhalla Partners, bring a combination of deep storage expertise and great long-term business vision to Qumulo.
FinSMEs: You just raised a funding round. How are you using the funds?
Peter: We will use the Series B round to bring our innovative new product and technology to market, expand our sales and marketing as we launch the company, and continue to invest in engineering and product development to advance our technology and expand our product capabilities.
Peter: Qumulo as a company has the rare market opportunity, team, and culture to become a really big long-term player that fundamentally changes a $60 billion worldwide storage industry. More importantly, we have the opportunity to help our customers transform industries – and fundamentally advance the world that we all live in and experience every-day. I have learned in my career that these kinds of opportunities are extremely rare. Every day I get more and more excited about Qumulo’s future.