Business leader interview – Jaspreet Singh, CEO, Druva

Jaspreet Singh, CEO, Druva leading the company in the cloud (Image credit : FReeimages/Armend(AD)) & Druva.com
Jaspreet Singh, CEO, Druva leading the company in the cloud
Jaspreet Singh Founder and CEO Druva
Jaspreet Singh Founder and CEO Druva

Jaspreet Singh is one of the founders and the CEO of Druva. Druva, originally known as a PC Backup solution, has evolved to become a leader in cloud data protection and information management. That transformation is something that Singh has driven in recent years. Prior to founding Druva Singh was a member of the storage foundation group at Veritas.

Steve Brooks:    Who is your inspiration, and why?

Jaspreet Singh:  Steve Jobs. I think he was the Picasso of our times, not a software engineer. If Picasso would have existed, he would have been a programmer or a phone maker.

Steve Brooks:    How would you describe your leadership style?

Jaspreet Singh:  I think it’s situational. It depends on the person I’m dealing with. There are people who can give it all to me, or people who are already under pressure. You have to decide based on the circumstance and situation how do deal with it.

Steve Brooks:    What are your personal challenges for the next 12 months?

Jaspreet Singh:  My personal challenge for the next 12 months is to lose weight. I’ve gained 15 pounds in the last 12 months and I had an ultimatum from my wife to lose weight.

Steve Brooks:    What was your darkest business day and how did you overcome it?

Jaspreet Singh:  I think there are many. My darkest business day was when I asked myself: “Why am I doing it? Is it because I’m afraid and I really want to succeed? Is it because am I greedy? Why am I taking all this pain of building a business?” The brightest day was when I realised it’s my destiny. This is what I enjoy doing.

Steve Brooks:    Can you share a tip for new start-up CEO’s?

Jaspreet Singh:  Prepare yourself. I call Silicon Valley ‘Hollywood for geeks’. You have a lot of glamour around startups but it’s hard as hell. You’re going to cry so absolutely prepare yourself. Persistence and understanding of what you really, really believe in is absolutely important.

Steve Brooks:    Do you have any tips for a start-up CEO looking to raise funds?

Jaspreet Singh:  Do what you do best which is grow your business. Money is a commodity. Don’t spend too much time raising it. People spend too much time raising money and it’s essentially not good for both the business and the founder. Also if the start-up hasn’t solved something substantial, you haven’t explained it well enough.

Steve Brooks:    What is the latest business book you read?

Jaspreet Singh:  The one I remember. It’s Alex Ferguson’s book, Leadership! think it’s a great story. It separates the coach from a player very, very well. He explains why he is he and Beckham was Beckham, why they were different and they both had their own place. Although he talks about football, it talks about how Beckham kept playing when he saw Ronaldo.

Just the day to day experience makes it beautiful and encouraging to see how hard he worked and why he had to distance himself from the pain. How he did it and how Beckham did it. It’s pretty interesting to watch it. It gives a lot of self-courage and self-importance about what it takes to do it and what you expect from a coach in your life.

Steve Brooks:    What’s on the radar in terms of future tech for Druva?

Jaspreet Singh:  The big thing we are banking and focusing on is machine learning. We haven’t completely productized it yet as we are experimenting. We are looking at both machine learning and deep learning. That could be foundational for technology like us in the future.

Steve Brooks:    How do you differentiate deep learning and machine learning?

Jaspreet Singh:  I think machine learning finds anomalies and patterns we know exist. We have to fine tune and work with a few parameters to find anomalies. Deep learning is things we don’t even know and consider. It’s more to build and do exploratory analysis of what’s possible out there.

From a productization perspective machine learning could be: “find me anomalies for ransomware.” Deep learning could be a business driven initiative saying, “I need to understand how do I cost optimise this layer of technology when it comes to data management?” It could be a lot more open ended, customer driven, custom projects vs very focused targeted anomalies in our data.

Steve Brooks:    What are the key business challenges you face in the next 12 months?

Jaspreet Singh:  The key business opportunities I would say is that each challenge is an opportunity. It is international growth and channel

Steve Brooks:    What’s the worst and best decision you’ve made as a CEO?

Jaspreet Singh:  I think the best personal decision I made was to start this company. The best business decision we made was to bank on public cloud as the core trend. The worst decision? I’ve made plenty but can’t talk about them. The worst business decision we made was trying to do too much. I think doing less is doing more. That’s very important and sometimes we start to do 10 different things, which are not really correlated. We’ve been guilty of going too wide plenty of times then coming back and consolidating. We’ve got it better in the last 12 – 15 months, but that’s been a historical challenge for us.

Steve Brooks:    What are the key challenges faced by your industry?

Jaspreet Singh:  I think the cloud is the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge. It is an opportunity because it optimises the cost. It brings different value to the business. It’s a challenge because its data de-centralization is huge. How do you really manage a lifecycle of businesses?

Steve Brooks:    Most people would say that cloud centralises data.

Jaspreet Singh:  It decentralises data. It centralises the data management pane but the data is getting more and more de-centralized. You will have more IOT, more devices, more clouds, more services. There is no, ‘A’ cloud.

Steve Brooks:    IOT will bring in more data sources, and will bring that data into the cloud. Are you talking about cloud of clouds bringing back de-centralization?

Jaspreet Singh:  It’s very unlikely IOT will keep on doing data transfer to cloud. IOT will become more edge devices and edge configuring, that’s one trend. The second trend is you’re going to have more laptops but it’s hard to have them with no hard disk. Edge computing will increase. You will always have more end computing power and computing power needs data locally. You’re going to have more distribution of devices and data I predict in the next five or six years in my opinion.

You’re going to have clouds of clouds. It’s not going to be A Cloud. You’ll have an ERP cloud, a storage cloud and others. The more distributed data gets the more centralised the control pane has to be. Your data was very centralised in a data centre and you had five different software engineers managing it. Now, data goes there but you can’t afford to have all the different tool chains managing it. You have to start centralising those control panes.

Steve Brooks:    How do you see the company changing in two years and how do you see yourself creating that change?

Jaspreet Singh:  The biggest change in terms of company is being a platform rather than point products or point solutions. When I say platform it’s just not a patchwork of 10 different products. It’s a platform with the vision of centralising the control plane. These are the five things we do really well and four things we partner with to bring the best value.

That’s a change that has to start right from an engineer who has to not think of micro services, products and giant monolithic products. It has to go through a sales rep who should decide and choose what he wants to sell, and excel with, not everything. Then has to go to partners who again say this is what I can work with you and sell rather than selling everything. So a lot more focused field sales team who understand the value proposition in their regions and in their customers. A lot more vertically optimised engineering team.

Steve Brooks:    How are you going to create that change?

Jaspreet Singh:  Start with me. It starts with building blocks of understanding of what the change looks like. How will that change flow through? It’s not only that we have to optimise the end result. We have to optimise the steps to it. We have to make money all along the way and eat three times a day.

It has to start with an understanding of: how do we create an extra thought process, extra processing power, an engineering team to start bringing it? How do you then make the sales team and partners aware of it but not bother about it too much? Then slowly pivot into a process that talks about it in our messaging,  as a platform and product as the overall value proposition is evolving.

Finally, you point to the future directions saying: “We don’t have everything today. We don’t want to be everything to everybody”. That’s the direction we are headed. We will bring the best of partners and the best of resolution in a single pane.”

Steve Brooks:    How do you prioritise your day?

Jaspreet Singh:  I plan most of my week on Sunday night. Which means the four or five things I have to get done in a week. What are my most critical meetings? What can I do to influence the work the best? I plan all my one on ones with my entire team on Sunday night. I send them agenda notes and I ask for them for an agenda. They send me their agenda on Sunday night or Monday morning. I have the agendas done, the critical meetings planned and I have my four or five things I am going to work through. In the week I don’t check my emails between 10 – 5. Emails are distracting. They should be done before 10, or after 5.

Steve Brooks:    When do you do your strategic thinking or how do you do that?

Jaspreet Singh:  Sunday night or early mornings on one of those week days but mostly, I think my day is well spent getting work done than doing work. I pre-plan as much as possible. Prepare for all my meetings.

Steve Brooks:    What’s the one question you’d like to ask another CEO?

Jaspreet Singh:  The business question I would ask is. What am I not looking at in the next area of growth? What am I not seeing? What’s around the corner that I don’t have good visibility into? I typically get great and very different answers. On a personal front I’d ask how hard can it be? Is it going to be get harder or easier? There is never a good answer.

Steve Brooks:    How do you answer that first question yourself?

Jaspreet Singh:  I’d try to answer it myself by asking them, what are they seeing in the business? If I am ahead of it and I have seen a few things then I’d try to say: “At this rate of growth of the company are there typically a few things always wrong with the business of our size.” I’d try to point out, watch for this or watch for that. Have you been communicating enough to your team? It’s not about your next level team it’s about the team next to them. Are you communicating well enough? Are you watching for competition? Are you being totally closed minded about what change in industry might happen in your space? Are you watchful about the customer success part of it? How do you manage customers?

These are the things that I went through in the last eighteen months. I make sure the person asking the question has those visibilities.

Steve Brooks:    Thank you Jaspreet.

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