Simon Taylor - HYCU, Inc.

HYCU: Innovating and Standing Out in a Competitive Market – with Simon Taylor [388]

HYCU: Innovating and Standing Out in a Competitive Market

Simon Taylor is the co-founder and CEO of HYCU, a Data Protection as a Service (DPaas) company for on-prem, cloud, and SaaS applications.

In 2016, Simon was at a Las Vegas steakhouse when he bumped into Goran, an engineer from his past. They got talking about the state of outdated data protection solutions, an area Goran was working in.

Initially, Simon was uninterested in data protection. He found it rather unexciting. But, by the end of the night, the idea of building a modern “Uber for data protection” had sparked his enthusiasm.

The duo assembled a team of engineers to design a data protection platform for on-prem, cloud, and SaaS applications, which one engineer had told them was impossible.

Eventually, the team overcame the big technical issues. But marketing and sales proved to be incredibly challenging.

Early on, Simon had people doing cold calling to generate leads but soon realized this would undermine their brand's perception and trust.

Convincing potential customers to take a chance on their fledgling startup instead of established competitors was an uphill battle.

And getting their messaging right was also difficult.

Simon had to rethink how they were compared to legacy data protection companies by focusing on simplicity instead of technical details.

However, taking this totally different approach from the norm made getting traction really tough in those early days.

Today, HYCU protects over 4,000 customers across 78 countries. They've grown to 300 employees, generating 8-figures in ARR, and have raised $140 million.

In this episode, you'll learn:

  • How Simon overcame the challenges of positioning HYCU as a better choice against well-established legacy data protection solutions.
  • What lessons Simon learned about the power of partnerships, and what you should (and shouldn't) do to build successful partnerships.
  • How Simon's boldness and persistence were crucial in securing a major partnership despite having to wait a year to get a meeting.
  • What insights Simon learned about content marketing that provides real value and education, rather than just promoting your product.
  • How a recent partnership with Anthropic has become a significant AI advantage, allowing them to integrate new partners in record time.

I hope you enjoy it.


Click to view transcript

This is a machine-generated transcript.

[00:00:00] Omer: Simon, welcome to the show,

[00:00:01] Simon: Omer. It's great to be here. Thank you for having me.

[00:00:04] Omer: It's my pleasure. Do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you that you can share with us?

[00:00:09] Simon: You know, Ernest Hemingway once said, live on a knife's edge until you're

[00:00:13] 30, and then spend the rest of your life writing about it.

[00:00:16] And that one's always kind of stayed with me. I thought. It speaks to how you can live sharp and try anything until you're 30 and then after 30. You know, go get it done. Go make something happen.

[00:00:28] Omer: I watched that. There was a PBS, I think documentary about Hemingway a while back, man, that, that, that guy,

[00:00:35] Simon: he's a beast. Total beast. Really inspirational. He, he was like, you know, Hey, I'm gonna go write a book about war. Lemme go into a war. You know, I mean, totally different level.

[00:00:45] Omer: All right, HYCU, tell us about what does the product do, who's it for and what's the main problem you're helping to solve?

[00:00:52] Simon: So HYCU is the world's fastest-growing data protection as a service company.

[00:00:56] And we say that we are de-risking innovation because effectively today, the average company has over, has their data in over 212 different data silos. It makes it incredibly hard to know if you're protected and how to recover your data. In the case of accidental deletion, loss, or even a ransomware attack, we've developed the only unified platform that protects data on-Prem in the public cloud and across the entire SaaS universe.

[00:01:25] And we actually use generative AI technology to ensure that the 30,000 SaaS services across the entire world can be recovered in the event of a ransomware attack.

[00:01:36] Omer: We're gonna talk about the, the generative AI, 'cause that's a recent partnership that you just announced. I think that's super, super interesting.

[00:01:44] Give us a sense of the size of the business. Were you in terms of revenue, size of team, customers, how much you've raised?

[00:01:51] Simon: So you know, HYCU was founded in April of 2018 and today I'm very proud to say Omer. We have over 4,000 customers in 78 countries. Across the world. And our NPS score is actually a 91, which is I think is a statistic that doesn't get the same sort of oomph as a huge customer count, et cetera.

[00:02:11] But for me, it's the most valuable because it means that 90% of our customers, 90 plus percent of our customers are ranking us a 10, outta 10 are saying they would absolutely recommend HYCU to a friend or someone they trust. And to me, that is the genesis of how you build great business. Is by ensuring that you're delivering true customer satisfaction and value at every turn.

[00:02:33] So 4,000 customers, 78 countries, been around since April, 2018. Have about 300 people in the company and we've raised about $140 million to date from Bain Capital, Acrew, Cisco Ventures, Okta Ventures, Atlassian Ventures. It's been a lot of fun. We've, we've really been able to grow fast and furiously.

[00:02:53] And still keep the same timeless tradition we have here at HYCU of driving our business along three core values, which are authenticity, grit, and empathy. We call it better with age, a GE, authenticity, grit, and empathy. And I think that's an easy thing to master when you're five people, 10 people. It's a lot harder as you get into the hundreds and you start to add thousands of customers.

[00:03:18] I'm very proud of the business we've built and the people who work here.

[00:03:21] Omer: Awesome. Before we talk about the story and where the idea for this business came from, let's just talk about the name. Now, when we say HYCU, we are not talking about the H-I-H-A-I-K-U, we're talking about HYCU, but there are some similarities, right?

[00:03:40] Maybe you wanna. Tell us about that.

[00:03:42] Simon: No, there a hundred percent are I, I, ever since I was a young kid, I always liked to name things. You know, if I, if I had a group of friends when I was 10 years old, I had to come up with an acronym for the group of friends. It was always sort of my thing when I thought about, you know, building HYCU, when I thought about building a business that was really designed to take all of the data in the world.

[00:04:02] And make it simple, safe and accessible. I thought about a HYCU poem and I thought about the fact that with a HYCU poem, what you're doing, you're taking all the data in a language and you're condensing it into a small, elegant package. Right? And I sort of said, that's us. You know, that's what we are, we are you HYCU in the technology sense.

[00:04:20] And you know, obviously we couldn't get the HYCU, URL, so I had to think about a different spelling. And so I said, okay, if HYCU was an acronym, you know, what are we, what do we do? And what we do is hybrid cloud uptime. We help hybrid cloud users stay up and running. So HYCU hybrid cloud uptime became our spelling of HYCU.

[00:04:44] Omer: Love it. Love it. All right, so let, let's talk about like where the idea came from. So the business has been. Going since 2018 before that, like, what were you doing and, and how did you come up with the idea?

[00:04:58] Simon: Yeah, you, you, you know, it's a, it's a funny story. I I had sold my previous business to Citrix and it was probably, I don't know, 2016, 17, something like that.

[00:05:07] And you know, when you're in your mid-thirties and you sell like your first company. You're excited and you go and have a party and celebrate. And I went and did that in Las Vegas and I was in Vegas and celebrating. And I ran into an engineer an architect that I had known in my first company that had sold years prior.

[00:05:26] And so I'm standing at this bar and I looked at this guy, I saw this bald head at the bar, and I said, my God, that's Goran Garevski And I went up to him and I said, Goran, man, I haven't seen you in ages. What are you doing? And he said, oh, I'm an architect for data protection company. And I said, you mean backup?

[00:05:42] I said, oof. That's terrible. I'm sorry. And he said, what do you mean what you're sorry? And I said, I said, you know, that's, that's kind of the, you know, it's not, it's not the coolest business around, I mean, it's one of those, everyone has to have it, but nobody really wants it, kind of thing And he said, well, you're in the monitoring space, Simon.

[00:05:57] It's not like you're you know, running a, running a, running a band or something. And so we had a laugh about that. And then he said to me, you know, but really, Simon data protection's so important. Why don't you see that? And I said, you know, it's one of these, again, everyone needs it, but nobody really wants to have it.

[00:06:14] They don't care about it. And he said to me, and I'll never forget this, he said, Simon, how did you get here today? Did you take a taxi? And I said, no, I took an Uber. And he said, aha, but there's no Uber in data protection. And I said, what do you mean? And he said, look, just like a data protection, just like backing up data.

[00:06:34] It's like a taxi. Everyone needs it. Nobody wants to get in a taxi. They smell bad, they're hard to locate. They're a pain, they're difficult. They only take cash, et cetera, et cetera. He said, you know, if I have it, if I get it right one day, I will build the Uber of data protection. And so we sat down at dinner that night in Las Vegas.

[00:06:54] I realized of course I'd sold my company. So I actually didn't have a job. And we sat down at the Gordon Ramsey Steakhouse and we started talking about. What it would take to actually disrupt the data protection market. And, you know, we, we sort of, we, we tiered it into two distinct problem sets. The first was the SaaStification of backup.

[00:07:15] This idea that data protection software always, you know, the old school stuff, the legacy providers. Man, you need Accenture to come and install that stuff. It's old, it's legacy. It's duct tape and wires and glue. We said this should be a simple SaaS platform that you just turn on and it works. That was easy.

[00:07:34] The second problem set was much harder because what we realized is that data today is not just in one place. Data today is literally in 30,000 different SaaS services, and we decided that we had to build a pro a platform that was gonna provide an equivalent level of data protection support across on-premises, public Cloud and SaaS services.

[00:07:57] And we've spent the last five years doing that.

[00:07:59] Omer: Wow. Great story. All right. So I've been involved in conversations like that where you're, you're at dinner with somebody and you. You get this idea and the napkin out and you're drawing these things of what you could go and go do. And most of the times it's like, yeah, let's stay in touch and it goes nowhere.

[00:08:18] So what happened with you guys? What did you do like differently that got you started here?

[00:08:23] Simon: So, so I actually, I, I left this part out 'cause it almost sounds too good to be true. But I'll, I'll, now that you've asked this follow-up question, I'm gonna answer it. I, I was very much excited about this idea and I wasn't sure though, would it really go anywhere?

[00:08:35] 'cause like you Omer, you know, I, I get the same, you know, we have a lot of these calls. Conversations, you meet great people. It was fun. It was exciting. You know, we'd had some wine, you know, you never really know. Well we, we got the bill and no sooner had I paid the bill than streamers and balloons fell out of the ceiling of the Gordon Ramsey Steakhouse and they announced that we were the 10000th customer at the restaurant.

[00:09:01] No way. Yes way. Wow. And they brought over sign cookbooks and they were taking our picture and Gorn and I were hugging. And I remember him looking at me and he said, if this is not destiny, I don't know what is. You know? And so of course this story, I think actually had this dual effect of feeling, feeling very fateful.

[00:09:21] And at the same time I was telling the story to everybody because it, it was such an interesting story and I think it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the thing that really made it happen was we took a very big risk. We put in some money. With a third partner that we had at the time, and we flew a whole bunch of engineers to Costa Rica.

[00:09:40] This seemed crazy. We didn't have a company. We, we had an idea. We flew them to Costa Rica. We put them in a room, very hot room. I remember the air conditioning was broken, and we said, beach outside. We can all go swimming the day. The moment that we solve these two problems, how do we sify data protection.

[00:09:59] And how do we provide an equivalent level of data protection support across on-Prem, public Cloud and SaaS? And the act of putting a little bit of our own money into it and bringing people together in Costa Rica, it created this sort of first spark of this can be something. We're already in now. Right.

[00:10:18] And it's sort of, it's sort of the more I think you, you create, you, you sort of push the rock up the hill, push the rock up the hill, but once you've started pushing up the hill, it's like going to the gym. I don't love going to the gym clearly, but you know, when I go once, twice, three times, what starts to happen is I say, well, I don't wanna screw it up this time.

[00:10:37] Right. And so I think, I think a startup is very similar. You start that cycle that that sort of muscle burn. And you invest in it, your time, your resources, your blood, sweat and tears, and pretty soon it takes hold of you and then you're really going for a great ride.

[00:10:51] Omer: So how far did you get in Costa Rica?

[00:10:53] Like, did you guys like end up, end up kind of building some kind of prototype or at least kind of, you know, some kind of, you know, architecture in terms of how you're gonna go and solve this problem?

[00:11:07] Simon: I, I would say there were two major revelations that occurred in Costa Rica. One I. Was that the backup and recovery space was so old and so legacy, that even very normal terms like SaaS were so divorced from the, the entire industry that people didn't want to use them.

[00:11:28] They kept saying, you can't say SaaS, data of protection. You can't say it. It's just not done. I said, what do you mean it's not done? It's not a fashion show, you know, whatcha talking about. But people were so staid in their thinking and so I think Revelation one was, this was gonna be a true disruption. We were gonna have to go at this problem completely differently and really start to tell people, Hey, what worked OnPrem?

[00:11:51] What worked in your data center when you had boxes and dusty storage bins and tape drives doesn't work in cloud and SaaS. So I think from a messaging perspective, that started to happen. The second thing we realized was that, I'll never forget this. I asked the question, how do you create one platform that provides equal levels of backup and recovery support in your data center, in the cloud and across SaaS services?

[00:12:17] And everyone just kind of sat there for five minutes and I said, come on, whoever, whoever answers the question can go swimming right now. And this guy in the back of the room, and he says he, he raises hand, he says. It can't be done, and I wrote it can't be done on the board. And it was the best thing he could have said, Omer, because by saying it can't be done, it forced a room full of brilliant engineers to want to challenge him.

[00:12:43] And immediately the ideas started picking up that sort of, you know, you can't do this actually acted as a way of propelling, ingenuity and innovation. And ultimately we came up with a very simple solution, which was to build microservices for each site and then uplevel all the data using an abstraction layer.

[00:13:01] Under a single pane of glass. We effectively built our platform backwards with the services first and the single pane of glass last. And that ultimately led to us becoming the only extensible architecture in the entire industry. And it was all because one smart, brave guy said it can't be done.

[00:13:20] Omer: Wow. Wow.

[00:13:23] Yeah, I mean, I, I, when I was looking at the HYCU website, I was trying to get it. Like around, I was trying to get my head around it, like, how does this thing work? Like backing up SaaS products, I can probably think about, okay, you can build integrations or something and figure out how to do those backups.

[00:13:44] But then when you were, you know, I looked at it and was like, oh, you do on-Prem as well. You do the infrastructure, you do these other, then I was like, whoa, like how does this happen? And so I can understand like it's a really complicated problem to solve, but it also sounds like a really complicated problem or solution to go and sell to people.

[00:14:06] So when, when you, like, first of all, like how long did it take for you to kind of build, build the product or something that you, you felt that you could go out and sell and. What happened when you went out to the market?

[00:14:21] Simon: You know, selling data protection, the way we built it is like selling a Swiss Army knife versus sell versus being one of those guys on TV with the knife shows, with all those individual knives, right?

[00:14:32] I think, I think what we effectively were saying to the market is, le let, let's think about it in a very simple way. Look at your iPhone right now, or whatever phone you have, and you've probably got a hundred different apps on it. Imagine if every app had another app that said Backup for for app A, and then the next one was backup for app B, and the next one was backup for app C.

[00:14:54] That would be so annoying. So what do you have instead? You have iCloud backup. You just swipe right or left or whatever it is, turn it green. You turn on your iCloud backup and it backs up all your data. It doesn't just back up one app. The crazy thing to me. Was that that didn't exist for enterprise, it didn't exist for businesses.

[00:15:13] There was no swipe right in your safe. Instead it was, well, I'm gonna bill it, buy this backup product for this service and buy this backup product for that service. So really all we were saying is like, let's just, let's just make it as easy as an iPhone. If it can be done there, it should be able to be done here.

[00:15:31] And you're right in the sense that once we built it, once we, once we figured that out. We would go to these meetings and at first customers would say, well, I, I mean I've got 12 backup products right now and I'm spending $5 million a year to back up all my data. What on earth makes you think I'm gonna believe that I can replace all that with you and your band of, you know, marry people of that?

[00:15:55] Maybe there's 20 of you, right? It, it seems impossible. And so, but what I started telling everybody was, look, I'm not an engineer. And they would say, well, now we really don't trust you. Yeah. But what I always say is, so, so when you're not an engineer, you're not trying to make it smart. You're trying to make it simple.

[00:16:14] It's the only way my brain will compute the information. And so for me, it wasn't about building the most complicated, intense data protection. It was about building data protection that was simple, accessible, and worked right, and would back up everything. And so, so from a selling perspective. It was all about just leaving it with people and saying, just try it.

[00:16:35] Try it on three things. Try it on your Google Cloud. Try it on your Nutanix and try it on your Salesforce, and if those three things don't replace anything, then you know, we'll take it back. Don't worry. I mean, it's just a service. Turn it on, try it, and see and go. And nine times outta 10. What we realized is, actually, I'll give you a real stat.

[00:16:53] 50% of the people who tried our product in the first year bought it. It's almost unheard of in the first year. You, you know, 50%, and these were large enterprises. This was companies like Broadcom. I mean, these were big companies. And, and ultimately I think, I think that ease of use and that accessibility, you know, really made it what it is.

[00:17:14] The second question you asked was about how do we actually do this? Right? It's, it's all well and good to say, we built the Swiss Army knife of data protection and you know, wouldn't it be great to have an iPhone for your business? That allows you to back up all your apps and databases with one single toggle, you know, but doing it was, was rather complicated.

[00:17:33] And what we ultimately re, what I ultimately remembered when we were sort of designing this was the, was the words of an old mentor of mine and, and as a Serbian gentleman named Vessel you ever seen of its great guy. He's built, you know, a massive, massive enterprise across Europe. And you know, he had said to me before I became a CEO, he said, Simon, don't try to be a CEO that is thinking for 10,000 people.

[00:17:59] You want to be the kind of CEO where 10,000 people are thinking for you. And that always resonated with me. It was kinda an odd comment at the time, but as I became a CEO, I realized you can surprise, sort of surround yourself with SY offense and. People who will just say yes all the time, or you can get those really tough people, the really hardcore ones who will say, no, Simon, you're not right about this.

[00:18:22] We should do it this way. And that makes you better. You wanna hire people that are smarter in their various different domains when you're building a business. And I sort of thought I remembered that and then I thought, you know, we're faced with a very similar construct with the problem that we're trying to solve, which is that there's 30,000 SaaS services in the world.

[00:18:42] Nobody can actually build up backup integrations for all of them. But what if we didn't try? What if instead of trying to build 30,000 integrations, we tore the cover off our platform, opened it up as a universal API to all, and let SaaS providers and partners and even customers build those integrations via a low code development platform.

[00:19:03] And that's what we built to solve this problem. And I'll tell you, it's, it's gone gangbusters. We now have the largest data protection marketplace of integrations in the world. We're not the largest company in the world, but we've absolutely got the largest marketplace by number of integrations to a factor of 10.

[00:19:20] I mean, it's pretty incredible what we've been able to build in a short time. And I think, you know, by harnessing the power of the community in a safe and constructive way via our low-code development platform, we've actually been able to. Become really sort of the defacto standard and leader in the SaaS data protection industry as a whole.

[00:19:42] Omer: So, so rather than you going out and saying. I mean, anybody who's trying to build an integration knows what a pain in the butt it is, right? And so like, rather than going saying, oh, we're going, we are going to multiply this complexity by 30,000 times and spend the next 75 years building these integrations, right?

[00:20:01] We're gonna do it the other way around. Smart. And so I, I, I guess really then the, the, the work that's involved on your side is just getting persuading. Each SaaS company to build the integration and making it as easy as possible for them.

[00:20:20] Simon: And, and Omer you, you know, it's funny. That's exactly what I thought was gonna happen.

[00:20:24] And unlike, and, and I guess very much like everything in building a business, it never works out the way you expect. What actually started to happen is that we had hundreds and hundreds of partners calling us up systems integrators, consulting companies. Saying, whoa, whoa, whoa. You don't need the SaaS company.

[00:20:42] We wanna build these integrations because we want, we're selling those SaaS services and we'd love to monetize the data protection as well. Can we do a rev share? And so we started offering revenue-sharing partnerships for any partner that build these integrations. And it just started to speed up faster and faster and faster.

[00:21:01] And now we've also integrated with anthropic so that we can leverage artificial intelligence. To make that move, that process from a three day development cycle to 36 minutes.

[00:21:12] Omer: Wow. Wow. Okay. We'll talk about that in a second. So I have a question about you. You said one of the ways that you were persuading customers or potential customers was to try the product and you said, you know, turn it on for a couple of services and, and see what it's like now.

[00:21:30] The, iCloud analogy in the backup is great, right? From a consumer perspective, Apple's done a beautiful job that it, it's happening in the background. You get a new phone, you turn the iCloud back on, and you know your apps and your settings are back there. I, I still remember the days 10, 20, maybe over 20 years ago, where.

[00:21:50] Just because you were doing backups didn't mean that you'd actually be able to do, restore those backups, or it was gonna be a pain in their com, you know? But to, to actually do that. So how did, how did you get them to kind of get confidence with that part as well? Because, you know, it's, it's kinda like one side of the problem.

[00:22:06] Like, yeah, yeah, it's backing up great. But what happens when, you know the shit hits the fan? How do they know that it's actually gonna work?

[00:22:12] Simon: Yeah. So, I actually hate the word backup because, because of exactly what you just said. Backup doesn't matter. It's just a very simple form of moving data from one place to another.

[00:22:24] It's how you recover the data. That is always the most important part. And you know, one of the things that we did here is the Loco Development platform opens the API so that you can support the backup, but all of the recovery is done centrally by the HYCU platform. So it's our, you know, thousands and thousands and thousands of engineering years of expertise in data protection.

[00:22:48] Sort of leveraged in a platform that allows you to perform granular recovery across any, any source of data on-prem, public cloud, and SaaS. We actually, it was such a versatile. Architectural design that we were able to patent it because the beauty of our system is that whatever SaaS service you, you decide to back up, you're recovering the data in exactly the same format that it's backed up in.

[00:23:14] So I'll give you a real-life example. Think about Salesforce, right? What do you use Salesforce for? Well, you've got opportunities, you've got leads, you've got contacts. When you recover the data, you don't want it to say file system X three bz, right? You wanna say, I wanna recover my opportunities from January 4th, thank you very much.

[00:23:34] And so that's exactly what you see. Now when you go to Jira to back up Jira and recover Jira data. You don't care about opportunities anymore. You care about events, about tickets, right? And you'll see exactly that. So the vernacular that we use in the recovery process. Is through ai, through generative ai, and a lot of testing and development is actually mapped to the service that it's actually backing up, and that allows us to provide granular recovery across any ser, any SaaS service or any service at all.

[00:24:07] Across on-Prem, public Cloud, and SaaS. That's in the HYCU marketplace.

[00:24:11] Omer: Got it. Got it. Okay. Makes sense. Alright, so now I know you went out and you used. Partners to go and acquire your, your initial customers. Did you initially try to go directly and, and sell and, and how, how easy or hard was that?

[00:24:27] Simon: You know, I, I actually, I've always been a huge fan of partnerships. Two things that I, I care deeply about. One is Blue Ocean Strategy. I love going into markets where nobody else is, but where there's a huge need. And the second is partners. I've always fundamentally believed that you alone can only do so much.

[00:24:47] The value of exponential growth through partnership is, to me, the golden ticket. It's the ubiquitous key that allows us to unlock doors that we would never ordinarily have access to. And so in every company that I've built, the only, and this is my third or fourth company now, the, the, the only similarity between them, other than that, they are all technology based.

[00:25:10] Is that we built them on partnerships. So, so for me, partners from day one is critical.

[00:25:15] Omer: So how did you do that? How, how do you go about building those partnerships in, in practice? It sounds, it makes sense, it sounds simple. Is it really as easy as it sounds?

[00:25:30] Simon: No, it's, it's terrifically hard. It's terrifically hard.

[00:25:33] And I think, I think respectfully, most people do it the wrong way. And the wrong way of building a partnership I'll start with is to show up at the door and say, Hey, I'm Simon. I've got the best technology in the world. It's so important and great. You need to see it. Every ear in the building, you know, just, just got covered up and every eye just went blind.

[00:25:54] Nobody cares whatsoever. You know, the best way to start a partnership is to purely think about the person that you're talking to. You do not matter your technology, no matter how brilliant it is, how great it is, how long and hard you worked on it, it's completely irrelevant to these people. They don't care about you at all. What you have to do in that first meeting.

[00:26:16] Figure out, figure out really, really intuitively and hopefully you've done your homework so that you can go into the meeting and you can talk about what matters to them. And it's only if you can talk about what matters to them that you can be successful. And I'll give you, if you'd like, I can give you two real-life examples.

[00:26:33] Yeah, yeah, please. Yep. So, alright, so example one in my second company we were, I told you we would build monitoring software for that connected Citrix and Microsoft. And I remember, you know, going into the Citrix office for the first time. I was, you know, relatively young at the time and, you know, it was their office luckily was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

[00:26:53] So at least it was warm out. And if they kicked me out to the curb, at least I could go, you know, look at the ocean or something have a shrimp cocktail. And I went over there to the Citrix, you know, main headquarters, and I asked to speak to the director of alliances. And the director of Alliances, shockingly, was unavailable to a random guy who showed up on the strip off the street and a wonderful lady who ultimately became the VP of Alliances but at this time was not showed up at the door and she said, hi, you know, my name's so and so, and well actually, I'll tell you her name 'cause she's so wonderful.

[00:27:26] Her name is Vicki Pico. She worked at Citrix for years. Probably one of the best alliances people in the business. And I remember Vicki, you know, I walked in and she had no idea who I was or what we did, but I said to her, I think that we, I, I know your Microsoft relationship is important to you, and all we do is we build a little bridge between Citrix and Microsoft so that Microsoft users can understand what their Citrix environment looks like.

[00:27:55] And it wasn't about my technology, it wasn't about how great our monitoring was and how effective it was and how it was better than everybody else's. It was just, you care about your relationship with Microsoft and I think this will help make that relationship even better. And, you know thanks to that, you know, wonderful lady and that, that initial conversation and all the work after it.

[00:28:17] You know, we went from zero to 2000 customers and we were ultimately acquired by Citrix The first was the My second example, which is, is not so dissimilar a little wilder maybe, is with Nutanix. You know, Nutanix, you have to understand five, six years ago was probably, maybe it's even beyond five or six years. Yeah. Maybe five or six years ago.

[00:28:40] It was really the darling of Silicon Valley. I mean, you talk about rock stars, I mean, Raj Pande and Sunil Potty. I mean, these guys had built something. They'd invented the category of hyper-converged infrastructure, and I wanted to be the backup product for them. You know, I wanted, I HYCU originally, you know, I told you all of our ideas about simplicity and everything else and ease of use and, and multi-cloud.

[00:29:05] But we also wanted to build a partnership with Nutanix because they were HCI and we thought if we can include them in what we're backing up and recovering, we'll be able to piggyback on their customer base and grow with them. And nobody else was protecting that data. And so I thought, okay, that's a blue ocean strategy with a hot, cool company.

[00:29:27] I need to go over there and convince those guys to care about us. But I'd never been in the data protection space. Nobody knew that who we were or what we were doing, there was no credibility whatsoever. And I remember I thought, okay, I've gotta be very memorable. And I went out and I got this white jacket, this very, very bright white jacket, and I put a red carnation in there and I drove up to Nutanix headquarters and I walked in Phillip Bravado and I said, I need to speak to the CEO.

[00:29:56] And they, they brought out this guy. Tommy Gustavson, who had just joined the company that week. And you know, to this day we laugh about this story. We, we sat down at this table and instead of saying, oh, but I wanted to meet with the CEO 'cause I'm important, right? I, I immediately thought, of course they're not gonna introduce me to the CEO e they have no idea who I am.

[00:30:16] Thank God they gave me a meeting. I'm excited about this. And I remember sitting with Tommy for two hours and showing him videos and pictures of everything that, you know, I could think of that would get him excited about what we were doing. And then ultimately, I, it wasn't really going anywhere. Great guy.

[00:30:33] And he was terrific, but I just, I didn't have it together. I could see I wasn't selling it. And then I said, I had done my homework and I knew there were four or five areas where I thought we could be really helpful. And I said, I'm, look, I'm gonna get outta your hair. I'm gonna leave. Would you mind checking with somebody in product if, if, if a company for no charge built one of these four things, which of these would be most important to Nutanix?

[00:30:59] And he literally picked up this little, I scratched out the four things on a piece of paper. He took it back, talked to someone, and the next thing I know, we're sitting with a product person and the next thing I know, there's somebody else coming in the room. And by the end of the conversation, we had six or seven people and I think Sunil potty, the, the CTO, just as a joke, almost walked in just to see what was going on.

[00:31:21] And we had this wonderful conversation and it ended with me saying, again, full of bravado. Okay, nobody's built you end-to-end data protection. You don't know who I am. I'm not gonna ask you for anything, but if I come in here a year from now and I have application-aware data protection for Nutanix, and I can do it within one year, do you promise me a meeting with all of you to discuss it?

[00:31:46] And we came in a, a year minus a week later, I walked in the office with my CTO, the same guy I'd met earlier in Vegas. And we showcased that product. And today we've got thousands of new customers who are backing up Nutanix on HYCU. And it was all because we chose to go in with a partner first mentality and look for ways we could solve their problems, not show off about our technology.

[00:32:16] Omer: I don't know, I, I think maybe, maybe it was the white suit that did it. Alright, so. Let, let's talk about growth. So we've talked about partnerships and, and how important that they've been to, to helping you acquire customers. What about content, content marketing, webinars, that, something that you guys have also done.

[00:32:41] Can you just explain a little bit about what you did and. What, what are some of the lessons that you've learned from, you know, the do's and don'ts?

[00:32:50] Simon: This is the hardest thing, right? Because then now we're talking about tactical execution of marketing programs, and I'll just be very honest. If there's anybody listening who's starting a company, you're gonna get most of it wrong.

[00:33:01] I know. I certainly did. You're gonna make a lot of mistakes and you're gonna feel like at times nothing works. But I think for me, the biggest lesson learned. Is that when you stay true to providing customer value, you win. And when you try to make a buck, you lose. And what I mean by that is. Let's look at webinars, for example.

[00:33:22] Remember what I said about, you know, building those partnerships, some Omer, it wasn't about how great our tech was. Yes, our technology's amazing. I think it's incredible. But going into, so talk to a partner who's bigger and stronger than you and doesn't know who you are, and bragging is just a great recipe to get kicked out on the curb, right?

[00:33:41] But instead, I went in and I was talking about them and how it could help and what we could do, and you know, how it can make their life easier on some level. I think that content marketing. Has to approach, has to approach the customer with that same ethos in the sense that what you wanna do is you want to look at where your customers actually are seeking information and what they really are looking to understand.

[00:34:07] And then you, instead of going out there and sort of. You know, thinly veiling some knowledge-based, you know, webinar with, you know, a massive product pitch, right? What you really wanna do is you wanna bring somebody on who has nothing to do with your business, or is tangentially, you know, related or topically related, but is not working for you and you want to have them on the phone or on the webinar actually providing guidance and lessons.

[00:34:32] And if they, you know, if you, if you, if you do the same thing and you follow up and you also provide knowledge. And you use your position as a knowledge leader in your industry to help customers. They're going to figure out where you work. They, they came to the webinar, they know who you are, what they, they're not looking for in those moments is a product pitch.

[00:34:53] And I think a lot of times we get a hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, five hundred people on a phone call or webinar. There's an instinct isn't there, to just go, okay, I gotta make a buck, I gotta sell. But you gotta reign that in and you gotta say. You know what, this isn't the time. What we wanna do now is actually add value.

[00:35:12] The more demonstrable you can be with the value you're adding, the more customers and people in general, I think will trust you in your business. And ultimately that sets you up for a lifetime of success.

[00:35:24] Omer: So some, some good, good advice there. And lessons when it comes to things like webinars and educating customers.

[00:35:33] I, I think there's, there's, you have to, there's a fine line that you have to walk if you want to, like, like when I, when I think about this initially, right? With like HYCU and, and data recovery, I'm like, okay, well what are you gonna educate customers about without talking about your product? Right? So there, there's, there's this one scenario where you tell them, Hey, this is how you do data recovery and.

[00:36:01] And even though you don't talk about your product, you, you're just kind of explaining how you use your product to do all of these, these great things, or you educate them on something. Like maybe give us an example of what, what a webinar was about and, and how you walk that line where you're educating them without necessarily selling the product.

[00:36:20] Because you don't wanna educate them and just say, Hey, still keep using the 200 different backup solutions that you have in your, your business.

[00:36:27] Simon: No, no. But, but, so I'll give you a great example. Ransomware attacks are legitimately going through the roof right now. It's one every 11 seconds. It might even be one every six seconds, we think.

[00:36:37] And 52% of those ransomware attacks are occurring through SaaS services. Okay? And a majority of them are successful. So just think about that for a second. You've got 200 SaaS services running in your company, and half of ransomware attacks are gonna occur through SaaS. And if they happen, they're probably gonna succeed.

[00:36:56] This is like terrifying. So, so you could, you could run a webinar. So, so let's say that that, you know, that's a problem statement. You choice one would be to run a webinar where you say, look at HYCU, we back up and recover your data. If this happens, you're gonna need our product. Okay, I get it. Product pitch.

[00:37:15] Here's what we did. We invited a gentleman from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, A special agent who was focused on cybersecurity to come give a talk. I. On why these ransomware attacks were becoming so prevalent, how dangerous they were, and what the federal government recommends you do to protect yourself.

[00:37:37] And then we said and then sort of, you know, obviously he, he spoke highly of HYCU and said, you know, companies like HYCU, but the, the principle of protecting your data across SaaS on-prem and public Cloud is critical. But it's really hard to do. And then afterwards, you know, it's no problem to jump in and say, you know, one way we can help you to simplify that is by turning on this free tool that's gonna do this, this, and this.

[00:38:00] And we've got a free assessment you can take if you go to this website and it's gonna help you understand free of charge, whether or not you're at risk. Right. So, so rather than going, going for the dollars, you're going for the value. And because you've got somebody who's not in your business and is certainly not commercial, I mean, it's the government for goodness sakes, you know, they're giving a very honest assessment in a way that people really want to hear.

[00:38:24] You're educating people, you're making the, you're making the world a safer place. And so I think again, it's about being authentic. It's about being true to who you are. And it's about being focused on that customer value. I could very easily have said to the team, okay guys, let's let's get a bunch of slides.

[00:38:41] We've got 2000 people on this webinar. Forget about this guy. You know, let's show him how great HYCU is and, you know, make a buck. But you don't do that. You're gonna be much more successful if you focus on actually educating your marketplace on how they can get value. Right. And how they can, how they can, how they can get information, get better at their jobs, get better at their lives, be safer in their lives.

[00:39:03] So, you know, that's probably one of my best examples of one of the ways that we did that.

[00:39:08] Omer: Yeah, that's, that's a very good example actually. You really, I, I think that was, that was an excellent way of just, basically what I heard was you can identify a problem. You, you use the, the opportunity to educate customers.

[00:39:23] About the problem, why it's an issue, what the risks are, what are the best practices to, to protect themselves. And if you can get somebody else to come along who's not associated with your company to educate them, it probably 10 x is the credibility of the message that they're hearing as well. Love it.

[00:39:44] Love it. Yeah. Great. Okay. I, I think you were also doing some cold, cold emailing to go and acquire customers? Or, or, or was it, how, how much did you do? Or, or was, was everyone just relying on you and the white suit to go out there and, and get those customers?

[00:40:03] Simon: No, look, my team gets all the credit. I, I've, I've only got one white suit, you know, I get a drag queen it once in a while.

[00:40:08] No, I, I think obviously you go through the plethora of. Marketing innovations to try to reach customers. You're doing emails, you're trying cold calling, you're doing all adver, you know, digital ads, et cetera. What I love about this conversation is that it's thematic in the sense that, you know, it, it, it, it all comes back to the same principle, which is customer value.

[00:40:31] And you get a lot of, I think, bad unsolicited advice when you're starting a company, right. About how you've gotta, you've gotta harass people on LinkedIn and you've gotta do this, and you gotta do that, and you gotta have funny, you know, things and you gotta, I, I, I read a, I read a blog recently where somebody said, you gotta kind of insult people in your email to really get their attention these days.

[00:40:54] Wow. I, I think all of that is awful. I think it's, I think it's, I think when you're building a brand, which all of you are, like, when you're building a company. You're actually building. Think of it like, you know, growing a child, right? You, you need to feed it healthy food. And you know, I've got a 10-year-old son and you gotta make sure you get some sunlight.

[00:41:12] Doesn't have too much screen time. You know, your brand is this living organism. And if you're living, organism is feeding the world with insults via email. And it's not focused on customer value, it's focused on quick wins and transactions. It's not gonna go anywhere. You know, you, you may end up with a quick, you know, product tech tuck-in acquisition or something, but you're ultimately not gonna be able to grow and get the best out of your marketplace.

[00:41:39] I think what we learned pretty quickly is that when you have honest dialogues via email with customers and it's hard, you gotta break through and there's success rates and, you know, there are people better, you know, better suited than me to go through all those metrics. But, you know, ultimately what we found when I've looked at emails that drive value.

[00:41:57] It's the same principles as the webinar. It's the same principles as the partnership. You want to be able to go in there and you want to be able to say, did you know this thing is happening in the world? And let me provide you with something that doesn't cost anything, that will educate you, provide you knowledge, make your life a little bit better.

[00:42:16] In this context, it should be topical, it should be focused. So to give a more specific example. You know, we launched a piece of our, functionality within our platform called R Graph. And, and very simply, you just, you turn it on, it, it discovers your environment and draws you a picture of every department and all the SaaS services that are running in it.

[00:42:38] All your services cloud on-prem, public Cloud, SaaS, et cetera. And it tells you what's protected and what's not. Free of charge. You just turn it on, you go, you know, again, we could have just given it to every salesperson, have them call people. But instead what we did is we said, you know, 52, again, that same, that same statistic, 52% of ransomware attacks are occurring through SaaS.

[00:43:00] Do you even know what's SaaS services are running in your company? Find out now. Right? And then you, you, you, you let them use it, let them try it, let them get value. And I think once they get that value, then they're gonna come back for more and you can actually have a real conversation with them.

[00:43:17] Omer: Love it.

[00:43:17] Okay. I, I wanna talk about the philanthropic partnership in a second, but the, I also don't want people to walk away from this thinking this was, this was easy for you in terms of getting to where you are today. You're obviously, you're, you're a serial entrepreneur. You've, you've, you've, you know, gotten some great traction with this business.

[00:43:39] Just give the listeners just a little taste of some of the things that you tried that didn't work.

[00:43:46] Simon: Cold calling the, I think, I think when we first started, I had this, this, this funny vision in my head or this picture in my head of this big office filled with people on the headsets and they were all dialing for dollars and the money was just rolling in and everything was just going easily.

[00:44:05] Because everybody just loves what we do, and it all makes sense. And you just keep adding those people and go. And, you know, again, the, the problem, the mistake that I made is I was divorcing my own ethics, my own beliefs around all the things we just talked about from how I thought you were supposed to go to market.

[00:44:25] And so you hired a bunch of people, you put 'em in the rows, you have somebody saying, call, call, call. And, you know, very quickly I realized these people who were just doing activities, they were just performing a function over and over and over and over again. Were actually damaging, you know, the, the customer's understanding of who we were.

[00:44:45] We were the annoying people on the phone. You know, who likes a telemarketer? Nobody. Right? I think there are ways you can succeed with cold calling. I'm not saying it's a, it's a terrible practice. But what I'm saying is that my interpretation of it when we first started out was thoroughly wrong. And if anything, it re-centered me on.

[00:45:05] Stay focused on your core values. Stay focused on adding customer value, you know, and be empathic. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. If you wouldn't like that phone call, they're not gonna like that phone call. Big miss on my part and you know, frankly. Really glad at what the team's doing now, which is always very, very focused on driving customer value.

[00:45:24] Omer: Okay, so philanthropic, let's talk about that because that you know, you've already explained how you do the integrations and how you've made that easier. What, what is this recent announcement and, and how does that, why do you consider that to be game-changing?

[00:45:40] Simon: It's a great question. I think artificial intelligence is.

[00:45:46] The buzz term of all buzz terms. And I think the problem with buzzwords and fads and, and I'm not saying AI is a fad, but you know, I think anything that's cool in the industry and cool to say and is gonna get you press always has the, runs the risk of being misused. And you know, I think we are seeing a lot of that with AI.

[00:46:09] And what I was noticing actually is that. There was a lot of pressure for us to put out something a year ago that had AI in the title. And I kept saying to people, and luckily again, I've got a very strong team who kept saying to me, no way. No way, no way, no way. We're not gonna have a, you know, a little bot on our website that just tells you how to get from the homepage to the product page.

[00:46:30] Right. That's just irrelevant. It doesn't add customer value. It's a waste of time. Just so we can say we've got a copilot, you know where, where AI became really interesting for us. When we started thinking about the fact that it took three days to build an integration using our low-code development platform, there's 30,000 SaaS services, and that number is growing every day, and even three days was too much, and it suddenly occurred to us that because it was a low code development platform, and because the SaaS services are using APIs.

[00:47:07] It may be possible to leverage a large UAL model, a large an LLM, A large language model, enrich it with our understanding of data security, data protection, and the industry, and then reduce the development time for those integrations. And so we looked at all the LLMs and we decided that, and philanthropic was the most advanced when it came to code delivery and code development, and we found that our ability to enrich the model.

[00:47:36] In a very concise and focused way manner, what worked really well. And so we did that and we, we effectively enriched the high QR cloud platform with generative ai, which now reduces the development time for a single integration from three days to 36 minutes. Wow. And I think, I think that to me was really exciting because it is quantifiable customer value.

[00:48:04] It is not just a bot. In fact, we're calling it beyond the bot because you know, it really is taking customers beyond this co-piloting concept that we're seeing kind of pop up on every website into something that is truly innovative. Is actually adding substantive value for our customers.

[00:48:22] Omer: Okay. So, so if I understood this correctly, so if I'm a SaaS provider, I come along, I, I look at your low-code, low-code environment, and I, I kind of like try to figure out how am I gonna build this integration 36 or three days or whatever, whatever you said.

[00:48:37] That doesn't sound bad compared to some integration work, right? So what happens like now? Now basically, I can use this. This large language model and the generative ai, and it will look at my API and it will tell me what I need to do.

[00:48:54] Simon: You actually just ask it you, it's called R-Scout, R dash Scout. We love the letter R for resiliency or recovery.

[00:49:01] You, we just love the letter R here at HYCU, so it's rout. And you ask rout, you say, I want to build an integration between HYCU and this and it's an enriched virgin version. It's an, it's a HYCU-enriched version of Anthropic Claw two LLM model. And what effectively it will do is then pull up the code and it will tell you get, give you precise instructions on how you can copy and paste that into the low code development platform, which then automates the process of development.

[00:49:29] Now, I will say this. I do not believe that AI is at a point where it should be deployed without supervision and human intervention. The certification process is the certification process. We will not allow integrations onto our platform unless they've been thoroughly tested by our own team. That is for the safety and sanctity of our own customers, partners and the world at large.

[00:49:51] So you're not gonna, you're not gonna plop down some AI code and stick it into our system. What you are able to do though, is expedite that platform. And because we're, we're simply managing the delta between the SaaS service and the very specific requirements that we have in our own low code development pla offering, it becomes a very elegant process to build that integration and obviously makes it even easier for us to certify as well.

[00:50:15] Omer: Yeah, that, that was one of the things I was thinking. I mean, I think using Claude in, in terms of the, you know, the chat experience. I think it's great. It, I think for, for many, many, many use cases, and you know, I, I use it a lot for production of this podcast, right? In terms of going back and looking at transcripts and saying, what did Simon say about that?

[00:50:38] Or What was that number he mentioned, right? Rather than having to go and manually figure that stuff out. But I also know that Claude has bad days where like, I, I might get a good result today. Three days later I go back and ask the same question and it's like, what the hell man, it's like,

[00:50:52] Simon: again, it's very important to note that this is not cloud.

[00:50:55] You're using, it's HYCU enriched LLM which means that we've actually taken it and we've added our own security and focus so that it really is providing. Only HYCU accurate data. It's not able to hallucinate. It's very, very restricted in what it's actually delivering to.

[00:51:13] Omer: Right. But at the same time, you still have the, the, the humans basically, you know, verifying this.

[00:51:19] Yeah. I think that's a great example of you know, actually useful ai. Like a lot of the things that, you know, you, you see on like LinkedIn today is like, Hey, use AI to send even more cold emails. Right. Use AI to. Apply for a thousand jobs a day. Right? And that doesn't, just doesn't feel right. There's like, that's not the way forward.

[00:51:41] But I think this is a really good example of, of a, a good, good way to use that technology.

[00:51:45] Simon: So I love that. It, it reminds me Omer of, of, remember when the internet was sort of first coming out and you had these banner ads and popups that were so prevalent, right? It was kind of, everyone had a popup and a banner ad and thank God we moved beyond that period of time.

[00:52:00] I think AI is becoming similar.

[00:52:02] Omer: Yeah. Yeah. All right. We should wrap up. Let's get onto the lightning round. I've got seven quick-fire questions for you. So if you can just try and answer 'em as quickly as you can. What's one of the best pieces of business advice you've received? I.

[00:52:16] Simon: Presentation is everything which I credit my father for saying to me, it's very true.

[00:52:20] It's all about presenting.

[00:52:22] Omer: What book would you recommend to our audience and why?

[00:52:24] Simon: Amp It Up by Frank Slootman. I think he, you know, he built data domains. Snowflake ServiceNow really knows what he's talking about. One of the best scale-up books I've ever read.

[00:52:34] Omer: What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?

[00:52:37] Simon: Self-awareness. I think you have to be able to understand where your flaws are and how you can get better.

[00:52:42] Omer: What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?

[00:52:45] Simon: Reflection at the end of the day? Using basic meditation techniques to make sure that I can properly calm down, try to instill a little bit of patience in my very impatient mind, and reflect on, on what went well and what went, didn't go well and what we can do better.

[00:52:58] Omer: What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the extra time?

[00:53:02] Simon: AI safety I think is gonna be critical. And I think advocating for, for the safety of artificial intelligence in our world is something that is becoming very important to me.

[00:53:13] Omer: What's an interesting or fun fact that most people don't know about you?

[00:53:16] Simon: I am a massive foodie. Every birthday I go to an exotic and interesting chef. Around the world and try a unique type of food that I've never tried before.

[00:53:27] Omer: Awesome. And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work world?

[00:53:31] Simon: Travel. I love experiencing other cultures. I love getting to know other people and really learning about how other people flourish in different societies.

[00:53:38] Omer: I. Love it. Great. So if people wanna learn more about HYCU, they can go to HYCU, that's And if folks wanna get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

[00:53:50] Simon: They can email me directly at simon[at]HYCU[dot]com.

[00:53:55] Omer: Simon, thank you. It's been a blast. Really enjoyed this conversation.

[00:53:58] Thanks for kind of unpacking the last six years and, and sharing some of the lessons and story, of building this business, one of the more entertaining interviews I've done. So it was fun. So yeah. Yeah. I appreciate you making the time. Thank you so much. And I wish you and the team, the best of success.

[00:54:17] Simon: Omer, it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for having me on the show.

[00:54:20] Omer: My pleasure. Cheers.

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