Top SaaS CEO Feature: Vineet Jain of Egnyte

Vineet Jain arrived in the United States with $100 in his pocket and a friend to pick him up at the airport. Just a little over twenty-five years later and Jain is founder and CEO of Egnyte, a cloud-based collaboration and governance platform geared specifically for business-use, based out of Mountain View, California.

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India-born and raised, Jain followed his passion for technical studies and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from the Delhi College of Engineering in 1989. A few years later, he made a bold overseas move to start a career in Silicon Valley and made California his new home. From his beginnings as an engineer with Bechtel Corporation, he made the most of any opportunity put in front of him.

“I didn’t have access to a car or tv in the first few months,” Jain said of his first year in the United States. “So, I went to the office (Bechtel in San Francisco) on the weekends in my spare time. I didn’t know anyone at the time, so I began befriending everyone from folks on the CalTrain, my daily bus route, and even random people in stores.”

Jain held several senior-level positions with the likes of KPMG Consulting, Bearing Point and MarketFusion before launching Valdero, a supply chain management software company in 2001. During that time, he completed his MBA at Santa Clara University and sold the company six years later. When reflecting on his decisions from that time, he admits to having mixed feelings about how things ended with Valdero. Jain believes he could have done better but being young made it hard to see things clearly.

“When you are young, the self-belief bordering on being invincible…[is] very high. My first company Valdero focused on producing supply-chain management software to help companies manage their inventory,” he said. “After selling, I felt that it wasn’t a great exit. It felt like a failure.”

After Valdero, Jain pivoted and entered the SaaS market in 2006. He co-founded Egnyte and currently serves as its CEO. Like most successful leaders, he wants to learn from his earlier oversights and plans to do just that with his company: “My goal and hope with Egnyte has always been to lead us to be a product that customers love, a culture that anyone associated with Egnyte likes (mostly everyone), and a company that creates a lot of value for all its stakeholders.”

Regardless of which way prevailing tech trend winds are blowing, Jain guides his company using his internal compass. In 2007, Egnyte competitors Box and DropBox made their core product available as a freemium service and sold their customers on additional options like expanded storage capabilities. Egnyte chose a different direction and built a business model on attracting corporate customers that would pay for their cloud storage services.

“It felt very countercultural, like swimming upstream,” Jain said in a 2016 interview. While the other guys were gaining word-of-mouth momentum from their freemium offerings, Egnyte labored quietly in the background to build a profitable company that provides value to their customers. To date, they’ve raised $137.5 million in funding and currently generate an estimated $80 million in revenue a year, according to Crunchbase.

Egnyte is continuously innovating and Jain points to the company’s most recent successes as evidence of that fact: “Within the past year, we’ve taken on a $75M investment from Goldman Sachs and have used that money to invest back into the company. We’ve invested in our offices in Spokane and Raleigh and have hired a new CMO and CRO.”

“On the product side, we’ve announced the launch and GA of a new G Suite integration that combines the productivity benefits of Google’s productivity suite with the governance benefits of the Egnyte platform and most recently an integration with Procore,” he added.

When it comes to running a successful startup, Jain believes that it’s important to surround himself with people who are good at their jobs. Growing a company takes a veritable village and Jain wants the best and brightest to help him build a business that would thrive beyond his leadership tenure. It’s a challenge to find the right balance between self-assurance and staying grounded but Jain’s insight into that process guides him.

“I’ve always been of the mindset that the most effective leaders are the ones who surround themselves with people smarter than them on respective functions, create a culture where decisions are not made by consensus, and have someone who could one day replace them – all while still being secure and confident in their own role,” Jain shared in an interview.

There is no one person that Jain can identify as the inspiration for his success but as he explains, “…you journey through life, you meet and learn about so many people with qualities you would want.”Jain points to the work ethic of the Bollywood actor that commits to rising early and working out every day or the “management style of an Indian origin CEO of one of the world’s largest software companies that relentlessly drives people to higher performance without sacrificing company culture and respect for individuals” as examples of the traits he values.

When he’s not at work, Jain likes to unwind in the outdoors. “On weekends, you likely find me within 10 miles of my house either running, biking or at the gym,” he said.