Mohit Aron is a founder of Cohesity, which is revolutionizing the secondary data storage market. He talks in this interview about the entrepreneurial mindset and recognizing when you’re getting too comfortable; his methodology for vetting new ideas, why passion is far more important than money, and how and why to surround yourself with a strong team.
Mohit had a comfortable job with Google, but felt that to continue to learn, he had to look for new challenges. In 2007 he took the step of joining a startup, in order to learn all he could before setting out on his own. His new salary was about half of what he was making at Google – but his passion, not the money, was what mattered. All that, in spite of that fact that his family and many friends thought he went mad.
Two years there, and he did set out to start Nutanix. By the time they were ready to start, they had their initial idea refined almost as it would be in their final model, thanks to these steps Mohit offers for starting a startup:
- Form a vision
- Make observations about what is needed, and what’s lacking to meet the need
- Form a thesis
- Judge whether the startup can make it or not
- Determine the pain point – how and where the product/service can be sold
After two years at Nutanix, he moved on and spent about 6 months before starting Cohesity. In that time he looked at these points:
- Knew he would stay in the same general field, because that’s where he had expertise
- Looked at what VC funders have funded; and find the gaps
- Has it been done before?
- How many companies died trying it?
- Narrows it down to a few possibilities, and determine which is best
Having both the visions and the pain points clearly defined is essential, says Mohit. It’s also necessary to understand the selling motion – have you listened to potential customers, and understand what “checkboxes” they need to check off as far as features and usability?
Mohit also offers advice on how to lead. He says, “I’ll sit in my office when all my people sit in their offices”; it’s important to avoid establishes classes. Picking a team is also important. Getting the engineers isn’t too hard, because you can give them a problem to solve. But other “fluffy” positions are hard. Some of his guidelines are:
- Look for references, including from people they supervised, because these people tend to be more honest
- Look to see how they treat the people they don’t really know. It’s not important that they can mention famous names; do they know the names of people they’ve had contact with down the chain?
- If the candidate is fundamentally good, they’re likely to be good in the company
Mohit also shares some other advice from items he shared with employees::
- If 5 objective and smart people are telling you you’re wrong – you’re almost certainly wrong
- Leaders should never get too up, and especially not too down. Limit the range of emotion
He cites Albert Einstein as one of his great inspirations. Not because of E=mc², but because he had a passion for light. We see it light every day – but Einstein spent years trying to figure it out. That’s the passion that Mohit admires.
Advice for others starting out
Run behind your passion, not beyond money. People who run behind money might make some of it, but not a lot
Don’t do a company for the sake of doing a company. Do it because of passion. Would you do it in a garage, or a ghetto, or if no one funds you? That’s why you should do it.
Mohit dot aron at gmail.com
Mohot dot aron at cohesity.com