After six years I’m leaving Nexenta.
I could not be prouder of what we’ve built at Nexenta. We took an idea that at the time was radical – let’s bring openness right to the foundation of IT, to the storage itself. And we pulled it off.
Along the way I learned a lot including:
- Team, team, team – the best team beats the brilliant individual every time
- ZFS is great – and not perfect; thank you Sun for ZFS and Solaris (now Illumos). It says a lot about the requirements of storage that even Solaris, arguably the 2nd most deployed OS for mission critical enterprise environments was not fully mature for storage. We’ve added a lot of fixes to Illumos over the last few years.
- And much more that I’ll just call “experience.” Much of what you learn when you start and build companies ends up sounding like common sense; for example, what kind of executive is right for what stage of a company or how do you make money on open source?
So, what am I up to now? A few answers:
- Continuing to spend time as an EIR with xSeed. Over the last several months I’ve beenblessed to meet many start-ups while an EIR at xSeed. xSeed is an unusual seed fund. They are deep in enterprise and have arguably the best ties of any early stage enterprise focused fund into Stanford and Berkeley. They are old school in that they are definitely NOT spray and pray (which can be a great strategy actually). Instead, they seek to go deep and to understand a domain and to find within that domain the very best entrepreneurs; they then surround that entrepreneur with coaches and advisors and much more than just capital. In addition to meeting many companies I’ve been privy to many mind expanding discussions at xSeed about companies, and domains – about everything from the chess of strategy to the tough soft stuff of finding, retaining and sometimes transforming teams. So I’ll be spending a bit more time with my colleagues at xSeed.
- Finally, the rumors are true – I’m helping found another company. We are in stealth mode. I can tell you it is NOT in storage (although storage infects everything in IT). And that it IS still very much on the side of openness and open source. As you might imagine, I did a huge amount of diligence and founder dating before deciding to bet the next X years of my life on the opportunity. So it is out of the frying pan and into the fire for me.
Here’s what I’d like you to do:
- Stay in touch. Maybe I’m getting to be sentimental in my middle age, but the people I’ve met as Nexenta has grown up are truly extraordinary. You know who you are. You are the early channel partners who never shied away from offering “constructive feedback.” You complain too much, but I love you. And likewise you are the team members that parked your personal lives for weeks, months and years at a time as we fought the good fight. Despite many missteps and the joy of starting a company during the worst financial collapse since the 1930s, you stayed true to a vision of more open storage and of what we now call software defined storage. And maybe most importantly – you are the thousands of customers that bet your company’s data on Nexenta and sometimes bet your jobs and careers as well. Follow me and, yes, complain to me at @epowell101.
- Insist on excellence. Like many entrepreneurs I think I start companies because half assed solutions to important problems make me sick (plus I probably have a complicated relationship with authority). At a fundamental level – at the level of a life’s mission – I am dedicated to finding waste and calcification and cracking through it somehow. How many of the world’s problems would be less serious if we all talked less and fixed stuff more?
- Insist on openness and transparency. Go open, it is the future, and it will make your company a smarter, more competitive business; don’t cop out and defer the decision onto the next guy in your job. Eventually people will be fired for buying vendor X’s product; don’t be the last buyer to abandon ship when a legacy vendor goes aground. Also, please be open within your organization as well. Collectively we are all smarter than any one of us; by remaining open, we’ll get better technology, better team work, and happier lives.
I guess I did get sentimental.
Thanks for tolerating that sentimentality and for reading this blog and thanks everybody for helping a crazy vision come true. Stay tuned here or via @epowell101 on twitter.