By Carl Eschenbach, Jim Goetz and Aaref Hilaly
A determined pair of UCLA Ph.D.s co-found a company in their research area, and make the move to San Francisco to start building. A decade later, the company finished its fiscal year with more than $100m in contract bookings and their unrelenting efforts culminate in a sale to a tech giant.
At first glance, it would appear that Mohit Lad and Ricardo Oliveira’s startup journey typifies that of a founder in Silicon Valley. But as with many things at ThousandEyes, what might have been conventional was anything but.
We were fortunate to intersect with Mohit and Ricardo early on. A handful of graphics on “internet tomography” fueled our first conversation at a coffee shop in downtown San Francisco in 2011. From the beginning, there’s always been something a little different about this company — something that led us to partner in the seed round within days of that initial meeting. They defy convention.
This starts with Mohit and Ricardo, two brilliant scientists whose business instincts match their intellect. Mohit is ambitious and daring, Ricardo soft spoken and thoughtful. Both incredibly tenacious, independent thinkers comfortable with ignoring conventional wisdom. Instead of creating a presentation to raise money, they bootstrapped the company with a grant from the NSF (National Science Foundation). Rather than starting with customers who were ready to pay, they recruited sophisticated early users from NANOG (North American Network Operators’ Group), who provided important early feedback.
Their independent streak is reflected in the founding idea, which focused on a domain that has long been neglected: network computing. By 2010, the internet had transformed corporate computer networks. Whereas before companies had to build proprietary networks, now their traffic could run over the public internet. In the minds of most people, that solved the problem. To Mohit and Ricardo, it made the problem more difficult: how do you monitor network performance if it’s not your network? They also foresaw the implications of this for the modern SaaS economy. If you are a SaaS company like Salesforce or Workday and customers are complaining that your app is unresponsive, how do you know if the cause is your code or their network connection? ThousandEyes built the only answer to this question; it sits at the intersection of applications and networks, giving companies a “Google Maps” for their network traffic.
Having picked a problem that many did not see, Mohit and Ricardo then built a company in their own way. In the 2010s, high-burn companies that built out large teams ahead of demand were commonplace. By contrast, ThousandEyes is hand-crafted, brick-by-brick. The recruiting process is rigorous. The focus on product unrelenting. The customer obsession extreme. The culture intense but empathetic, human but quirky.
Attend a meeting at ThousandEyes, and you enter a “Superhero Lair.” Photo-lined hallways feature the superhero alter-egos of each employee. This is not just wall-art; it’s the company asking each team member what super power they want to develop, and offering the chance to do it. Customers are also included — many comment that, with ThousandEyes, their superpower is network x-ray vision.
The result: an exceptional business that’s built to last. ThousandEyes is one of the few infrastructure companies that has more in annual revenue run-rate than cash-burned in the entire life of the company — all while supporting a healthy growth rate. Customer NPS is high; retention and expansion are best in class. Now, in partnership with Cisco, ThousandEyes can do all that makes them so wonderfully unique at a much greater scale.
Congratulations to Mohit, Ricardo and the entire ThousandEyes team. It’s been an honor to work with you. We hope you will bring to Cisco your love of superheroes, all things orange, plank competitions, bobble-heads, and the many other things that make ThousandEyes such a special place.