Sanjay Poonen, former COO, VMware
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
Cohesity, a startup that sells software to back up corporate data, said Tuesday that it has hired former VMware chief of operations Sanjay Poonen as its next CEO as the company challenges established companies like Dell and marches towards an eventual IPO.
Poonen told CNBC that he got a call from Cohesity founder Mohit Aron, who told him he planned to step down as CEO after nine years of running the company, but wanted to stay to work on technology and engineering. Poonen has been largely on the sidelines since leaving VMware in 2021 after an eight-year stint.
He joins Cohesity at a time when the demand for modern backup systems is skyrocketing as businesses experience exponential increases in the size and complexity of their data. It is also a challenging period, with the economy approaching a potential recession and many companies cutting spending. Cohesity, which was valued at $2.5 billion in a 2020 funding round, filed confidentially for an IPO late last year as the technology market collapsed.
The mood has changed dramatically in 2022 and the market sell-off has resulted in much lower multiples for both private and public software makers.
“As a new CEO, you don’t want to end up in a frothy situation,” said Poonen. “It’s a great time to get involved as there is only one benefit for the future.”
He said there is no specific timeline for a share sale for the company, which has more than 2,100 employees.
“Nobody knows what time it is,” he said. ‘We pay close attention to that. Everyone is in the same boat and is evaluating what the right time is.’
In the Cohesity market, Dell, IBM and Veritas are the main incumbents. But there is also a range of emerging companies built for the cloud era. In addition to Cohesity, this group also includes Druva and Rubrik.
Poonen said he wants cloud partners like Amazon Web Services to drive their merchants to introduce Cohesity to more organizations. If customers want to back up data from Microsoft, SAP or Salesforce software to clouds other than Amazon, they can do so with Cohesity, Poonen said.
“The profile of this company hasn’t been at the top level of the media because they didn’t know much about it,” said Poonen. “Just my presence here brings a lot more exposure to this company.”
Cohesity has attracted major investors including Amazon, Cisco, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Sequoia Capital. When Amazon bought a stake in Cohesity last year, Poonen said, the approval came from Andy Jassy, who succeeded Jeff Bezos as CEO of the e-commerce and cloud giant in July 2021.
During Poonen’s tenure at VMware, he spoke at the virtualization software maker’s annual conferences and led sales, marketing and other functions. He said he aims to add customers by prioritizing customer success and building relationships with cloud providers and other partners, rather than just inflating the company’s marketing budget.
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