SaaS Founder Series: Clumio CEO on Steering the Startup that Raised $11M Pre-Product
Guest post by Afza Wajid, Mark Birch, and Zia Rehman, AWS
The growing customer preference for software-as-a-service (SaaS) puts enterprise software startups in a rare position of advantage compared to established firms. AWS SaaS Factory invited Poojan Kumar, CEO and Co-founder of Clumio, to share the early successes and learnings from steering the startup that is disrupting a segment filled with corporate behemoths.
Having clarity of vision and staying true to it
“Gone are the days of shipping a piece of software,” says Kumar, emphasizing that today, software must be delivered “as a service.” Customers’ widespread preference of transitioning to cloud-based SaaS offerings has resulted in a “big discontinuity” between the positioning of many market leaders in enterprise software and their customers, creating a promising opportunity for new players. The scale of this opportunity inspired Kumar and his co-founders to launch Clumio in 2017.
A serial entrepreneur with over 20 years experience in enterprise software, Kumar has a passion for tackling complex computer science problems relevant to large growing markets, that, when successfully solved, result in valuable intellectual property (IP) and drive business growth. But such problems take significant time and effort, and Clumio’s founding team recognized early that even getting to a minimum viable product (MVP) would take significant investment. “We didn’t write a single line of code until we raised the Series A funding,” the CEO reflects, because an unsuccessful funding bid would be viewed as an early indicator that the business proposal needed refinement. In October 2017, Clumio successfully raised $11M in a Series A led by founding investor Mike Speiser, Managing Director at Sutter Hill Ventures. Today, the fast-growing startup has raised a total of $186M in funding and has grown to over 100 employees in less than four years since its founding.
After raising its Series A round, Clumio launched its first SaaS offering, Clumio Protect, a fully-managed, secure-backup-as-a-service platform, hosted on AWS. The award-winning Clumio Protect is a cloud-native, multi-tenant service that delivers comprehensive data protection for enterprise workloads. Coupled with reporting for compliance audits, the service eliminates the complexity of implementing a data protection strategy for AWS customers. Clumio’s engineering team, led by Kumar’s co-founders Kaustubh Patil and Woon Ho Jung, has fully embraced ‘cloud-native,’ with an iteratively optimized microservices architecture and serverless computing services like AWS Lambda–or “Woon’s Army of Lambdas,” as the team refers to it–to parallelize these decomposed microservices, achieving exponential performance improvement with greater cost predictability.
Meticulous prioritization and focusing on the long-term growth opportunity
A key early product decision for the young startup was the careful prioritization of use-cases that would be relevant to the next generation of enterprise workloads. Pivoting away from an initial decision to address a broader set of use cases, Clumio chose to focus exclusively on data protection for cloud-based workloads, including native AWS workloads and VMware Cloud workloads hosted on AWS. Staying true to this vision has meant walking away from significant customer deals that didn’t align with their long-term growth objectives. But the opportunity cost of having a lean team focus on transient wins was deemed too high. “It’s not a question of if; it’s more a question of when [companies make the transition to Cloud and SaaS],” the CEO observes. Instead, Clumio chose to focus on early cloud adopters that value the ease of use and continuous innovation that is native to a SaaS delivery model.
Building on AWS has accelerated Clumio’s time to market and time to value. In Kumar’s words, “the delight of working on the [AWS] platform,” with its API-based, developer friendly interface and technological maturity, was a key factor in Clumio selecting AWS. As a pioneer in the space, AWS attracts and offers partners a valuable network of customers that are more amenable to adopting innovative technologies early. Clumio positions its offerings as complementary to the AWS platform and has effectively leveraged AWS’ broader ecosystem. It is fully integrated into an AWS customer’s existing end-to-end flow, so customers can use their existing AWS budget, enterprise agreements, and billing for Clumio services, which are available on the AWS Marketplace. As the CEO notes, “Fundamentally, we sell simplicity.”
Delivering value consistently through each stage of the customer journey
Kumar acknowledges that the journey to the cloud is akin to “crossing the chasm.” The team focuses on making customers comfortable with cloud adoption, emphasizing a comprehensive security posture and compliance certifications. Clumio has also now launched Clumio Discover, a cloud backup optimization engine that lets customers inspect their decentralized AWS environment across regions, accounts and workloads, to get actionable guidance to reduce AWS backup expenses and validate their compliance and security footprint. Additionally, Clumio Discover provides a cost comparison analysis and recommendations for lowering your backup costs with Clumio Protect.
Confident in their product differentiation and ability to deliver innovation rapidly, Clumio is betting on a product-led growth strategy and enabling customers to try their services risk-free with trial credits and consumption-based pricing. For the highest efficacy, release management and customer support must be highly efficient. Clumio achieves this through a SaaS delivery model: “The whole customer support problem becomes that much easier and that much more compelling in the cloud world, especially when you’re truly building and delivering a service,” says Kumar. There is only one version of the service running at any point of time, which makes it simpler to update the service seamlessly to deliver incremental innovation frequently. With real-time data and insight into the customer’s environment, Clumio can proactively identify and solve problems in a customer environment, sometimes before the customers may see it themselves, completely abstract away the environment backup and data protection functionality, and manage the recovery process transparently in case of a bad event.
Clumio maintains a close symbiotic collaboration with numerous AWS services teams, including Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), Amazon DynamoDB, and AWS Outposts, providing input on new features and APIs and influencing the product roadmap, all while leveraging this visibility to better shape their own architecture. On the go-to-market front, Clumio collaborates with segment specialists on the AWS Partner Network and AWS Marketplace teams, ensuring strong customer reach across the AWS customer network.
Clumio is currently available in United States and Canada. There is significant customer demand to expand internationally beyond these two regions, and spinning up a new region is simple from a product perspective. However, Clumio wants to be well-positioned with enhanced support services and customer success management that will delight their customers before expanding their footprint to a new region.
Clumio is a secure, scalable backup as a service that provides turnkey data protection against ransomware in AWS. Meet all your compliance needs, rapidly recover from any data loss, and get actionable insights to optimize your AWS backup spend.
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