Wow. What an incredible day. Today Splunk went public. In a BIG way! I am so humbled by the whole process and by everything that the Splunk team has achieved.
In many ways, going public is just another chapter in a company's life. There's so much more work to be done. Nonetheless, I can't help but take a few minutes to celebrate all that the Splunk team has done to date. They are a spectacular group of entrepreneurs who have built something really special. Today's IPO is a credit to the amazing people who make up Splunk. I am forever indebted to all of them.
When I funded Splunk 8 years ago, there were three founders, a really great idea and the dream of paying-customers some day. That day has come. Splunk now has hundreds of employees and thousands of customers. The software they make provides massive value across a wide range of solutions (operational intelligence, application management, security, compliance, etc.) and the Splunk team are true pioneers in the world of big data. Everything that Splunk has accomplished is a testimony to the power of such an astonishing group of entrepreneurs.
I acknowledge that the perils of a post like this is that I will, without a doubt, fail to mention the monstrous contributions of innumerable people (my apologies to those I miss -- everyone who has touched this company deserves my congratulations). And there is a danger that this post will read like an academy award acceptance speech. I'm not trying to channel Meryl Streep. Hidden in among these heartfelt thank you's is the blueprint for the next great startup. The Splunk team has nailed it from beginning to IPO (and, I'm sure, beyond) and there's a ton to be learned from their path.
Splunk's three founders are the very embodiment of entrepreneurial excellence. I spent nearly a year talking with Michael Baum, Rob Das and Erik Swan about the things they were working on before finally funding them. They were then (as they are now) what every VC is looking for in a founding team -- smart, fun, thoughtful, obsessive, hard working, passionate, committed…. Michael Baum is an evangelist extraordinaire and a powerpoint artist. He delivered Splunk's vision in technicolor and launched the company brilliantly. Rob Das is the quiet genius pulling the strings from behind the curtain. I remember, before funding these guys, asking Rob if they could build "it." Rob just nodded his head -- "yeah, we can build it." When Rob says that he will do something, you know it will get done. And build it they did. And then there's Erik Swan. In many ways Erik is the amalgam of his two co-founders -- he is a wildly respected engineer, he is a product visionary, and he is a stunningly effective evangelist. Erik can inspire a room full of hard core coders and a conference room full of C-level executives. Erik, Rob and Michael started with a simple idea and turned it into a game-changing business. I am lucky to call them all my friends (and lucky to call Mike Patrick a friend as well -- thank goodness Mike introduced me these guys almost a decade ago).
At a recent board dinner, Splunk's CEO, Godfrey Sullivan regaled us with stories of his horse racing. Not just any horse races, however. Races that involved as much running and climbing and incomprehensible hardship as simple horseback riding. Anyone sitting in on that dinner would instantly have recognized why it is that Godfrey is such a stunningly effective CEO. The story was simultaneously captivating and shocking. Who would endure such hardship in the name of fun? Only someone with unimaginable determination and focus. And someone who does not lose. If Godfrey had to push his horse up hill, that was what he was going to do to win the race. But most of the time he just needed to let the horse know what he expected of him and the two of them would get the job done. My only regret is that I have never witnessed Godfrey in one of these races in person. It must be an incredible thing to behold. But I have seen Godfrey build and inspire a team of thoroughbred entrepreneurs to achieve unimaginable product development, market penetration, sales growth. Godfrey is as good as they get. I have learned a ton from him and am honored to sit on his board.
The Splunk management team is also a force of nature. Individually, Splunk's executives are seasoned domain experts who have consistently outperformed very high expectations. But together they are unstoppable.
- Christina Noren is the voice of the customer -- Splunk solves the problems Christina identifies. She has been with the company almost as long as there has been a company. And she continues to be the champion of our users.
- Tom Schodorf, Splunk's head of sales, makes delivering triple digit sales growth look easy. Tom's ability to recruit and hire the very best enterprise sales team on the planet has made massive year over year growth possible. Tom is the consummate gentleman and he commands immense respect from everyone he encounters.
- Working with Tom and Christina to champion the right solutions for the right customers is Bill Gaylord. As head of business and corporate development, Bill has driven deep and meaningful relationships between Splunk and many of the most important infrastructure companies in the World -- and he won't rest until Splunk works with every one of them.
- Steve Sommer, Splunk's head of marketing, has masterfully created the appearance of maturity and scale beyond Splunk's years. When the founders first proposed calling the company Splunk, we had lots of discussion about whether such a whimsical name was appropriate for an enterprise software company. Thankfully we decided to give it a go and the founders adopted an edgy voice for the company ("Splunk: Taking the SH out of IT"). Steve has managed to maintain the playfulness of the brand while broadening its reach and maturing the company's message.
- There are too many great technical wizards in the company to call out each individually. It is certainly the case that the additions of seasoned executives like Doug Harr as Splunk's CIO and Lionel Hartmann as head of support and documentation has given depth and maturity to the leadership of the company. But equally valuable has been the energy, exuberance and brilliance of engineering superstars like Stephen Sorkin, Brad Lovering, and innumerable others. Thanks to all these talented execs, Splunk is able to simultaneously deliver cutting edge innovation with the fit and polish of the biggest, most established players.
- One of the greatest challenges any startup faces is growth. Finding the right employees quickly enough to maintain momentum is a near impossibility, particularly in the Bay Area. Add on top of that the difficulty in integrating and managing an increasingly complex employee base and you better hope you have someone as talented as Sheren Bouchakian running your human resources.
- Finally, the importance and impact of the finance and legal A-Team can not be over stated. Splunk's CFO, Dave Conte, and General Counsel, Lenny Stein, have raised the game for everyone. They don't just bring a mature and thoughtful set of processes and procedures to Splunk (although that alone has had a meaningful impact on the company), they also bring immense experience. Thanks to Dave and Lenny, Splunk is now easily avoiding pitfalls they previously would never have even seen coming.
Lastly, just a quick thank you to my fellow investors and board members at Splunk. I have been sitting on boards with Nick Sturiale for over a decade now. Nick and I co-led the very first Splunk financing and have been giving each other a hard time for eight years worth of Splunk board meetings. Nick has worked tirelessly on behalf of Splunk. You could not ask for a better board member.
The next round of financing was led by Marc Sokol. We had the pleasure of Marc's company for several years before he went back to entrepreneurship himself. While we lost Marc, we gained Tom Neustaetter. Both Marc and Tom have provided thoughtful advice for the company over the years.
While I can't say that I savored the idea of going on Splunk's audit committee, it has turned out to be a real pleasure. My fellow audit committee members are John Connors and Graham Smith. John is the former CFO of Microsoft and Graham is the current CFO at Salesforce. Both have forgotten more about accounting than I have ever known. Working with them has been an incredible education.
And our most recent addition to the Splunk board is Scott Thompson. When Scott first joined us, he was "merely" the President of PayPal. But within a matter of weeks he transformed into Yahoo!'s new CEO. Despite having his hands full over at Yahoo!, Scott has been engaged, helpful and wonderfully affable. I have really enjoyed spending time with Scott.
In the words of Godfrey Sullivan, the IPO is just the three mile marker -- "We'll grab a fresh bottle of water on the way by" and keep on running. While I know that Godfrey and team will keep on running, I wanted to make sure there was a little bit of fanfare along the way. I could not be a bigger fan of the Splunk team. They are uniformly incredible and I am so lucky to be a part of this historic day. Thank you Erik! Thank you Rob! Thank you Michael! Thank you Godfrey! Thank you Splunk!