How Rubrik’s IPO paid off big for Greylock VC Asheem Chandna

When Asheem Chandna drove up to Rubrik’s office in Palo Alto on a Friday night in early 2015, he was looking forward to learning what the young company that had yet to build its product would show him. The Greylock partner wasn’t disappointed.

The company’s CEO, Bipul Sinha, drew Rubrik’s plan to revamp the data management and recovery market on a whiteboard. “The old versus new architecture he presented was very compelling,” Chandna said. “Based on my knowledge of the sector, I knew it could be built into a large business.”

That was a prescient call. On Thursday, nine years after that meeting, Rubrik began its life as a publicly traded company with a market cap of over $6 billion. Greylock holds a 13% stake, according to the latest SEC filings. By the close of market Friday, with shares priced at $38, those nearly 19.9 million shares were worth over $756 million. 

But Chandna says it was much more than Rubrik’s desire to take on the arcane data recovery market that motivated him to lead Rubrik’s $40 million Series B in May 2015. (The Series B round sold for $2.45/share, adjusting for splits, according to those SEC documents. While Greylock also participated in later rounds at higher prices, Chandna’s returns on this one are hefty.) 

“The longer I do what I do, the more I fundamentally believe that venture is a people business,” said Chandna, who has been an investor for over 20 years and has an enviable track record of successful exits. He has helped incubate Palo Alto Networks in Greylock’s offices and was on the nearly $100 billion-worth company’s board until last year. Chandna was also an early investor in AppDynamics, Sumo Logic and Arista Networks.

Chandna looks for people who are not only motivated and ambitious, but are also self-aware of their weaknesses, and can recruit people who can get things done in areas that are not the founder’s strong suits.  

Another essential ingredient for a founder is grit. “If you had technology that was adequate, but slightly inferior to my technology, but you were very self-aware and persistent, you will beat me,” he said.

That’s what he saw in Sinha. Rubrik’s founder had a lifelong dream of starting a company. When he founded the data management and recovery startup in 2013, he couldn’t find strong engineers who wanted to come work there, Chandna recalled. The business he was trying to build was inherently not sexy at the time. 

Despite having been an investor with Lightspeed for four years before launching Rubrik, recruiting talent turned out to be a big challenge for Sinha. But he didn’t give up. He pinged engineers on LinkedIn and then invited them for coffee blocks away from where they worked.

“Startup journeys are very hard, even for the most successful companies,” Chandna said. “I want people who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

Perhaps it was Sinha’s grit and ambition that compelled him to take his company public despite the lukewarm IPO environment.

“Rubrik has just under $800 million in annualized recurring revenue,” Chandna said, “That’s larger than most companies that went public in the last many years. I think they just wanted to get on with it.”

Chandna declined to say if he expects other Greylock portfolio companies to follow Rubrik’s lead but added emphatically that the firm’s best-performing late-stage businesses are Abnormal Security, Cato Networks, Discord, Figma and Lyra Health.

We will be following their fate closely.

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