Meet Raj Kanaya, CEO of Infineta Systems, a company set up to address the growth of enterprise data and the aggressive adoption of Replication and Virtualization solutions.
Kanaya, who is responsible for the overall vision, direction, and revenue attainment for the company, was previously VP of product strategy and alliances for the Application Networking Group at Citrix Systems. He holds an M.B.A. from Stanford University and a B.S. in Computer Science from UCSD, where he graduated magna cum laude.
Raj Kanaya: WashingtonExec spoke with Kanaya about his company, enterprise data, information dissemination (through social media, mobile technology), and more. Read on below for our interview with the Infineta CEO.
WashingtonExec: Can you tell us a bit more about your background and what inspired you to start Infineta Systems?
Raj Kanaya: For the last decade, I’ve been involved in data center infrastructure, both at start-ups and established companies. During that time, I saw explosive growth in the WAN optimization market and thought about what it would take to meet the challenges of the next decade in this market. That led me to start Infineta Systems, armed with knowledge of the market, but starting with a clean sheet of paper, resulting in a product with revolutionary, rather than evolutionary, advantages for enterprise IT.
WashingtonExec: You’ve worked for several well established technology brands including Citrix Systems and Lucent. What’s uniquely different about running a start-up?
Raj Kanaya: At the larger companies, you can generally succeed with “good enough” products — in other words, you don’t need to be the best, because you can rely on other factors to drive success (brand awareness, channels, partners, etc.). This is not true at a start-up, where you don’t have the advantages of incumbency, and need to truly stand out or else no one will pay attention. Further, you must achieve this with a small team and limited resources, so laser-like focus is critical.
WashingtonExec: What advice would you give a senior executive looking to step into the role of CEO?
Raj Kanaya: Develop a network of mentors with whom you can discuss problems and get advice.
As CEO, you’re accountable for everything and this can be a heavy psychological burden; having others to talk to lessens the burden and also helps to show that the challenges you face are not unique but are rather common and are faced by many other CEOs.”
WashingtonExec: What does “enterprise data” mean to you, especially when you connect it with an industry like mobility?
Raj Kanaya: The most common use-case for our solution is to accelerate the movement of critical information stored by enterprises in the form of digital data (enterprise data), such as records of customer transactions, output of ongoing R&D or financial records, from one major location (data center) to another. Our solution directly helps make enterprise data mobile by allowing it to be available in any location when needed. It does so by removing the bandwidth and distance constraints faced by IT organizations today when it comes to truly making their data mobile across their multiple data centers.
WashingtonExec: How do you or your company promote and share information? For instance, does social media play a big role?
Raj Kanaya: We use all of the traditional outbound marketing channels — e-mail marketing, webinars, trade shows, channel marketing, etc. We also use social media extensively. In a few cases, it has helped us connect directly with new customers, but we mostly rely on it to communicate with press, industry and financial analysts, and other key influencers (e.g. bloggers). It’s a great way to contribute to and shape conversations on topics that are relevant to our business.
WashingtonExec: In a similar regard, what are your thoughts on mobile technology? Is the dissemination of news and information greater?
Raj Kanaya: People, in general, seem to be using their smart phones and tablets to receive information to help with business and personal decisions. Because we are focused on selling high-value solutions to enterprises, we aren’t leveraging mobile ads or similar avenues to increase our market awareness, but we do make sure that enterprise IT guys are able to use their mobile phones, tablets, etc. to interact with our systems, and test our system against a slew of mobile platforms.
WashingtonExec: What are some challenges, as well as proud achievements, you have faced as CEO so far?
Raj Kanaya: You start with a plan, built on assumptions, and then things change. Getting emotionally attached to your original plan is a recipe for disaster, and it’s critical to change your thinking and approach in response.
Unfortunately, change is painful and messy, and must be handled in a way that inspires confidence and creates clarity for your employees and investors.”
It’s not an easy balancing act and it’s fraught with land mines, but the alternative is certain failure.
WashingtonExec: What’s your favorite app?
Raj Kanaya: Scramble with Friends. It’s quick and fun and one of the few games that I can still beat my daughters in!
WashingtonExec: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Raj Kanaya: “Make each day your masterpiece.” This is from the legendary basketball coach John Wooden. It’s simple but something that you can hold yourself to every day.