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From Zero to $3 Billion: What it Takes to Grow a Business

How to aim high and keep growing.

HPE Matter | HPE

Aruba Networks Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Keerti Melkote Shares Advice from His Entrepreneurial Journey

As the tech industry continues to see blockbuster growth, entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas in hopes of inventing the next big thing. I started Aruba Networks in 2002, became chief technology officer in 2008 and helped facilitate its $2.7 billion acquisition by HP earlier this year.

As a founder, I’m often asked what it takes to guide a startup on a path for long-term growth. A great idea can only take a startup so far — in my experience, it is the following factors that determine whether a company will grow into a huge success.

Aim high and keep growing

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Start by solving a niche problem, but expand your company’s capabilities to solve a big problem.

When you think bigger, you can grow bigger. Start by solving a niche problem, but expand your company’s capabilities to solve a big problem. Aruba’s vision was that Wi-Fi was going to transform the enterprise — and we were challenging Cisco in wireless networking, which was a billion dollar market at the time.

As your company continues to grow and evolve, you have to make strategic choices so you have the opportunity to solve more problems and stay relevant in the market. A big choice for Aruba was choosing to be acquired. As part of HP, we’re able to expand our capabilities and target the $10 – $15 billion campus networking market.

[Also on Longitudes: The Risky Business of Corporate Culture]

Talent is the top priority

Having the right team in place is important in any stage of a company’s growth, but never is it more critical than after the initial funding round. That period is when the leadership team lays down the foundation for the company’s future, and entrepreneurs need to attract and retain top talent to support growth.

That said, it’s important to remain flexible, and know that the company’s needs change as revenues start flowing in. At Aruba, once we built our product, we needed to create demand.

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Your company’s culture influences every interaction—with your employees, customers and suppliers.

As a technologist, I knew I wasn’t necessarily the right person to take on that challenge, so we decided to bring in Dominic Orr, who was chairman of the board at the time, as our CEO. Dom was instrumental in building Aruba’s successful sales strategy and team, and continues to lead the business today.

Win the hearts and minds of your customers

Often the biggest challenge for a startup is proving its viability. In 2005 we had the opportunity to provide the largest enterprise Wi-Fi network at the time for Microsoft. We knew we had the best technology, but needed to show that we had the ability to scale.

Together with Orange Business, along with our venture backers and board, Aruba won the deal. That was a defining moment for us, and gave us a ton of credibility.

New customers came to us knowing that if we could handle the Wi-Fi needs for Microsoft, we could handle almost anything.

[Also on Longitudes: Six Words That Can Hurt Your Company]

Think about the culture from Day 1

Your company’s culture influences every interaction—with your employees, customers and suppliers.

The founding team sets the tone, so be thoughtful and clear about what you’d like your company culture to be.

At Aruba, we are guided by a “Customer First, Customer Last” culture. Take the time to consciously build your culture, making your company a place where employees want to develop their careers. goldbrown2

This article first appeared on HPE Matter and was republished with permission. 

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