Media Hit

Cloud Company CEO Changed Business Model, Centralized Data for Customers

Nearly three years ago, Chris Cook took his first CEO gig at data virtualization company Delphix, based in Redwood City. The newbie CEO soon realized that he needed to transform the focus of the company.
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This story was first published in the San Francisco Business Times on February 14, 2019. See the original article here.

Nearly three years ago, Chris Cook took his first CEO gig at data virtualization company Delphix, based in Redwood City. The newbie CEO soon realized that he needed to transform the focus of the company.

He learned from customers that three segments of their business — their data, security and app developer teams — were not connected. The security team wanted to restrict the flow of data to protect it, which hindered the work of the app developer team. Cook thought Delphix could connect data from all three teams safely.

By August of 2017, Delphix had abandoned the three separate products that the company sold in favor of one unified product that would help customers connect these three aspects of their business.

Today, Delphix generates over $100 million in revenue annually. The company grew its revenue 318 percent between 2014 to 2017, according to Deloitte’s 2018 North America Technology Fast 500 list. It has more than 400 employees across the globe. Approximately 200 employees are at its Redwood City headquarters and San Francisco office.

What were your expectations before you started as CEO in 2016? Delphix’s products are great and the market has room to grow, so I thought when I originally arrived that I would be a scaler. I am an engineer by nature, so I thought I would find out where there was friction in the business and help those area go faster. But what I didn’t realize until talking with customers is that parts of their businesses were pulling away from each other. That’s when I had my “aha” moment. It’s one thing to scale the business versus pivoting the company.

What is unique about the way you run Delphix? We aren’t guaranteed we’ll be here the next day, so I want every day to be an important day. I like to engage with people every day and connect with them to brighten their day. I like positive people. There’s a quote that “attitudes are contagious” and I like to believe it.

What keeps you up at night? When you’re at a company that is growing and moving fast, everything moves fast. I am big on focus. I guarantee there are 50 things that I could be doing better, but if I try to do all 50 things I won’t get to the one or two things that matter most for the company. I believe in the flywheel concept. The energy needed to push it one revolution is hard, but the second and third one gets easier and easier because of momentum. If you have the right people and right focus, it will get easier over time.

How would you describe your business and management philosophy? I view myself as a servant leader. I want to know the people I work with and help them be the best that they can. People get busy, but if you can stop for 15 seconds and talk to them, it will mean something to them. People can feel that a personal connection was made and they will be more vested in the company. Our turnover is below industry norms.

What shapes your business thinking and approach? I have learned something from every person I have ever worked for on what to do and what never to do. I also have a natural curiosity and am constantly learning.

I am also never satisfied with the job I did today and I am always thinking of how to make it better than today. It’s psychotic to never be satisfied with the job that you do, but I like self-analysis. Companywide, I believe in the concept of debriefs. When we go through something as a company, we examine why. I set a high bar, but a fair bar. I am a hugger, not a yeller.

When you look into the future, what do you see for your company and you? For the company, data operations (which is the merger of software development and IT operations teams). A “DataOps” team seeks to speed up the process of data analytics and improve its quality. It’s becoming a more and more pressing thing. There has been an 86 percent increase in DataOps investment this year, according to a 451 Research report. That bodes well for our company since that is how we define ourselves and this is where people are spending money.

Dawn Kawamoto
Technology Reporter
San Francisco Business Times