If you had told me only a year ago that Cazena would launch today with a team of five big data and infrastructure superstars, I would have laughed you off. But that’s exactly what has happened. Jit Saxena, Jim Baum, Peter Levine, Steve Papa, Ed Anderson have joined forces with me to announce our latest venture, Cazena.
We are just getting started, but like any great enterprise, Cazena’s story will unfold around its people, our beliefs, and our ability to conjure up a new world. So I wanted to use this blog post to tell the story of why we’ve come together, and what we’re doing at Cazena that’s so important.
Jit Saxena: The Contrarian
When Jit started Netezza in 2000, the idea of building a hardware company to accelerate analytics was considered crazy by many. That’s exactly why Jit doubled down on the idea – and in doing so he built a highly successful startup that went public and was eventually acquired by IBM for $1.7 Billion. When Jit and I started jamming on Cazena, our view was that big data is hugely promising, yet has a long way to go in terms of impacting businesses. Why? Because primary practitioners of big data – the large enterprises that run businesses on data and analytics – have largely not figured out how to adopt the new stack, the new platform (i.e. cloud), or new tools.
Right now there is a digital divide. Big data is still an early-adopter movement operating on the margin, by developers, for developers. In startup lingo, big data still needs to cross the chasm. Jit and I feel a contrarian play is exactly what’s needed to bring big data into the mainstream enterprise as a core business function. Until then, it will remain an outsider. If you don’t believe me, just ask any CIO from a traditional, non-tech Global 2000 company.
Jim Baum: The Simplifier
Jim Baum and I worked together at Netezza, where Jim was the company’s CEO. Jim was responsible for transforming Netezza into an off-the-shelf platform, opening up the market and eventually making the IBM acquisition possible.
Jim is one of the best communicators I have ever met. He has a great knack for bringing together complex technologies and telling a simple story that resonates with customers and stakeholders. Jim & I spent many hours in Nancy’s Airfield Café and Acton Coffee House talking through the challenges facing enterprises as we honed on our vision. Working together, we crafted a simple, compelling narrative for Cazena that’s been validated by our early customers. I am super-excited that Jim and I are working together again.
Peter Levine: The Datacenter Guru
Peter Levine at Andreessen Horowitz has a powerful thesis. The datacenter (and as a result, the enterprise) is slowly but surely getting dis-intermediated. Each one of his investments at Andreessen Horowitz validates this thesis. Check out Actifio, Data Gravity, Coho, or Mesosphere. According to Peter, social and mobile forces are changing communication patterns in such fundamental ways that older frameworks used to analyze and manipulate big data will not work going forward. Peter references a powerful image from NBC News that elegantly illustrates his point: on the top, Pope Benedict’s inauguration in 2005. On the bottom, Pope Francisco’s 2013 inauguration. The difference? In 2013, every witness in the room is recording the event on a mobile device.
Peter’s datacenter-as-a-service thesis is a compelling one supported by mountains of evidence. Big data is the next layer that is ripe for disruption, after storage, network, and compute. Peter is a natural partner and champion for Cazena.
Steve Papa: The Smart Guy
After his phenomenal run at Endeca, Steve Papa juggles startups at the speed of thought. He is smart and intense. Two facets of Steve particularly appealed to me. He has a tremendous conviction in bold and long-term ideas. Steve was one of the first guys I reached out to in Cambridge as we were getting started with Cazena. I have always wanted to work with him. He has the ability to think through a technical value proposition and understand its impact like no one else. Second, Steve’s involvement in two disruptive ideas (Akamai & Endeca) were relevant and inspired our vision at Cazena.
Take Akamai: while content providers & ISPs were struggling with complex caching technologies, Akamai brought simplicity to the game with the concept of content distribution. Later on, Steve founded and grew Endeca into not only a leader in enterprise unstructured data (acquired by Oracle for $1.1 Billion), but he also created a lasting impact on the startup culture in Cambridge. You can imagine my surprise when I ran into Steve a thousand miles away on University Avenue in Palo Alto, CA – and now Steve is on our board representing Andreessen Horowitz. Life has come full circle and this is good Karma.
Ed Anderson: The Investor Who Goes Long
North Bridge Venture Partners has always been a personal connection. The firm backed two startups founded by my wife. The partners have a strong history in infrastructure and enterprise sectors. They have recently backed some of the hottest startups including Acquia, Demandware, and Actifio. Over the past 20 years, Ed Anderson, the North Bridge founder has personally backed seven companies that went public – Arrowpoint, Cascade, Sonus, Starent, Sycamore, SQA, and Wellfleet.
I also consider two other people foundational advisors to Cazena:
Michael Skok, who as a leading cloud authority in the venture community was one of my first outreaches and has personal conviction in our vision.
Ben Horowitz, co-founder of a16z has been a mentor and champion. Ben possesses rare clarity to imagine a pragmatic way to get to a disruptive end-state.
Come Along For The Ride
We’ve assembled an amazing team and we’re solving a problem that’s going to define big business through the rest of this decade and well into the decades that follow. We hope you’ll tag along for the ride – please follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for a peek at what we’re doing over the next few months.