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Founder, President and CEO of Amir Khan this week Alkirais one of the portfolio startups helping enterprises accelerate their journey to cloud across multi-cloud environments.
This is not Amir’s first rodeo. He is a prime example of a string of entrepreneurs who have hardened their bones in networking, having had his two stints at Cisco in the 1990s and his early 2000s. In 2012, he became part of Viptela’s founding team, leading it as President and CEO. Viptela is a software developer who pioneered defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) and helped transform the networking industry. 2017 Viptela Acquired by Cisco.
The following year, Amir started over at Alkira. I wanted to talk to him and hear what motivated him to become an entrepreneur and company founder.
Create a startup from scratch
Having worked in the networking industry for over 30 years, I felt there was little room for innovation. Most of them were old products and old systems. There was no off-the-shelf approach to improving things. He was 48 when I started my first company.
Something had to be done from scratch. We started with her Viptela and a clean slate, but after selling the company to Cisco, I felt the pull again. My wife warned me about all the stress of a startup, but I was obliged to come back to the team and try again!
One observation I just couldn’t shake was how everyone suffered in the cloud because the network was holding them back. and turned it into a service offering.
Amir used his hard-earned networking expertise to found two companies. I asked him if he found it difficult to build a team to bring his vision to life.
Build a multidisciplinary organization
It wasn’t easy. I needed to find an expert who understood networking and how it interacts with the things around it. Networking is probably one of the most mission-critical IT businesses in any company. Finding that kind of expertise takes time. For example, we needed to build a multi-disciplinary team with expertise in various disciplines such as engineering, product management, sales, solution architects and sales engineers. We are fortunate to work with some of the best network talent who are open to learning new technologies.
Once a few seniors were in place, they guided more young recruits to join the organization. I started with a senior who is also a person. That way you can bring someone with less experience. This combination allows us to grow rapidly.
This is a really clever approach to team building that I’ve never heard articulated so clearly before. A combination of wisdom and youth coming together to accelerate growth and scale.
4 things I learned as a leader
1. It’s all about chemistry
All companies are different. But the first valuable lesson I learned was the importance of team chemistry and cultural fit in the people you brought with you.
2. Information sharing
Second, I’ve learned that the last thing a startup wants to do is keep information hidden. We need a free flow of information. You have to find the good and the bad so you can continuously improve and keep moving forward.
3. Giving decision-making power to others
The third lesson was how to delegate and allow others to work independently. I am very hands-on and love being involved in all aspects of the business, including finance and marketing.
4. Be a leader
Finally, you have to present yourself as a leader. When you walk into the office, people read your body language and find clues about your mood. The morale of an entire company can depend on how you treat yourself and how you present yourself to the world.
It always impresses me to hear CEOs addressing the burden of leadership. It takes courage and self-awareness to understand and take responsibility for your impact on the people you work with.
I could have listened to Amir talk all day long. While he remains focused on his career, he has learned a lot that can be applied to founders in any industry. After selling the first company he founded, he has worked hard with his Alkira, building a successful team and continuing to shape how networking will serve the next generation of cloud-based his business. They say that lightning never strikes twice, but in this case I wouldn’t object to that.
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Tags: Alkira, Amir Khan, Meet the Innovator