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And now, with data exploding across every business at a pace that far exceeds the advancements in legacy servers, storage and routers, companies are demanding the types of technology that the computer whizzes at Google, Facebook and Amazon.com built for internal consumption over the past decade.
For example, when Bipul Sinha, a venture capitalist, wanted to start a company that would develop systems for modern-day data backup, he naturally looked at the Silicon Valley Web giants housed in Mountain View and Menlo Park, California, for prospective employees.
This week, Sinha introduced his start-up Rubrik, marking "the end of a decade-long innovation drought in backup and recovery, the backbone of I.T.," according to the press release. (The company raised $10 million, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, Sinha's former employer.)
Scan Rubrik's team page and you find a former real-time data infrastructure engineer from Facebook, a Google distinguished engineer and someone who helped re-architect Google's search infrastructure.
"I spent seven to eight months having coffee near Facebook and Google," said Sinha, who was previously investing in enterprise technology start-ups at Lightspeed. "We were taking wives and girlfriends to dinner."
Sinha's had a front-row seat at the hire-from-Google game for a few years. He's an investor in Nutanix, which has skyrocketed to $300 million in annual bookings by combining servers and storage in an easy-to-use appliance, designed in part by former Google engineers.
Ex-Google and Facebook developers can also be prominently found throughout the big data world, with companies like Hortonworks and Cloudera relying on their expertise to build database technology that connects formerly disparate silos of information, enabling powerful analytics.
Close to half of Palo Alto, California-based Rubrik's 20-plus person engineering team comes from the search and social networking companies. When Sinha got serious about recruiting, he had to figure out how to convince prospects to take less money, fewer perks and forego gourmet lunches for the opportunity to create something that Sinha admits has traditionally been in the most boring corner of technology.
Among his recruits is Adam Gee, who was previously a tech lead for Google search infrastructure.
Gee spent almost nine years at Google, primarily in storage. When Sinha reached out, Gee took the meeting because he wanted to build his Silicon Valley network.
Gee had no idea that he would soon be joining Rubrik's engineering team, taking less than half the salary he was making at Google, while also giving up the soccer fields, sushi and free Wi-Fi-powered bus trips to Mountain View.
At 31 and without kids to support (though he's now married), Gee isn't too worried about the risk, and is particularly stoked about the big chunk of equity he's receiving in lieu of cash. He's also excited to be able to use his skills at an early stage company.
"It's hard to make a big impact at a place as big and successful as Google," said Gee, who studied computer systems engineering at Stanford. "The rewards are a little different at a start-up and sometimes you really do need to feel scrappy and lean to be motivated."
Sinha has refined his pitch so that he's no longer talking about data backup but instead "creating an Apple-like experience with Google infrastructure that takes 15 minutest to get up and running. "
With the tens of billions of dollars a year businesses are spending on old clunky backup systems, selling developers on the opportunity has become less of a challenge.
Rubrik has 10 customers as part of its early access program and got a product to market in just over a year after going into development. That's because while Sinha was out recruiting at Starbucks coffee shops and college job fairs, his co-founders from Google, Facebook and Oracle were quietly developing.
"I was out there hiring and these guys were coding," he said.
Now, he's at least got a recruiter on board.