Quite often, a well-funded, well-run technology company does a great job building and selling what it was founded to build and sell — and then a few years later gets to a place where it goes, “What next? Where do we go now?”
BigPanda, based in Silicon Valley, was one of those companies. BigPanda was founded in 2012 by Assaf Resnick and Elik Eizenberg, and had raised more than $51 million in funding from top-tier investors including Sequoia Capital, Mayfield, and Battery Ventures. Its web site pitched the company as an “alert correlation platform.” Its products collected and sorted incoming alerts within data centers. The space had become crowded with competitors, and not all that exciting.
The leadership team had bigger ideas. It just didn’t know how to decide on a new direction, and express it so the company could rally behind it.
This was their thinking: Software that gathers and sorts alerts sees a great deal of information about what’s going on in a data center. So machine-learning technology could be applied to learn about data center operations and begin to automate some of the fixes instead of sending every alert to a data practitioner.
We did our usual intense brainstorming with the team, pulling out their insights and eventually moving everyone toward a conclusion. As the future path became clearer, BigPanda landed on a label for the category: autonomous operations.
Once those decisions were made, our role then was to help BigPanda write out a clear story of this new Autonomous Operations category. Resnick and his team used the story to rally the rest of the company. Engineers, marketers, sales teams and every other part of the company bought into Autonomous Operations as the new North Star that guided everything they’d do.
“The category design process helped us dramatically sharpen and improve our category and direction, and develop messaging and positioning around it,” Resnick says. “It forced us to align the entire company behind that category. It helped us find our go-to-market strategy, and align marketing and sales.”
In the early months after launching Autonomous Operations, the category caught the industry’s attention, but at that point the greatest benefit was still the internal decisions and alignment. “It’s still unclear whether we are our own wave with Autonomous Operations, or we’re on a surfboard riding on top of a bigger wave,” Resnick says. “Either way, category design helped us sharpen our position and get it across in a much more organized and scalable way. It is the intellectual foundation for where we’re heading.”