Ash Ashutosh is the CEO of Actifio, a company which provides advanced data storage products. He brings more than 25 years of storage industry and entrepreneurship experience to his role of CEO at Actifio. Ashutosh is a recognized leader and architect in the storage industry where he has spearheaded several major industry initiatives, including iSCSI and storage virtualization, and he has led the authoring of numerous storage industry standards. Ashutosh was most recently a partner with Greylock Partners, where he focused on making investments in enterprise IT companies. Prior to Greylock, he was vice president and chief technologist for HP Storage.
Ashutosh founded and led AppIQ, a market leader of Storage Resource Management (SRM) solutions, which was acquired by HP in 2005. He was also the founder of Serano Systems, a Fibre Channel controller solutions provider, acquired by Vitesse Semiconductor in 1999. Prior to Serano, Ashutosh was senior vice president at StorageNetworks, the industry’s first storage service provider. He previously worked as an architect and engineer at LSI and Intergraph.
Sramana: Ash, let’s start with the beginning of your story. What is the back story to your entrepreneurial journey? Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Ash Ashutosh: I was born and raised in Hyderabad, India. I came to the U.S. to pursue my masters and PhD in computer science. I got half way through my PhD when someone came and gave me a job to go build a new RISC processor. This was in the early days of RISC processors, in 1988 and 1989. I have been a systems person for a long time. I was involved with the early development of building systems and the storage used on those systems.
Somehow I ended up becoming a storage guy in the process of building devices and drivers. Storage became a mainstay of my career. I went from building RISC processors, operating systems and hardware in my first job to becoming a storage guy at NCR. They were starting a storage business and I worked on a team that built the very first RAID controller. I did that work in the heart of IT: Wichita, Kansas. Everybody else around there was building planes. NCR became AT&T, and then AT&T became AT&T Microelectronics, and the name just kept changing.
I made my first foray into entrepreneurship in 1997. Frankly, being in Wichita, Kansas, working for NCR meant that you would be on your deathbed. Nobody ever left NCR, certainly not in Kansas. It was certainly a surprise when my boss went to tell his boss that I was leaving NCR. I was even more surprised to hear him answer back “I know, I’m leaving with Ash.” We left permanently because we were done with the project we were working on. If you don’t have work to do there, then you have a problem because there is nothing else to do there.
I tell people that I am an accidental entrepreneur. I ended up becoming an entrepreneur because I was bored at my job. I hated going to work in the morning because there was nothing to do. My boss and I left to start a new company without knowing what we were going to do. All we knew is that we did not want to continue doing what we were doing.