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Why McAfee Acquired Skyhigh

Aaref Hilaly

Editor's note: This was originally posted to Aaref's Linkedin.

When we first met Rajiv Gupta, he would not tell us anything about his company. It was early 2013 and Skyhigh, then a small startup, was in stealth, building its first product. Instead, we talked about bigger trends — how data was moving to the cloud, and how difficult it was to secure. We had been thinking along similar lines, and were immediately impressed by his vision and insight. It was the start of a close partnership that culminated today with the announcement of McAfee’s acquisition of Skyhigh.

aaref-rajiv Signing the termsheet with Rajiv in early 2013

In the nearly five years since, we have worked closely with Rajiv, Sekhar and Kaushik, and the Skyhigh team. Initially, the focus was on recruiting. Kamal Shah joined from his EIR role at Sequoia and was soon followed by Trevor Eddy, other key executives and several senior engineers. But soon it became more about strategy and execution. The market developed quickly, with Gartner christening a new category (“Cloud Access Security Brokers”). It was hard to keep up with demand. Competitors raised ever larger amounts, and spent aggressively to buy market share. There followed many highs, from customer successes to analyst endorsements, and a small number of heart-breaking near misses. In other words, every bit the roller coaster of a startup company.

Through it all, Rajiv, Sekhar and Kaushik have shown immense tenacity, integrity and ambition. Many of us at Sequoia have started or built companies, and understand the weight on founders’ shoulders. Led by Rajiv, the three of them took everything in stride. Through innovative product and skillful marketing, they drove the creation of a new category; their sales and success teams then partnered with hundreds of customers, helping them move towards cloud-native data security. The result: a leadership position in the rapidly growing, new market for cloud security. McAfee now has the opportunity to build on that with its distribution.

It has been a privilege to help. At Sequoia, many people have worked for Skyhigh, most notably Carl Eschenbach, Andrew Kovacs, Joe Dobrenski, and Matt Miller. All of us have enjoyed teaming with our friends at Greylock. We are grateful to Asheem Chandna for introducing us to Rajiv, and to Sarah Guo for her many contributions. More recently, Umesh Padval at Thomvest has been an invaluable partner.

Congratulations to McAfee. We could not be happier for Rajiv, Sekhar, Kaushik and team, and wish them every success. As before, our expectations for the company remain sky high.

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