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When we met Meraki’s founders they were fresh from MIT with a working product and proprietary technology, but no business model.

This story comes from the earliest stages of our partnership.

Doug Leone
Sequoia Capital

The guys had built a very proprietary solution as part of their thesis at MIT, called RoofNet. You plugged it in and it just worked. The team showed up to our office with a working product, and they were super bright and affable. We immediately knew that they were the types of founders we wanted to be in business with.

Sanjit Biswas
Co-Founder, Meraki

Doug and Jim had quickly cut through all the info we gave them and said “OK, what's unique here is that these guys are making wi-fi networks easy to deploy.” And that was not the case in 2006.

Doug Leone

But we felt they had a misguided go-to-market and we told them so. Essentially, they wanted to sell wireless technology to building owners so buildings could offer free wi-fi to be more rent-competitive. I told our team, “We love the guys, we want to partner with you but we have to agree that the current go-to-market plan needs to be changed.”

Sanjit Biswas

Sequoia viewed us through the lens of markets and said, “That doesn't seem like a big business today — but it’s clear people are going to need networks. We’re just going to have to experiment to find our way through this.”

Doug Leone

It took my partners to get me over the line. Jim Goetz was pivotal when he said, “If you’ve got a special team like this, they’ll figure it out, so let’s go.”

Sanjit Biswas

So we had the technology, and we had the initial hardware platform. But we essentially had no idea what the actual market was. The product was so general that people were finding all kinds of creative applications for it, and that meant we were getting pulled in all different directions.

Doug Leone

It ended up taking us five tries and two or three years to find the right business model.

Sanjit Biswas

Doug called that period our "walk in the woods," and I think it’s a really good analogy.

Doug Leone

We went from targeting building owners to wi-fi for municipalities; that wasn’t a market. From that to wi-fi for the rest of the globe. That wasn’t the answer. We thought about free, ad-supported wi-fi. That wasn’t a business. We thought about wi-fi for the home, going through the Best Buys of the world, and that would have just been too painful.

Sanjit Biswas

So that was a three-year period after Sequoia made our Series A investment, and they were very patient throughout that phase.

Doug Leone

All we needed to do was figure out where to aim this company. We had a special team, the products were terrific. In some ways, our greatest value to the company was to provide them a setting for an extended period of time where they could continue to iterate on their go-to-market strategy. Our greatest value was that we did absolutely nothing.

Sanjit Biswas

Then the downturn hit in 2008, and we were called into the room for that “R.I.P Good Times” deck. At that point things got a lot more serious. We realized, “Hey, we can't just keep experimenting and running science projects. We need to focus on a single segment and prove we've got a business here.”

Doug Leone

They zeroed in on wi-fi for the SMB, for small and medium enterprises — and Meraki took off. We couldn’t add salespeople fast enough.

Sanjit Biswas

And I have to give Sequoia credit for having the patience to essentially let the founders go explore, before deciding for ourselves which market to go after. That was really the turning point that made the company worth a billion dollars in the long run.

In 2009, newly focused on the enterprise networking market, Meraki hit its stride. The company was acquired by Cisco in November 2012, with all three co-founders active in leading roles. By the end of Meraki's independent run, the company sales were at a $120M run rate, with half coming from the enterprise.

Related Article How 3 guys from MIT transformed the networ...
Meraki
Enterprise networking to organizations of all sizes.
Milestones
  • Founded 2006
  • Partnered 2006
  • Acquired 2012
Team
  • Sanjit Biswas
  • John Bicket
  • Hans Robertson
Partner