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By early 2005 Nir was chomping at the bit to disrupt enterprise security. He was the person to do it — but it wasn’t yet clear exactly how. He moved into Sequoia's incubation space to get started.

The story starts with a clear outward sign of Nir’s passion for the enterprise.

Jim Goetz
Sequoia

Nir pulled into our parking lot in an old BMW with the license plate CHKPKLR — “Check Point killer” — because Check Point was the incumbent in enterprise security. I knew he had a chip on his shoulder, but I didn’t realize he had the energy around it to actually go out and get custom plates.

Nir Zuk
Co-Founder, Palo Alto Networks

The market was ready for disruption. The incumbent vendors, for various reasons, just hadn’t been innovating, and it was clear there was a big opportunity there.

Jim Goetz

We gave him incubation space here at Sequoia and spent most of a year working with him to develop his ideas. He had phenomenal experience. Nir was the primary developer of Check Point’s firewall and he knew the weaknesses there, and we thought there was a chance to basically reinvent security.

Nir Zuk

We didn't yet know what the precise disruption was, though, and so we spent from March 2005 until the end of that year — about nine months — trying to lock down the idea.

Jim Goetz

We knew Nir had the talent, and with time we could hone his ideas and iterate and get him surrounded with the right people to help. And one of the first of those people was Rajiv Batra.

Nir Zuk

I'm a CTO. I don't like to manage people, and I told that to Jim and Asheem [Chandna, at Greylock Partners]. They said they’d find a VP of engineering, and that’s when Jim brought Rajiv into the picture. And I liked him from day zero.

Jim Goetz

Rajiv is world-class spectacular, as engineering VPs go. I’d put him at top five in the valley. We connected the two of them and they started meeting on a regular basis in our offices, and within a couple conversations it was clear they wanted to work together on the company.

Rajiv Batra
Co-Founder, Palo Alto Networks

I was impressed with Nir, and we complemented each other, but when we first met his ideas were still very broad. I thought maybe he was trying to do too much — that we were trying to boil the ocean.

Jim Goetz

So the challenge was to pick a single use case — Nir had 12, and we needed one — to help form the go-to-market strategy.

Nir Zuk

Sequoia and Greylock asked us to spend a lot of time talking to customers, brainstorming with them and with other partners at both firms.

Rajiv Batra

Nir visited customers. He met with over 50 enterprises, and over that time the idea got more and more refined.

Jim Goetz

There was a lot of iteration, repeatedly testing the premise with customers and spending a lot of time with industry experts, working to help them define a single market entry point.

Nir Zuk

And I think Jim's most important contribution during that period was to insist on having a really strong, differentiated go-to-market strategy — and not just insisting on it, but helping us come up with one. That really has been the most important thing. If our go-to-market hadn’t been as crisp as it was, if it had been even 10% weaker, we would not be where we are today.

Jim Goetz

It took some time, but this is all part of the healthy experimentation process around company creation. Iterations and imperfections are part of the early company arc, and our role is to make sure they have the right resources and keep pressure-testing the concept.

Rajiv Batra

By December 2005 we’d narrowed our focus and were much clearer on what we were trying to achieve. Suddenly it started feeling very doable. We felt, “This we can do, in a reasonable timeframe and with a high probability of success.”

Nir Zuk

Then in January 2006, Greylock and Sequoia funded the company, and we got started.

Palo Alto Networks shipped its first firewall in 2007 and has since rapidly become the leader in next-generation enterprise security. The company went public in July 2012.

Palo Alto Networks
Leading a new era in cybersecurity by protecting enterprise, government, and service provider networks from cyber threats.
Milestones
  • Founded 2005
  • Partnered 2005
Team
  • Nir Zuk
  • Rajiv Batra
  • Mark McLaughlin