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June 12, 2014

MobileIron’s Path to an IPO

iPhone on colored background

Private: Josh Goldman

MobileIron’s IPO brings light to the enormous transformation we’ve seen, and continued opportunity ahead in enterprise mobility. Since the company was founded, the adoption of mobile technology has become a disruption of historic proportions. Mobile has outpaced earlier transitions we’ve witnessed such as mainframe to PCs and client/server to the Internet.

I remember the day that Ajay Mishra, Suresh Batchu and Bob Tinker first met with NVP in 2008 to discuss MobileIron’s vision. They believed their startup could help solve mobility problems faced by all businesses. They said MobileIron’s technology would enable customers to make their work forces smarter and mobile, simplify roll-out of mobile devices, applications, content and services, and promote greater teamwork and productivity. Well, they were right…and they accomplished all of this during a significant economic downturn.

Note that these conversations happened when the iPhone had just hit the consumer market, tablets were unheard of, Android had not yet been released and the potential for enterprise mobile was extremely uncertain. It was a significant and early thesis, but we all believed the market opportunity was colossal. More importantly, we had worked with and backed the MobileIron leaders previously. We invested in the Series A round alongside Sequoia and seed investor Storm Ventures back in 2008, and continued to back the company thereafter.

My relationship with Bob Tinker goes back a long way. I’ve known him since the mid-90’s and have consistently worked with him at companies throughout my career including Vertical Networks, Airespace (another NVP-funded company which was sold to Cisco for $450M) and now MobileIron. Bob has proven that he knows what it takes to build a standalone business in an extremely fast moving market.

I knew he would be an impact CEO from his first product management job at Vertical Networks to his time at Airespace, where he masterfully closed unthinkable partnerships, technology and distribution agreements and OEM relationships.  Bob is a leader who puts his needs last and would virtually cut off his arm for others.  His Midwest heritage rings true.

One of the many things I’ve always admired about Suresh, Ajay and Bob is their ability to truly listen to customers to make the best business decisions. The MobileIron team spent six months ruthlessly listening to customers before the company wrote a single line of code before their Series A funding.  This was critical to the success of the company. As Bob has noted in the past, there are many technologies out there in search of a market or a value proposition. By talking to customers, you can truly understand their pain and determine the right solution for this pain.

After significant customer research, the team realized early on that BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) was going to be an enormous shift in the market, so they built their solution from the beginning specifically for BYOD. They also knew from the get go that mobile was much more than devices. It was about content, services and applications.

What makes the entire executive team at MobileIron so successful is its no-ego approach to business management.  I believe this might be the most “Midwest-cultured” team to hit Silicon Valley for some time.  The team’s humility, transparency, accountability and perseverance have been impressive from the start, and as a board member, I see these themes continuing to shine through today.

In addition to Bob’s strong CEO leadership, Ajay has a remarkable ability to “prime pumps.”  Ajay overbuilt the customer requirement and beta process in the beginning stages of the company. He was not interested in early customers that were friends of the investors.  He wanted to truly test the core MobileIron value proposition up front to make sure it resonated and solved a significant pain point. Ajay also recognized that beta is an instrument for product management and validation testing, and shouldn’t be used as a sales tool.

Suresh is a remarkable technology leader.  He understands all elements of the stack from exotic packet handling, to applications, to services to content. Suresh paid his dues at virtually all levels and positions in the technology world throughout his career. He is one of the few technology leaders that can straddle process, innovation and vision, all while never forgetting the customer.

Being an early investor in a company that has played such an integral role in the mobile revolution has been a remarkable experience. We are all proud of this small startup that has now grown to be a global, 632 person company that has sold its purpose-built mobile IT platform to over 6,000 customers worldwide including more than 350 of the Global 2000. Customers use the MobileIron platform as the technology foundation on their journey to become “Mobile First” organizations. They are embracing mobility as a primary computing platform and using it to transform their businesses by giving their employees secure access to critical business applications and content on devices employees want with a native user experience they love. MobileIron’s technology has indeed enabled customers to make their work forces smarter and mobile, just as the company envisioned back in 2007-2008.

We couldn’t be more excited about today’s outcome and even more excited about the future. I’d like to thank each and every employee at MobileIron for all of their hard work and perseverance over the years. The entire MobileIron executive team, employees, partners, customers and co-investors played an integral role in making MobileIron successful, and their efforts are being acknowledged today.  I’d also like to thank the families of MobileIron employees who have been extremely supportive as the team has worked tirelessly toward such a pivotal milestone. The best years are ahead of us and it will happen at mobile speed!

Congratulations to the entire team on today’s monumental event!