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Aviatrix Switches CEOs

Multicloud networking pioneer Aviatrix is getting a new CEO. On July 6, former Splunk CEO Doug Merritt will take over as CEO, president, and chairman of the board, replacing Steve Mullaney, who came out of retirement four years ago to take the helm.

The move happened quickly — or at least the public announcement was accelerated by a Bloomberg article published this morning. Aviatrix followed up that article several hours late with a press release.

A Bid for Billions

The catalyst appears to be preparation for an IPO, for which Merritt appears well suited. As CEO of data analysis vendor Splunk (Nasdaq: SPLK) for six years, Merritt helped guide the company from $500 million to $3 billion in 2022. Prior to Splunk, he held executive posts at SAP and Cisco while serving on the boards of data analysis and business intelligence startups Birst and Baynote.

Mullaney, on the other hand, is more of a startup guy — and he embraces that reputation. In the Bloomberg article, Mullaney said, “I’m the one to one-hundred-million guy … I’m not a 100 to a billion guy.”

Based on the numbers Mullaney is referring to, Aviatrix is believed to be close to $100 million in annual revenue, or at least that is what Mullaney is implying. The goal is for Merritt to take it to billions of dollars in revenue.

Mullaney is a veteran executive in the networking industry who is best known for shepherding software-defined networking (SDN) pioneer Nicira through explosive growth before it was acquired by VMware for $1.25B in 2012. He was also a marketing pioneer and interim CEO of Palo Alto Networks in its early years.

In the press release, Aviatrix acknowledged the changeover and pointed to the advent of a strong push for growth. Nick Sturiale, a member of Aviatrix’s board and managing partner at Aviatrix investor Ignition Partners, had this to say in the statement:

“I’ve worked alongside Doug [Merritt] throughout much of his career and have watched him become one of the most successful and respected enterprise CEOs with an incredible reputation for driving growth by delivering customer value.”

What’s Next for Aviatrix?

It’s been a busy four years for the company founded in 2015 by Sherry Wei (ex-Cisco) and Pankaj Manglik (Proxim Wireless, Aruba). Aviatrix now has over 500 enterprise customers for its virtualized, software-driven solution that aims to securely connect, unify, and manage networks spread across multiple infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Google, and Oracle. Aviatrix also has risen from roughly 80 employees in 2019 to over 380 today. Funding climbed to over $350 millionfollowing a $200 million Series E round in 2021 that was based on a $2 billion valuation

It could also still be early days for Aviatrix. The concept of multicloud networking is still thought of as cutting edge in many networking departments, and currently the enterprise software market has slowed in a round of technology cost cutting. The new CEO comes aboard at a time when enterprises continue to migrate to public cloud services, albeit with more caution than they did a couple of years ago.

But many opportunities lie ahead. The market for multicloud and hybrid cloud solutions remains robust. Just this week, Antonio Neri, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (NYSE: HPE) noted that 79% of enterprise workloads remain on premises. As these customers move gradually to adopt multicloud services, they will need the essential networking and security services Aviatrix offers. The shift in leadership is an aggressive move toward helping them make the choice.