Evan Powell is the CEO of Nexenta and an entrepreneur with broad experience building software and service companies. Prior to Nexenta Evan was the founding CEO and then VP of marketing and business development at Clarus Systems. Prior to founding Clarus Systems, Evan was an early employee at ThinkLink, where he was director of business development. Prior to ThinkLink Evan helped build Working Assets one of the largest telecom service resellers in the United States. Evan attended the European business school, IESE, and Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Sramana: Evan, tell me a little bit about where you come from and where you grew up. What is the beginning of your personal story?
Evan Powell: I grew up in a college town in Athens, Georgia. I had the distinction of being the first male in a few generations in my family to not have a PhD. I went to Williams College and studied political economy, which was a mix of political science and economics. I became an investment banker for a couple of years. I always had an itch to figure out businesses.
Just this past week I had family in town, and they were breaking out mementos from when I was a kid. Apparently I started a magazine when I was in fourth grade. At one point I was selling other kids paper footballs. I always had this inkling that I would not always be a professor and perhaps I would be more practically minded.
Sramana: Which year did you graduate and enter investment banking, and what did you do after that?
Evan Powell: I graduated in 1991 and worked in financial analysis for a couple of years. I moved to the Bay Area and got into data communications. I took a couple of courses and worked at running regulatory affairs and budgeting at a cable operator. I then joined a very entrepreneurial place called Working Assets. That company was funded on the credit cards of the founders and six years later they were doing north of $100 million of revenue a year.
There I saw firsthand what it was like to build a company. It was a great experience and everything was very analytical. It was run by PhDs, so I felt right at home. It was a great experience because I learned that entrepreneurs are just people, and there is no silver bullet. It was not a classic venture-funded company, it was more of a bootstrapped company. I hopped over before the bubble crashed to ThinkLink, a company where I ran their network strategies.
At ThinkLink I focused on buying, building, and cost-effectively operating next-generation networks. There I realized that in order to do what I was doing even better, I would need a piece of technology that did not exist. When that company deflated along with the bubble, I went and started Clarus Systems in 2002. That is an enterprise software company focused on fixing issues I had when I was running big voice and video networks. It was not an absolute home run. We had big accounts and saved a lot of people a lot of time. When I heard about Nexenta, I did some homework and decided that I was ready to jump in.