News & Views


Day One in the Cloud with Skytap
AUTHOR: Matt McIlwain

It was the spring of 2006.  Professor Hank Levy, incoming Chair of the University of Washington Computer Science Department (now the Paul G. Allen School) and I were catching up.  Hank and I had previously worked together on a successful start-up that he and his grad students co-founded called Performant.  As I sat watching Hank type on a keyboard, the words he typed appeared on a nearby computer monitor.  But, the application was not running on a local device, it was running “in the cloud.”

As hard as it may seem, in the spring of 2006, AWS had not launched Simple Storage Service (S3) or Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) yet.  But Hank, two other remarkable Professors (Steve Gribble and Brian Bershad) and PhD student, David Richardson, were working on the underlying networking and compute technologies that would help power the cloud. As this group discussed the potential customer needs their technology could help address, we decided to found a company.

As we have written about recently, it is both energizing and inspiring to partner with founders from Day One.  Skytap, originally known as “illumita”, is the company we seeded in the summer of 2006 along with the Washington Research Foundation and Bezos Expeditions.  Eleven years later, Skytap is announcing its $45 million Series E round led by Goldman Sachs.

Skytap has always attracted incredible talent to the company.  In the early years, the company had to build most of a ‘cloud infrastructure platform’ themselves as the market for modern hypervisors, public cloud infrastructure and enterprise customer readiness were immature.  At that time, the team naturally focused on hiring world class product management and engineering executives.  In more recent years, under Thor Cullverhouse’s leadership, Skytap has built a world class go-to-market team.  Enterprise customers are now fully embracing the cloud in all its forms – public, hybrid and private.  And Skytap is accelerating cloud innovation for the hybrid applications that are developed and increasingly deployed by enterprises in the cloud.

The Madrona team has had the privilege of partnering with Skytap’s founders and team from Day One.  Eleven years later, we have never been more excited about the success and long-term potential of the company.  It is interesting to note that the three Madrona backed companies that went public in the past 12 months were part of the Madrona family on average for thirteen years at the IPO date.  We look forward to seeing what happens in two years when Skytap celebrates their thirteenth birthday!