John Chambers-Backed NaaS Startup Nile Emerges From Stealth, Launches Channel Program: Exclusive

‘When I started the company, I truly viewed this as a once in a decade opportunity to shift the paradigm of the networking industry. Not for the sake of disruption, but to create something where we can resolve an insane amount of complexity,’ Nile co-founder and CEO Pankaj Patel tells CRN.


Lou Serlenga, Nile’s chief revenue officer

Nile, a networking-as-a-service startup, has exited stealth mode with a full-fledged partner program in tow.

Nile is the latest brainchild of former Cisco executive chairman and CEO John Chambers, alongside co-founder Pankaj Patel, Cisco’s former executive vice president and chief development officer. The duo has filled the startup with experienced channel executives and engineers hailing from some of the largest networking companies on the market and is backing the company with strong funding.

The startup is entering the market with a “reimagined” wired and wireless service delivered entirely as a service. The offering will give channel partners and their midmarket and enterprise clients network simplicity, security, performance, while lowering total cost of ownership for partners and end customers, Nile’s CEO and co-founder Pankaj Patel told CRN.

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“When I started the company, I truly viewed this as a once in a decade opportunity to shift the paradigm of the networking industry. Not for the sake of disruption, but to create something where we can resolve an insane amount of complexity,” Patel said.

[Related: 4 Reasons Why Everything-As-A-Service Can Capture More Customers]

The influence of cloud has made many businesses recognize that they’re looking for something that the market’s incumbents aren’t giving them: a simplified and ease to use and install networking solution that can be bought the way they want to buy — via a consumption-based model, Patel said.

“[Customers] want it to work and don’t want to know what is happening behind the scenes,” he said. “If compute and storage are going to the cloud, [customers] are saying: ‘how come I have not seen the benefits in networking and infrastructure? Why has that stood still?’”

The networking incumbents that have come to market with as-a-service offerings are simply creating “a fancy lease” around existing offerings, Patel said.

“At the end of the day, behind the scenes, it’s the same number of people, the same complexity, somebody’s going and racking and stacking and installing and configuring and all of that. That has not changed,” he said. “We are talking about truly a very different play and very different paradigm, which is built on incredible security, simplicity and the autonomous nature of what we are trying to offer the customers.”

A Channel Play

Nile Connect is the startup’s channel program that it has launched alongside the company on Wednesday. The program offers a simple, no frills approach that doesn’t included tiers or levels so that partners are able to earn the highest levels of margin right when they start selling Nile, according to Lou Serlenga, Nile’s chief revenue officer who is leading the company’s channel charge.

Partners won’t have to meet requirements for multiple technical certifications. They can bundle Nile in with more solutions and better support customer outcomes, Serlenga said.

Nile Connect also removes channel competition that’s often associated with the as a service model from the large, incumbent networking players, he said.

“[Patel] has built a pure consumption model — It’s basically bringing cloud to the network. Customers are going to pay for their actual utilization. If you grow, we’ll be fortunate enough to grow with you. But in a post-COVID world, if you retract, you’re going to pay us less, which is completely novel. No one else can do that in an as-a-service offering,” he said.

Serlenga most recently served as senior vice president of Americas sales for Aruba Networks.

Serlenga told CRN that more than 50 solution providers were already engaged with the Nile Connect program at launch time, including Presidio and Trace3. The Nile Connect program will appeal to partners of all sizes, Serlenga said.

“We’re wildly excited. You’re going to see us grow and it’s going to be based on the fact that we’re at the cusp of a market transformation,’ Serlenga said.

Nile has 170 employees and intellectual property based on 40 patents that have been awarded or filed so far, according to the company. Nile is backed by $125 million in funding from March Capital, 8VC, JC2 Ventures, and ICONIQ, among others.

Chambers, founder and CEO of Palo Alto, Calif., tech venture firm JC2 Ventures, sold his most recent edge and cloud startup Pensando to Semiconductor giant AMD for $1.9 billion in April.