Ultra-runner CEO jogging on with Panzura plan

Interview: Dan Waldschmidt, known for his fondness of ultra-running, has become the new CEO of Panzura.

He conducted the Zoom interview standing up, not sitting, which we suppose is indicative of always being on the go. Waldschmidt has been involved with Panzura since 2020, being prior CEO Jill Stelfox’s partner in buying the then floundering company with private equity backing.

As a reminder, Panzura is a cloud file services business, competing with the likes of CTERA, Egnyte, and Nasuni, ensuring that customer staff in distributed organizations have access to the latest file-based information which is kept synchronized in a global namespace. The files are held centrally in AWS using underlying object storage. It most recently announced an Edge Gateway providing smartphone and tablet access to the Cloud FS file vault.

Waldschmidt replaced Jill Stelfox as CEO in January after a time spent as Panzura CRO then chief transformation officer. We have edited the interview for brevity and clarity.

Blocks & Files: Tell us about your plans for the company

Dan Waldschmidt: Of course, everyone wants to make money. You know, to deliver a product to market usually means more satisfied customers, usually means easier access to that technology, just removing some of the friction.

So the previous leadership team said come in, do that magic for us. I was there from October-ish to January, February, until I realized they wanted to raise money. 

I was leading, as CRO, our growth or global global expansion. I took a sabbatical in early ’23. A lot of people thought I went away, but it took us about two months. I probably worked harder in my job than at any other job. When you talk about people … working 100-hour weeks? Yeah, yeah, that was that. I was probably at the office at 4, 5 o’clock every morning, leaving at midnight almost every day. And I’m an athlete, too. So I would go running. And you know, I’m sort of pushing the boundaries. 

By the time I took my sabbatical last year, I had sort of burned the candle on every end possible. So when I came back and realized what’s stopping us from being great. Is it more revenue? It’s not. It’s a better user experience. It is listening to our enterprise customers.

Dan Waldschmidt, Panzura CEO
Dan Waldschmidt came third overall in the Canebrake 200 miler race with a time of 2d 14:06:28

I realized we needed to overhaul. It started with an alignment around a new company mission, which I presented, and got the board to sign off on a new set of values. Not that our old values weren’t right, but being warm to an enterprise doesn’t solve their problems. Right? They need real work.

I feel lucky that I had a chance to be forming and shaping and building narrative and relationships with our leaders. So that when … someone says hit the ground running, what they usually mean is hit the ground scrambling, trying to figure it out. And these are people that I have trusted relationships with and I’m able to to elevate and accelerate our vision for enterprise, which really comes down to one thing – stability and performance and putting both of those words into one bucket, and it’s our mission for 2024, 2025. It’s not chasing shiny things. It is doing what we do really best.

Do you remember the show Dirty Jobs? Mike Rowe … had this show called Dirty Jobs, and he basically said everyone wants to go create software and become a Wall Street billionaire. But the real heart of America are people who are digging ditches and running electrical lines and cleaning chimneys. And he did all these dirty jobs to illustrate the point. 

And that’s the passion that we have caught ourselves up with. There’s some dirty jobs in hybrid multi-data management that just need to be done. And they’re not glamorous. They’re features that are buried in an Admin API that controls speed between NFS and SMB, right? Connections that allow seamless experience.

That’s the business we’re in right now. And so far, I have to tell you, the results we’re seeing in the last five months are outpacing the results we’ve seen in the last 15 to 18 months.

Blocks & Files: Do you see the main options for growth as expanding current accounts or landing new accounts?

Dan Waldschmidt: We have a segment of our 100 Plus customers, where they rely on us for a significant portion of their workloads. What we have learned, though, is in the enterprise space, that’s not the case. They might be using us for 5 or 10 percent of their workloads. 

And this is not unusual because they’ve got significant investment with Nutanix or Qumulo, or NetApp. And the sheer process of moving off, it’s audacious.

So it’s as they come up for their three-year cycle or five-year cycles. OK, let’s take that over. So now you go from 5 percent to 7-and-a-quarter percent. And then the next year, you go to 12 percent. And as these workloads come up, it’s new workloads. Brand new workloads could be around HPC, AI, things like that.

We’re seeing growth in those areas. We’re also seeing just the sheer elegance they’re looking for and having their data in a more protective environment, like Panzura, where you can’t hack us, crack us, delete us, or even move the data without permissions. They’re looking for that upgrade in their security profile.

Blocks & Files: Is there scope for Panzura to partner with a filer company to say, in effect, we own the edge. And we’re really, really good at that. But you’re good in the datacenter. So maybe the two of us together can make three rather than two?

Dan Waldschmidt: I feel like you’re reading somewhat from my playbook here. I had to make sure my legal pad was sitting next to me here. You’re going to see some things coming out [that] I’m not ready yet to talk about fully. 

Blocks & Files: Would it be fair to say that, in contrast to CTERA and Nasuni, Panzura’s starting stance is not replacing the filer? I get the impression that you’re more concerned with partnering where it’s possible, rather than actually confronting a filer and trying to boot them out of an account.

Dan Waldschmidt: We are intently focused on listening to what enterprise leaders are asking for … Let me just paint an imaginary world where interoperability was a core piece of Cloud FS, where you could engage with the tools, platforms, and technology you’re already using. And then move your most precious workloads into a Cloud FS Panzura environment. That is what CIOs are asking for. That is the path we are on. Further advancements will be coming soon, where you will have technology to do that.

Blocks & Files: I’m getting the impression that Panzura is concerned to move toward customers, find out their pain points that you can solve, and then … get close to them and work them through. It’s not about … toss that piece of rubbish gear out and use us instead, everything will be fine. It’s more that it’s if you can use this here, and perhaps if you can use that there, then altogether, things become much better.

Dan Waldschmidt: That’s exactly our mission. It is that we are no longer forcing this binary choice of it’s either Nasuni or Panzura, it’s either NetApp or Nutanix, or Panzura on top of Nutanix. and this whole stack or nothing. That is no longer the case. 

It is now saying, well, hold on, let’s be practical about that. You might have a $25 million investment in NetApp. It might need to run in place for three and a half more years or two and a half more years – because it needs to wind down and we need to get the economic benefit out of that. However, we cannot delay the benefits that having Panzura would have on the enterprise. So we’re going to take specific workloads, specific regions, business units, mission-critical assignments, and place them on Panzura, because we know it’s the fastest way in and out of multi-cloud hybrid cloud environments. That’s a fact. It’s the fastest and most secure way in and out of hybrid multi-cloud environments.

That’s what we’re going to use. And as Panzura’s enterprise-ation matures against stability and performance … we are looking forward to bringing our entire business on it. We’re already seeing this at some of our bigger customers where they might be spending with us on a … few different workloads. And now they’re in place to say “build me a three-year map roadmap where all of our business comes to you.” But let’s be smart about both the economics and the migratory strategy for that data.


Panzura is focused on methodically expanding its current accounts by adding additional workloads to its overall Cloud FS system. We believe there will be more interoperability with incumbent file system and services suppliers such as NetApp, Dell, and Qumulo.

Waldschmidt wants Panzura’s software to work like a well-oiled machine and do the necessary “dirty work,” as he calls it, the nuts and bolts of making file-based data available, securely and safely, to Panzura’s users, both at the remote office and remote user device edge and in datacenters. We could envisage, perhaps fancifully, an outer ring of Panzura-enabled access to file data for remote users with workstations, PCs, tablets, or phones. They access Panzura’s Cloud FS in the public cloud and interoperate with on-premises filers in a hybrid, multi-cloud IT environment. More and more workloads are migrated over time to this Panzura infrastructure.

This is a marathon involving step-by-step execution and improvement. Waldschmidt has written a book, EDGY Conversations: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Outrageous Success, and says he finds that while “luck may be more appealing than effort, you don’t get to choose luck. Effort, on the other hand, is totally available, all the time.”

Panzura employees appear to be entering an era where sustained hard work will be the expected norm.