ClickHouse CEO Aaron Katz

The success of ClickHouse, a San Francisco-based enterprise software company, can largely be attributed to CEO Aaron Katz's 25 years of experience in the industry.

Aaron began his career in 1997 as an intern for Sun Microsystems while pursuing an economics degree at the University of California, Davis. Following his internship, he joined PeopleSoft and eventually transitioned to a San Francisco startup during the dot-com frenzy of the late 1990s.

However, Aaron wouldn't join Salesforce until early 2002, after an unsuccessful attempt at business school and unemployment following the market's collapse. Aaron's father worked for Xerox and their now-famous Palo Alto Research Center, which provided Aaron with the experience and guidance necessary to get an interview with Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff.

While Aaron's goal was to go into direct sales, he was instead offered a role as a sales engineer for the small business division. The company increased, and with it, Aaron's role. He was eventually promoted to lead the western region of the US.

Aaron credits Salesforce's success to a combination of factors, including timing, Mark Benioff's brilliance, and the fact that their competition" was frankly caught flat-footed" as cloud computing became the norm.

But Aaron's career wasn't only about success in the US. He was also involved in expanding Salesforce to international markets, first in Asia and then in Europe. Aaron spent nearly four years in Singapore leading Salesforce's expansion in Asia Pacific, working with partners in Japan, and then moving to Dublin to lead European efforts.

After his successful expansion of Salesforce, he moved back to the Bay Area in 2009 to lead Salesforce's expansion into Latin America. It was this remarkable experience that Aaron drew upon when he joined ClickHouse as CEO in 2019.

Through his international experiences, Aaron learned an invaluable lesson when taking a company abroad: being respectful and open-minded about the culture of the market you're entering is essential. He realized you can't simply take the same approach you use in the US and expect success in new markets.

Aaron also learned from direct experiences with Mark Benioff. He cites Benioff's vision, magnetism, talent for marketing and finance, laser focus on customer success, and spiritual approach as factors that have made him one of the most successful CEOs in enterprise software.

After building vast experience over the past 25 years, Aaron decided to take a risk and join a small startup in 2018. He found Elasticsearch, an open-source search engine, and did his due diligence on the technology. Although open-source business models were in doubt then, Aaron took a leap of faith and was rewarded when he joined ClickHouse.

ClickHouse is an open-source database that is used by a multitude of companies, including Uber and Microsoft. Aaron is one of three ClickHouse founders, and his experience in go-to-market strategies has proved immensely valuable for the company.

Working with two prominent venture capitalists and his executive engineer partner— Yury Izrailevsky from Google—ClickHouse flourished, setting the stage for Aaron to lead the startup into a new global market.

Due to Aaron's extensive experience and proven success, both at Salesforce and now at ClickHouse, it's clear that he has mastered the art of successfully building and leading a global enterprise. His international experience has taught him to be open and respectful of the cultural nuances of taking a company global. In contrast, his experience with Benioff has given him a framework for success.

Aaron's journey provides a model for companies looking to expand internationally, and many more of his lessons will likely continue to prove valuable in his next venture.

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