Heads Up with Sasha Kipervarg, CEO, Ternary

Sasha Kipervarg is the CEO and Co-Founder of Ternary, a startup in the FinOps space. Ternary offers a platform that enables companies to manage their cloud spending across the ever-increasing array of dynamic cloud services. Prior to founding Ternary, Sasha was the Head of Global Cloud Operations at LiveRamp. It was at LiveRamp that Sasha, and his co-founders Patrick Raymond and Joshua Kwan, realized the need for the product that Ternary has built.  Before leaving LiveRamp to found Ternary, Sasha also completed the Stanford Executive Program (2018 cohort).

Who is a leader whom you have admired and drawn inspiration from?

As of late, I have been reading a lot of philosophy and psychology. I admire the leaders who explore and plot a path through the human mind and psyche. Carl Jung, Nietzsche, Seneca.

Are there any particular leadership qualities that are particularly important at a technology startup?

My experience building Ternary over the last four years has shaped and changed what I thought was important prior to doing so and what is actually important having done so.

To that point, having a flexible mindset with respect to incoming data and being able to change your viewpoint based on new information is paramount. There is the illusion or hypothesis we create for ourselves about what we think the world looks like and there is the reality that incoming data is revealing. Being able and willing to ingest the data, make sense of it and adjust course quickly is key. Being able to structure a system that naturally encourages this behavior is key.

What is the most important thing you have learnt in your career so far?

Success relies on relationships and trust. Trust is hard to establish and easy to lose when you don’t honor your commitments. It’s true for customers, partners, personal relationships and more.

Is there anything you wish you’d known when you started your career? And anything you would tell yourself at an earlier stage in your career?

When I was younger, at the start of my career, I loved the idea of stability, of the comfort of 0s and 1s as a developer. That there was always an answer in the technical world that was appealing. I’ve come to understand that it’s an illusion; the real world is not stable. Things always change, there is always a grey area in everything and that is the natural state of things to be accepted and mastered.

I wish I understood the value of good advisors and mentorship early on. When one is young and intelligent (but not yet wise) it’s easy to assume you know all there is or can just figure it out. The results of youthful hubris can be quite painful.

What changes to the FinOps space do you anticipate over the next two years?

FinOps has become the dominant framework/methodology for solving the challenge of cloud overspend in the industry and will continue to grow.

The legacy products in the space – Cloudhealth and Cloudability – were acquired and we think there is a lot of opportunity in the marketplace for a new generation of platforms to build on the work they have done.

The growth of AI and digital transformation efforts across all industries mean that more and more money is headed for the cloud and the lack of visibility on this strategic spend is a challenge for the industry.

The lack of innovation in the space has led large companies to build their own tools in the space. It’s a familiar Enterprise problem with a likely end-story; why build your own when you can buy off-the-shelf with 80-90% of the functionality you need and focus your dev teams on the core competencies of the business?

What type of people do you like to work with and what makes them good leaders?

A startup is a purpose-built garden. You need different kinds of plants and environments in it to succeed. It’s really the mix of personalities that can make it bloom. It should include the following:

– Those who are able to articulate complex ideas in plain spoken and written language.

– Those that are consummate builders and broad thinkers. Startups succeed with their speed and ideas.

– Those that are consistent executors. Startups succeed when you harness great ideas to execution.

– Those that come to the world of technology from unexpected directions; they often communicate and work with others in amazing ways.

– Those that are flexible and thoughtful; a startup needs different leadership styles at different points in the journey. We need them to grow with us.

What makes Ternary a fascinating company?

The team is purpose built for FinOps. We have an assortment of talented individuals here from competing products in the space who have either designed, sold, built, or helped customers succeed with FinOps before it was called FinOps.

We started the company at the beginning of COVID and are remote first. At the time, it seemed like a crazy decision, but life is short, and we wanted to go on an adventure. You can pick your struggle or life can pick it for you.

As a founder striving to lead a company through significant growth, what skills do you feel you need to continuously develop?

Accepting that I am human, imperfect, and thus capable of the good, the bad and the ugly. Acknowledging this about myself makes it easier to forgive others (and myself) when we fall short.

Treating failure as data, telling us what direction to go without ego or hesitation. There is a lot of opportunity when things don’t go as planned or expected.

What keeps you awake at night?

Thinking about what we can build to help our customers succeed with their own missions.

My kids and aging father. I hope I am doing the right thing by them.

What activities help you take a break from the stress and demands of scaling a technology startup?

I have a great partner. I just picked up snowboarding a few years ago and it’s fun. We do a lot of travel, music and food together.

I am a part-time pizzaiolo and love mastering Neapolitan Pizza.

I love music in all the ways – listening to it, exploring modular synthesis, building a repairing old analog synths, learning new drum machines and sequencers.


Interviewer: Robert Dunn, Partner, H.I.E.C

Please feel free to contact Robert Dunn directly via email rdunn@hiec.com should you have any questions or would like to discuss the above or anything else further.