Editor's Note: This company is part of Inc.'s Founders 10 list, our annual look at the most innovative post-IPO startups in America. Here's a look at what it takes to make the list.

Any successful company needs customer satis­faction. Expecting customer adoration, especially for a back-end IT provider, seems less realistic.

Yet that hasn't stopped Dheeraj Pandey, co-founder and CEO of Nutanix. "Ambition and attention to detail have to go hand in hand," he says. "If customers don't rabidly love you and continue to love you, you can't fund innovation."

He should know; his company has consistently generated that passion. The San Jose, California-based data-storage provider counts more than 5,300 customers, including Best Buy, Toyota, Hyundai, and the U.S. Defense Department. By the time of its September IPO, Nutanix was recording $445 million in annual revenue--more than triple median sales for tech com­panies at that stage, according to EY.

That's impressive growth for such a young business. Founded in 2009 by Pandey, Ajeet Singh (who's now CEO at ThoughtSpot and remains a Nutanix adviser), and Mohit Aron (who left in 2013 to start Cohesity), Nutanix set out to massively upend data storage. Most traditional data-center hardware serves discrete functions and often sits idle; adding capacity can send CTOs scrambling to buy new servers, storage equipment, and networking gear. But Nutanix's model combines servers and storage systems into a single platform. That tech runs full tilt; when a client hits max capacity, additional storage can be up and running in half an hour.

"We want employees who know there's so much more to build," says Pandey, whose company provides data storage for San Francisco's BART transportation system.
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As more businesses embrace the cloud, this "hyperconverged" model can make the crazy, complex world of IT infrastructure easier to use, faster, and more flexible. "The behind-the-scenes enterprise operations need to become as simple as one click," says Sunil Potti, chief product and development officer. "There's a lot of research on next-gen tech for consumers, but very little for the enterprise customer."

Nutanix isn't alone in this burgeoning arena, but a 2016 Forrester report named it the clear leader. It's also an undisputed tech titan, standing out "in its ease of use, simplified management, and no- disruptive capacity," Forrester notes.

Yet even as he pushes to localize products for more markets abroad, Pandey still has what he calls an "obsession with the frontline--both customers outside and employees, who are customers inside." The company uses employee-engagement software Officevibe and scours Glassdoor and LinkedIn for feedback. It's also doubled down on the academic (a.k.a. pure nerd) side of pursuing the bleeding edge. The company's 700 R&D employees are pushed to publish and present at elite academic conferences.

"We have an internal saying that a good goal is to increase stock price 10 times, but a great goal is to be awarded a paper," says Potti. "For true innovators, being recognized as the best of the best is naturally more motivating, because it lasts a lifetime."