Captain’s log: [insert date here]
That’s how you’re supposed to start these things, right?
I promised myself I’d write more this year. And yet, it’s almost May and I haven’t written a word about my journey as a founder. So let’s start today.
We’ve recently started the new financial year. It’s going to be a big one.
Stepping outside our bubble
There are a lot of reasons why this financial year matters — and not only because the team is now thriving, with 20 people spread across two countries working on a big mission.
Another big reason is that the expectation of what we’re doing has grown. With our first 80 customers, we’ve proven that what we offer provides value to application security teams big and small. Yet we know we’ve not even scratched the surface of the potential development community we can connect with.
So this year, we’re trying to grow into a market outside of our own: the United States. Sometimes we catch ourselves talking about the US like it’s an inanimate object — “I’m going to go and get me an America”. It can sound really cold, which is a million miles away from our intention.
What we really mean is — scratch that, what I really mean is that we need to connect with development teams that don’t look and sound like the ones we already know and work with.
(I promise to try and use the more honest “I” and reduce my reliance on hiding behind “we” when writing this.)
New Zealand and Australia have amazing development communities which I’m incredibly proud to be part of. But we’re very far away from other parts of the world.
So, we’re going to go I’m going to get on a plane for the first time in three years. I’m going to make friends. I’m going to listen. I’m looking forward to listening.
Software development is building the future
I get really excited when I talk to development teams around the world. As I find out about what they’re building, I can’t help but think about their work as the digital equivalent of building cathedrals, skyscrapers made of glass, and vast bridges.
There are people out there building the incredible machines of our generation: the online doctor that can diagnose you without a human being present, the script that can look for cancer signs people can’t spot, self-driving cars, rocket ships. You name it, we’re inventing and building it.
As an application security person, I find that incredibly exciting.
It’s exciting because I’m building something, too. It doesn’t look like a cathedral or a rocket ship. It looks more like a university. It looks like a school or a bookshelf. It looks like the supporting cast you can call on when you need help to make your cathedral the best cathedral it can be — or to make sure the people who use your rocket ship are safe.
This year is about listening and learning
I’m going to go and meet teams. I’m going to connect with them where they live and find their meetups, conferences, and podcasts.
As a founder, part of me knows this is about sales. But there’s also part of me that knows sales is about listening to people and understanding their problems. You can’t have one without the other.
I’m looking forward to asking questions and learning how culture is different between software development teams around the world. I want to know how many companies really are like the Silicon Valley unicorns we read about and how many are just like you and me. The ones doing the best they can with the constraints they have. The ones with technologies that are a bit crumbly in places and systems that were built from good intentions and duct tape.
I want to know what’s hard and what hurts. Not because I definitely have a solution to it but because I think having empathy and understanding is one of the most powerful things we can do as a community to connect to each other and share the challenges we all face.
I’m looking forward to understanding how people learn and how they want to learn. I want to know what scares them about learning something like cyber security. I know there’s a reluctance there. Sometimes it’s because we’re time-poor.Sometimes it’s because it feels like we’re opening a can of worms that we really can’t deal with right now.
The answers might not always come easy, but I’m going to ask those questions and I’m looking forward to sharing my own experiences, too.
Building a company is a vulnerable journey
When you sell something that’s based on how you build software securely, and you build software in your own company, you really do need to live by your convictions. And I do.
Sometimes that means we have success and sometimes it means we get things wrong. And part of what I love about SafeStack is that I can be authentic about that and share my experiences in a way that means something to others.
If you’re reading this, welcome. I plan to write regularly and while I can’t guarantee these posts will be lengthy or particularly poignant, they will be authentically me.
They’ll be about what I’m feeling as we try and grow. As we try and take on a new market. As we try and connect with literally millions of development teams around the world so we can understand how security works for them.
There’ll be ups. There’ll be downs. There’ll be vulnerability — I’m absolutely certain of that, and I don’t just mean the cyber security kind.
Be kind and connect
I hope you’ll be kind when you read this post and take it in the spirit it’s intended.
I’m not here to posture or brag. I’m not a ninja, 10X-er, or guru. I’m not hustling, nor am I particularly the best founder. But I’m me and I’m learning and I’m getting better every day. I have an amazing team around me and it’s my privilege to guide them toward our huge dream.
So one of the best things I think I can do is document our adventure.
That way, maybe you can learn along with us. Whether you’re planning your big dream or in the middle of building a team around you, I’d love for you to share your experiences. Connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me your story.
Last, first thoughts
There’s a school of thought that would rather founders and startup folks keep everything behind a veil of secrecy. That’s cool. Posts like this might not be for you.
But if you’ve met me or if you’ve seen me speak, you’ll already know that for me, there’s no other way to run a business than with transparency. While I may sometimes stand as a role model to others, sometimes I may also be a cautionary tale. That’s just how it goes, and I’ll carry on my journey that way, sharing openly and honestly.
I hope you’ll join me.