SaaStr Podcast #377 with Hashicorp CEO Dave McJannet

Ep. 377: Dave McJannet is the CEO @ Hashicorp, one of the fastest-growing enterprise companies of our time providing consistent workflows to provision, secure, connect and run any infrastructure for any application. To date, the company has raised $349M in funding from some of the best in the business including Bessemer, Redpoint, True Ventures, IVP, Mayfield, TCV and GGV to name a few. As for David, prior to Hashicorp, he held some incredible roles including VP Marketing at Github and Hortonworks, Senior Director of Product Marketing @ VMWare, and then also spent over 5 years at Microsoft.

 

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Jason Lemkin
SaaStr
Harry Stebbings
Dave McJannet

Below, we’ve shared the transcript of Harry’s interview with Dave.

Harry Stebbings:

We are back. Welcome to another week in the world of SaaStr and what an episode we have in store for you today with the CEO of one of the fastest growing enterprise companies of our time, Dave McJannet, CEO at Hashicorp, providing consistent workflows to provision, secure, connect, and run any infrastructure for any application. And today, the company’s raised over $349 million in funding from some of the very best in the business, including Bessemer, Redpoint, True Ventures, IVP, Mayfield, TCV, and GGV, to name a few. As for David, prior to Hashicorp, he held some incredible roles, including VP of Marketing at Github and Hortonworks. Before that, he was also senior director of product marketing at VMware, and then also spent over five years seeing the firsthand hyper-growth of Microsoft. I also want to say a huge thank you to Scott Raney, Glenn Solomon, Tom Navarro, Armon Dadgar, Robin Vasan, Dave Yuan, some truly fantastic question suggestions today. As you can tell from that list, it was really a team effort, so huge thanks for that.

Harry Stebbings:

But that is quite enough of me, so now I’m very excited to hand over to Dave McJannet, CEO at Hashicorp.

Harry Stebbings:

David, it is such a joy to have you on the show today. As I said before, I felt like a bit of a stalker having spoken to so many of our mutual friends from Scott Raney, Dave Yuan to Armon, Tom Navarro, so thank you so much for joining me today, Dave.

Dave McJannet:

Thanks for having me and thanks to them for responding.

Harry Stebbings:

Yeah. And they gave me some great stories, but I do want to kick off today with some context. So, first, how did you make your way into the world of SaaS? Let’s start there.

Dave McJannet:

So, I started my career in the world of finance, actually, and I moved to the Bay area when my girlfriend, now my wife, came here for grad school. And after a bunch of moving around, I ended up working in product development, actually, for a middleware company, and I did that for four years. And I think the first time I went to a retail store and swiped my credit card, I knew that that transaction was going through stuff that we had envisioned and built, I was hooked forever. And I’ve been in the world of enterprise software ever since.

Harry Stebbings:

What a great has been. Tell me, as I said, I spoke to many of the investors and especially actually Robin, now at Mango. He said, “Ask about this. What was the process of meeting and taking the job as CEO at Hashicorp?”

Dave McJannet:

Robin introduced me to Amina Mitchell about a year and a half before I agreed to join them. So, at the time, if you fast forward, I’d run marketing for a couple of companies that had really good growth runs into the public markets, and I was certainly not looking for another job. And then, so I helped them out in the background around a couple of young guys were working in a world of open source infrastructure. Again, that’s a pretty small Venn diagram of expertise. And so, I met with them over and over and over again, and eventually, they came back to me and said, “Hey, would you like joining us full-time?” And I was like, “No, I’m good. Startups are hard.” And eventually, that became, “Okay, would you be interested in joining to run marketing?” Then it was like, “Would you have interest in running the COO role?” And I said, “No, I’m good.”

Dave McJannet:

And then they came back and said, “Would you be interested in joining as CEO?” And I said, “Hey, I’m not really interested in doing another company,” but I was intrigued because I couldn’t quite explain what the products did, but I knew that they were integral to this cloud transition. And if you pattern match to the companies that we’d had success with, it was big market transitions going from one way of doing things to another way of doing things, which was dislocating category spend. I was just incredibly impressed with them, but I really had no interest in being a CEO. I mean, as I know now, and knew then, CEO job is a very difficult one. So, it took a fair amount of internalizing for me to say, “Okay. All right. You know what? Let’s do this. I’m going to take off the clothes and jump in the pool yet again, into the unknown.”

Dave McJannet:

I think we look at it in terms of market, model, and team when you look at companies’ opportunities, and the markets, as I describe, the model, it’s like, “Yeah, these guys have built these open source things which are interesting to me.” But really, it was the team side of it. I jokingly have said a couple of times… My wife, who had been in the venture world for some time said, “Hey, if you can’t build something valuable with these guys, then you’re an idiot.” And I think, eventually, I took that to heart, and I joined as CEO about four and a half years ago. It’s been a phenomenal, phenomenal exercise, and I actually credit Robin Vasan.

Dave McJannet:

Robin Vasan, ironically, was on the board of that middleware company that I did so many years earlier, and he and I had stayed in touch. And he’d been trying to get me into one of his companies for a while, and this is the one that worked. But bringing someone in to be CEO of a early stage company, for any founder, is a massive, massive decision., And it took a lot of mutual vetting on both sides for us both to be comfortable that we were aligned to what we were trying to build, and it’s been a really, really fun experience.

Harry Stebbings:

Totally, no, it’s a massive one, and my father once told me, “Harry, if you want a happy marriage, it’s simple. Just do what your wife says.” I always remembered that one. But if we take that one logical step further, it’s a massive thing for them, and huge credit to them for taking that step. It’s also a big and very, very difficult thing for you, not as the founder, to assume the CEO role so early, more early than you traditionally assumed. So, what was it like to take over the CEO spot from the founder, and how did you make it work? That was from Scott Raney.

Dave McJannet:

I think all these things are ultimately about trust. It’s no different than any endeavor, whether it’s a relationship or whether it’s company building and selling software to people, it’s about trust. And I think you have to enter into it with that view, which is, I think they understood my interest was in just building a company and building something valuable and not really too fussed about what seat anybody was going to be in, but just acknowledging there’s a certain core truce to how you build companies and somebody has to be CEO so that everything is aligned. And so, that was actually a relatively seamless transition, and it only happened because of them. They projected the view internally and externally that says, “Hey, we’ve recognized that we have a particular superpower around certain things, but building a company is much more than those things. And so, we want to partner with people that can help us have this company realize its potential, and if it takes giving up the CEO seat to do so, then we’re totally cool with that.” And that level of humility, I think, is amazing but also indicative of those guys.

Dave McJannet:

So, step one was just real clarity around what the role would look like, and yes, companies have to be structured a certain way. Number two, it really only work because of the way that they embraced it. And then, number three, very, very quickly, and it’s kind of ironic because now when I reflect back on the last three large runs we’ve had, we did it the same way as step one, is we sat down and said, “Let’s get real clarity on our mission.” Because I think when most people are faced with the same data, make the same decision. So, we spend an enormous amount of time with those first four or five months to saying, “Hey, what is the mission that we are collectively going to pursue together? And let’s be clear on that, and then let’s just execute.”

Dave McJannet:

So, I think that was a huge part of it, was just real clarity of mission. We used the phraseology that a company is nothing more than a group of people aligned around a common idea. Obviously, we’re not the originators of that term, but I think we embrace it. And so, we needed to be clear on what that idea was, number one, and then number two, what the principles of how we would act would be. And I think once we got clarity on those two things, not surprisingly, there’s been not a lot of debate ever since.

Harry Stebbings:

Yeah, absolutely, and I think that kind of alignment up front is key. I do want to say, in terms of your leadership, leaderships change and evolved in terms of the styles. How have you seen your leadership evolve and develop over the last four years?

Dave McJannet:

I think we are who we are, and so I don’t think the leadership style changes overscale because we are who we are, I think. We project a clear north, and we’re very authentic with respect to how we’re going after it. I think it’s more that the job changes, and I think there’s a point at which, early on, you’re doing all the roles and you have your hands on all the levers. I’m the one creating the financial plan, I’m making sure the support tickets get closed, I’m involved in the roadmap. And I think that transition goes from being very involved to being much more directive over time, and I think that’s something that just happened naturally. But it’s very obvious that your style ends up being obviously much less hands-on and much more about reinforcing the clarity of the mission, both of the mission of the company and the behavior that we’re going to all collectively exhibit towards the retirement of that mission.

Dave McJannet:

So, that’s the transformation, is from more from the hands-on to the hands off, which is not surprising, but obviously, you have to have the right people to be able to hand out the pieces to. So, there’s a very logical transition that happens, but authentically, it doesn’t really change. In fact, I spent some time at Microsoft, and one of the exercises that I did there really caught my attention around communication, which I think about a lot, is you do this exercise to understand what your core values are, because you don’t realize that when you communicate, you have certain things that authentically you care about. Oprah Winfrey, she has like five or six things she talks about consistently.

Dave McJannet:

And so, a lot of the key is just really understanding who you are, what’s important to you. For me, it’s things like humility and competitiveness and intellectual rigor. These things tend to be your communication cues, and in terms of leadership style, that’s what you end up leaning on because it’s authentically who you are. And I think understanding who you are allows you to communicate more authentically and has people react to you in an authentic way because it’s all very, very consistent, but the tactics of what you do obviously change over the course of the company life cycle.

Harry Stebbings:

Can I ask, and sorry, I’m too intrigued here. If you are who you are as a leader, how do you think about leadership growth and development? For CEOs who want to scale themselves, their skills, they’re first time CEOs, if you are who you are, does not mean you can’t scale as a leader? How do you think about that? Sorry, help me out here.

Dave McJannet:

I think there are skills and then there are attributes, I think is how to think about it. I think there are skills that can be learned for how to be a better leader, how to be a better marketer. These are skills, but the attributes are more natural to you and inform how you express those skills, if that makes sense. For example, someone like Armon, who’s one of the co-founders, incredibly talented guy when you meet him, but what really strikes you is the humility of the guy. He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, but he’s incredibly humble. So, now, when he’s a leader, that’s just naturally how he projects himself, and I think that’s more what I mean, is there are learned skills around leadership but the machinery you have to work with is relatively innate. And I think the leadership challenge is how do you understand who you are, understand what those skills are, and understand what are those, maybe, pros and cons so that you can manage them better as your shadow gets larger and larger?

Harry Stebbings:

Sorry, I am digging in here, but I am interested. So, does one go through it like a process of self-discovery on the type of leader that they are in terms of discovering those attributes? Do you think it’s just inherently obvious? How do you think about that when advising younger CEOs who are navigating who they have always people and business leaders, I guess?

Dave McJannet:

Yeah. This is a fascinating one to me, and I think this is where a lot of big companies really have an advantage because this notion of leadership development is something that big companies invest in pretty deeply, right? There are programs at these big companies where they do nothing but this, in preparation for giving those leaders the reins to bigger parts of the organization over time. And then you have the startup world where people get thrown right into that job on day one, so they haven’t necessarily had the opportunity to do the self-reflection to say, “Okay, let me think about the core foundations of leadership.”It’s about communication. It’s about establishing a shared vision. It’s about holding people accountable at the tactical level, but it’s much more around these picture things.

Dave McJannet:

And yes, I think you have to, at some point, do a self-inventory of like, “Okay, let me think about how I think about the world. What are the core things that I care about?” And just know that, deliberately or not, you are expressing those things when you communicate, and you have to have that self-knowledge of what those things are so that you can, then, when you develop the skills more tactically, know that they’re being expressed but with this point of view. And the challenge is, how do we do that in a really authentic way so I can exercise those skills in a way that is true to my view of the world?

Harry Stebbings:

I totally agree with that in terms of expressing them in a way that’s true to you. And my question, too, is also like, you mentioned you were talking about Microsoft, you mentioned the larger companies there and how they invest in leadership development. In terms of like maybe lessons from Microsoft and your time within the larger companies, now and thinking about scale and scale efficiently… Sorry, it’s a bit of a cramp question, but I am intrigued to ask it. And it’s like, is there a repeatable playbook to scaling companies and teams?

Dave McJannet:

There’re definitely repeatable elements to it. I think the beauty of bigger companies,… So, just give a snapshot. I spent about five years at Microsoft and ultimately had responsibility for about a $500 million portfolio of theirs, which was relatively–across six different products and three different segments, so relatively pretty complex. And what you see is what the world looks like at scale. You’re like, “Ah, this is what it’s going to look like at scale. I have different segments. I have different levers in each segment. Got it.” Right? So, conceptually, you got the light bulb, yeah that’s what it’s going to look like at scale.

Dave McJannet:

And then, the last two companies I’ve done from essentially zero through larger scale, and obviously those lessons don’t apply to a company that’s at zero. What we learned over time is that, “Great, if you know what it looks like at the end, got it, bookmark that.” But then, companies go through phases, and I worked for a guy named Rob Bearden, who I think is really, really good at this. He was the CEO of Hortonworks, among other things. We think of like zero to 10 million as a phase, 10 to 30 is a phase, 30 to 50 is a phase, 50 to 100 is a phase, 100 to 250 is a phase, et cetera. And these are very distinct phases, and they are phase shifts. And I’m applying a revenue number to them, but that’s just in the world that I come from of that’s broadly what it looked like the last three times. Probably equates more to finding product market fit.

Dave McJannet:

So, I think the CEO’s job is to anticipate the phases because everybody’s role changes almost overnight at these phases. And to give you a really simple example, “Hey, you’re the product marketing person for a B2B company that’s going from zero to 10 million. Great.” You go from zero, product marketing person is the core nervous system. The sales people say, “Hey, what do I say next? What do I say next?” And they [fed 00:13:56] out to them. All of a sudden, you get to 10 million. Well, now, you just have too many reps, and there’s not enough hours in the day for that product marketing person to do the job the same way. What they now have to do is step back and create a content consumption mechanism that aligns to the stages of the sales cycle so that those reps can all be successful and they’re like, “Oh, got it. I have to reinvent how I do my job at each of these different phases,” because there are just phase shifts that happen.

Dave McJannet:

So, the job, then, of the CEO, and I think Rob did a phenomenal job, we’ve tried to do it here, is how do I make it so that the organization doesn’t feel those phase shifts and don’t trip? I think, yes, it is repeatable in a sense in that you have to keep reinventing, reinventing, reinventing, which is why people that tend to do well in the startup environment tend to be systems thinkers because their job is not a skills-based thing, it’s about the ability to decompose the system for the next phase, for the next phase, for the next phase. So, yes, eventually, you get to the larger scale, you know what it looks like, but you have to be acutely aware of the phase shifts, and you have to… That product marketing example gets rewritten in every function of the company, and you have to keep forcing, forcing, forcing, forcing, forcing. So, that’s my job, is to anticipate the phases and make the organizational adjustments to force people to go over those boundaries without noticing.

Harry Stebbings:

I mean, no pressure. I do have to ask you, in terms of those phases, and I love that in terms of that structured systems thinking, where would you put yourself out now that in terms of a phase? And I guess what are the challenges that you think you will encounter at this phase, and how do you think about tackling them?

Dave McJannet:

So, our problems are unique because we have deliberately created multiple products. So, we’re about 1,000 people today. We have four products with very clear product market fit. That’s unusual, and these are not, “Oh, this is a different module of the same thing. These are different products. One’s a provisioning product, one’s a security product, et cetera. So, our problems are unique. So, what matters most to making these companies go is the feedback loop between product marketing, product management, and engineering, creating that feedback loop. So, great, I have four different products. How do I create an org structure where I empower those feedback loops to get ingrained inside each of the different four product teams that I have? So, we actually deliberately federated the company out in a previous phase to say, now I have a trio, product marketing engineering, product management leader of every product group that I have. We have essentially four product groups.

Dave McJannet:

So, that’s an example of like, we didn’t do that until we got to a certain phase because all of a sudden the phase shift implies I can no longer be involved in every product decision because I’m just too far removed. It’s just too big. So, you have to federate decision-making down and then create these forced feedback loops so that those people get upskilled to be able to make the decisions that I would have otherwise made if I’d been in those seats. That’s an example. I think that’s one of the challenges that you have when you start to scale a multi-product company, is finding a business leaders know how to make the market function for each of different functions, and that’s something that we coach. So, that’s [inaudible 00:16:17] like the product side.

Dave McJannet:

On the field side, this time to us about a year ago, we have to just commit to segmentation. So, now we have four segments. We have a global segment, enterprise, one enterprise two, and a commercial segment, right? We have named account coverage inside of that. And now we have an assigned leader for each one of those things. Again, it’s about feedback loops. I want to hold one person accountable now for the entire global segment, the entire E1 segment. So, the decomposition to the systems of the company is what I mean, and you can play that out across customer success and support, across product management. It all follows that same pattern of like, there’s just a scale number at which you just have to decompose things into slightly different systems, and that’s the product in the go to market side.

Harry Stebbings:

There’s two elements I’d love to unpack. One is the accountability element. And my question is always like, how do you create a effective mechanism of accountability that is ambitious and high reaching, but then is also not disincentivizing or discouraging if it’s not hit? How do you think by that balance between aggressive but not discouraging if it’s not hit?

Dave McJannet:

Well, I think, unfortunately, in the sales organization, it is what it is. I’ve set the revenue number in the early stage for now a few companies, and yes, it’s not fair, but it is what it is. So, sales teams are on a revenue number, and sometimes it works well and we pay them a lot of money. Sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s the way it works. So, I think on the field side, it takes care of itself. Now, you have to create comp plans for field organization that keeps them appropriately motivated, but we reset those every six months, so we can’t get that far off. So, on the field side, it takes care of itself.

Dave McJannet:

On the other side of the business, like the further away you get from field, the harder it gets. So, ultimately, we actually break down our revenue targets by product, and so it is a notional target. Their compensation’s not tied to it in the product organizations, but it’s a notional target that I interrogate and expect. I run a monthly business review with every one of our business group leads, so we’re having that conversation every month. And their comp may not be tied to it, but they know when they’re underperforming. And fundamentally, people are competitive. They want to build things of value. They want the work that they’re doing to render revenue because that’s the attestation that value has being created.

Dave McJannet:

So, we don’t need to create an artificial target. They are pulling as hard as they can for revenue. And again, that’s a bit of a cultural thing. We don’t have to force it because what we have deliberately done is created a pretty competitive culture, not internally competitive, externally competitive. We do this because revenue shows you progress, and it shows you value creation and that’s what we get up every day to pursue. So, while on the outside, it may not look that way, that’s our true north, is revenue, and that’s what we look at as our scorecard, ultimately. So, we don’t struggle with it, truthfully, because we wake up everyday, culturally, in pursuit of making our customer successful, which renders into renewals and expansions, and that’s where we get our satisfaction from as a company. That’s what we celebrate. It’s not about selling products. The renewal is where we make our money, and the renewal is what we live for. And I think that’s a gearing of an organization culturally.

Harry Stebbings:

Totally agree with you there. The other thing you’ve mentioned quite a few times is the multi-product element, and as you said, it’s very unique in the development and the life stage of the company when it was done. My question to you, and I always think about this one, it’s like, how do you think about aggressively pursuing a second product, and when the right time to do that is, versus go slow to go fast and be very disciplined around execution on what your current product is? How do you think about the right time to add that second, third, next product?

Dave McJannet:

There are basically two broad buckets. We’ve done this in previous lives at traditional companies, and then we’ve done it in open source. And I think I’ll split the two across separately. I think traditionally the right model is to focus on one product, get repeatability. How did that allow you to create a distribution channel? And then, you start looking at the adjacencies to that distribution channel. What other products can I drop into that same distribution channel to broaden my addressable market? And I do that probably not until maybe you’re at 100 million in ARR. I don’t know what the number is, but at some point you need to get repeatability just because of the math of it is just too expensive. These things are in conflict. Multi-product versus efficiency are in conflict, and they’re in conflict in the field organization because you can’t have a field organization that you’re telling to do too many things because nobody makes any money because no one’s an expert at what you’re doing.

Dave McJannet:

So, generally speaking, I would say focus on one product until you get repeatability, until you get a distribution channel established, ie a sales route to market that you can drop other things into. We did that, for example, in the entity that became Pivotal, right? We required some data assets. We basically did an inventory, and we said, okay, “Based on our routes to market, what other things can we add?” You can grow a company pretty quickly that way.

Dave McJannet:

On the other side of the fence is what we did, which is through open source and it is only achievable in open source because of the development leverage you get in open source. So, Armon and Mitchell had this view from the very, very get-go that to solve the problems of application delivery onto cloud, you actually needed all these products. So, we actually have five, six if you include Vagrant, which is disconnected, but there are five core products that you require. And they knew that out of the gate, it was like, I wish I could solve it in less, but we use the Unix philosophy. One product does one thing. So, they actually knew that they wanted to create all five, so they created all five out of the gate.

Dave McJannet:

Now, the only reason that works is because you can let them run in open source. I think open source enables this notion of like having people contribute. We have 13 or 1,400 contributors to Terraform on GitHub, so to build a business around Terraform would have required another 1,300 people in our payroll. And obviously, that was not going to happen. So, I think we did it in open source because open source gives you this tremendous leverage, and then we said, “Okay, great. Let’s let those run. Let’s let standardization happen in open source. And then we’ll build commercial orientation and a commercial route to market that we can drop these products into.” So, what became a giant headwind, initially, becomes a giant tailwind once these products mature. I think the other thing that we have going for us is that our buying center is generally the same for all of our products. It’s people’s cloud programs. I think that’s the other thing you really have to consider, is does your distribution channel support multiple things going into it? It does if it’s a common buying center. So, hopefully, that gives a sense.

Harry Stebbings:

No, I totally agree in terms of that single buying center. I do want to ask, we discussed the team earlier and it was something that came up with a lot of the investors that we mentioned before, and they mentioned how, largely, Hashicorp’s been remote to a large extent for a while. And so, I want to ask you, in terms of lessons, what are some core learnings of what it fundamentally takes to make remote work so effectively and how you’ve approached it?

Dave McJannet:

I’ll go back to where I started, which is a group of people aligned around a common idea is where it starts. There has to be this constant reinforcement and understanding of two ideas. One is the mission, and number two are the principles with which we pursue that mission. And if you go to our website, we are very explicit about the things that we care about in terms of our principles, and that behavior is a lot harder to model when people are remote so you have to keep reinforcing it. So, number one, it’s that clarity.

Dave McJannet:

Number two, it’s sort of you get nothing for free when you’re remote, and so you have to create rituals and rhythms which deliberately create what it is you might otherwise get for free. For example, we run a weekly all hands for 1,000 people every week. This is a touchstone touchpoint. As we were joking earlier, to give you a sense, one of the things that presented this morning, it was the marketing team, they did their entire presentation to 1,000 people today to the lyrics of Hamilton, just for fun.

Dave McJannet:

So, they’ve rewritten their whole presentation and then actually have people sing some of the songs. It’s that kind of stuff, which reinforces culture, that reinforces the creation of empathy for each other, and reinforces the mission that we’re after. So, there are these rhythms and rituals which are different that you have to think about. I also send out a weekly email to the entire company just underscoring the mission for what we’re doing, but then there’s very tactical stuff. Our core product teams live in the same time zones, so as big as the company is, people working on Vault generally live in a geographic cluster that’s in the same time zone. Those working on Terraform are generally in the cluster. So, those are some examples of it.

Harry Stebbings:

Can I ask, how important is the time zone alignment? Because it’s one where people have different views. How do you think about that crucial element of time zone importance?

Dave McJannet:

We think it’s really important. There are some exceptions to it, and again, I would broadly categorize there’s the product side, and then there’s go to market side. Product development in the world of software is an essentially asynchronous exercise, where we’ve gotten accustomed to using GitHub to have an asynchronous dialogue. So, it actually works a little bit better in multiple time zones. The go to market side, the feedback groups are just much, much, much faster because the market moves faster than I can deliver products. So, I think it matters more on the go to market side than on the product side, and we’ve always had pretty much all of our go to market people in the same location about the same time zone but the product stuff separated.

Dave McJannet:

I go back to the feedback loops. You have to be really, really deliberate about the feedback loops. So, it’s like this notion of these trios. How do we force the feedback loops from customer support into that trio? How do we [inaudible 00:23:36] the feedback loops from SE and sales into that trio? You have to be really thoughtful about the feedback loops, as well, that you’re trying to create.

Harry Stebbings:

Totally with you in terms of the feedback loops. And really interesting to hear how the time zones differ in function levels, so to speak. I do want to dive into my favorite thing, which is a quick fire round. So, I say a short statement, and then you hit me with your immediate thoughts. How does that sound?

Dave McJannet:

All right.

Harry Stebbings:

Okay. So, tell me the favorite book and why? What must we be reading?

Dave McJannet:

I really like the idea of Play Bigger. I’m sure other people have talked about it. You don’t have to read the whole book, but the core notion is the world has gone digital, and so it’s insanely easy for me to figure out who the predominant player in any category is because I can just do a Google search. I want to buy an electric car, I can tell you within 30 seconds who the leading vendors are, as an example. And that didn’t happen previously. So, it actually exposes what we’ve done in the last couple of companies, is you have to own the category. You have to create the category because all the digital signals accrue to you eventually if you create the category. The category economics, 80% of them go to the category creator, so you best be creating categories.

Harry Stebbings:

What would you most like to change about the valley tech scene today, Dave?

Dave McJannet:

I mean, there are lots of things around… The diversity of it is certainly one that could use a lot of work, but also I think another one, which is, I think people move around way too much. I think people are coming out of college and, early in their career, go to a company for a couple of years and go, “Great. I got to sell my resume. Now I’m going to use that to go to the next company.” And they’re missing the point. You’re not getting the value you think you are because you’re not really learning the skills from the people at that company. And number two, you’re not really building the network that is going to be durable for you. And I think both of those things gets sacrificed to pursuit of the next shiny thing. People have to recognize careers are long. What we should all be focused on is skills acquisition so that we know how to do this repeatably, not just trying to get good companies on a resume.

Harry Stebbings:

A little birdy told me that your wife is a former VC. What are the pros and cons of having your wife as a former VC, Dave?

Dave McJannet:

She’s way more knowledgeable than you think, I think is both pro and the con, so I got to be careful what I share with her. It’s helpful to have somebody to talk to about this stuff. I think being a CEO of a company is a very solitary pursuit, in a way, and I think that’s enormously helpful. And I think the huge, huge pro, she would call it a con, because she gets to be my sounding board for a lot of things.

Dave McJannet:

And I think if I could make a separate point, because I think founders going down the scaling company journey, I think also just need to understand how hard this gets. For us, I think it was the point between, I don’t know, 30 and 100 million, or whatever it was, where it’s like, there just are not enough people, can not get enough people in the company. Things are not quite ready the way they should be, and you are carrying the whole thing on your back. And I think that is maybe discomforting for people to know that there is a phase like that, but it does pass. And I think having someone in the house that understands that [inaudible 00:25:52] is certainly helpful.

Harry Stebbings:

This too shall pass. Totally love that. Tell me, if you’re a cocktail, what cocktail would you be, Dave?

Dave McJannet:

I would be a beer, a Canadian beer.

Harry Stebbings:

I love that. Okay. Final one, next five years for you and for Hashicorp, paint that picture for me.

Dave McJannet:

I think we’ve been really clear about what it is we’re pursuing. We think we have the opportunity to build the next large infrastructure company, and the market wants us to play that role. You can feel it. The market wants you to play this role of enabling consistency around op security and networking in the cloud [inaudible 00:26:19]. So, that’s the mission we set out to pursue. I think we have been unwavering in that mission. I think we fundraised in pursuit of that mission to send the signal to our customers that we are a safe long-term infrastructure partner, and that’s what we’re going to pursue.

Dave McJannet:

And I think there’s a peculiar orientation to people that like this stuff. We think it’s cool that credit card process went through our stuff or that cable set top box doesn’t turn on without us. That’s what we like to do. It’s a very much a behind the scenes… We know what this stuff does. Other people don’t need to know. We get our satisfaction from that. We like the role that we play. That’s what Hashicorp’s going to pursue, and that’s fun for people like myself. That’s what we get out of bed to do, is to see that role get played for the biggest companies in the world and to know that we are making it possible is what we’re going to continue to do, because that’s just interesting to us..

Harry Stebbings:

Dave, as I said at the beginning, I had so many good things. I felt like I knew you coming into this one. So, thank you so much for joining me today, and this has been a lot of fun.

Dave McJannet:

Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Harry Stebbings:

I have to say I did so enjoy that discussion with David and such exciting times ahead for Hashicorp. If you’d like to see more from us behind the scenes, you can on Instagram @HStebbings1996, with two Bs. I always love to see you there. 

Harry Stebbings:

As always, I so appreciate it. We have a fantastic [inaudible 00:00:29:41], and I can’t wait to bring you another set of fantastic episodes next week.

 

Published on September 23, 2020

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