I got a lot of great feedback on yesterday’s post about the 5 questions one should ask before taking a job – and questions on what I was doing for the summer, and whether I’d followed my own advice.
I’m spending the summer at Okta, an enterprise software startup based in San Francisco, founded by a team of cloud veterans from salesforce.com, SuccessFactors and Rearden Commerce. Our initial product is the Cloud Application Network, focused on solving the cloud identity problem. More on the problem here.
I believe deeply in the importance of playing for the right team, and spending the time to figure out whether the team is right for you. In the case of a startup, especially an early-stage company, people are everything, from the management, to the investors. I was referred to Okta by a friend who vouched for the principals and the investors. I did some of my own homework, starting with the basics:
1. LinkedIn – checking out management’s backgrounds, and recommendations
2. Unvarnished – currently in private beta but could evolve into a great tool for recruiting
3. Good old Google – reading blog posts the principals have written to get a sense of their thinking
4. Personal calls – talked with people I trusted who had interacted with some of the management team
The calls and diligence all came back positive, so the next step is meeting and talking to folks at the company. My conversations with Frederic Kerrest and Roger Goulart gave me further confidence that these were people I could learn a ton from, and who were open to being both colleagues and mentors. They challenged me to articulate how I viewed the business and the market opportunity and laid out their expectations and ideas for how I could spend my summer productively not just for the firm, but for me. (Let’s be clear here though, fellow summer interns – it’s our job to be useful, not our employers’ job to entertain us!)
When we think about investors, people are often satisfied with brand name firms, but just as important is the partner who is directly involved and responsible for the investment. Andreessen Horowitz is a great firm that has made a number of interesting investments, but I’m super psyched that Ben Horowitz is on the Board – as founder and CEO of LoudCloud/Opsware, he is “considered somewhat of a domain expert in all things “cloud.” This isn’t just an investment because the space is “hot”, but by someone who has seen a wide range of cloud-related startups, and who lived and breathed the space as a manager.
“How can I make you successful? What can I do to help?”
5 weeks in, those are the sentences that I hear more often than any other (excluding variants of “Have you thought about how you’re managing your cloud applications?”) and to me they embody the ideas of a) leadership as service; and b) we can only be successful if we make our customers successful. This is a group of thoughtful, dedicated individuals committed to building a great product and successful company. I am lucky to be here. I am learning a ton, having a lot of fun, and am ready to sell a Cloud Application Network to anyone who wants one! (I can be reached at skoh at okta dot com)
Ben Horowitz writes
Every startup is in a furious race against time. The startup must find the product-market fit that leads to a great business and substantially take the market before running out of cash. As a result, the top two priorities are always to:
- Find the product that 1,000 enterprise or 50 million consumers want to buy and grab those customers before your competitors do.
- Raise enough cash and spend it intelligently so that you don’t go broke along the way.
I believe in Todd‘s vision of the kind of company we’re building. We are here to build a long-lasting, successful company with a great product, big market to go after, seasoned team, and plenty of powder in the keg.
P.S. We’re hiring.