Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Culture eats strategy for breakfast - a short goodbye :)

Today is my last day as an official employee at Rapid7, the company I co-founded 14 years ago. While I'll still be involved as a part-time advisor, it's always bittersweet when starting a new chapter. I thought I would share my farewell letter to the company - it's as good a summary as I can make of my philosophy on startups and on the importance of corporate culture.

Fellow Moose,

Fourteen years ago, almost to the day, Tas, Alan and I started Rapid7. It's been an amazing ride - we have accomplished so much in that time and I'm proud to have played a part in this incredible story. I've had the opportunity to work with some pretty amazing people from whom I've learned a great deal. I've learned about what it takes to grow and scale a business, what it takes to succeed, and I've learned a lot about myself. One of the things I've learned is that I am, at my core, a startup guy. I love small companies and small teams, I love starting new things, and it's time for me to get back to my roots. So…tomorrow will be my last day as an official employee of Rapid7.

Someone asked me the other day what it's like to be part of a startup. The best way I can describe it is that it's like a shared delusion; you have to keep the hallucination going, keep everyone dreaming, keep YOURSELF dreaming, until that dream starts to become a reality. Once in a while, someone "wakes up", they fall out of the dream, and we don’t hear from them again. And that's OK - we just keep going.

You know in the cartoon where Wile-E-Coyote runs off the edge of the cliff and keeps running on thin air? It's like that - except you've got a dozen people running beside you. And everyone is responsible for making sure that nobody else looks down.

You start off with just a couple people - not geniuses, just regular folks who have no right to start a company. If you're incredibly lucky, you've got a killer idea, but probably what you've actually got is an idea that's just barely good enough to work. And if you can somehow find the nerve to believe you'll succeed when the odds are overwhelmingly tilted towards failure; if you can stay flexible and keep adapting and making sh*t up until you find out what works; if you can work 10x harder than everyone else so you can outrun your early failures; if you can sustain that belief, that dream state, for long enough…then you have a chance of pulling it off.

That's why the "Who" is so much more important than the "What". That's why culture matters. And that's why I've always said that we're not in the software business. We're not even in the security business. We're in the people business.

When I look back at the last 14 years, there's so much to be proud of. We've built a great team, we've shipped products that help customers, we've closed big deals, we've done acquisitions that took the industry by storm, we've broken record after record, and we've earned the praise and recognition of analysts and the press. Even though we have much more to achieve, we should be really, really proud.

With all of that said, what I'm most proud of is the personal success of the people who have joined this shared delusion we call Rapid7. I've had the great privilege of helping people I hired grow into world-class engineers, sales people, and managers. I've seen them get promoted, earn degrees, obtain US citizenship, get married, buy homes, and start families -- taking advantage of all the opportunities that Rapid7 provides. I will be forever grateful for having been even a small part of that success.

I'm incredibly proud of the team we have today and I'm excited about where Rapid7 is headed. You're all ready for the next phase of growth, adventure, and success. Just remember to keep taking care of each other, and don't look down!

With love,