As one of the first companies that developed an app which was accessible across multiple devices, Evernote is one of the most iconic SaaS companies in the world, especially for productivity-obsessed folks. Jason Lemkin interviews Evernote CEO Chris O’Neill about the company’s evolution from information archive to workflow app and what the future has in store.
Turning around an “elephant,” is tough, but Chris managed to refocus the company and led it back to its original mission. He also gives his perspective on hiring (bringing on Googlers isn’t always a good move) and expanding globally.
No matter where you are in the journey, you need to develop a thick skin and stay the course even when people are heavily criticizing what you’re doing. It’s difficult to tune out the noise but this is especially important when your mission is one that serves the greater good of people around the world.
And if you haven’t heard: SaaStr Annual will be back in 2018, bigger and better than ever! Join 10,000 fellow founders, investors and execs for 3 days of unparalleled networking and epic learnings from SaaS legends like Jyoti Bansal, Dustin Moskovitz, Jeff Lawson, and Michael Pryor. If you don’t have tickets, lock in Early Bird pricing today and bring your team from just $799! (All ticket prices go up October 1st.) Get tickets here.
Jason Lemkin: Let’s welcome Chris O’Neill, CEO of Evernote.
Jason: Thanks for coming.
Chris O’Neill: Sure.
Jason: Lot of things I want to chat about, but we do try and pick things carefully. Trello had a little bit of an exit, which was fun, but I like the “17 Years Into…” the One TechCrunch article. Success takes a while.
Evernote is just iconic company, that everyone here. Raise your hand, if you’ve never used Evernote. We’re going to see zero hands. We might see a few.
Chris: I like how you asked that question.
Jason: A couple. You joined for many reasons, but to take it into a second decade.
Jason: The average founder here, Chris and I were talking about this backstage, average is misleading here but the average founder here today is a little more than a million in ARR, growing 80 percent, so some of you are doing even better. That’s bootstrapped.
We didn’t ask you, we’re going to ask you next year, when you were founded, but my guess, if you’re bootstrapped, the average person here is about three and a half years in. This, I’m totally making up. If you’re bootstrapped, it’s tough to get to a million and a half in a week.
You’re starting to feel time a little bit. After three and a half to four years…You can’t think about the second decade but you can start to think about the first. I wanted to chat about the second decade and start with the first.
Go back. We talked about this backstage. Let’s talk about Evernote in the beginning, which was disruptive. Tell me what Evernote was about in the beginning. Let’s talk about what’s it’s about for the second decade.
Chris: Stepan Pachikov founded the company. He has had and still has poor memory. He wanted an extension of this memory to keep things…
Jason: The elephant.
Chris: Yeah. Hence, the elephant. It really started back then where he wanted this Nike for his brain, so he could not forget things. That’s again where the elephant came from.
It was disruptive in a bunch of different ways that seem ridiculous to even think about 10 years later. If you think about the word cloud didn’t exist.
We were one of the first to invent something allowed you to access anything across devices. That was a pretty big innovation. Same with the App Store. The iPhone is 10 years old. When it launched, there were 20 apps and we were one of them.
Machine learning, the team that started the company actually created something called the Newton. I’m going to totally date myself by knowing what that is. Machine learning before machine learning was even used as a word.
Jason: Machine learning is our term of 2016 and Evernote’s been doing it for 10 years.
Chris: Right, like OCR. All these things. With a global mindset from the beginning that we were going to aspire to be a great company globally, and build a brand, and a community, and really leveraged the growth of smartphone penetration because this is a mobile first product to be clear and then the growth of knowledge workers, the developing economy.
These trends, these waves, one after the other…
I forgot Android as well, right? That allowed not only one platform but two, and allowed low cost distribution globally. We are literally in every country in the world, every region in the world, including the Vatican. Over half of our users use the product in a language other than English. I could go on but it’s a very global product that got to where it is today by leveraging all these different trends.
The way to think about it, for today’s world, if you think about Slack today gracing the covers, and I’m a big fan of Stuart, I think he’s awesome, he’s doing a fantastic job, but we were that three or four years ago. That’s to give people a perspective as to where the company has been.
Jason: I want to talk about the next 10 years. This is my outsider’s view of Evernote.
I feel like Evernote’s original mission statement, its 1.0, I feel like it won that market. You probably think about market share differently than I do but I think Evernote probably has…there’s competition, there’s this, but I bet you have 90 percent market share in a certain amount of the market.
Maybe I’m thinking about it wrong, and so Evernote 1.0, you win, and then you’ve got to keep building on top of that.
Chris: Sure. I challenge that a little bit.
Jason: Tell me.
Chris: I think certainly in terms of the core user, the people like an entrepreneur, many people…
Jason: The hard core, original techies, right?
Chris: Hard core techies or journalists or investors or entrepreneurs or just knowledge workers, generally. Look at it, a billion notes are taken today. Students take notes for a living. People do that every day. As a knowledge worker, you’re capturing your ideas.
I think we’re barely getting started on that, just to be clear, but fair point, we don’t lack for…
Jason: Just the original mission statement, part of it, mission accomplished on some levels.
Chris: In many ways, yes. We don’t have brand awareness challenges or category awareness challenge. If someone uses a digital note capture mechanism or tool or application, they know of us.
Jason: What do they not think of Evernote that you want them to think about it for now? Where’s the brand gap?
Chris: If you think about being a repository, this place where you never forget things…I’m a big fan of Clay Christensen and his question of what job is your product or service hired to do? We’re hired to basically help you remember shit that matters.
You capture, and then you automatically organize, and then you iterate and turn stuff into action. Maybe you integrate it with things like Trello or else, other things that are part of your workflow.
Historically, we’ve been this archive, this place where you capture this stuff, and where we want to go is workflow or workspace. How do we actually turn these things into magic, into action, because that’s where the real value happens to be.
Jason: I remember when Trunk launched at EchoSign. We were a launch partner trying to think about workflow, but it was early. [laughs] That was probably like, now I’m dating myself. That’s probably 2008 or something like that. I can’t even remember. I want to talk about that vision, but before we get there, let’s jump in for a minute. You joined how long ago, a year ago?
Chris: 18 months.
Jason: 18 months, so before we get there, how do I convince you to join my startup? You come out of Google. What was your last role at Google?
Chris: I was playing around in Google X.
Jason: Google X.
Chris: Having lots of fun there.
Jason: You’re a super highly regarded Google executive. Google pays reasonably well, doesn’t it? So I’ve been told. [laughs]
Chris: I was eating OK.
Jason: Let’s say you’re eating OK.
Jason: It’s hard to recruit anyone from Google. It’s hard to recruit an engineer, a PM. In all seriousness, obviously you’re probably less attracted to subscale startups. How do I get someone like you to join my startup? What’s the secret? I’m flipping it around.
Chris: That was very gracious to show like my homeland, I’m very proud, I’m obnoxiously proud to be Canadian.
Chris: All right.
Jason: I think we have 200 and something from Canada here, so thank you for making the trip.
Chris: Don’t tell anyone that immigrants get the job done and thank you for your kind words earlier. It started there. The highlight of my run at Google, which was amazing, I was there at such a special time in the company’s history, was really being asked against my will, I might add to go to Canada and run the operations.
That turned out to be amazing and really putting together a team, and a culture, and really helping like feeling part of a mission that was so much bigger than not only myself and Google, but really being a part of the country and really helping digitize the country and really help make the web work for Canadians.
That’s what I felt in my bones. I got really spoiled. When I came back, I had a blast at Google X, a collection of the most incredible people. Literally, I could touch some four or five different world class people at any different discipline literally within five feet in any direction.
Really what I missed was a connection to a mission that mattered and the ability to have impact without bureaucracy and BS. I had that up in Canada and I was spoiled. All along I’ve been driving by the elephant on the 101 there and just saying, “Man, I use this product.”
Jason: That was well placed, in fact.
Chris: Very well, good from a branding perspective. I had used the product and I loved it. I’m a productivity dork. I carry lots of devices and I like obviously really, really into that stuff. I felt like the company had lost its way a bit. I thought it was trying to be too much, too many different directions.
Any way you looked, we were trying to do too much. I thought that bringing focus, and bringing courage, and building a team and a culture that knows how to focus and yet grow at the same time is a skill that I think I’ve horned over the years. That’s really what attracted me. It’s the mission and the ability to make an impact and we can come back and talk about that journey.
Jason: I want to talk about that but let me just drill in one level to have…
Chris: With the Google stuff, the first question I’d ask is, “Do you want a Googler?” to be clear. I mean that with no disrespect to Googlers. Google is a big company now.
Jason: It’s a big company.
Chris: That’s not unique to Google, but you’d have to ask yourself, what are you looking for? What are the skills and the capabilities you specifically want? As it turns out, a lot of people who find success at Google probably could find success in lots of different ways but if you have infinite distribution, a scalable infrastructure, you’re working with tons of Mensa level people and money is really not an object, like great. Hire those people all day long, but that’s usually not the case.
Jason: Most of us don’t have infinite distribution here yet.
Chris: You want to find people who actually are mission driven, who truly want to make an impact in the world. That’s really what drew me out of Google. I had an incredible run and I have amazing, amazing friends, but you have to be really clear about what job you’re hiring that person to do and how that person will thrive.
I also saw that you like to use the word Goldilocks. You also sell culture and you also sell Life Stage of the company. For us, I call it Goldilocks because we’re not worried about paying the bills. At the other end, you’re not just one of n people doing a specific job. Every line of code…
Jason: How many employees does Evernote have?
Chris: About 330 right now.
Jason: 330, so just two dunbars.
Chris: What you do matters. What’s that?
Jason: Just two dunbars or something like that. You still know every senior person in the company?
Chris: I like to think I know everyone in the company.
Jason: Maybe everyone.
Chris: Yeah. I think it’s important.
Jason: 330, and so let’s touch on a little bit of that and then I want to talk about workflow and business and collaboration. You joined 18 months ago, company is nine years old then.
Chris: Yeah, give or take.
Jason: How big was Google when you left? I know you worked in groups of… incalculable number.
Chris: Tens of thousands.
Jason: [laughs] 330 is close enough to the 30s and 50s we have here, that they feel it. How did you think about building the new team? Who’s the next 10 year team and how do things change at that phase?
Chris: For those who are watching the plot, the movie, it wasn’t pretty. We were supposed to be dead, do you remember?
Chris: Like, “Dead unicorn.”
Jason: I feel like maybe it was a little overdramatized, but maybe it wasn’t.
Chris: You don’t think? [laughs]
Jason: Evernote was the first unicorn where I fell out of my chair. There had been other unicorns. I knew Evernote was great, but I didn’t know $1 billion great. I just knew, and then, and maybe that was a fairly insane valuation if I had seen the numbers, but it flew so early. Maybe it was on its deathbed, I don’t know.
Chris: No, in fact, it was not. Fast forward 18 months, we’re cash flow positive…
Jason: Cash flow positive?
Chris: We’ve got tons… and it was just news, like new news, which is amazing, I’m very proud of the team for that. The roadmap is really clear and we can talk more details about that, and there’s just a renewed energy and a sense of optimism.
Jason: Let’s talk about that.
Chris: Within the building, in the community, globally, when you go travel.
Jason: Bigger challenge, you come in, eight and a half years in, the company is doing many tens of millions of revenue, everyone uses it, but you’ve got to reenergize the company. Maybe that’s a different way to look, you’ve got to re…whether it’s little side businesses that didn’t pan out, those are minor things, but you’ve got to reboot at least the energy. How do you do that?
Chris: I don’t know, like turning around an elephant’s hard.
Jason: It is hard.
Chris: It’s kinda big. I started with getting back to the original vision of why the company exists, this notion that you’re going to be more successful and organized and productive at what you’re doing, really channeling that inner feeling, and then removing distraction.
There was a lot of like we were selling socks and backpacks and pencil cup holders and all this stuff which, again, I think is a great reflection of the entrepreneurial spirit, to try new things. I talked briefly about that. That’s a strength, but it was a weakness to not call that experiment a failure, and others like it.
We basically reduced the focus of the product and what we’re trying to do to make it consistently excellent, tripled down on the quality of the product, a lot of stuff that’s below the hood. You can feel it when you use the product, but you don’t actually see it.
Jason: Did you shrink priorities?
Jason: How do you like to rank priorities as the CEO? You like to have a top five or 10?
Chris: I actually like to have no more than three.
Jason: No more than three?
Jason: Got it. Staff meetings, do you start with the three every staff meeting?
Chris: Yes. We’re really clear. We have OKRs for the whole company and everyone’s ladder up to those. In the staff meeting, we have all the numbers and the dashboards and the qualitative things that ladder up to those. That’s how we roll. You need to shrink the focus.
It required a change of team, as well. The folks that really start a company, I believe, are rarely the people that love to scale a company at this stage.
Jason: It’s hard.
Chris: We brought in people with different functional expertise, so people with marketing and go to market experience, products in a more B2B setting, etc., all the way down, and then really started to build a cohesive leadership team at the next level down, etc.
Jason: Just a couple of things out of curiosity, so when you bring in that management team, it’s not a startup anymore. What kind of backgrounds do you look for? How big a company did you want them to last work at? What’s the perfect LinkedIn or…?
Chris: I have a couple of philosophies when I hire, and by the way, I spend over half of my time doing this.
Jason: I wanted to ask you that. Half your time…think about that, guys, half your time recruiting.
Chris: That’s down. It was up to 60 to 70 percent for the first year, and now it’s down about 50. It’s just super important. The team you build is the company you build, period.
Jason: How many interviews do you do a week, even now? Do you have a sense of what you’ve got?
Chris: I probably do five to six. I chair a hiring meeting every week. I’m going to the Battery Club later, so I’ve got to be like…
Jason: You have five to six meetings and you’re managing 60 plus potential candidates or something, or hires a week?
Chris: In a pipeline of something like that, yeah. Exactly.
Jason: Your philosophy on the backgrounds for the folks, for the next generation.
Chris: You have to hire for presence of a strength, a clear two to three strengths that correlate or actually really link to what you’re trying to get done. Most people actually try to look for absence of weakness, and I think that’s a fatal flaw. They have to have known what world class in their domain looks like.
A personal philosophy is, don’t try and get the number one person, and in some cases even the number two. You want the number two or the number three person in their domain, someone that hasn’t been there in the top seat just yet. They have that fire in their belly to actually go prove something, and I found that that’s just a much, much better equation.
Jason: Number three, does that also mean even at Evernote stage, you’ll make stretch hires, or it’s a big…? You haven’t quite done where you’re going to be at the end of 2018, is that OK?
Chris: Yes, but very intentional about where I’m making a trade off. I’ll trade off on the experience curve, usually. I’ll just say, “Hey, this person shows signs of being awesome. They just haven’t been around long,” and I see that as a feature, not a bug. I’ll make that trade off all day long.
If you look at the leadership team, myself included, these are stretch roles and there’s a certain energy that comes when you really have something to prove to the world, you’re connected to the product as a user and to the mission at large. That’s really, I think, where magic happens.
Jason: At least early, we all try to seek out that number one, like magically that will solve our problems, but it doesn’t, does it?
Chris: I have had better luck with number two. I don’t mean that in a, one’s better than two, just someone who’s already been there done that and is in that chair, versus the person…
Jason: Why do they want to do it again?
Chris: Yeah, exactly, and they’re very expensive. I think that’s a philosophy. You look at how the iPhone was built, that’s how they did that. They picked the number two people from different parts of the company and they brought it together.
Jason: That I did not know. Let’s talk a little bit about some fun stuff on business models we were chatting about backstage. Evernote’s a pretty inexpensive product. I think you’ve raised prices a little bit since you’ve joined, right?
Chris: I like to think so. [laughs]
Jason: It’s a great deal. What’s the latest pricing for non…?
Chris: It depends on the region, but 60 to 80 bucks a year.
Jason: 60 to 80 bucks a year?
Jason: It’s pretty cheap. You’re thinking about workflow and you’re also thinking about collaboration in teams. How does that drive up the end economics per company, per whatever? How do you do that? How are you thinking about that?
Chris: We’ve been looking at how you go from being this archive to a workspace, we talked about it, that means going from single player to multiplayer, it means being manual and static to being dynamic and assisted. All these things are powered by AI. We’ve got five billion notes that really are relevant by design, so we really have a good signal as to what people really want over time.
Really, we think the future is really in team collaboration. You heard from Michael and Trello I think they’ve done a fantastic job, but really that’s where so many of the…we talked about the forces that shaped the success of Evernote 1.0 and to get us where we are today, there’s a whole bunch of them, and this is a great example of the biggest one, SaaS. Low cost, high quality software.
If you think of the consumerization, the stuff like, we’re really good at design, we’re really good at consumerized experiences. Over 80 percent of our usage is in mobile, so by definition we’re a mobile platform.
All the distribution we talked about, all these things are shaping in the collaboration world and teams. It’s being shaped by these things, which are not small and not going away anytime soon. You’re seeing a multibillion dollar market grow at high double digit growth.
Jason: Do most Evernote customers and users think of it as a collaboration tool today, do you think?
Chris: They do not.
Jason: They do not. What’s the challenge, how are you going to make that happen?
Chris: We see signs. We see product market fit today. We have a product called Evernote Business. We have 20,000 teams in the world using it today. That’s an early step in this direction. It doesn’t fully deliver it…
Jason: Is that still a bit of an experiment or is there a huge go to market around that product, I just never know?
Chris: We’ve never fully unleashed go to market in a big way.
Jason: It hasn’t felt like it.
Chris: The awareness is low. Go to market muscle is not developed. We have less than five people charitably in doing AI account success today. That’s going to change, go to market muscle.
The product itself, we have to actually think fundamentally about the components of collaboration, from the capturing to the sharing. All these different things are underdeveloped in the product today.
You’ll start to see that. You’re already starting to see that come through in the product right now, where collaboration won’t be an afterthought. It will be actually a main event.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to try to own all parts. In fact, quite the opposite. We’re going to be really choiceful and intentional about where and when we play.
I like to say we’re going to own the beginning. The beginning of a project or an assignment or a product launch usually starts with an idea. We want to be that place where you’re actually capturing that idea to start.
We’ll play well with others in the workflow, whether that’s people like Slack or others who are going to collaborate in and around the content and ultimately deliver the end goal.
We think we’ll be choiceful. We are going to be choiceful about where we play in this market.
Jason: Let me ask you an itchy question related to that. You’ve got an iconic 10 year old platform that’s pre-mobile and then you’ve added mobile. You have ML and AI and you’re going to collaboration. What are your learnings on technical debt at Evernote and how do you deal with this?
People around here don’t realize it, but you’re accumulated massive amounts of…I’m assuming Evernote has, like all of us, when you come in, you’ve got to erase a lot of technical debt. Don’t you?
Chris: We do, so a couple things.
Jason: Probably eight years of technical debt.
Chris: And then some, yeah. We have technical debt, we have design debt, and then we just had…
Jason: I haven’t thought as much about design debt.
Chris: …running an infrastructure debt. We took care of that one in December of last year. We migrated our entire data center to Google’s Cloud in 80 days. It’s remarkable.
Jason: How big a team did you need to do it?
Chris: We had about 20 people working pretty much around the clock. Google pulled me aside at one point and said, “You’re kind of insane.” I’m like, “Yeah. I know it, but we got one of the world’s best CTOs and we pulled it off.” We eliminated a lot of the…
Jason: How long has CTO been with Evernote?
Chris: Six months.
Jason: You needed new DNA to pull that off potentially?
Jason: You brought in a new CTO. It takes this team. That solves infrastructure debt.
Chris: To be clear, I made that decision earlier on to say, “Hey, what business are we in? Are we in the business of operating data centers?” At our scale…
Jason: Hopefully, no one’s… [laughs] Very few people are in that business today.
Chris: Exactly. We wanted to make that. That’s one part. The design debt is precisely what you’re talking about. We are originally something for an end user, for one person, not meant to be collaborative.
All the metaphors in the design and all the things that guide the product are for end users, not for multiple players. We have that design debt…
Jason: The element of the experience is different, isn’t it? At least, subtly.
Chris: Yes, exactly. The last is tech debt. A lot of the progress we’ve made, it doesn’t look visible to the outside world until maybe two weeks ago. We launched a brand new iOS device and app.
It’s beautiful and it’s designed really, really well. It’s future proofed, but we worked off…70 percent of the code is new. We wrote it in Swift.
Jason: Is it the same team? Did you need a new team to reboot it?
Chris: New team completely. Seven out of the eight engineers were new.
Jason: This may be dated, but my friends that have been bought by Google, at least a few years ago, they would just, in many cases, throw away the code base and start from…That’s the luxury of Google, with that amount of horsepower, you can rebuild something. Forget about refactoring. You can almost restart, but there’s no way to Evernote. Now, it’s too late. You couldn’t even with 1,000 engineers.
Chris: We can’t do that.
Jason: The ship’s already sailed for all of us here.
Chris: We have to refactor and be thoughtful and smart about it. There’s an art to doing that but that’s where…
Jason: I’ve yet to see it played out perfectly. [laughs]
Chris: No, I haven’t either.
Jason: You can teach us some…. It’s hard, right? It is hard.
Chris: Anirban is special like our CTO. He’s really, really making a huge impact. I use the metaphor of an iceberg. A lot of the stuff is below the water until it pokes up.
Jason: Was that one of your three OKRs?
Chris: Quality, yes. Quality was one of them early on. We were measuring calls into the support. We’re looking at latency, we’re looking at crashes, we’re looking at all sorts of errors. We basically moved those down by 90 to 100 percent, almost every single one of them.
Jason: Everyone in the company was aligned around those three OKRs?
Jason: That’s good. I want to get a couple things before we run out of time, but just a fun thing as we’re talking about it. Let’s talk about a little bit of learnings for going global international.
Evernote, in their early days and I don’t know why. We can chat about it, was big in Japan. Today, it’s big in China, which I’m guessing only a handful of folks here from China. A few others are big in China.
What are learnings there? Is anything that folks can replicate from that?
Chris: Yeah, I think it starts with the mindset. I’ll tell you a story about relatively early days at Google with Eric Schmidt. He insisted on every single product that launched had to have a localization within 90 days in the top end markets, or else it wouldn’t get funded.
It was a bit of a forced blunt object, if you will, but it worked. People fought mentally, and I inherited that. We had a global mindset from the beginning. I think it helps when it’s started by Stepan, a Russian.
I’m Canadian. We have tons and tons of immigrants in the company. It’s wired in our DNA but it does start with the mindset. In the case of Japan, there’s a cultural connection to organization and being tidy and neat that has really lent itself nicely to our product. That and spending a lot of time on mobile devices.
DOCOMO was one of our early investors. Nike is also a strategic in our company. Having local partners who really did interesting things with distribution and activated us in crazy, awesome ways really helped.
China has some of that aspect, but it’s different altogether. We’ve localized down to Yinxiang Biji, which basically means elephant memory, Beijing. We have a separate brand, a separate service.
CBC, one of the biggest investors in China, is an investor at one of the…
Jason: Did they help you? China just seems like an impenetrable wall to those who are out there.
Chris: They absolutely have helped us. That’s my point. I think mindset, and then actually you have to be committed to it. You have to actually find partners locally, especially at our scale to really helping you move through.
You have to make it a priority, because we were talking about this. The Chinese product has to compete on the backlog with every other country. Very rarely do they actually get their top priority things in the market. We have to think through that as we go forward.
Jason: You were chatting, just because everyone’s going to struggle with this as you expand globally. We are talking about backstage but how do you staff it? A lot of folks love country managers. Do they have revenue targets?
Are they really just support? Do they get chips and product? Do they get a say in the road map? It’s hard to figure out what to do with this.
Chris: China’s separate. We have a separate team. The leader of our China operation reports directly to me. It’s that important to us. They have a small backlog, a small little dev team.
Primarily, that’s go to market as well as partnerships in China, and then government relations and all sorts of other fun things for the China market.
Japan and the rest of the world, more of a regional go to market model where you have a strong core of centralized functions, and then they’re activated into the region. That’s generally how we’re doing it.
We’ve invested heavily in those markets, in those regions things like Japan and our international headquarters over in Zurich. We have presence all over.
Jason: Even with 300 employees, it’s hard. Isn’t it?
Chris: It’s very hard, but I’d say it’s worth it. You look where the growth is coming from. It’s coming from international markets disproportionately today.
Jason: One last question I want to get before we run out of time. Evernote was an early unicorn raised a bajillion dollars. I don’t know. 200? You probably know the exact number to a significant digit.
Chris: I do.
Jason: I think you said we’re done raising. You may change your mind. We’re not holding you to it.
Chris: We’re done.
Jason: We’re done?
Chris: Yeah. We’ll fund the operations from the operations.
Jason: What are the Zen learnings? You come in from a company that had the luxury of a burning capital, right?
Jason: Probably both because of your own. Sometimes even out of necessity, you changed it. Is it a cultural change? How do you go from one environment to another?
Chris: Having courage is super important at all stages, especially when you’re dealing with a company that really caught lightning in a bottle and then tried to do too much. It took courage, because we got press articles that were not nice.
My job and everyone’s job is to tune out the noise.
Jason: Tune out the noise. It is hard.
Chris: The courage to make tough calls, especially on people, it’s going to happen where companies and businesses scale faster than humans can. It’s just the fact of nature almost.
Having the courage to make those calls and do it humanely and do it in a really good way that doesn’t take the humanity or subtract the contributions of the team but to really make that transition carefully.
I would say focus and discipline. You can’t have five things. I’m a big fan of you have three at any one time.
Jason: That’s my learning, three. It’s shrinking my OKRs to three.
Chris: Having discipline to not change course. If you’re solving a problem that matters in the world, I believe we do, and it’s growing in relevance or as opposed to shrinking, you have to have the courage and the focus and the discipline to stay the course and ride through all the noise.
All the people are going to throw stuff at you or just say, “Hey, you guys are the has beens and so forth.”
Jason: I’m still not very good at that.
Chris: It’s hard.
Jason: We claim we are CEOs but we see the tweets and the articles, don’t we?
Chris: Yeah. No, it’s hard.
Jason: They don’t hurt a little bit? They always hurt me.
Chris: It doesn’t mean it’s not hard.
Jason: You gotta tune it out.
Chris: You have to play for the greater good in a long haul. Those who do that, I think, are going to be rewarded with really, really powerful and great companies that serve global users everywhere.
Jason: Let’s thank Chris, everybody. This was great.
Chris: Thank you.
Jason: We really appreciate it.
Chris: Thank you.
Jason: Thanks, man. I really appreciate it. It’s good.
(Cross-posted @ SaaStr)