Most entrepreneurs are familiar with losing sleep in order to run their companies. Jeremy Hitchcock’s lost sleep caused him to create a company. Messing around with remote access as a college student, which allowed him to print papers without stepping foot in the computer lab, saved him 20 minutes of his treasured sleep – and proved to be the genesis of Dyn, an Internet Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) leader.
The quest for sleep is only one quirky aspect of the story behind this startup that does serious business. Location: New Hampshire. Years in business before completing a Series A Round of $38M: 11. What exactly do they do? Well, a lot, but in terms that I can relate to, they make websites run faster, more reliably.
Dyn had focused on DNS services for a long time, but in 2010 they unveiled an email delivery service that has quickly added more than 15,000 users. This doesn’t mean the tech geeks are too sharp for live music or dramatic haircuts. (Check out the Facebook pics!) On the contrary, they’re probably powering the party. Jeremy Hitchcock, Founder and CEO, tells us more about Dyn’s winning company culture:
Why did you become an entrepreneur?
I have always liked to solve problems. As an entrepreneur, you have plenty of those. Plus, I have always had an unhealthy obsession with learning. When you’re running a startup, you get to try out a bunch of roles and skill sets – sales, accounting, engineering, marketing, heck, I’ve even fixed a broken printer. As your company grows and you hire talented people to fill many of those roles, a whole new set of challenges arise and you get to learn all over again.
What inspired your current startup?
A love of sleep. When I was in college, I had a lot of early morning classes. I didn’t like this so I started playing around with remote access. Being able to directly access my dorm computer enabled me to print off my papers from my classroom, and thereby avoid the computer lab… and get an extra 20 minutes of sleep.
This project ultimately evolved into Dyn, which now powers Managed DNS, Traffic Management, Email Delivery & Email Reporting for more than four million enterprise, small business and personal users.
Twenty minutes of sleep might not seem like a lot, but it was enough to motivate me to start a business.
What makes your startup so killer? How is it different from the competition?
Dyn is sort of like a Griffin – we’re kind of a hybrid. Technically, we don’t really fit in the startup community because we’ve been around since 2001. But, a lot of startups look to us as a success story – a bit of an older brother – because we successfully bootstrapped until 2012 when we took our first round of outside funding. Yet, many of our competitors are large, publicly traded companies who look at us as if we’re a startup. That’s fine by us. We’ve embraced the role and love the startup vibe. This has helped us relate to a lot of potential customers.
Also we have a lot of indirect competition, which makes us think about the macrosystem and about adding value more than stealing from others.
How do you motivate yourself and your team?
For me this goes hand-in-hand. To motivate myself, I surround myself with the best and the brightest. Knowing these people will challenge me every day and bring tons of ideas to the table means that I always have to bring my A game. That is incredibly motivating. To motivate them, I empower them to make decisions. Once they feel like they have ownership over their jobs and a voice in the company, they are motivated to speak up and help lead. It is a pretty nice situation.
If the Internet didn’t exist, what would you be doing?
Professional jazz trombonist or a charter pilot.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are struggling to get their businesses off the ground?
Try to build a company, not just a product or feature. We all know features are exciting and fun. However, having too many features without understanding how they fit into your company strategy means you’re at risk of stretching yourself too thin and watering down your brand.
It is easy for this to happen. It takes a lot of discipline to be the best at one thing when it is so much less risky to just try to appeal to everyone. However, you can always build a successful company around being the best.
What has been the biggest startup surprise for you (good or bad)?
What has been surprising is how there has been this blurring between the truth and the legend. For example, it often gets repeated that we started Dyn in a dorm room. Sure we started it in college, but not in a dorm room. Yet that is what is always said. I am not sure where it came from nor how it continues to flourish.
How do you handle frustration or disappointment?
I try to keep everything in perspective. While I face a lot of problems and challenges on a daily basis, they are all first-world problems. I want more than anything for Dyn to be the best provider of Internet Infrastructure on the web. But I also know that my worst day is still very lucky.
What are the top 3 online tools / websites / devices that you couldn’t live without?
If you had $1 million and one year off, what would you do? (Other than work on your current startup)
Definitely something in the education space. I’d love to have a greater impact promoting the importance of STEM education.
How do you maintain work / life balance?
I love what I do, so it doesn’t feel like I’m working at all.
Who would play you in the movie of your life, and what would be the theme song?
I would hope it would be Clooney in Ocean’s 11. He always has the answers ahead of time, but he’s probably making it up and terrified that the stack of cards will tumble at anytime.
Loved the theme of Sneakers.
How has being an entrepreneur changed you for the better? How has it enriched your life?
Being an entrepreneur is incredibly challenging, however, I think those challenges have made me a better man. I have also been blessed. Dyn has been very successful, and as such, I’ve been given a great platform to give back. We’ve tried to do that by creating DynCares, which is our philanthropic arm. Through that we’ve funded a lot of great non-profit organizations. Helping to improve my community is a very enriching experience.
What is the tech scene like where you live?
When I graduate college, everyone told me that Silicon Valley is where successful companies go. Instead, I decided to return home to New Hampshire. People were shocked. There was no tech scene there they said. I didn’t care. I knew I could help build one. Fast forward ten years and New Hampshire is thriving. Organizations like the abi Innovation Hub and the New Hampshire High Tech Council are discovering and encouraging tons of entrepreneurs and startups. We also benefit from having great proximity to Boston. It is a very exciting thing to be a part of.
Where can our readers find you?
How can the KillerStartups community help YOU?
Say hello and take a look around our website, Dyn.com. We may be able to provide a service you need.
One last thing, what’s your favorite adult beverage?
It’s summertime, so a gimlet.