The older my daughter and the company gets, the more I realise there are so many similarities between a startup journey and the ���first-time� parent journey. I am in my fourth year for both now.pi
Every year on Australia Day, most Aussies spent their time with prawns, BBQ, lamb and beaching in the sun. Every year on that day, I reflect on the last twelve months, both personally and professionally. The older my daughter and the company gets, the more I realise there are so many similarities between a startup journey and the "first-time" parent journey. I am in my fourth year for both now.
"Your child is growing up. Have you noticed that your four-year-old is becoming more independent and self-confident? Most children this age begin to develop greater independence, self-control, and creativity. They are content to play with their toys for longer periods of time, are eager to try new things, and when they get frustrated, are better able to express their emotions."
It never ceases to amaze me; I am asked questions that seem so trivial to somebody growing up, but they're so complex for me, the adult, to answer sensibly: "Dad, how do our mouth and tongue allow us to speak?", "Why is it daylight in Australia and night in Belgium right now?". You suddenly realise they are much smarter and more curious than you thought. And then there's our startup, asking existential questions like "Why does Secure Code Warrior exist?", "How is what I am doing contributing to company success?", "What do we want to be when we grow up in five years?". Apart from investors and existing staff, a vast number of job applicants have really forced me to have solid answers for these type of questions.
"Our vision is to empower developers to be the first line of defense in their organization by making security highly visible and providing them with the skills and tools to write secure code from the beginning."
In the past twelve months, we've continued on this mission by more than tripling our staff, more than doubling our revenue, adding customers in twenty-one different countries and adding more than ten different programming frameworks to our Secure Code Warrior platform.
We all strive to do the right thing all the time - but sometimes mistakes are made and I need to feel comfortable allowing this. My four-year-old is a "free-spirited child", which I think is a euphemism for "a stubborn smarty-pants". But, even she realises that she is not always right and listening to others could be useful. I take the view that making a mistake shows that decisions are actually being made, and that's a good thing. It clearly demonstrates the independence and self-confidence I spoke about earlier. At work, I ask the ones who do not agree with my decisions, to support my decision and allow me to make mistakes. I guess it's better to regret something you have done, than to regret something you haven't done (quote shamelessly stolen from Orbital).
Since she could walk, I've been the dad encouraging her to climb up a 2m wall on the playground, turn around and jump off without a doubt. Going down head-first on the slide, taking her snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef before she could properly swim. Oh yeah ... I got quite a few evil looks from other parents and her mum ;-). I wasn't a big daredevil when I was young ... but once I started trusting my own instinct at twenty-five years old, I know pushing my own boundaries would make me go faster. I am sure she'll thank me when she is older.
As a startup CEO, I feel the same... coaching our team to take risks, push boundaries, break barriers and warp levels. "We can't possibly reach these targets!", "We need rules and policies, etc.". I've surrounded myself with both risk-taking and risk-averse people (you know who you are), and I think it's my job to consider their opinions... and then take a leap and trust my instincts.
I am sure the year ahead is going to be another rollercoaster. The first time reading and counting, the first time spending full days in school... and probably a lot more questions I can't answer. With Secure Code Warrior, we're going to break the barrier of 100 employees in the next few months, our first customers will have spent more than three years on our platform, and we'll be signing up our first customer in China.
I am sure there'll be many challenges ahead, but we're an awesome team, and we're ready for it.