Characteristics of High Performance Teams with Jake Seid

Jake Seid, Co-Founder and General Partner of Ballistic Ventures, in conversation with Evan Reiser, Co-Founder and CEO at Abnormal Security.

Jake Seid and Evan Reiser talk about the characteristics they have seen in high performance teams across their careers. The format is a casual, authentic conversation, followed by a Q&A with the audience. This Fireside Chat was recorded live on December 6, 2021.

[00:00:00] Luke Reiser: So hi everyone. Uh, I'm Luke and I help organize these fireside chats, which are hosted by a program called abnormal business school. And for some brief context, abnormal business school is a series of programs at abnormal, uh, which are designed to motivate, educate, and inspire the next generation of business leaders here at I've Marmol.

That's all you guys. And, uh, this fireside chat program is a recurring series where we have guests, uh, amazing guests, uh, who we kind of invite to come and share their knowledge about entrepreneurship and leadership, uh, specifically in enterprise software. Patient with our guests and our hosts followed by an audience Q and a.

So if you have any questions, uh, we'll post a Slido link, uh, in a few minutes and you'll be able to just submit them and Jake and Evan will get to your answers at the end. So for today's event, I'm super excited to announce, uh, our guests, uh, Jake seed, who is the co-founder at ballistic ventures, a cybersecurity focused venture capital fund that he just launched at this week.

So that's what Evan and Jake were talking about. There, it's a, obviously been a very busy week for Jake, uh, but in the past, some of his notable investments include, uh, abnormal security bird, Brex data robot, uh, Drogheda and open door. And prior to joining, uh, Stonebridge where he was at before ballistic, he was the managing director at Lightspeed ventures, where he was part of the first wave of mobile industry.

He also served as president and on the advisory board of and 10 X, one of the leading national real estate online marketplaces. Uh, so without further ado, let's, uh, let Evan and Jake take it away for today's fireside chat. 

[00:01:54] Evan Reiser: Awesome. Thanks, Luke. And, uh, do you want to like, uh, maybe close the slides?

You can put me in me and Jacob on the screen. Absolutely. Jake. Um, first of all, thank you so much for joining us. Um, w I've every time we chat over the last couple of years, I've always enjoyed the conversation. So really excited for you to share some of your thoughts of wisdom and experience to the rest of the team.

Um, you know, really what we want to talk about today is, um, the theme was really around, you know, how, you know, what do, what do high-performance teams look like? Um, but before we kind of dive into that, I feel like we'd be super remiss to not, not have, maybe have you shared a little bit about kinda your, your, your kind of personal journey and your history, right.

Um, you started off as an engineer at MIT, you went to product management, you went to venture capital, right. You then went as like a kind of angel independent venture, you know, venture capitalists, and now you're kind of doing it again. So maybe you can just like, share a little bit about that, that history.

Right. And, um, I know in the past we've talked about just. The power of serendipity and how it's influenced your, your career without for you to just, you know, share that story real quick with the team for concept. 

[00:02:57] Jake Seid: Yeah. Yeah. Um, you know, uh, I, it's funny, you know, um, I feel like I've had a very, uh, you know, non-traditional career path.

Um, and like you said, it really has been heavily influenced by serendipity. In fact, you know, when I was graduating from MIT, um, I was a class 98 from my master's program. And, uh, you know, I knew I loved technology, but I didn't want to be an engineer day-to-day because I also loved thinking about how do you bring that product to market?

Um, in addition to the technology, you know, how do you sell it? How do you, how do you get into people's hands? Uh, how do you evolve. And, uh, so you know, all the product management jobs went to the MBAs. Right. You know, and, and nobody was recruiting at the engineering school for product managers. And, uh, I, uh, was interviewing with this group, um, uh, called media one.

They provided broadband in Boston, and this was in the late nineties. That was actually a new thing. Right. Broadband was this thing that was just starting to happen to replace, dial up and, um, uh, turned out the group, then left media one, didn't hear a peep from them. I was about to join this company that, that some of you may, may have heard of in Austin called trilogy software, which was this high profile, you know, guns, ablazing software company, uh, in Austin, like, oh, let me talk to those media one folks, just one more time before I make the decision.

And they were like, Hey, we we've just Cisco. We're going to start this new business unit to actually make broadband. Accessible by all the cable companies, we're going to create this new standard and, uh, want you to join us as Cisco. And I thought, you know, again, what, what, what do I value in, in, in, in my career as, you know, using technology to have a big impact.

And, um, I thought, man, this is so aligned because I think broadband will be like taking the country from dirt roads to five lanes, super highways. It turned out it broadband was a good idea. We went from zero to a billion run rate in two years, uh, at Cisco fastest at a billion of any business unit, uh, in their history from what I was.

But yeah, it happened just serendipitously with, with that team moving from media one to Cisco and, uh, same thing, you know, uh, going to Lightspeed. Um, I got invited to a, an MIT alumni dinner, um, at the very end of there literally it's midnight. I was saying bye to somebody, that person was talking to one of the founding partners at Lightspeed.

In fact, it wasn't even called Lightspeed. It was called Weiss Peck and Greer venture partners. A month later, I got a call saying, do you want to join Weiss, Peck and Greer? And I was like, well, I'll do this for two years. Two years turned into 11. And you know, we launched, um, three months after I joined relaunched the new brand, a new firm is Lightspeed.

So I had a chance to be part of, you know, as the youngest person on the team that launched Lightspeed as a 24 year old back then. Um, so, so yeah, I really feel fortunate about serendipity and I would say, you know, kind of the, the advice to the people watching this is. Serendipity is going to happen a lot in your careers and your lives.

The question will be whether you have the courage to act on those things. And, uh, you know, there's always, you know, risks when deciding to do something new. There's always risk when, um, you know, kind of, uh, calling the serendipity option and taking that certain equity option. Um, and so, uh, it, it really, that is the bigger question for people as they go through their careers is when that great thing happens or when you have an opportunity to do something great.

Do you act, or, or not? 

[00:06:50] Evan Reiser: And Jake, I have to imagine, like at the time may, I'm just like projecting for my own personal experience here, but I have to imagine the time, right. When you were, you know, you're, you'd studied engineering and you're like, Hey, I'm going to go join this company that owns our vertical Cisco as a product manager, you must have friends and family are like, that sounds kind of crazy.

Right? Like, you know, how do you, I guess, how did you, uh, how'd you kind of build up some of that courage, right. To like, you know, kind of step up and try something that was 

[00:07:18] Jake Seid: new. Yeah. You know, I've always kind of had an approach. Um, a couple step approach. One is, you know, really being honest with myself about my value.

And not being honest with myself, but being explicit, like, you know, almost like just write them down and then really ask, you know, do I want to do something because they're aligned with my values? Um, or am I wanting to do something for other reasons? And you know, there's a lot of times that we do or don't do things for the wrong reasons.

Right. And, and I would put wrong reasons as, you know, family pressure or prestige or, you know, even some cases, you know, we think we'll make more money at one place. You know, again, you know, if something really tightly aligns with your values, you know, that becomes the right reason to, to jump. And then if it works or doesn't work, it's less the issue.

And the, the, the, the better thing is you did something that aligns with your values and the journey will be rewarded. But it's so easy to do things for the wrong reasons, another wrong reason that that people make decisions is fear of failure. Right. And you know, this is something that, you know, especially people very successful, right?

You, you go to top schools, you work at top companies, you know, everything is up and to the right and, you know, doing or not doing something because you fear you're going to fail, becomes something that can creep in to decision-making because you know, people have been in on this, you know, I've been successful right.

Over a lot of different shots. And so if you consciously pull that up to the surface and say, okay, I feel like I don't want to do this because of fear of failure. Then you can make the decision eyes wide open, um, versus these kind of wrong reasons, which we don't want to admit to ourselves. Driving decisions, you know, that's the worst thing, right?

If they're, if they're influencing you, but subconsciously, you know, let them influence you, but bring it up to the surface and then you could ask, Hey, do I really want it to, to, to truly influence me or not? But I look at it eyes wide open. Um, you know, the other thing that, you know, a lot of folks, you know, me included, right.

I, I, I graduated high school when I was 16. So, you know, finished everything early, you know, as, as imposter syndrome, right. That creeps in. I'm like, Hey, I'm getting these big roles, but you know, it's not like everybody else is much older or, you know, I didn't kind of earn my way, you know, the, the hard way into it.

Um, you know, you, you feel like that imposter syndrome, am I good enough? Can I really do it? And so. Again, bringing that to the surface. So you can address it consciously versus these things. Festering unconsciously, I think are all keys to having confidence to then make those jumps, make those trade-offs and then you make it eyes wide open.

Yeah. This is what it aligns with. You know, this is why I'm afraid, but, um, I, I consciously see those are wrong reasons to be afraid. Okay. I'm going to make the decision. 

[00:10:46] Evan Reiser: And Jim will be talking to the past. You've kind of used this phrase to kind of describe this concept. Right. I think you said something around the lines of like opportunity, but gets more opportunity.

Right. And I I've seen, like, you know, just, you know, we've only known each other for a couple of years, but I've seen you kind of applies even in your, your work today, right after you got the, at the top of the kind of, you know, success. Right. And I think when we first started, when we first met, right. I think you, um, you said, Hey Evan, I know you're not really looking for investors right now, but like, Hey, let's let's can we talk?

And we can brainstorm about like the market and kind of share, you know, some best practice I've seen at other companies. Right. And, um, You know, I think for both of us, right. Kind of those, those kind of early opportunities to get more opportunities. Right. And then you invest there small amounts around the company.

We of, you know, that created more opportunities for us to connect more often, rather than the benefits are bigger amounts. Right. Um, and, um, you know, I guess like, so, so I can see that you, you, you still apply that kind of concept today. Um, I guess my question for you is, um, you think about like someone at admirals creates a day, right?

How did, how did they apply that? Right. You know, not, not everyone right. Probably wants to, or probably should, you know, go jump off and do something kind of totally crazy. But like, what about like in, in kind of the rural, like what, or like what type of opportunities are there right. And companies I got normal and like, what would be your advice for people, especially that aren't maybe early in their career they're looking for, Hey, how do I get on kind of like, how do I kind of, you know, change?

How do I use that room was opposite. The changed my career trajectory. 

[00:12:16] Jake Seid: Yeah. You know, T to me, and the way I think about it, I will. Not say if I was abnormal today, I would not say what opportunities are there at abnormal? I would say, what opportunities can I create that can be transformative for abnormal?

Cause if I drive something that becomes transformative, that's going to be a win-win that's going to help the company. It'll help me in my career. And, and I think that really is the key not to look for what's there, you know? So I feel like, sounds like a fortune cookie don't look for what is there, but look for what could be there.

Right. Um, you know, this idea that each person can really, if they, if they didn't constrain themselves, right. And this is a thing right. Where we all constrain ourselves, um, you know, I think there was a great point. You know, from Marc Andreessen saying, you know how Elon Musk is always teaching him that he doesn't think big enough and you think, okay, you know, Marc Andreessen thinks pretty big, you know, but even he's saying like, I'm not thinking big enough, you know, for all of us.

And we, we took money from Google, uh, for my last company and the investor who invested was close to the founder. And, you know, we were at 300 million in revenue said, yeah, we want to grow 10 X. And, and, you know, with all 3 billion of revenue, that'd be pretty good. He's like, why not a hundred X? And it's like, he said, let me share something with you.

You know, he said like the, you know, the founder of Google, you know, many years ago, asked them to build Google, to support a million employees. Right? Th th the things that he throws out as a founder are a hundred. You know, levels of scale, not tenants. Um, and this goes back to, you know, a story that I had heard when, when they'd pitched John Doerr, John Doerr said, well, how big do you think Google can 

[00:14:23] Evan Reiser: be?

And for context, I, John Doris, the kind of famous investor from, uh, the 

[00:14:28] Jake Seid: best of Google early on. Yeah. Yeah. And, uh, he invested in Amazon, he invested in Google, you know, uh, one of the incredible investors of our time, he's Google founders said, we think this could be a $10 billion company. And this is in 1999.

You know, when startups, you know, weren't valued at 10 billion in their series C right. This was a big deal. So was like, wow, 10 billion market cap. That's pretty impressive. And they said, no, no, no. We're thinking 10 billion of revenue, you know? So this goes back to your question, Evan, which is, you know, if I was out of normal today, I just won't look.

You know, what opportunities are, are the opportunity at a company like abnormal is to say, let me unconstrained my thinking and where can I have transformative impact? And, you know, for folks that are talented, you have a shot on goal to do that. And I would argue, even if your shot on goal fails, you still want, you've still created something, you know, that had a chance to be something meaningful and you know what, then you'll take your next shot.

And ultimately one of these shots will work and nobody will remember any of the shots that didn't, they'll just remember the one shot that was transformative. 

[00:15:48] Evan Reiser: That makes sense. I think this concept of like making sure you're not accidentally. Constraining yourself, right. Is really important. I think the mistake that I see, probably I make some times that conflate, I conflate the imaginary constraints with the practical constraints.

Right. And the magistrates can be very self-limiting. Right. And, but also like being clear what the project constraints are right. Is really important. Right. If I want to be an entrepreneur and I want to go pitch you Jake, on the next cyber security thing, like an imagine of constraints, like I couldn't do that because like, I don't know how to be an entrepreneur.

Right. That is a fake constraint where that you're making outbreaks projected. Right. You may say there's a prime cost rate. Like I need to learn more about X, Y, and Z. And I think once you identify what those, those things are, right. Then you can build a plan to actually go, you know, go get there. Um, and so I guess, like, you know, any, um, maybe kind of go to the next topic, but before I do like any, any other advice, you know, you have for, you know, for folks, folks that are normal, right.

That are trying to, you know, um, I feel like, you know, seize the opportunity and really make sure that they're making the most of their careers that. 

[00:16:53] Jake Seid: Yeah. You know, in my experience, you know, when you want to do something big and transformative, you need to have a vision. And, you know, some people feel like, well, you know, to have a vision, it has to be mine.

I need to hold onto it. And I would say, you know, for a lot of people who are early in their career, you have to have the hundred and 80 degree opposite view, which is your vision will be successful if it becomes other people's vision as well. And so thinking about, you know, for these big transformative things that you want to do, you know, the empower the power of letting.

The power of, um, you know, making sure that this is not just your baby, but if it becomes other people's babies as well, then your vision is going to be much larger and have much more impact. And, and sometimes that's counterintuitive, um, you know, to, uh, to a lot of folks that they think, ah, it's gotta be mine, mine, mine, and that doesn't lead to the biggest outcomes.

[00:18:01] Evan Reiser: I think that's true for like the product, product, vision, and company vision, but it's also true for people's like personal vision, right? I think the more you, you know, if you said, Hey, I want to go do X in the future. Right? The more you can kind of share that with people, right? You can now have allies and advocates that can help you, you know, go achieve that.

Right. I think that to do anything great as an individual or as a team, right. Requires, you know, kind of the understanding of what could that, that joint 

[00:18:25] Jake Seid: vision is and, and realize that, you know, you take the, the most famous, you know, an 11. Elon Musk had allies and advocates. Right. You know, he didn't just say, Hey, I'm Elon Musk.

You know, maybe he does that today. After 30 years of doing it, you know that now he could just say, Hey, I mean, Elon Musk, but you know, everybody, everybody does it. And I would argue even, you know, the, the Elon Musk's of the world. Right. I mean, you know, I I've, I've been to Davos probably six times. So I, you know, have talked to a lot of folks of that elk and they rely on advocates.

They rely on allies. Um, and so they rely on other people sharing their vision and helping them champion their vision. And so, you know, it, it happens at every level and that's something that, you know, is a good thing. When other people, when your vision becomes other people's. 

[00:19:24] Evan Reiser: So Jake, maybe these kind of shifting gears.

Right. Um, you know, as, as Luke mentioned earlier, right. You just launched a, you know, a new venture capital fund. Right. You're going to be very focused on cybersecurity. Um, it's after COVID like, almost like the third chapter in your career as a professional investor. Right. Uh, maybe forthright depending how you account, um, do you want to talk about like, you know, what are some of the, you know, part of your job for the last two decades has been to kind of like evaluate and assess, you know, technologies, companies and teams.

Right. You want to talk about like where some of the, you know, what's kind of your framework, right. For assessing, you know, promising companies. Right. And like, w what do you kind of look at when you're looking for, like the next, you know, the next, you know, choose your favorite Silicon valley, 

[00:20:10] Jake Seid: you, you know, on, on, in terms of founding teams, I think, you know, there, there's kind of a.

Uh, you know, uh, a DNA that could either be in one person or a couple people that come together. And what you really need is, is a strong marriage of deep technical insight with a desire, a hunger, for understanding the customer, understanding the market, understanding how you go to market. And sometimes it's, it's two different folks that, that weave together.

Sometimes, you know, you, you have somebody who's, who's incredibly deep technically, but has always had this passion, hunger for understanding customers, markets, and how you get there. So, so, so that's, you know, part of the team, the other part, you know, again goes back to this idea of thinking big, you know, for, for some folks, um, you know, big as a billion dollar company, right?

For others, it's a $50 billion company and they'll look you in the eyes and say, You know yeah. If somebody offered me 50 billion, I would not sell. Right. And that goes back to kind of the example of the founders of Google. You know, this should be a $10 billion company, mark cap, no revenue company. And so that's so unusual.

Right? That's so unusual because you know, we're, we're, we're taught, you know, some ways not to be audacious, right. Especially if you come from engineering, the challenge with, you know, as an engineer, you know, we're, we're taught to be very like, you know, intellectual. Honest, intellectually honest, right?

Because you either get the prom, right. Or you don't get the problem. Right. It's not like, you know, being a social studies major where you get, you know, top fluff, right. It's either, there's a right answer. There's a wrong answer. And you know, and so forces you into this intellectual honesty of like, I really know, I really don't know.

Um, and the most successful engineers and people come through technical route, you know, you, you start to constrain your thinking. If you don't know, and you have to separate that from the ability to really be audacious, like, yes, you know, I don't know how many get there, but I know I'm going to build a 50 billion market cap company.

This is what I'm going to do, even though there's no intellectually rigorous way for you to solve and give somebody an answer to. And to separate how we were trained to solve technical problems from how you need to think to build special companies, I think is, is something I try to look for in people who, who, who seem to have that, who seem to figure that out then in terms of the market, of course, you know, looking for products.

You know, have I think the best products take an orthogonal approach. They, they fundamentally are everything that the incumbent is not right. You know, great example is Salesforce was everything. Siebel was not, it was just an orthogonal architecture. You are everything proof point is not, it was just an orthogonal architecture, right?

It's not, we're going to add features to proof point and make it a little better. It was, there's a fundamentally new architectural approach. And, and so when you think about architectural orthogonality, that creates room for extreme differentiation, especially in markets that you believe are very, very large in size.

You know, another company that I funded in the security space is called skiff. And so if you think about, you know, how Google workspace and Google docs, how they were built, right. They were built over last 15 years in a world where privacy was second. Well, what if you wanted to rethink the internet from a privacy first world?

Well, for Google docs to reencrypt or to encrypt a gazillion petabytes of data and distribute a billion keys, that's never going to happen versus an opportunity for a startup to start day one, you know, with end-to-end encryption, you know, and you know, you have keys. All your documents are secure. Privacy is first.

And so I think the internet. It's going to be reinvented over the next decade from a privacy per first perspective. So huge opportunity or thoughtful architecture. And so those would be some examples team market. Um, how I think about things. Okay. And Jake 

[00:25:00] Evan Reiser: maybe is talking more about kind of like the people that there's, you know, many people join abnormal security, um, with the, the ambition, right.

To, you know, learn as much as possible, you know, while they're here to help to prepare them to be a great entrepreneur, the future. So, you know, and so, uh, you know, hopefully right. If, if, if the company does well and we kind of keep learning, growing together, right. Many people, right. Maybe from this car are going to be calling you right.

In, uh, you know, two years. And I guess like any, um, you know, I guess like, what do you, you know, what do you look for, right. For, you know, someone that's not a experienced entrepreneur. Right. Um, you know, what are some of the qualities that you look for in those, in those kinds of new 

[00:25:39] Jake Seid: founders? Yeah. Well, you know, I mentioned a couple of the things earlier, but you know, I guess this ties back to what I said about what, what can people be doing at abnormal today and that's have extreme impact, right?

There's so many people at so many great companies that we're along for the ride, right? We all know those folks, you know, they, they, they, they have this fantastic career by hopping on, you know, each brand named company. It does. Well, they hop to the next brand name company does well, but, but finding people who really were the people who made it happen, you know, and especially within successful companies, right.

That's our job as investors to tease that out, you know, w D did you actually. Do something at a normal that was special or were you along for the ride? And so, you know, the very tangible thing is do something special. Um, and don't constrain yourself and look around the office or the zoom room and, uh, see who do you want to be on that journey with?

Because these things don't happen alone. And you know, if special people get together with other special people and go for a big swing to have impact, I guarantee you amazing things will happen. And then when you want to start your own company, everybody's going to say, wow, you made that happen at a normal, wow.

How can we give you money? Because you're the type of person who, who, who drives special results. And if you do that and it doesn't happen. Great. Try again. That's the beauty of it, right? You're in this safe environment where you can take shots on goal to have great impact. And oh, by the way, if, if you think big and set your bar here instead of here, but you, you achieve this well, that's still better than achieving kind of lower ambitions, lower goals, right.

Even if you fail in the high ambition in your, your shorter that you've done something hopefully meaningful still. So that, that would be my view. 

[00:27:44] Evan Reiser: That's great feedback take. Um, so you've, you've had like, you're, you're kind of a, a rare person, right? Where, you know, you've been a, uh, you know, a junior icy product manager, right.

You've been, you've led a venture capital firm, right. You've also been an executive, right. You've managed, you know, a, uh, you know, a large organization, right. Hundreds or thousands of people. And so, you know, like maybe kind of, you know, thinking about it from that lens, right. As an executive, right. When you think about, you know, the, the high-performance teams that you've worked with, what are some of the characteristics you see where some of the cultural qualities, right.

That, you know, help you identify or reinforce, you know, some of the, uh, the highest performance teams, 

[00:28:29] Jake Seid: you know, um, gosh, you know, there there's there there's, there's a lot of, uh, things that ultimately make a team perform while, you know, of course. You know, clear alignment, you know, it's, it's easier said than done in a virtual world, right.

In a, in a world where people aren't around the water cooler. Right. So I, I would bring that back up right. As, Hey, maybe it was obvious, you know, when we're all around the waterfall, but when you're not around the water cooler, you know, how do you create alignment around what needs to be done now, but also the longer term vision and direction, um, communication also, you know, very, very different in a virtual world than, uh, than when everybody's around the water cooler.

And of course there's a lot of tools that help us these days. But, you know, communication is not just about what you need to say, but it's about, you know, how do you, how do you pull issues again? I'm, I'm a big fan of, you know, people naturally, you know, don't want to touch on thorny subjects versus, Hey, if there's an issue, how do you bring it to the surface and talk about it, right.

And not turn it into a political battle, not turned into an ego battle, but turned it into a shared quest for truth, right? A shared quest for alignment direction, a shared quest for transparency. Right. And, and, and that's easier said than done, you know, um, because. Things can happen and takes, takes work to bring it up, takes work, to talk through issues.

Um, but you know, that work is an important investment and, and also, you know, kind of aligned with all that is, is culture, right? You know, culture happens not by what we say, but what we do of course. And, um, you know, some cultures can become quite negative. You could have performing teams in the short term, but, you know, I, I believe if there's a negative culture, then the, the, the true opportunity will be wasted because ultimately the best people, once there's a hiccup, once there's a bump in the road, they're going to be gone versus the other way around, you know, when you have a strong culture and a positive culture and a transparent culture, Once there's a bump in the road.

People will double down because it's a special culture. They want to be a part of. And they're always going to remember that experiences a special time in their life. So, you know, those are some of the things I know, you know, I feel like I'm talking about motherhood and apple pie. Um, but you know, that that's, that's the reality of, of, you know, how you think about teams is there kind of are motherhood and apple pie concepts, but you know, do people walk that walk, right?

You know, do people actually do the hard things that you need to do to, to, to kind of have the motherhood and have the apple pie, you know, usually not. And, and in fact, in the remote environment, it's that much harder because you don't have the context of, you know, emotion, voice presence, a lot of little things that, you know, help us, you know, have context and team-building and team discussion.

[00:31:49] Evan Reiser: And so Jake, one of the things you just talked about was kind of the, the importance of like teams be able to kind of like work through challenges together. Right. And intellectually honest and collaborative way, you know, is there like, I guess, what, what led you to that belief? Right. Was there an experience you had that, you know, we saw that work really well or really work not well.

Right. Um, many of your kind of phase of your career, but like what, I guess, what informed you about that 

[00:32:13] Jake Seid: belief? Yeah. It's just, you know, it's really, you know, over, over my career. Right. You know, we, we've all seen many different organizations, many different teams and, and, you know, I guess that those concepts are kind of what I distilled.

What what's made the best performing teams and, you know, the, the, the kind of other part of that right, is, you know, teams kind of learn to work together. It is like a simple concept of assuming positive intent, right. You know, cause many times as we're doing things, you know, we don't know motivations of people and what I've found again over, you know, course of a career and, uh, you know, being in many different organizations is it's easy to assume negative intent.

Um, if there's something that you don't like that happens and being able to take a step back and saying, well, let me start by assuming positive intent, understand the situation better. You know, it creates right, the right culture, a stronger team, dynamic, higher performance. And so, you know, I think about it like even back to, you know, uh, you know, MIT, you know, was very fraternity.

Uh, for the man, cause we didn't have a lot of housing there. So we, you know, most people lived in, you know, fraternities of 50, 60 people, even thinking back to those days, right about how teams worked and you know, all the way through, you know, to today you see the same patterns come up. Just people are people, groups of people or groups of people.

And so, you know, I guess, you know, it comes down to, there are these motherhood and apple pie things, but it's easier said than done and taking a step back and seeing, are you really doing those hard things to create that kind of team environment to create a high performing team? I think is a question each person should ask themselves and feel like it's their responsibility.

Don't look to other people to say, oh, well, they shouldn't be doing this. They should be doing that. You know? Think about it as what personal responsibility can I take in helping drive this? 

[00:34:31] Evan Reiser: Yeah. And that w that really resonates with me, Jake. Um, I think like, um, and I have much less experience than you, but I think like in all kinds of partnerships, right?

Whether it's a CEO to a board or a manager to, you know, an employee or to two people across a team, a lot of success just comes down to like really understanding and communicating and talking about like expectations and how, you know, how do we work together to solve whatever the problem is. And it seems like the best teams that I've been a part of right.

Are really good at kind of talking about that. Right. They're not just talking about the work we're talking about, Hey, how do we work together? How do we be effective in that partnership and getting really explicit about what that means so that they can work well 

[00:35:11] Jake Seid: together. And also understanding that team breakdown, a team breakdown is part of a natural process.

Have a high-performing team that, that, you know, teams just don't go up into the right. Right. Hey, we get together, you know, we do all these things. Boom. We're a high-performing team zero to 60 in two seconds. Right. You know, total opposite to the right. You know, it's going to be like, Hey, you get together.

There's gonna be a honeymoon period. And then stuff's going to happen. And then there's going to be issues. And then there's going to be some breakdown. And it, and, and it's, you know, th th the, the surprise is not that teams break down the teams have conflict. The, the, the surprise where the opportunity is, how do you resolve that?

Because teams will break down. Teams will have conflict and the opportunity, you know, and, and this is an area again, where, where people can really build their skills and leadership, build their skills in being an entrepreneur is how do you recognize that? How do you identify it early? And how do you help teams get back on track and not be surprised.

That a team broke down or have conflict because guess what? That happens all the time. Right? That's a natural part of the evolution. And especially when, what you're growing and you're growing very fast. Yeah. What was the team? Yesterday is not a team tomorrow is not going to be a team in 20, 22. It's all changing.

Right? And so the challenge is just as you figure out how to get a team performing in 2021, well, that's all changed in 2022 and you got to do it over again and not being surprised by that, but realizing, Hey, that's, that's actually how startups work. That's actually how a high-growth company works is you expect that you're going to have a window where you're in the honeymoon period.

You're going to have a window where things are going to break down, you know, great, great team members will show personal leadership, get the team back on track. That will last for a short period of time because the company is going to go through another phase of growth teams are going to change. Teams are going to grow, and you're going to go through that process again.

And if you think about it as that's, you know, the, the natural flow of events, then people won't feel frustrated or surprised that, you know, Hey, these things are happening. They'll focus on. Yeah. Let's quickly get to the point where we address these issues, recognize these issues, get back together. And, and beyond that, you know, kind of the high-performing part of the curve for as long as we can, until we need to do the next thing.


[00:37:48] Evan Reiser: th that makes sense. And like I said, I think it's particularly true when companies and teams are growing so quickly, right. It's not a one-time setup, right. It's a ongoing optimization. Right. And really requires everyone in that team to be actively contributing, to figure out like, how do we work together?

Because when the environment's changing. What worked for you yesterday when I worked till tomorrow. Right? Which, uh, I think everyone has called has, has seen and felt that 

[00:38:12] Jake Seid: normal well, and, and, and to, to love that because it means the company's growing fast, right? The company's growing fast, things are breaking.

And then there's people who are thoughtful about how to fix that. You know, not a reason for frustration, just the opposite, right? Because if you weren't growing fast, your equity value wouldn't be increasing. Right? And so this is how you create substantial equity value is by creating, breaking, fixing, creating, breaking, fixing, and that's a natural part that's going to happen that happens over and over.

And you can't, you know, relax and say, ah, the fixing part's done. It's all fixed. You know, that means you're not growing. Right. If it's fixed, you're not growing. If it's, if it's not breaking, you're not. I remember, you know, we, so I mentioned, you know, we were in the, in the cable business, so who was our partners?

Little started pub Broadcom. Right. They have this idea for a cable modem chip set. I remember like, it was, it was challenging working with them. Things were late, you know, things were not as exciting. It's because they were growing so fast. They have so much opportunity. Wheels are coming off the cart.

Right. But, you know, they built Broadcom. And so, you know, same thing, you know, at Cisco, right. You know, the wheels are coming off the car when you're going from zero to a billion in two years, you know, you, you, you know, when we're actually manufacturing, you know, hardware that we had, uh, you know, build and ship.

And so these natural breaking points just happen. And if the breaking points are happening because you're growing so fast, you should share that and share that, you know, you, you have the, also the insight to then say, okay, you know, we're going to exert personal leadership to, to get it back on track and not worry if it breaks again, when you take the next 10 X of growth, that, that, again, this is all good stuff.

And that's like a lot of that. You're 

[00:40:12] Evan Reiser: gonna have to say this question for another time, but, um, I can't imagine the zero to 1 billion in two years. Right. You know, we did 5 million in the first two years of our business. Right. I just can't imagine growing, was it 20 X faster? Right. Like that's just seems a little insane.

Um, but it does happen. Um, well, Jake, uh, so we'd love to kind of switch to Q and a, I don't see a lot of questions though, in the Slido. So once you guys kind of go in there, ask some stuff and Jake, maybe in the meantime, we'll people are kind of adding some stuff and uploading stuff. I'll maybe just ask you kind of one or two more questions.

I think the one that might be interesting for folks is, um, there's, there's no shortage of investors that are very excited about abnormal. Right. And it's easily more exciting. So a lot more evidence about what the opportunity is and what the success has been and you know, where the, where the team would go in the future.

However, like two years ago, right. There was not as much evidence there. Right. And it was more, you know, ID ideas and hopes and dreams. Right. Obviously even two years ago. Right. We'd done really well, but we're still a very small company. No one's ever heard of. Right. In many ways, however, right. You, you were very, very bullish and abnormal, right.

Maybe more so than, you know, most people I talk to, um, what I guess, like, why was ha like, you know, what did, what did you see right. About the opportunity, right. That, that got you excited, right. Where you were, you know, showing up at our office where I said, Hey man, let's, let's chat for a little bit. 

[00:41:35] Jake Seid: Yeah.

You know, I, I connect it back to what I mentioned before. You know, I, I thought the founding team exhibited, you know, kind of what I, what I look for in an amazing founding team. Um, obviously I didn't have a chance to meet everybody in the company, but you know, to me, this was a founding team that had a shot on goal to do something special.

Uh, and that's capable of doing something special. And then going back to, you know, the market opportunity where, you know, I, I saw this was fundamentally orthogonal to, you know, what was at the time, a 6 billion market cap company, you know, little did we know they get bought for 12 billion, not long after, but you know, that this idea that, you know, everything that they have built to, to, to solve a certain problem was really not related to what you needed to build, to solve this new problem.

That my view everybody has, that everybody would know. You know, one of abnormal root would need an abnormal, you know, piece of software, you know, uh, in, in their environment. And so, you know, it was just this idea that it's, it's purely horizontal from a market opportunity and purely orthogonal from a competitive standpoint.

[00:42:58] Evan Reiser: Okay. We have a extreme short either looking at the wrong slide or we have extreme shortage of questions. Um, so, you know, maybe, maybe just ideas, right. For folks. Right. Um, you know, J K. Yeah. Did you already answered this, but like maybe some ideas you guys might be interested in, like, Hey Jake, what was it like going into like a new role at a product manager, right.

When you had no experience. Right. How did you figure it out? What was it like growing by, you know, going from zero to a billion in revenue right. In two years, um, what was your experience? Right, as like, you know, a investor and managing director of like a top 10. So I'll come on a venture capital firm. How did you become, like, you know, the number one angel investor in Silicon valley?

[00:43:40] Jake Seid: Um, you know, 

[00:43:41] Evan Reiser: why did you go want to do it again? Right. Um, so, uh, okay. We, we have a question. So, um, in any, you talked about a little bit, but like, um, you know, what do you look for at first, uh, first time founders that wouldn't have the same experience as more seasoned veterans. Right. But there's so ready to, you know, go into it and, you know, uh, compete to be successful.

[00:44:07] Jake Seid: Yeah. You know, I, I think it goes back to, you know, one you're, you're looking for, um, the, you know, kind of, uh, an insight into a problem and an opportunity, um, both from a technical insight problem, but a technical insight perspective, but also from how they're going to bring that insight to the market, to a certain set of customers.

Um, so you, you don't have to have spent, you know, 10 years anywhere to, to have that. Right. You know, think about, you know, the founders of Brex, you know, I invested in them in the series a long time ago. I think there were 20, right. You know, they, they dropped out of Stanford. So, um, you could talk to them about financial services.

And they were super thoughtful about that. Right. Um, you know, other founders, um, you know, talk to, you know, the founder of, of skiff, you know, he's, he's young, he use credibly insightful about how privacy is going to change and why the incumbents can't do the things that you need to do to ensure privacy for important parts of the internet.

Um, you know, I invested in Ryan early on, you know, they they're valued at 6 billion now. Um, he was incredibly thoughtful about e-commerce and payments. And so you don't have to correlate age and tenure in an industry with, with insight thoughtfulness. And again, this experience of, you know, really, you know, having gotten things done in their life prior to that, 

[00:45:54] Evan Reiser: Cool, appreciate your insight, Jake.

Um, so Adolfo is asking, although we do have a history of normal of adult flow being in person. So we don't know if it's real adults or fake adults, but one of the two, um, is asking what was the toughest part of going from zero to 1 billion? And how did you make sure new folks at the company understood what was happening?

And like, this is even hard for us from our growing at one 20th, the rate that you guys went through, because we have so many people right. Working on, you know, something that's like, so new, right. Everyone's kind of, Edward is joining right in high growth is kind of new at some level. How do you, like, how how'd you guys survive or how do you 

[00:46:28] Jake Seid: guys manage that?

Yeah. You know, um, so part of the, the opportunity for us was, you know, we can do big deals, right? Part as part of that growth where, you know, when you're building out the broadband infrastructure of the country and, and, uh, you know, of countries, right. You know, we're, we're not just in the U S. Th there is, you know, just a, uh, uh, a more deterministic set of service providers.

They go after and close a hundred million dollar deals. Right. You know, that that's something that, so it's not like we had 10 customers, but, you know, there were probably 30 to 50 customers that really mattered in going from that zero to a billion. Now, 

[00:47:17] Evan Reiser: Jake, like, you know, even still, right, like when you're kind of launching a new product, new business unit, right.

Like, there's like, it's still, it's all, like, there's a saying that will be there for 10 years. Everyone should know that. Right. How do you kind of, how do you kind of get them on the same page and get people pointing the right direction? 

[00:47:32] Jake Seid: Yeah. You know, it, it has to be incredibly clear what that direction is.

You have to, you have to talk about that direction regularly. Um, you know, as, as senior leaders, you have to talk with people who are two, three levels below you, you know, to engage with, with teams. Um, you have to, you know, show up in different offices around the country, right? So she knows zoom then, but even with zoom, you know, I, I believe it's very hard when you're going through high growth, you know, to, to create alignment and getting everybody to row in the same direction.

Um, just, just by, you know, having conversations over zoom. And so, you know, I, I think we had a very clear mission, vision, objective, um, you know, for us, um, the, the, so there there's the organizational part, you know, how we thought about scaling the organization, you know, right. Was very critical, critical scaling engineering, scaling sales.

We have phenomenal leaders in each of those areas. So. It was very much, you know, you hire a players in, in each of the functional roles and they hire a players who then hire a players, uh, versus the, you know, old saying you hire B players, they hire C players, they hire D players. Um, and so we had a very high bar for talent, you know, fortunately it's Cisco, you know, Cisco back then it was like kind of apple.

It's like, that's where just everybody wants it to work if you want it to work in big tech. Um, so, so, uh, you know, uh, great leadership, um, very strong focus on the message around creating a line. Sure. And people are rowing in the same direction and then, oh, by the way, you do all this stuff, stuff breaks all the time.

Right. Not expecting, not expecting it to be clean. There it is sausage making, you know, nice. Pretty sausage came out the other end, but there's sausage making that happens and that's natural. Right. It's okay. Things to break. Right. That's that? That's the definition of, of hypergrowth. 

[00:49:38] Evan Reiser: Yeah. I think you said it resonated with me is just like, I'm really trying to drive clarity right.

In like the work, the vision, right. The responsibilities like that gets, we should have like lots of new people and things are changing quickly. Right. It's very easy to kind of like. Lou's cop like to literally not know kind of the people are talking about right. Kind of driving clarity seems really, really powerful.

Especially as, as like, uh, as a product manager rents, that's like your one job is to drive, you know, drive clarity across 

[00:50:06] Jake Seid: summarization. So one thing that I would also add to that, that one thing that becomes a challenge, right, is when you're growing so fast, you have regular reorg and, you know, it's, it was kind of a joke, like, you know, what's the reorg of the month going to be, but, but in hindsight, you know, employees and the team should know that reorgs are good when you're in hyper growth mode that, you know, it's not like changing BA is bad and, you know, gosh, you know, what's the next change is going to be in the next change.

Instead, if you're not changing, you're, you're not optimizing, you know, if you're not changing, you're not setting up the next phase of growth. And so. Shifting a mindset from, oh, wow. There's been a big change, you know, to, when is the next big change coming? Because if we're not changing, that means we're not optimized.

We're not setting up for the next phase. Yeah, I like 

[00:50:58] Evan Reiser: that. Um, so another question from a will, uh, do you have a framework for identifying orthogonal market opportunities? Like how do you know if something is orthogonal or how do you get to that 

[00:51:08] Jake Seid: belief? And let me clarify, you know, I tend to think about orthogonal coming from an architectural point of view versus a market point of view.

[00:51:16] Evan Reiser: So really from technology and sometimes you kind of want to be in the market. Right. But with a different 

[00:51:21] Jake Seid: approach. Exactly. Right. So, so abnormal has an orthogonal architecture in my mind. In the email security space, right? It's an email stream. Now you could segment it. Okay. It's a different threat factor, but you know, to me, the opportunity is, Hey, there's an insertion point, an email security through this orthogonal technology that then you can expand and capture more and more, you know, dollars per mailbox per year.

You know, skiff, it's the same thing. There's, there's this space of, you know, Hey Google workspace, but you could, you, you have a fundamentally orthogonal architecture, one where it puts privacy first versus privacy. Last that requires a totally different architecture that Google just can't code up in six months, even with a thousand engineers.

So, so the idea of we're talking to architectures means it's not something think thinking about tests yet, right? Tessy and, you know, with a client site architecture, right. You know, uh, as, as people realize, no client side is not, you know, the, the right approach. It's not like they can just snap a finger and say, oh, we'll just go from client side to cloud native.

And so orthogonal really applies to architectures versus markets. 

[00:52:36] Evan Reiser: That makes sense, Jake. Um, the, the question from Harold, and this is a great question, like I've personally struggled with this, right. Even when I think about how I communicate with our Bravo does to investors, right. Like, you know, I I've started like, Hey, do I talk about.

Email security. Right. And like proof 0.2 point. Oh, do I talk about like, Hey, here's where the future of the cloud office is going and here's what enables like a new market, new product there. What do you think, Jacob? How do you, how do you kind of strike the balance between, you know, thinking too big, too big, right.

Versus not being big enough. And what's the, how do you, you know, 

[00:53:08] Jake Seid: what's the tension there. I'll give you, uh, an overly simplistic answer. But when I believe in which is there is no tension, it's a false dichotomy. It's, it's a roadmap. It's, you know, what can we do today? That's meaningful. And over time, what are the things we can do to have an uncapped outcome?

And so time is a thing that takes away the tension that takes away the false choice of am I thinking too big in my thinking bigger than. And that's how all these businesses work. Right? You create a clear insert and think about your business, your clear insertion point, right? And now what is your opportunity over time with that insertion point to capture more and more dollars per mailbox per year?

That's how all of these models work, right? Google didn't start by having, you know, these 20 different businesses. They had a clear insertion point, also becoming big is also a function of, you know, you're investing in markets that are going to grow over time. You know? So, so some markets, you know, it's an architectural transition.

Some markets are, are new high growth markets, right? Like, Hey, the market for autonomous vehicles, that's probably going to be a high growth market didn't exist. So becoming big is, is a function of those two things that roadmap that takes you there, but also a natural growth in the market that will get you.

Both are connected by time, right? 

[00:54:37] Evan Reiser: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And that's kind of what we, that was the approach we ended up taking with that verbal, we said has kind of three acts of the business, right? Act one. Where does the BC tool, right. That people can use to add on to their just in gateway act two, right?

We're going to build a way better gateway, right? This integrated cloud email security system act three. We're going to take that same core technology on behavior identity and apply it to like, not just emails, a communication channel, but every communication collaboration channel 

[00:55:03] Jake Seid: the in the cloud office.

Th that's exactly it. That's exactly it. So if you find yourself asking this question, take a step back and tell yourself that is a false choice. You gave yourself a grid. This is the perfect, you know, you are the example of how that choice doesn't have to be made. It's really a roadmap that takes you from, you know, something that's really interesting and meaningful to something uncapped.


[00:55:31] Evan Reiser: And, and, um, uh, as you know, Jake, but to show you the rest of the team, like also that really resonates with investors, right. Because the way I think about it, it's like, Hey, like, there's kind of like a, like, there's a high flow in this business. Right? Worst case these guys are thinking way too big.

Right. At least they can build next gen proof point that's worth a lot. Right. But if they are, because they aren't thinking bigger. Right. Maybe even more beyond that. So you kind of get like the best of both worlds, right. When you kind of have this roadmap and timeline versus just 

[00:55:57] Jake Seid: pitching one or the other.

That's exactly why, you know, it's a false choice in my view. Yeah. 

[00:56:04] Evan Reiser: Okay. I think we've got time for one more question, um, from Mr or Mrs. Anonymous, um, how did you approach being a PM without prior experience? What was the most challenging part of a learning curve? Right. And you were, you know, you were a, uh, electrical engineer, is that right?

[00:56:18] Jake Seid: Right. Yeah. Uh, double ECS, masters and doubly. 

[00:56:23] Evan Reiser: Okay. So, so some of the background to, to, to me, right? Like you're going from that into like product management. I would technically, always a kid didn't really even exist at the time. Right. It's all you had a lot of, you know, probably started off with like pretty little market knowledge, right?

Yeah. Like you were very successful there. Right. And that opportunity to get it a lot more opportunities right. That, you know, literally change your whole career trajectory. Right. So how did that work? Right. How did you, how did you step into that and not get totally overwhelmed? 

[00:56:50] Jake Seid: Yeah. I, you know, um, and, and this was really, almost a question where you could say at every level, right?

The, the imposter, you know, phenomenon, right. That people experience like, okay, I'm, I'm now CEO of a company, but I've never been a CEO of a company. And, uh, you know, I, I have a simple answer, which is fake it until you make it, you know, it sounds, it sounds simple. You know, that, that that's, that's what happens, right.

Is, you know, you're, you're smart, you're talented, you know, you have a good work ethic. You will do well. You, you know, you have to believe, you know, this is, people will talk about it as the growth mindset. Right. I didn't, I I'd never heard of that term. I guess I just happen to have it, but, you know, I guarantee you, a lot of people are at a normal habit.

You, you have a growth mindset, like, Hey, I'm gonna fake it til I make it. And I'm going to learn, and I'm not going to be the same person I was two months ago or six months ago. Um, and, and that's what happens also with the best CEOs that I see that have never been CEOs. They are different people. Every time I see them, it's like, they're a different person, right?

Because they have a growth mindset they've learned and you know, the idea of faking it until you make it is take the leap, make it happen, do it. Don't don't have that false constraint in your head that you can't do it because you haven't done it. You start doing it, you will learn. And you know, this is, you know, with, with hiring, you know, especially the business I was in before online marketplace for real estate transactions back in 2011.

Well, there was no online marketplace for real estate transactions. So I, I couldn't hire domain experts. Right? So every buddy I hired had no experience in online real estate because the industry did not exist. You know, there were two little startup, Trulia and Zillow and they didn't do, they were like more advertising companies, right.

And so, you know, it's, this is the natural thing. Like anything, if you want to build something big and transformative in a new area, by definition, you won't have prior experience. But if you're a great athlete, you will become a great domain expert. You just give yourself the time and believe in yourself.

So I think that's, um, you know, that, that is the, the. 

[00:59:05] Evan Reiser: Uh, as a, as a new parents, right? One of the pieces of advice I've gotten is, um, Hey, I've been half a parent like this, this makes me feel better about any parenting mistakes to make, but it's like the, the saying is right. You know, half a parenting is just kind of showing up and trying.

Right. I think it's also true for leadership. Right. You know, half is just. Yeah, you gotta, you gotta try it. Right. And, um, you know, it's you, no one knows what they're doing right. When I first do it. Right. I barely I'm doing right as SEO, but trying to listen, learn and you know, and improve. Right. So that's, that's a, that's a powerful mindset for leadership.

[00:59:36] Jake Seid: Well, and let's take examples. How much experience did bill gates have in the operating system business? How much experience did Larry and Sergei have in online advertising? Right. You know, you can go through the list of people who've created special. You know, how much experience did that Zuckerberg have in online media?

Um, you know, this is the thing, it, it w when you're talented and you have, you know, great core skills, don't be afraid to apply it to any challenge you're excited about. 

[01:00:08] Evan Reiser: I I'd say that's a great, you know, file note to send us off. Jake. Thank you so much for joining us and, uh, looking forward to 

[01:00:13] Jake Seid: talking again soon.

Yeah. Thanks everyone. Speak soon. See guests. 

[01:00:19] Luke Reiser: Thanks everyone. We're going to send out a survey afterwards. We're trying to improve Admiral business school with every event. So please be on the lookout for that. And, uh, yeah. Thanks so much for joining this fireside chat event.

Key takeaways

  • Keep taking shots on goal, eventually one of them will score.
  • Define your set of values and make choices based on them.
  • Great culture is able to withstand breakdowns and challenges that inevitably arise.
  • Be intentional about creating something amazing.

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