SM: Now I would really like to explore the details around building of the company. You are probably one of a handful of companies who started during the crash, survived the crash, and emerged as a healthy, thriving company. What was your go to market strategy and what did you do that allowed you to survive the crash?
ZR: The important thing to keep in mind when planting the seed for a company is that the goal is to be a great, lasting company. We started this company with a very clear idea of what we wanted to achieve and what we wanted to become. We started the company with a very strong set of core values and a definition of the culture of the company.
SM: What are those values?
ZR: It is a synonym: DARE. This really exemplifies what we do. We are a company that is striving to go on an ambitious mission which is not obvious. We are about defeating the conventional wisdom. Then there is appreciation of the individual and their choices. Understanding of diversity, and that we will use diversity as strength in the company.
We will adhere to a hierarchy of responsibilities which begin with the customer, go through our partners, go through the company, go through the function and go through the individual. This does not mean the individual is last, but it means you create an alignment between the customer and the individual and you create it starting from the customer.
This was very different from Silicon Valley at the time, because everyone thought if you gave engineers BMWs they would be happy and customers would be happy. I don’t see how this works, so I said that we were going to measure success by one thing, and that is by our customer success.
We are about reaching for the dream, which ties in with this notion that we are going to embark on huge tasks which are not obvious and solve some of the biggest problems. The notion of reaching for the dream is that you do not always get there, but we are going to build a safety net from the inside. If you try to create something risky and it fails, you will be protected.
The final element is about passion for excellence. It is about what we do, how we do it, and being committed to do things the best way that we can. We look at what we do as a mission, not a task.
We hired, and continue to hire, people around these values. I think it made a big difference because when the world changed and suddenly we had the perfect storm hitting us with the VC market crash, the financial market crash, followed by September 11th, having this foundation as a company really helped us survive it. We knew we were going to continue with the mission, we were not going to give up, rather we would support each other and we would look at getting through it as a mission versus a task. I think sometimes people underestimate how you create culture from the ground up.