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Vendor Responsibility and Product Safety

For twenty years now I’ve been building and operating IT products: switches, routers, secure enclaves, etc. The overwhelming majority of vendors I know have a goal of building great products that meet or exceed customer expectations in performance, reliability, quality, etc. With the trend towards the consumerization of IT and an increasingly competitive marketplace I’ve witnessed an increased focus on time-to-market. There have been many examples cited where there is a significant first-mover advantage and a winner/fast-mover-takes-all type of outcome, whether we are discussing car sharing, home sharing, tablets, or the latest enterprise technology. This unerring focus on speed may be having some unintended consequences.

When you hurry a product schedule along you aim for the MVP – the minimum viable product. In short, what is the least we can do that will fulfill the customer’s expectation and hopefully enable this product to sell, capture some market share, and then based on real-world customer feedback add incremental capabilities to the offering to further expand the market and adoption rate. It is a model that has been getting a lot of press as it is more agile and nimble than the take-your-time, ‘nail it and scale it’ model. The costs, though, may be not only in quality and testing, but as we have seen more recently, cyber security is often being ignored in the overall product design and architecture. There have been too many reports over the past year of companies who should have known better shipping products with gross flaws and then ignoring the feedback from trusted security researchers.


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5 Reasons to Not Use Skyport

“You shall not pass!”

Ever have that day where you just feel a bit contrarian? Like, just for fun, being a little bit of an ass? I think we all have that day now and then – it is that day I don’t feel like letting the guy cut me off when he didn’t get into the merge lane properly so I hug the tailgate of the car in front of me. Or I’m playing Blizzard’s new shooter Overwatch as Bastion, just repeatedly gunning down the same enemies again and again with the gatling gun while taunting them on the mic.

I was feeling a bit that way today, and I really don’t know why (maybe it was rolling off a great weekend of charity poker tournaments, beach visits, and dinners with friends and I need to re-balance), but I started thinking about ‘Why people should not buy the SkySecure Systems from us…’ Not being facetious about it either – you know those fake rhetorical questions we ask so we can make answers where using our product is really the only obvious solution such as:

Trite rhetorical question: ‘Who should NOT use Skyport?

Obviously contrived answer: ‘People who really want to get hacked soon and lose their jobs and customers and have their boss end up on the Wall street Journal bemoaning the evils of an unregulated Internet’. These are worse than Internet click-bait…Serious answers, though:


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My Take on Our New Funding Round

art_blog_v4As you’ve probably already seen, we announced a $30M round of funding yesterday. The funding process was a great opportunity to really sharpen how we think and talk about our goals as a business, and I wanted to share some of those ideas here.

First, a quick recap on what the $30M means from a financial standpoint. This round brings our total capital raised to $67M. That’s enough to scale a company, if used wisely, while ensuring meaningful returns for our employees and investors. At the same time, as Silicon Valley Business Journal wrote:

When it raised its $30 million Series B round a year ago, the nearly sevenfold increase in its valuation was one of the biggest step-ups of the year. This year’s round isn’t that big of a jump, but it is up about 70 percent and gives the company a $245 million valuation. It’s definitely not one of the “down rounds” talked about so much lately.

I think it’s interesting to look at who participated with us, too. Our existing investors–Sutter Hill, Index Ventures and Intel Capital–continue to support us, which is a great sign as they know what is really going on inside the company.  At this stage of a company you often can choose between the more traditional venture capital community or look for investors that have more direct selling and delivery interaction with customers.

We decided on a bit of a hybrid.  Our two lead investors this round were Google Ventures, now known as GV, and Cisco. Google is known for placing long-term bets in all kinds of revolutionary segments, and they have deep expertise in both public and private cloud. Cisco has their finger on the pulse of the needs and pains of the enterprise IT market like few other companies. Our other investors, Thomvest Ventures, Northgate Capital and InstantScale, each represent the interests of other segments of the IT buying community, including finance, telcos and the channel. We felt that this group of investors would provide us a really strong sounding board and network as we grow our business, while also lending a powerful validation of our approach to customers we were trying to reach.

And that’s really what this round is about for Skyport: we’re investing some of it in R&D, but a lot of is going into building out our Go-To-Market and importantly, our Customer Support resources and talent. The large customers we have in production have legitimately high expectations of us–they’re hosting some of their most important applications on SkySecure. We intend to make sure that they, and new customers joining them, experience excellence from our first engagements onward.

-Art Gilliland

Epilegomenon on a Velocious Launch

Fast and Highly Effective - also a nice photo worth sharing

Fast and Highly Effective – also a nice photo worth sharing

Building a go-to-market team and launching a company and product inside of about six months was amazingly fun, challenging, and rewarding.  A few things I learned along the way that will help me if I ever have to do it again are:

In every initial assumption about the product I was pretty much wrong.  I actually had very little idea of how our system worked and what it could do, and really had no idea of how to sell it or position it – there was a lot to learn.  To fix this gap we planned a couple of weeks of intensive customer and partner briefings: the theory being for two to three weeks do 20-30 briefings and expect to get your teeth kicked in a few times, adjust, learn, try again, rinse, repeat, modify, tune, and then magically after a while you start realizing that what you are saying seems to work well. Stick with that for a bit but don’t be afraid to re-visit assumptions.

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‘De-Cloaking’, Team Relays, ‘Go Flight’ — Launching Skyport Systems and SkySecure

Marketing people like to compare what they did to amazing things like 'moonshots' and rocket launches.  What we have built is really amazing to us, but hats off to NASA for theirs, we're not going to draw that comparison! (NASA wins...)

“Go Flight”  — Marketing people like to compare what they do to amazing things like ‘moonshots’ and rocket launches. What we have built is really amazing to us, but hats off to NASA for theirs, we’re not going to draw that comparison!

I had a good friend once who worked for the History Channel who used to run these races – Ragnar Relays.  The concept is really interesting: you take a group of people, divide up the course into segments, and each person runs a handful of segments of a long and arduous race over the course of a day or two.  It’s like one of the track events in high school or college but over a longer distance, a much more scenic course, and you have to do your part a few times over the course of this overnight run.  Each person carries their weight, and then hands off to another teammate so they can rest up for their next leg.

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Hyper-Secured Infrastructure: the next-generation of secure computing

"The world around us has changed, the important question is how relevant are we going to be in the world we are living within."

“The world we are living in is not the same as the one we grew up learning in”

I was watching an early episode of Downton Abbey once when I heard a memorable line from the character played by Maggie Smith, the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley – “What is a weekend?”  It was rather comical to me, but also poignant – in four simple words the aristocratic character made a powerful statement – that in the course of her life there is no concept whatsoever of the difference between a work-day and a non-work day because simply put – they are all non-work days.  The countess cannot wrap her head around a concept that is, simply put, completely alien to her entire upbringing.

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