Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing co-founder and CEO of Keeper Security, Darren Guccione, in which I quizzed him on password management systems. Darren isn’t just an IT security whizz, he’s also a stellar entrepreneur as well. In this interview we talk about why venture capital can ruin a business, the importance of “musicality” as an entrepreneur, and how to succeed in business.
One of the most interesting things about your business is that you've only ever gotten funding from the three "F"s; family, friends and fools.
What is the greatest strength of a business that avoids venture capital, angel investment and other sources of capital and focuses on the three "F"s? Similarly what disadvantages are there to using the three "F"s?
No outside party knows, better than the entrepreneur who started the business, what his or her vision is for the business. It’s all about passion. Too often, I have seen great entrepreneurs lose their way by letting outside investors skew their vision and wedge them out of the company that they started.
Outside investors, when not chosen and managed correctly, can wreck the essential and critical path of a company. By example, the firing of Steve Jobs from Apple in the 80’s sent the company into a downward spiral where innovation suffered and eventually sent Apple into near bankruptcy.
At Keeper, the co-founders still own the majority of the company - we design the product roadmap and execute this map accordingly. We always honor a unified and consistent vision for the company. We believe that this approach also honors our stakeholders.
In an interview with Tastytrade you said "I'm an old rocker, still am". How have you bought that "rocker" mentality into your business, and what did being a "rocker" teach you that you now apply to your business?
Business should consist of the amalgamation of science and art. I am an engineer, an accountant/CPA and a rock vocalist who sings cover tunes from bands like Led Zeppelin, Jane’s Addiction and Metallica.
Music is and always will be a free-flowing entity that is amorphous and always evolving. I have a similar view of invention, innovation and business in general - it should always be an evolutionary and creative process.
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This is how you should run a business... perhaps with less things on fire.[/caption]
I've heard from a number of investors who get pitches about a "killer app" and never invest in them because an app isn't a business. How did you/ how should one convert a "killer app" idea into a "killer business model"?
When we started Keeper, we knew we were creating a platform, not a just an app. Keeper is a SaaS (Software as a Service) product that operates across every major mobile, tablet and desktop device and operating system.
The term “app” is simply an element of our overall solution when referencing Keeper on an iPhone (for example - we say, “Just download the Keeper app”).
When I hear the term “killer app”, it means a product that is revolutionary and disruptive in its space. It changes the way we do things by making something faster and less expensive, and in Keeper’s case, easier and more secure.
A successful app can be the nucleus for an amazing business. Technology has changed the way that companies interact with their audiences and customers. Millions of people buy and sell digital and physical products without even leaving their homes, and many businesses exist only as a website, virtual service or app.
You've also been known to extol your love of front-end design. Most of us when designing something get too close to the project and can't see how "normal" people will use the product, what's the best way (in your opinion) to develop a product?
Design products that you yourself would use and enjoy. Software product designs should be elegant, fluid and frictionless. They should optimize human gestures and reduce steps in every major function of the product. At Keeper, we implement process re-engineering techniques to optimize product workflow.
Finally, what piece of advice has changed your life more than any other?
Time is more valuable than money because unlike money, time can never be earned back. Money can always be made back if lost but time is always lost. Bottom line: don’t waste time.
Massive thanks to Darren for the interview, you can follow him on Twitter @keepersecurity