Why Your Chief Executive Should Wear a Hoodie

In the early days of a startup, once your company achieved scale, the technical founder would step back to be replaced with a “professional chief executive”.

This used to be commonplace; everyone from Cisco to eBay went through the management team merry-go-round.

But the tide is turning and there is a growing acceptance that the guy in the hoodie who wrote the code has a unique set of skills that can translate into business success.

RUTHLESS OBSESSION

First, such people are relentlessly fussy about the quality of their products and services. Show me an engineer who is happy to cut corners and I will show you a liar.

Years spent ruthlessly obsessing about the position of a button instils a strong sense of perfectionism.

In a transient world where customer loyalty is everything, meticulous product development is all. All the marketing money in the world cannot replace a poorly built product or service.

RELENTLESS TINKERING

This leads into the second reason why technical co-founders are valuable: we are never happy to sit still.

In a world where business cycles are shortening all the time, if the guy at the top isn’t a relentless tinkerer, then you will be left behind.

This is something that is increasingly true across the board, not just in the tech industry.

The abundance of “labs” and “innovation centres” in everything from the car to the pharma industry is a sign of this.

A willingness to play around with business models and improve legacy processes, often using technical skills as an instigating factor, is tearing down the walls at companies that have dominated for years.

It’s certainly not an overstatement to say that an engineer with a curious mind can build something that in a few years will be eating everyone’s lunch.

Look at Travis Kalanick at Uber, a software engineer sitting atop a six-year-old company that is rewriting all kinds of markets.

This willingness to experiment is a personality trait hard-wired into technical professionals.

CALCULATED RISK

A calculated approach to evaluating risk – and the associated decision-making – is the third area where a technical background can really help a chief executive.

Years of basing decisions on data and gradually iterating products through analytics removes the emotional response.

With more information available to management teams nowadays, this ingrained problem-solving instinct can make the difference between a successful venture and a costly one.

Of course, it’s not all about perfectly calculated business decisions. I will happily hold my hand up to the fact that there are many areas where those with a non-technical background are absolutely crucial.

Until I figure out how to automate the creative and interpersonal skills required by sales and marketing, for example, I am happy to leave this to a specialist team!

This raises an important point, however. I am a strong believer in the benefits of having a technical co-founder in the top spot, as their innate abilities really make a difference.

But in order to realise this value, it is vital to collaborate closely with those who have complementary skills. Every hoodie needs a suit, each Steve Jobs needs a Steve Wozniak.

Note: This is a byline I wrote for City A.M.

Why Malwarebytes for Mac

As some of you may have already seen, we released Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac last week. Prior to the release of the new product, I was of the mindset that Macs were not vulnerable to malware. So what changed my mind?

Doug Swanson, my former CTO at Malwarebytes (and current board member!) e-mailed me about a cool product called AdwareMedic he had found over the weekend. Doug’s grandmother’s computer, a Macbook Pro, had fallen victim to a search hijacker that was redirecting any links she clicked to advertising content. He ran AdwareMedic and all was well in the world. Doug insisted I take a look at the software, and his story certainly left me intrigued.

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Poor Communication Can Cost You $52,140.60

Over the weekend, I received several cryptic e-mails from my CFO, Mark Harris, asking if I had approved the wire template for “the wire I had requested.” We were in the process of making a few wire transfers on Monday but I had already approved those and communicated that to him. He repeated the question a few times, but I still didn’t think anything of it. He asked me again in person this morning. That’s when I started to dig in.

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Location, Location, Location!

Sounds like something a real estate agent would shout at you while selling you a house, right? Well, sort of.

Just like a grocer may perform a location survey to determine the best place for their store, i.e. the corner versus in a back alley, as an entrepreneur starting a business it is absolutely critical to choose your location. And I don’t mean your office location, I mean your niche. I hate calling it a niche, because it implies something small. Uber certainly didn’t find anything small when it chose to redefine how calling a taxi works!

We faced this hurdle at Malwarebytes early on. When we built the product almost eight years ago, antivirus companies had already saturated the market. There was no room for another antivirus, not that we wanted to be one anyway. From the very beginning, we decided to position ourselves as another layer of protection, one that focuses on the most aggressive and unknown threats and we left the rest to antivirus. It was one of the best decisions we had ever made.

At the time, we had no idea the position (location!) was so important. The revelation came to me recently while reading The Granularity of Growth where the author’s research found that “a company’s choice of where to compete is almost four times more important than outperforming within its market.” Had we positioned ourselves as another antivirus, who knows what Malwarebytes would be today.

TIL What a Warrant Canary Is

A warrant canary is a colloquial term for a regularly published statement that a service provider has not received legal process that it would be prohibited from saying it had received. Once a service provider does receive legal process, the speech prohibition goes into place, and the canary statement is removed. Source

In a nutshell, a “service provider” hoists a flag periodically that affirms they have not been subpoenaed for user information by a government agency. Often times these national security letters come with a gag order to not discuss the request. By not updating the warrant canary, or the canary disappearing, a provider can passively inform their users that an agency may have requested information and they’re now under a gag order. It’s a cute, and believed-to-be-legal way to inform users that their information may no longer be safe with the provider.

Canary Watch has even gone further and keeps an eye on any warrant canaries that are out there! Service providers watched on the site include reddit, tumblr, Adobe, and Cloudflare, among many others.

Hi!

It’s been almost 3 years since my last post. I logged into WordPress with 30 or so updates and 13,074 spam comments awaiting action. Things have been busy at Malwarebytes, we’re growing extremely fast and are about to hit 250 employees worldwide. Some days are great, some days are tough, but we keep cranking.

I look forward to posting more often and dusting this blog off.

Malwarebytes Makes Appearance on The Office

I like to have background noise as I answer work e-mails. Typically, I leave Netflix streaming and every so often I glance at the television. While watching The Office, I noticed something very interesting.

Malwarebytes on The Office

If you look at the bottom right corner of the screen, on the monitor, you’ll see Malwarebytes Anti-Malware installed on the computer of a customer that Michael, Dwight, and Jim go to see. Turns out this isn’t the first time we’ve “appeared” on the show. We’ve also shown up on Darryl Philbin’s computer — look at the top left of the screen.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is so good, even Dunder Mifflin uses it!

Post other sightings of Malwarebytes in odd places and I’ll talk with the team and do a giveaway to the best one!

Malwarebytes Launches Enterprise Edition

Forgive my absence, I’ve been chained to a headset on several press calls per day for the last few weeks. Now that the press tour is basically over, I’m able to happily announce the launch of an exciting new product, Malwarebytes Enterprise Edition. This thing is awesome. Seriously.

So much work has gone into this product and I’m excited to finally announce it.

I’m working on some really cool changes to the blog and content that I will hopefully post every week, so stay tuned!

Launch of Malwarebytes Gear Store

It’s been a while since my last post. Unfortunately, I’ve been really busy and the only thing I have to show for it is the launch of our Malwarebytes gear store. So far it’s only t-shirts, but more to come. I definitely got some weird looks at Defcon while wearing the “eater of bytes” shirt.

Some really cool and exciting news coming from Malwarebytes soon. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter.

More content coming soon. In the meantime, check out the related posts.