This post is part of a series where Dyn CMO, Kyle York, who has led go-to-market, brand, and growth strategy since 2008, delves into the most influential prospect, customer, and partner meetings that shaped Dyn’s Internet Performance vision.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Henry Ford
You need to be famous to end up quoted on BrainyQuote, but it was one quote from a pretty famous customer that sticks with Dyn and is a steady reminder of what the market and customer expects from their outsourced cloud vendors—especially one claiming industry leadership status.
It was early 2013 and we sat in a conference room at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco. It had all the build-up of a tense meeting. We were onto our 4th senior contact in a matter of four years and we needed to make a great impression. Jeremy, John, Eric, and now a new guy with serious pedigree from building eBay and Walmart online. Twitter was growing up and so was Dyn—together. This day, for me, was the birth of Dyn as you know it today; a company obsessed with Internet Performance.
To set the scene, it was almost like we weren’t even allowed into the place. For anyone who hasn’t been to the Twitter office, the conference room in the lobby is kind of like a holding room for vendors. “Sure, you can visit, but we’re only letting you ‘sort of’ in the office.” That was the feel at least. After reading Hatching Twitter, by Nick Bilton, you see why. The Snoop Dogg chapter is stuff of legend.
I was there with Chris Gonyea, now a Product Manager for our Traffic Management and Managed DNS offering, but at the time he was running Dyn’s customer support and sales engineering teams. Needless to say, we got a jolting reminder of the HIGH expectations from our customers. Especially the elite ones. Not only that, but our new contact needed the lay of the land—and fast.
“How many years out is your technical vision?”
“How prepared are you guys for continued scale.”
“Do you have the systems and procedures to mitigate unplanned attacks?”
“How do you capitalize the business for continued growth?”
“Are you prepared to embark on rigid security and compliance from large enterprises?”
Notice one very critical nuance to his questions? It’s subtle, but it is loud and clear. All that matters is the future.
He didn’t give a damn about our founding story, why Twitter chose to work with us, the current relationship, or why they deeply leveraged our Internet Performance solutions. This day dramatically shifted our corporate strategy, whether they realized it or not.
… And frankly, all of those inquiries were easy for us to handle in rapid fire succession. It was the next one where we hit an unpredictable snag.
“How do you guys think about your product roadmap and innovation? Is it customer driven?”
I thought this was the perfect tee up for Chris, given he ran customer support after all. I turned over the floor. Chris explained our close alignment between customers, support, and product management with our robust feedback loops in place. When grilled further on giving a percentage breakdown, Chris answered with what at that time was fact and an honest answer: “I would say about 80% is customer driven and 20% is fueled by our team.”
With that, we got slayed.
“I expect my partners to be thinking out 3-5 years ahead of myself and my team. If you aren’t doing that, I’m not sure why we work with your company.”
You see, this was Twitter. They had figured out monetization. They were at a technical and global scale rivaled by very few. They were the ultimate dream job for the greatest engineers on the planet. Their R&D budgets dwarfed our entire company and market at the time.
To draw an American Football metaphor… It was 4th and Goal: I had to take control of the meeting and overall customer retention effort with serious bravado, “That was a trick question. Any way we answered that, we were doomed. It was a setup—full stop. I get your point and respect it, but you’re not capturing the big picture.”
I went on a toe-to-toe pitch about our focus as a company: living, breathing, excelling in domain names, DNS, BIND, cloud load balancing, geo-IP, IPv4 & IPv6, performance monitoring, scaling, propagation, data replication, uptime, DNSSEC, transit, user experience, peering, analytics, speed, Anycast, BGP, APIs, protocols, standards & governance, etc. and so on. I earned my paycheck that day. This was my moment to go hardcore sales guy. We had to prove how deeply focused we were and prepared for the challenge of not keeping pace with them, but shooting years ahead.
This was no knock on Chris’s answer and this meeting inspired him to join the Product Management team later that year. He answered the question right and continues to be one of our shining talents. But the lesson we as a company learned that day was to double down and future-proof our vision, global network, premium products, top-shelf talent, and passionate customer engagement. From that day forward we recommitted to obsessively thinking far into the Internet future technically and investing immensely in the world’s greatest talent in our space.
With our best senior technical talent in tow, we rolled back to that same office holding room later that month. I wanted to ensure we hit our point home. We did. The relationship has been rock solid ever since and so has Twitter’s Internet Performance.
“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” Steve Jobs