The Startup Sprint
No cab. No subway. Certainly no bus.
Sprinting. That was the only way we were going to make it to a crucial meeting in downtown San Francisco.
Sure, it was my very first day with SendGrid, and sure, when I arrived I’d be a sweaty, pulpy mess. But I was not alone. I was running with Isaac, one of the founders of the company. It seems like another era, but it was just three years ago.
So the two of us arrived for the meeting, and Isaac was his typical unflappable self and the meeting went well. Even though it was my first day, I was familiar with the company. I’d been a mentor to Isaac before joining the company full-time, so I knew SendGrid had a bright future.
I also knew it would be a sprint—it’s one of the many reasons I love startups. That inaugural sprint in San Francisco was, of course, the first of many. And sometimes they are actual sprints, like making connections in airports around the world in cities like Sao Paulo, Mumbai, and Tokyo.
One time, it was the sprint to first base during a company softball game when my ankle twisted and I went down in a spectacular show of flailing limbs and a cloud of dust. My colleagues were confused: “Why were you sliding into first? And, by the way, you weren’t close to the base.” Yeah, thanks.
Three years ago, I was the first non-founder executive of the company. I was also the first non-technical employee. On that day, and every day since, Isaac and then later, Jim Franklin, have been two of the most caring and forward-thinking people I’ve worked for.
Three years later, instead of 5 employees, we have more than 130. We served email for dozens of customers back then. Now there are thousands of customers around the world who count on us. Back then we were all promise and hope. Now we send more than one percent of all the email in the world.
Back then I was constantly sprinting, helping with tasks little and big. First, there was the foundational stuff needed to build out an organization, like finding an office—Skype-ing from Starbucks loses its effectiveness at, oh, about employee number 5.
We needed to evaluate and purchase employee benefits and do all the other things that come with creating a company. And then there was my real job: defining our go-to-market strategy and recruiting an organization to execute on that vision.
Actually, there wasn’t much of a “get set.”
All that sprinting has gotten us pretty far. With a great team and great customers we’ve now delivered more than 100 billion emails. Billion with a B. Hard to imagine.
Even though just typing these numbers makes me do a little happy dance in my chair, it’s not the most motivational thing about working at SendGrid. First and foremost, our customers are awesome—just totally awesome. They are the cool kids—developing the newest, coolest, world-changing technologies, pushing and motivating us to create and deliver the best email infrastructure in the world to support their incredible businesses. And my colleagues are equally inspiring. I wake up everyday, my head full of ideas and excitement, anxious to get into the office and engage with the brilliant minds of those I work with.
I’d like to think that three years ago I anticipated what SendGrid would be today. I had big dreams, but the truth is that the magic of SendGrid has exceeded what I could dream about as I sprinted through the streets of San Francisco, and I’m looking forward to racing ahead even further and faster.