Repeat after me. Unicorns are NOT real. Unicorns are mythical creatures.
In the Silicon Valley, fortunes are fleeting and moving fast/breaking things is encouraged by entrepreneurs, investors and wannabes alike. The only problem with moving fast and breaking things, is that when they break – especially during a down cycle – the ramifications can be catastrophic. I started Replicon back in 1996 with my wife Lakshmi. I’ve lived through more up and down cycles than most Silicon Valley veterans – I am proud to say that we are still standing, and still growing. A lot of Silicon Valley-types look at me funny when they hear I’ve worked on the company for so long. Why haven’t you tried to IPO? Why haven’t you sold the company? How is it possible that you have employees that have been with you 10+ years, and moved with you from Canada? Here are some thoughts as to why I chose this route, and continue to be excited by the company and its prospects.
The problem is interesting to me
Replicon sells two products in effect – time and attendance software, and professional services management software. In effect, we help some of the largest companies in the world manage distributed workforces using cloud/mobile software. This may seem like an unsexy problem, but it is a gigantic problem, which is only getting larger by the day. If you’ve been following the unemployment stats even as a casual fan, you’ll realize quickly that the American workforce is shifting in a large way to freelance/distributed. We’ve watched this shift occur for the past decade, so it’s no surprise to us – it’s not an easy problem to tackle for businesses, and we are helping them solve that problem through great software. I continue to be astounded by the product challenges, the engineering challenges, and the business challenges I face daily.
I love the people I work with
We started the company in Canada and we’ve been very lucky to work with some of the highest character people you can find. Many people came with us to the Valley when we raised our $20M Series A a few years back and remain loyal to us to this day (we feel that same sense of loyalty to them). You cannot say enough about working with people who give you energy and make you excited about showing up to the office every day. We continue to bring in great people who believe not only in the mission, but believe they should do a great job every day for each other. This also goes for the board – we are lucky enough to have Chamath from Social + Capital on our board and Jason Green – quite literally two of the smartest and most successful investors in the Valley. They allow us to be “us” and have a high degree of trust in us to run the business effectively.
I want to see the end of the journey
When people ask what my exit strategy is, I don’t have a straight answer and candidly I don’t know yet. I can tell you that our business is growing profitably, and generating multiple 8-figures of revenue annually. This will not be what I work on forever, but the journey has been amazing to this point. I intend on seeing where the journey ends both for myself, Lakshmi, and the employees of Replicon.
My advice to entrepreneurs
Slow and steady wins the race. We keep getting this reminder every single time there is a downturn. Work on a problem that you love that you are willing to devote your life to through ups and downs. Don’t fall into the trap of growing too far too fast. Be yourself, and don’t be afraid to work on something for a long period of time if you love it.