According to Forbes, 90% of startups fail. According to the Harvard Business Review, the number is closer to 70%, but whichever number you choose to believe, the odds are still staggeringly stacked against young new ventures.
At Forward Networks, we just had a terrific time two weeks ago celebrating the company’s 10th anniversary.
Ten years is impressive by any measure, but especially so in the cutthroat universe of Silicon Valley tech startups. So, you might ask, to what do we attribute our success? What makes Forward special?
Having spent the last five years on this journey, I can offer my perspective: the people and the product. Every other reason can fit into either of those categories.
It starts with the founders, who are an exceptional bunch. Peyman Kazemian, Nikhil Handigol, David Erickson, and Brandon Heller all earned their PhDs together at Stanford and started the company shortly after coming out of the grad program. That decision alone takes some stones. (Apologies for the salty language, but it’s true.) They could have easily taken jobs at some of the most recognized companies in the valley, with generous salaries, stock options, and comfortable air-conditioned offices. Instead, they worked on David’s couch, solving ridiculously hard math problems and writing software that would eventually do what no other software has: deliver a behaviorally accurate mathematical model for complex networks.
They managed to convince other brilliant people to join them, like Sivasankar Radhakrishnan, Braeden Partridge, and Yasser Ganjisaffar. They brought on Steve Pace to recruit even more top talent, which netted Andreas Voellmy, Yuefeng Liu, Jared Jacobs, Matthias C. Schroeder, Chiara Regale, and Natale Ruello.
Ten years in, ALL OF THEM ARE STILL HERE. That kind of longevity is almost unheard of in today’s Silicon Valley.
My theory is that it stems from a culture of camaraderie and personal accountability, but maybe that’s just my marketing point of view.
I posed the question “What keeps you here?” to Elyor Khakimov, who joined Forward in 2017. His response: “They keep finding new and interesting stuff for me to do, which keeps me motivated.” From what I’ve seen here, this is a common theme. Elyor further explained that he appreciates not only the technical challenges, but also the chance to educate more people about the technology, so that they, in turn, can become teachers themselves.
It’s not hard to imagine that all of these computer scientists and network experts could build a great product. But I think most people can’t wrap their heads around how advanced this software is. At any given moment, Forward Enterprise is computing every possible traffic path across the world’s largest, most complex networks. In a typical enterprise network, there are more possible traffic paths than grains of sand on the earth. For real.
A few years ago, Yasser wrote a fantastic blog explaining how he and his team approach scaling.
To quote Yasser, regarding one sample network:
This network includes more than 10^30 flows. Each flow shows how a group of similar packets traverses the network. For example, one flow might show how email traffic originating from a specific host and destined to another host starts from a data center, goes through several backbone devices, and finally arrives at the destination data center.
Each of these flows can be complex. If we were to spend 1 microsecond to compute each of these flows, it would still take us more than 10^17 years to compute this. But with a lot of hard engineering work, algorithmic optimizations, and performance optimizations, we are able to process this network in under an hour, and we are capable of processing this on a single box. You don’t need a massive cluster for such computation. The best part is that the majority of the computation scales linearly. So, if customers want faster processing speed or higher search and verification throughput, they can use our cluster version and scale based on their requirements.
The product was born from the founders’ notion that the best principles of modern software development, such as testing and verification, should also apply to networks.
The question was never “Does the world need this software?” The question was “Can it be built?”
Fortunately, this talented team has pulled it off, and I’ve been thrilled to tell the world about it for the past five years.
Take the people and the product and add the company’s steady year-over-year growth, top-tier investors, and outstanding customer roster, and the future looks pretty bright indeed.
Congratulations to the entire team on an extraordinary first decade. Here’s to many more exciting milestones!
These are uncertain times in tech.
If you’re at one of the many companies in the news recently, think back to why you joined.
Was it the people?
Or maybe… the perception of a rock-solid, not-going-anywhere, totally-guaranteed position?
Things have changed lately.
Whether the rounds of layoffs hitting the valley hard are truly necessary to address unsustainable pandemic-era over-hiring - or, put more cynically - balance-sheet improvements slipped under the rug to boost profits at the expense of people… the illusion of big-company stability is no more.
Now…. might be the best possible time to join a startup.
In fact, a startup might be the most stable place right now.
But not just any startup though. As Liam Neeson might say, one with “a very particular set of skills.”
If you have a few minutes, I’d love to explain.
In general, startups will offer something different. Here’s a starter list:
But for the tiny subset of startups that have just raised a funding round in one of the most challenging quarters in memory:
Add Stability to that list of attributes.
Especially for later-stage companies (C Round, D Round, etc.), where scrutiny on business fundamentals increases: it’s less about the potential, and more about the reality. Fewer stories, more metrics.
Like everything, a job there is no guarantee. But unlike that big company in the news, the specter of layoffs won’t be your concern anytime soon.
So, that later-stage startup whose raise you just heard about on TechCrunch, whose funding can power years of growth? That company might just be the best, and most stable place, for you.
If your spider-sense sensed a pitch was coming - you were right!
I’m proud to work at Forward Networks, and we just announced a $50M raise.
We’re in the “sweet spot” for startups: money in the bank to power growth, referenceable customers you know, and an impact-oriented culture from the beginning. We’re building a product category so new that it doesn’t have a Magic Quadrant, with a tech lead so vast nobody else would be in that quadrant anyway. 😀 🤷 We enable companies of any scale to secure and assure their network, and, increasingly, their entire digital infrastructure, which helps the people and the company.
People matter, and when they experience those attributes of a startup - excitement, influence, growth, and equity - in a low-drama, no-moral-qualms, customers-get-excited place, they tend to stay. 15 of our first 21 are here, each with 7 yrs or more on this shared journey; today, every one of them leads a team.
Take a look - we’re hiring in a range of areas, from sales, to engineering, to support tech, and more.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
The short version is that I’m always looking to build things, especially things based on interesting technology. I have an engineering background that covers mechanical, electrical, computer stuff, and I always like projects that combine many of those, like building a race car or robot or computer-controlled dancefloor. The intense projects with capable teams are the ones I always look back on with fondness.
With the combined challenges of tight IT budgets and scarcer technical talent, it’s becoming imperative for enterprise network pros to embrace automation of processes and the way infrastructure responds to changing network traffic.
Not only can automation help address these problems, they can also improve overall application-response time by anticipating and addressing looming congestion. Modern applications, such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and architectures that incorporate IoT and hybrid cloud have yet to reach their true potential because network capacity seems to always lag behind demand.
A common problem is that too much networking infrastructure is still manually maintained and managed, but major vendors are starting to addressing these issues, as are startups that seek to break bottlenecks through automation.