Just five years ago, three of us were sitting around in an apartment tossing around ideas. Over the next 12 months or so, they evolved into the business plan and core technology that still powers Distil Networks today. Now, we’re 130 people, have five offices around the world, and I’m thinking, “How did this happen?”
But that’s just a feature...
When we started, people looked at what we were doing and said, "That sounds like a feature, not an actual product." But we really believed that bots were shaping up to be a real problem, and we stuck to our guns (some might say our fantasies). Now the big boys are playing catchup to try and compete with us. Akamai thinks it's a product, Imperva thinks it's a product — I think that makes it a product.
Of course, what we didn’t know back then was what it would take to go from three people in an apartment to a multinational organization in a few short years.
It’s all about the people
It was all very abstract at the beginning. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is how many people are involved in building a company — all the different kinds of expertise that is needed. You can't build a global company by yourself, and you can't be responsible for carrying the entire load on your own back.
Almost everyone who has worked here has touched the company in some way. We’ve had admins who’ve built culture, and recruiters who’ve brought in talent that has impacted how we've grown. Then there are the marketers who’ve shaped our message and the market's perception of us. And I can’t forget the engineers who’ve helped evolve the product.
One of my favorite memories is of the constant evolution that transpires at Distil Networks' all-hands meetings — all of us just getting together and growing the business together. Every time we take another group picture, it becomes my background on Facebook. It's how I chart the milestones in my life — the evolution of the team.
I confess to being a little nostalgic. In the beginning, every day we’d wake up, go for a run, come back and it was Distil, 24 × 7. It was all-enveloping — there was something special, almost a purity, about that life. Of course, back then we didn't really have long-term significant others. We had girlfriends, but it was really all about us guys and spending every day building awesome technology.
Growing our company — and ourselves
Today, many families rely on us to make the right decisions for their livelihood. This has meant that I’ve had to broaden my skills, both as a leader and as a human being. Empathy has never been one of my prior strengths, so I’m continually working on my people skills. I'm getting better at listening, at guiding, and at giving feedback to people instead of directing them. That's been the biggest management challenge for me, and I know it’ll stand me in good stead as we continue to build the company to achieve an enduring future.
Holding on to our core mission of making the web more secure has been a key part of our success. We've wanted to change people's perceptions of the web’s key vulnerabilities. That goal has evolved from web scrapers to the broader bot landscape, and now the security of the entire universe of web applications and services. Our mission has become broader, sure, but it's still aimed at the same guiding star and we have no plans to change direction - that is, unless our customers tell us to. Our customers have always been a key part of our product evolution, pushing us to always do better, and that’s not going to change either.
What does the future hold for Distil Networks?
One thing we’ll never do is sit still. Web security is dynamic and demands constant innovation. We’re looking to bring together a suite of three, four, or five different products that help secure web applications, services, and APIs, while reducing fraud and making the internet a safer place for everyone to conduct business. That means we’ll likely need to continue our current growth rate of tripling every year. That is what will enable us to support thousands, instead of hundreds, of customers. This is really our goal — to do a lot more of what we’re already doing, while staying true to our mission of helping customers protect themselves.
With five years behind us and a long road ahead, a huge thank you goes out to our customers and staff — without you, none of this would have been possible.
About the Author
Rami Essaid is the Chief Product and Strategy Officer and Co-founder of Distil Networks, the first easy and accurate way to identify and police malicious website traffic, blocking 99.9% of bad bots without impacting legitimate users. With over 12 years in telecommunications, network security, and cloud infrastructure management, Rami continues to advise enterprise companies around the world, helping them embrace the cloud to improve their scalability and reliability while maintaining a high level of security.Follow on Twitter More Content by Rami Essaid