5 Lessons from My SaaStr Panel with the Hashicorp Founders

Today at SaaStr 2018, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mitchell Hashimoto and Armon Dadgar, co-founders of HashiCorp. Our panel, “From Zero to Hypergrowth: How HashiCorp has Successfully Targeted the Global 2000,” was chock full of great lessons.

Having first invested in HashiCorp’s Series A in 2014, we at GGV are delighted to have watched the company’s extraordinary growth under Mitchell and Armon’s stewardship. The company’s popular open source software, such as Vagrant, Consul, Terraform, Nomad and Vault, are now deployed at companies across all major industries and geographies.

Below are five takeaways from our conversation that will help other founders and company builders.

Lesson 1: Being open source is a brand asset

When I asked the founders what value does being open source bring to their company, Armon said that they think of open source as a marketing approach. It helps them build awareness and affinity towards their products. That brand affinity, in turn, can ease a product’s path to commercialization.

Lesson 2: Devote time and energy to community building

Being open source lends well to community building, but the latter takes a lot of patience. Founders interested in open-source products need to be prepared to devote significant time and energy to community building.

Lesson 3: Know thyself and your limitations

In 2016, the two founders brought onboard two industry veterans – Dave McJannet as CEO, and Rob Abbott as VP of Worldwide Sales. I asked Mitchell and Armon what led to this decision. “It became really clear to us early on that selling was not our expertise, that we were learning through paper cuts,” they said. Founders should know their own strengths and limitations, and be honest with themselves. If someone can do something better than you, hire them.

Lesson 4: The role of the founder is to “nudge”

Hiring a CEO (“the best decision we’ve ever made”, according to Armon) has enabled the two founders to devote energy to making sure the company stays aligned to its vision as it scales rapidly. Instead of micro-managing the day-to-day of the company, they can now focus on things like improving the product, ensuring customer success, and “nudging” the team to ensure the company is headed in the right direction.

Lesson 5: Hire and fire people faster than you think you need to

Armon said his biggest regret so far is “Not firing people faster.” When the data shows that someone is not performing, you need to be willing to let go. On the flip side, Mitchell also wishes that they had brought on a seasoned executive leadership team earlier. His advice for startup founders? “Invest in executive talent 6 months earlier than you think you need to. Hire them right now.”

Click here to read my previous post on “Top 10 Lessons from HashiCorp Founder Armon Dadgar.”

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