Years back during the start of one of my new business ventures, I had asked our sole engineer Peter, a very bright lad, and a merit scholar, to check into the expiration date of our Verisign security certificate on our website so we wouldn’t get caught by surprise, otherwise it will greet customers with a nasty security warning when they browse the site. Peter was still pretty fresh out of college and was not up to speed in the ways of startups, but he was very good at technology.
For those who don’t know, Verisign is a leader in providing a sort of Security ‘Seal of Approval’ on many ecommerce websites. Verisign is a publicly traded leader in this area, and is run by a very competent management team and CEO. They are a household name in the ecommerce business, and a mainstay in Silicon Valley. My company at the time was about 8 months old, and it consisted of 4 monkeys (of which I was one) in an inferior office space with a mission.
About an hour after my request, I get a call from Peter’s phone extension. Peter informs me that we have an option to purchase either a 1 year certificate, a 3 or 5 year. Naturally I ask the price discounts for the longer commitments- and so I determine the 3 year is the best option for us.
“Take the 3 year option Peter” I say.
(Peter goes silent)
“Peter- you there? Take the 3 year option” I reiterate into the phone.
Peter then very quietly asks “..are you sure you want the 3 year option?”
“Yes, it’s perfect. What do you have against it?” I ask.
Peter retorts, “What if the company goes out of business?”
Now I’m wholly confused. Here is a public company, the leader in the security certificate industry, with probably a half to a billion dollar plus market capitalization at the time, and Peter is asking me about their longevity.
“Peter, are you crazy, Verisign isn’t going to go out of business!”.
Little did I know that Peter was referring to OUR company biting the dust, which was the absolute last thing in my mind. Truth is I really believed that Verisign would deep six before we ever would, even though our company was barely out of the gates.
New companies need the people equivalent of solid rocket boosters to push off the pad. It’s that sort of dogged belief system that gets a startup into the atmosphere versus those that crash and burn on the launchpad.