Darren Guccione | From Rockstar Musician to Rockstar CEO

John Corcoran 12:12

rocket ship ride and your background, having done m&a must have been helpful in that.

Darren Guccione 12:18

Very, yeah. So you know, I think the the benefit of having a, you know, the CPA, the whole background, you know, because you study Business Law, you study compliance, financial, cost, accounting, all of it’s so beneficial, just to understand how to set up accounting systems, financial systems, the whole backup, you know, office, you know, how a business functions, right? So, it allowed me to take, you know, products and build businesses around those products. And I think that’s really important. I would say today, you know, I spend a lot of time with Amy or chief financial officer who’s amazing. But at the end of the day, you know, 50% of my time is spent on product and product vision and roadmap with Craig, I spend a lot of my time working with, you know, customers, both new and existing, to identify critical unmet needs of the market. And then of course, delivering against those needs at speed. And that’s the way that really I focus on what I do. But I would say that the the CPA and that foundation was something that I would have never thought about, like if you ask me, you know, I’m coming off the stage, you know, singing Van Halen with the hippie hippie at ubuY. Hey, man, you want to be a CPA? I’d be like, are you talking about like an accountant? Yeah. And accountant want to be an accountant. I would have never thought about that. Right. So as you go through life, I think, you know, as long as you have an open mind, where your mind is amorphous, it’s amazing. You know how many things you can learn as long as you realize that, you know, information, I always tell my team, it’s just text on a screen, or text on a piece of paper, just open your mind relaxed and bring it all in. And I’ve had a lot of pivots in my life.

John Corcoran 14:05

Well, certainly, I mean, you were kind of going in the direction of creating an m&a firm. And then this new idea comes along, you meet Craig, you start something completely different. I want to know, you know, a lot of people that I talked to on here who’ve exited a business they find themselves then with new acquiring CO and then all of a sudden they have a lockout period, or a year or two or something like that. And then they’re just miserable. What was your experience? Like? Were you locked up? Were you working at the new company at CNET? And what was that experience like for you after having made this big life decision to start your own company and then all of a sudden you find yourself two years later working for another company?

Darren Guccione 14:42

Yeah, well, the day that we closed the deal with Siena I had my next idea right at the closing table in terms of what I wanted to do, which was one seen it, it was there was to design and create this mobile conferencing device. Okay, so you would say zooming in on? myself? No, no. So you would have signaled from a cell phone, and you would multiplex it and allow multiple people with wireless headsets to join the call on the fly. So as a mobile conferencing technology, and we call it call pod conferencing technology, which actually led to the birth of the next company, which was called pod. But you know, I made it clear that, look, I’d love to work with you and help you with the transition. So I signed a consulting agreement with Siena, not an employment agreement. And that allowed me to pursue something that was non competitive. But you know, at the same time, you know, value added, so what I wanted to do, and I spent the next few years working on that technology, that wound up launching it once the patent issued.

John Corcoran 15:49

Yeah. Now, you, you mentioned a second ago, you spent a lot of your time on product vision, meeting with your your customers getting feedback from them. There are different approaches to this, you know, people, some people are kind of more visionaries, and they come up with the idea, especially if it’s in a new space that consumers are not used to others spend tons of time talking to users getting feedback, where do you fall on that spectrum? And how do you decide where to put your energy and time?

Darren Guccione 16:20

Yeah, so it’s interesting. So, you know, internally, we have a very meritocratic system in terms of how we gather feedback. And then of course, we assign, you know, different weights and measures to them. And then those get weighted inside of a framework to build out our roadmap, so that we were always being pulled in the direction of the client, we don’t just decide what we’re going to build and then say, okay, let’s build that we hope they buy it, there’s no chicken and egg. So everything that is designed and created Keeper as a result of a high frequency, high mass, high density, number of requests, right. But the interesting thing about, you know, a customer or a prospect, it’s almost like the same thing that you run into when you go to the doctor, doctor will say, what’s your problem? What’s wrong, and you say, I have a fever, I’m nauseous, I can’t sleep, my head hurts. I have the chills. Those are symptoms, right? But it’s not necessarily the problem. So what’s really important is, a customer’s not going to come to you and say, This is what I need you to invent. This is the product I needed to invent. They especially when

John Corcoran 17:32

you get you got started. I mean, 12 13 years ago now, which was before all these big data breaches, before cybersecurity was front page headlines all the time. So those early days, I imagine it would have been even less useful to talk to people about what kind of solution that they wanted.

Darren Guccione 17:51

Yeah, we, you know, here’s what it came down to. So at the time, when we create a Keeper, the first version, there was really no ubiquitous digital vault, for storing sensitive and private information in a fully encrypted end to end format. On a mobile device, everything was really done or relegated in the browser, the desktop. So we looked at each other and said, Wow, you know, there’s gonna be this app revolution, the iPhone and come out, they were launching their app store. And Craig and I, you know, sort of talk through this, and I just said, My God, look at this, if we can create an amazing product and a two and a half inch screen, think about what we can do, you know, in a normal desktop or the browser. So early on, when we started architecting Keeper. From day one, it was really around this whole premise of zero knowledge, like making sure that the customer the client device is always in complete control of their master password, and the encryption keys that are used to encrypt and decrypt info. And then of course, as we moved upstream into b2b, it became more around the ability to provision into any architecture very fast. So it doesn’t matter what I you know, identity solution or tech stack you’re running, but make it really easy to deploy and very easy for people to use. With full zero, we call zero trust and zero knowledge. It’s a very simple way of saying, We never have access to your information as a vendor, nor should any third party unless you expressly share that information with them. And the mechanism at which we allow you to do that is with full end to end encryption. I

John Corcoran 19:34

still have to ask you, you know, as the CEO of a company that your job is to protect other companies from data breaches in cybersecurity, that’s fundamentally what you do. How do you sleep at night? I mean, I would break me out. I would I don’t know that I’d be able to sleep because I’d constantly be thinking about all the things that could go wrong.

Darren Guccione 19:55

Yeah. It’s interesting. I don’t You know, here’s the thing it’s like peace of mind is is you know is when you’re focused on the present, depression is when you’re focused on the past. And anxiety is when you’re focused too much on the future, right. So I work really hard at trying to stay in the present. But the things that keep me up at night, it’s not the risk of a data breach, because I have really strong confidence in our security model, I feel amazing about that. Where I stay up at night is around the anxiety, but it’s not negative. It’s the positive excitement, and anxiousness about serving such a large untapped market that needs this product. There, there is a huge problem, especially in the SMB category, where you have, you know, 420 million potential SMBs. And so hosts globally, that are under 24/7, attacked by cybercriminals. And most of these SMBs have no idea how to protect themselves. And unfortunately, every few seconds, literally, some individual, or business is paying a ransom right now. I mean, that’s how bad this problem is. So the social aspect of what we do in terms of helping the community, and just the overall social impact of this product is absolutely enormous. That’s what keeps me up at night is the ability to capitalize on that opportunity. But it’s not, I’m not up worrying.

John Corcoran 21:29

And I’m sure when you see a headline of some additional data breach, it’s gotta be with mixed emotions. Part of you saying it’s awful that that happened. And the other part, maybe, perhaps, thinking that, in some ways, those headlines help, because it’s going to inspire more people to take action.

Darren Guccione 21:46

Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting, because it’s funny, Anna and I were talking about this earlier today. And people have a tendency of either being afraid of something they don’t understand or just becoming numb to it. Right. And, you know, most people know how to spell cybersecurity. But if you ask a small business owner, do you know how to protect your business against a ransomware attack, you know, what you need to do? Most of them are just they don’t know. So we have such a, you know, a pervasive job that we need to do in order to educate them, by making them aware that this is not expensive for you. And it’s very easy to use, and it’s very accessible. And I think this has to be done. on a grand scale, really important. You know, the, yeah, it’s just it’s astounding, you know, the problem that we see, you know, when you when you look at the press, it’s the large ransoms that make the headlines. But in the aggregate, it’s not the large single ransom. That’s also the issue, the biggest issue 85% of the ransomware attacks, and breaches happen against SMB and Soho businesses, small office, home office, and small to medium sized businesses. And those barely make the headlines. Why? Because they’re, they’re not sensationalized. Yeah, someone’s paying a $5,000 ransom. You know, the press would be like, Well, who cares? It’s only five grand, we want to talk about the company that just paid 50 million.

John Corcoran 23:23

Yeah, but it can be debilitating to this, depending on the size of the company. And how has the pandemic and the proliferation of work from home? How has that changed the game for for you guys, and for cybersecurity?

Darren Guccione 23:36

Well, the number of attacks increased during the pandemic, the number of attacks increased six fold, 100% increase, you know, think about it this way, when you have this mass migration to the cloud, coupled with distributed remote work where you mean, we’re all working from home, the number of endpoints that escalated or exponential, the number of cloud based applications that we have to log into and secure, exponentially increased. So the attack surface goes from being x two y and y is six times the size of Vax, the cybercriminals are like eating at a buffet table. 24/7. Right. And they’re grabbing low hanging fruit. Because if you said to somebody, Hey, do you know right now, in your home office, if you are being targeted by the dark web at this minute on this device? Do you even know if your credentials are being traded back and forth by in amongst cyber criminals on the dark web? They have your login credentials for one of your commerce accounts. Are you aware of that? Most people would say no, I have no idea because they’re not running the cybersecurity software that they need. Yeah.

John Corcoran 24:57

And then, you know, right now we’re recording this at the end. of 2022, the last six months, ever knows the markets have been kind of in the tank. And I imagine it’s been a lot of companies that are under investing in this area, in spite of the headlines. Yeah, we

Darren Guccione 25:19

do, we have been blessed, you know, we had a record year, this has been a very difficult, you know, macro and micro economic environment, I think the toughest environment in the past, you know, three or four decades, we can all agree on that interest rates are going crazy, and they’re not, you know, stifling inflation. In fact, we have major issues with supply chain still. The The key here is that, when we talk to our teams, and we talk about how hard it is out there, it’s so important to be even more focused, more determined, more persistent, more relentless, right and pursuing our goals. We know exactly what our goals are, they didn’t change before or after the pandemic, they stayed exactly the same. So it’s really important, I think one of the benefits is, there’s a very positive environments at the company, because outside, if you look at any of the headlines are focused on what’s happening with the environment, it can get pretty depressing. So we lift each other up, we help each other, and we’re able to achieve, you know, some really great growth, which I’m grateful for, and

John Corcoran 26:32

and what do you change that to, in spite of the economic downturn?

Darren Guccione 26:37

Well, there was a definite increase in cyber attacks. So we the demand for our products increased, we became more, I would say, flexible and pricing to make sure that look, you know, someone would come to me and say, I need to give this person a 50% discount, or 60% off, I need to help this business, they’re in trouble. I’d instantly approve it. Right. So very flexible policies on discounting to help people in need or companies in need.

John Corcoran 27:10

I’m sure you don’t want us to edit that out later.

Darren Guccione 27:14

No, it’s It’s look, it’s it’s you know, we are, we are a realist, you know, we believe that we’ve priced our products to sell, you know, we believe we have the best product in the industry, at the lowest entry price of any of our competition, we believe that

John Corcoran 27:33

let me ask you about that about about the competition, because there are well known players in this space. Now, I don’t know when they started, if it was after you were not LastPass. One Password, people know about those? How do you view the competition? Do you view it? As you know, it’s if there’s a big enough pie for everyone? Or? Or do you see it, as you know, we’re fighting tooth and nail to get our own market share?

Darren Guccione 27:54

Well, I look, it’s very interesting. We came to the market, you know, five and seven years after, you know, LastPass and one password, respectively. Maybe it’s the other way around, but we were at least five years, you know, newer than they were we are known as the market innovators, we have the most patents. When it comes to competition, I do not worry about them, not even for a second, because our focus is on the markets needs. And I believe if you address the needs of your market, and you deliver at speed, you give them exactly what they’re missing are exactly what they want. And you do it faster. At a very fair price, you’ll do great. And this market is so gigantic, that there isn’t enough business to go around and make our three main competitors. You know, whether it’s one password, or Dashlane, or LastPass, even bid more than all of the organizations can be large. It’s no different than when you talk about enterprise cloud. And you have Google Cloud, you’ve got Dell EMC, you’ve got AWS and Microsoft Azure, it’s no different than having that discussion. This is such a massive, you know, opportunity, that it’s physically impossible for one company to get all of the market share. There’s just such a massive opportunity. So I think that you know, the competition, it’s a fantastic measurement, you know, do we keep an eye on them? Of course, product teams keep an eye on competitive analysis, but what we really focus on is addressing the critical unmet needs of our target market. And I as I said delivering on those needs at speed that’s really important to us.

John Corcoran 29:47

You know, when I interviewed Steve Cunningham, he said of the 20 different CEOs he works with regularly. You were one of his favorites, or I believe he said actually, you’re you were the favorite. What do you Tribute that to what? What is it you’re doing managing this company? That is the reason that he would point you out as an example?

Darren Guccione 30:10

I don’t know. I mean, look, I first of all, I find it humbling, because he’s absolutely, you know, he is absolutely brilliant. I mean, as a CMO, he has been such an amazing mentor to me, because I love marketing. But I would say that, I think the values that he and I have are quite simply consistent. You know, I put the best interests of the company first, and by the company, I’m talking about all of its stakeholders. And I always put myself last just as the way that I look at things. I think that if you make the decisions that are in the best interest of the company, and you’re relentless in pursuing those, I think you’ll get to a really good place. But I, I think what Steve, what he looks for is the same thing that I look for in all of my team members is passion. The passion is by far the most important thing, because what we do is so hard. And the amount of time that we put in like I don’t view a week as 40 hours I view a week is 168. Right? So if somebody you know was to say, Well, can you achieve, you know, greatness and 40 hours in technology? I would say no, you cannot. I’m being honest, I just don’t think it’s possible because you have competition, you’ve got market opportunity. And things move at a at a scale and a rate that you are not able to control. So if you look at the frequency spectrum of success being 128 hours, that’s where the success occurs, it doesn’t occur in the first 40. So for example, all of the planning all of the strategy that we do, right, all of the detailed work, pre and post execution is done before or after normal work hours. Right. And Steve has always been there. So if I reach out to Steve, he has no problem talking to me, at 930 on a Thursday night, for an hour to review a strategy or an idea that I have with either PPC marketing or some type of distribution strategy or pricing strategy. But no, I just, you know, to answer specifically, why does he think, you know, I’m his favorite? I can’t really answer that, I can just tell you that these are sort of the traits that I live by. And I think he’s come to appreciate that. I appreciate him.

John Corcoran 32:37

Yeah. I want to wrap up with my final question, which is I’m a big fan of gratitude. And if you look around at your peers and contemporaries, however, you wanted to find that so maybe others in your industry, other CEOs of companies, however you wanted to find it, who do you respect to admire? Who would you want to call out and thank

Darren Guccione 32:57

there’s a lot I, you know, I don’t want to be holistic, but, you know, I have a capacity that pulls out the positive aspects of people, right, because everyone has their sharp edges and their nuances. And, you know, for example, I think Steve Jobs was amazing, you know, read his book cover to cover, you know, studied as many videos and interviews as I possibly could. I think Elon Musk is amazing, I think, absolutely brilliant. Maybe he sees the world quite differently, more radically than others. But he’s an example, in the purest sense of living to the extreme. That’s such a re like, you know, 168 Hour Work Week, to invest every minute that you possibly can, into executing against your dreams and vision, and all of your objectives and goals. They think that makes them quite attractive as a leader, and as an innovator, because that’s what we look for. But, you know, there’s people that are not well known or not famous that had such a profound and positive impact on me there were a lot of people that I caddied for, you know, that taught me this is how you treat people. This is how you act like the gentleman, this is how, you know. You become professional and self actualized. Right, this is how you pursue and achieve your goals. And I you know, I had to clean the floor once with a toothbrush because I did something wrong. And at the time, you know, my first caddy master, he was rough around the edges I started carrying when I was 12. I left early i He wanted me to go to rounds that you know, eight hours to 10 hours a day. I would get there at 630 in the morning, get dropped off. I would caddy for for four and a half hours and then he’d want me to go out again one day I was tired, didn’t feel well and I had My mom picked me up. And the next day I showed up at work. He went in there and made me clean the bathroom including the toilet. Yeah, toothbrush. Needless to say, he taught me like, look, the whole premise of that was, it was very simple. It’s like, look, I’m trying to show you how to maximize the value of your day. And to get the absolute most of your day, when you have value. And it’s there waiting for you. Take it. Don’t don’t push it to the side go after it. And I’ll never forget that. Yeah. There were invaluable lessons. I know. That’s an extreme one. But it had a profound impact on me.

John Corcoran 35:47

Yeah, no, I think back I like you know, coaches that I had younger, I come to the same way. And Elon Musk is getting a lot of blowback these days with some of the things that he’s done. I still think he’s amazing entrepreneur. Some of the time will tell you the story about I met him when Tesla was in the tank and was about to collapse around 2010. And interesting guy, amazing vision. Darren, this has been great. Where can people go to learn more about you and connect with you if they have questions or connect with a member of the team?

Darren Guccione 36:14

Sure, keepersecurity.com. And thank you so much for having me on today. I appreciate it.

John Corcoran 36:21

Thank you so much, Darren.

Outro 36:22

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at smartbusinessrevolution.com. And while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast.