Changelog & Friends – Episode #34

Bourbon and better software

with Robert Ross, Founder and CEO of FireHydrant

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Adam is joined by Robert Ross, Founder and CEO of FireHydrant — they discuss Bourbon, sniffing arms, better software, leading a successful startup, scaling teams, building vs acquiring, and Adam even gets Robert to commit to watching Silicon Valley!!



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Notes & Links

📝 Edit Notes


1 00:00 Let's talk!
2 00:37 Sponsor: Sentry
3 01:36 It's been 2 year
4 02:17 What's fun?
5 03:22 Let's talk Bourbon
6 06:18 Unique swag
7 09:17 You're in the right place
8 18:00 This AI stuff
9 20:38 "Real" world impact
10 25:19 What have you learned?
11 29:27 Sponsor: imgproxy
12 32:57 Leading the company
13 36:04 Then vs Now
14 38:14 Getting to clarity
15 42:09 Hire. But how do you paying for it?
16 45:03 Do you have hobbies?
17 48:12 Osmosis from other founders?
18 49:13 De-Hulking the Hulk
19 53:45 The state of better software?
20 58:14 Sponsor: Tailscale
21 1:01:08 Build vs Acquire
22 1:04:24 What's the next big thing?
23 1:05:18 Competitors be listening
24 1:06:39 Pagerduty's gate is down over the moat
25 1:09:20 What's "Done." for you?
26 1:10:47 TV? Shows? (Silicon Valley)
27 1:15:11 VC hard times getting better
28 1:17:09 Wrapping up
29 1:19:07 We're done.


📝 Edit Transcript


Play the audio to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧

It’s been a bit since we’ve talked. It’s been May of 2022, and it’s now 2024.

It’s been that long?

It’s been that long. What have you done? …with your life even. Not just your business, but your life. How’s life?

I mean, all of it’s great.

Are you working too much?

Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s really funny, because I wear an Apple watch every day, and in the heart app you can see my resting heart rate going, like, up…

Oh, man.

It’s on a slope right now… So I’m “Oh, I should go on a run, or a fast-paced walk at this point.” But yeah, I’m good. Life’s good.

And what do you do when you’re not working? Like, what’s fun for you? I see you on LinkedIn, I think, posting about – maybe Twitter, X, about your evening drinks, when you’re celebrating… That’s what I see of you.


That seems to be Robert fun time.

It is. So it’s out of view right here, but I’ve got a pretty nice little liquor cabinet that I to keep stocked with nice stuff, and I making an Old Fashioned, and we’ve got some really cool Fire Hydrant-branded booze material, we’ve got a nice Scotch glass, and… But you know, I honestly –

I would want to acquire one of these Scotch glasses. Is it a snifter, or is it a Scotch glass?

I guess it’s not technically a Scotch –

Or a Glencairn? I guess a Glencairn is a glass that you would use for Scotch.

It’s – I guess it’s more of a bourbon glass, but it has a “Incident started” line, and an “Incident resolved” line on it…

Nice. Oh, my gosh.

But we might have a couple. Let me know – we might have a couple still in stock.

I mean, I’m a Scotch guy myself – well, I’m more of a bourbon guy personally… Do you know about the sniffing your arm tactic whenever you’re doing flights? If you’re tasting multiple bourbons, and you’re sort of comparing and contrasting, do you know about that process?

No. What is that?

So you’re – I don’t know how you do it, but a friend of mine who’s really into it, who’s gotten me more into it, he taught me the true bourbon experience. And it goes this. You’re not meant to get drunk, it’s not trying to get twisted, it’s just enjoying the bourbon for what it is. You talk about the mash bill, you talk about how it’s made, if it’s a port finish, if it’s a single barrel, if it’s a selection… All these things go into what makes the bourbon that you’re tasting taste different. It’s age, obviously, is a key component to that… Where in the world it was aged… Here in Texas things age differently. Our bourbon actually ages in – a two-year bourbon in Texas is a five-year bourbon, because of the drastic swings in temperature [unintelligible 00:04:18.16]

Yeah, it makes sense.

The rickhouse is open usually, un-air-conditioned, so you get the full spectrum of the year. But anyways, you [unintelligible 00:04:29.06] could be three, could be five… About an ounce each, and then you sniff it for a good minute or two before you even drink. It’s just all about all the components of it. The sniffing, obviously the tasting, but in between those two clean your nose palate. Because your nose and your taste buds are so connected, you sniff your – I’m sniffing for the audience, by the way. You sniff your non-watch hand, and it cleanses it, it changes out your nose palate, so that when you sniff the next one, you kind of get a new… Sniff. You get a new sniff palate.

You know, if it wasn’t 1:53 in the afternoon on a Wednesday, I’d be tempted to give it a shot… I’ve got a couple of nice things over here. No, that’s interesting. I’ve never once heard that.

The best way to do it though is with friends. With one or two friends, over hours, comparing… We just lined up all the Elijah Craigs he had. Okay, here’s a port finish, here’s the 10-year, here’s the whatevers, and he just lined them all up. “Here’s my selection…” He went to specs, and it was their specs selection… He’s also gone and selected the barrel himself… That means you taste, I guess, different samples from each barrel when you say “Okay, that’s the barrel I want.” And you get a full pour into your bottle from that barrel.

Oh, my gosh.

So anyways, the bourbon experiences is what it’s about.

So can you use this smell technique with your friends, if they’re there, too? Can you just smell their wrist? Or is that too weird?

[00:05:57.23] I mean, if you want to smell your friends’ wrists…


It might be a unique nose palate cleansing process… I would sniff only my wrist. If you sniffed my wrist, I wouldn’t be upset about it, but I might be “Well, you’ve got your own.”

Yeah, that makes a 10-year smell different. Anyways, we should change the subject before this gets way too weird… [laughs]

Yes. Well, the good thing, I think, is just that you’ve got some cool stuff for Fire Hydrant. I think that’s pretty cool, to have swag that isn’t just a T-shirt. I see you’re wearing the Fire Hydrant hat… It’s not just the T-shirt, it’s not just the thing that seems to be the “developer swag”. It’s a bit more unique.

Yeah, I’ve been to so many conferences, and I’ve gotten so much swag in my dayi… One day - this was years ago -

Fire Hydrant had just raised some money, and was I “I want to make a shirt. I feel cool companies have cool shirts.” And I was at Digital Ocean and I had all these old cool Digital Ocean shirts… So what I did was I laid out all the shirts, all my tech shirts that I wore all the time, and I put the ones that I didn’t wear, but had, on the side. And I was just kind of feeling them, looking at them, and I was on the ground, in my apartment, and I was “You know what, every shirt that I wear is the American Apparel Tri blend, super-comfy, doesn’t make me feel a NASCAR driver advertisement… And that’s the kind of shirt that I want.” So we’ve got a bunch of shirts that don’t say Fire Hydrant on the front at all. It says it on the back of it, in really small print… But it says DevOops engineer, or “Simply restart everything”, and… I having cool tech shirts. I think that those are fun.

Yeah. I agree with that. Or even your other one, which is Better Incidents , which I think is a cool name for what might be your media hub that you’re growing. I’ve seen that you’ve got a podcast out there. Congratulations. Articles out there, it’s a destination on Fire Hydrant’s website now… I think Better Incidents is a cool name.

Yeah. Maybe we should make some shirts for that one.

Especially if you want it to be seen more as a brand, you know?

I think the last time we talked actually, the name of the podcast, the title was “Enabling a world where all software is reliable.” So really it was about better software, right?

Yeah, we were – the thing that I like about software is making cool software that helps other software… Like, developer tools. That’s the better way to say that. Yeah, and I think Better Incidents is the community of people talking about “How can we make better software?” It’s about better incidents and managing them better, but is there a world where we just don’t have incidents? And I think that’s just a cool world to chase after, is no incidents. How can we do that? It’s impossible, right? There’s always gonna be incidents, but…

Right. Software always has bugs, always has issues, there’s always crashes… There’s always a mess-up somewhere.

Yeah. Yeah. [unintelligible 00:09:09.14] definitely start talking about that more and more as time goes on here.

The cool thing I think that you’ve – you had some pain when you were at DigitalOcean, so that made you think “Okay, I should do this for real”, and you’ve created Fire Hydrant… That’s the TL;DR, for those who didn’t know how you did it… But there’s always going to be issues in software, right? So you’ve put yourself in a place where you can help people do better over time, but it’s not like you’ll eventually have a – there’s no done state to Fire Hydrant. There may be a Mostly Done state at some point, but at some point all software kind of still has issues, whether it’s a retrospective, or a post mortem, or an on-call situation… There’s always something to help developers really just focus on the vital few years versus the trivial many, which is half the battle, right? As an SRE, or someone that’s in ops, or in charge of an application or a system being up, or mostly up, or reliable. You’re always gonna have something going wrong in that situation… Which is good for your business, right? There’s no shortage of new customers.

[00:10:21.06] For Fire Hydrant, that’s for sure. Yeah, I think that software is kind of this interesting… There’s two sides of it, I think, for reliability. There’s the software engineer’s point of view, the person that built it, their perspective of its reliability. And then there’s the customer’s perspective of its reliability. And I’ve said this in various forms, but I was at DO for a year and a half. Not super-long, but we had some insane incidents while I was there, and while I was on call. And then my next gig, I was at Namely, HR, and our incidents were really different, actually, because we were a payroll company. And our software could be fine, but maybe there was an operations mistake, and then the perspective from the customer was “Holy crap. This is the worst thing ever.” We actually had an outage – or excuse me, not an outage; we had a day where our payroll software didn’t pay an entire company. That is –

Yeah, that’s bad.

That’s bad.

That’s a catastrophe, yes.

That’s a catastrophe.

For sure.

And the reason wasn’t because our software messed up, actually, it’s because we had payroll experts on the side. There was just a human, just like a very casual, not a big deal mistake, where he didn’t hit Submit. It was a simple mistake. But to the customer, they were like “Your software didn’t pay us.” And we’re like “We didn’t push Submit to say we need to do the ACH transfers on our side.” And so our CEO actually got a keg of beer… It was a local company in New York City, and they went to their office with a blank checkbook and said “I will pay people here and now if you need it today.” That incident always kind of stuck with me, because that wasn’t a software outage. But it was an incident. And it kind of lends to the fact of like these perceptions are – there’s a lot of challenges to where the outage really is occurring. Is it on the software side? Is it on the customer side? Is it the customer maybe accidentally misconfigured the software, and it’s doing something that they’re not expecting, and they’re calling it an incident, but it’s you saying “No, it’s misconfigured”? So I don’t know, I think that software reliability just has so many different angles to it… But at the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is the people using it, what’s their perception of reliability.

Right. I guess that basic question is at what point does an incident go from the software layer to the business layer? I mean, I don’t think they’re necessarily synonymous; in a lot of cases, the business is powered by the software, so if it’s a software issue, it’s a business issue. But in this case, it was a human error, so there wasn’t like a Sentry alert, or some sort of error that bubbled up, that creates something else, that says “Okay, this was born in software.” It was born really in probably the realization of the CEO and his employees or his or her employees that “Hey, what happened? Why didn’t we get paid? Where did things go wrong?”

So the alert was the human error, and the human probably saying “Hey, this didn’t actually work out.” So at what point does an incident or a platform that helps companies really reliably deal with software incidents transcend that one particularly into the business realm? How do you do that? Do you track that in something like Fire Hydrant? Is it equipped for that kind of level of a business incident?

I think that if you’re calling it an incident, it’s almost certainly a business incident. I mean, I think that every incident…

For sure.

[00:14:02.24] …errodes trust, either externally or internally… And you have to – if you’re counting it as an incident, it’s also an admission that there’s business impact, I think is maybe one way of saying it. And on the notion of human error, there’s a lot of debate on “Is there such thing as a human error?” There’s those references on it, things like that… I don’t know. I’m kind of in the camp of “Yes, there is, but it’s not ill-intentioned.” If someone doesn’t push the button when they’re supposed to - yeah, that’s an error. It’s by a person. I don’t know how else you could argue that. I think that what we should get better at is making software be better at preventing those types of mistakes. I think that’s really what matters more.

But yeah, I mean, the way that I also think about incidents nowadays - I used to be in the camp of “Never let a customer report an incident to you.” And man, that’s just so false. It’s not possible. If you think about it, all these systems, like a Sentry error, a Data Dog monitor… Say another tool. Chronosphere is maybe a new one. If that’s alerting you to a problem, do you know why it alerted you? Because a user triggered an error, that sent a log line or something into the observability tool, and then it notified you. It’s hard to know about an incident before a customer does, because the customer is the one that triggers you to even know that there’s an incident.

I was at a conference, and it was this great analogy of like if I’m on a bridge, and the bridge collapses, I’m going to know before you. So this idea of trying to get to incidents before people is just not possible…

Yeah, I’m following here. That makes sense. What you’re talking about with the button pushing, for example, and payroll, I would imagine is an idea of grace period, right? Every month – well, every 30 days… And I suppose February is the anomaly, but every 30 days-ish there’s a grace period of “This thing should run”, and that thing is called payroll. And if it didn’t run, that should trigger some sort of awareness to somebody, saying “Hey, payroll didn’t run. Why?”

Yeah. Because then you can fix it. You have a window of opportunity to address the situation. You can do a wire transfer if you really need to, and fix it that way. Yeah, I think that that is the answer for a lot of these problems. I think grace periods, retries is how software is going to have to start having this next iteration on it… Software used to - and still mostly is, I would say… Is pretty unforgiving. You tell it to do something, it’s going to do it. And if you don’t tell it to do something, it’s not going to do it. And there’s this new kind of middle ground where software and – what’s happening is software is getting better at reminding you that you haven’t done something. You can see it kind of all over the place… If you left something in your shopping cart – that’s more of a marketing reason, but if you leave something in your shopping cart, sometimes you’ll get an email saying “You didn’t click Submit.” And that has saved me a couple of times, honestly. Amazon has sent me emails saying “You didn’t click Submit.” I’m like “Oh, that’s why I don’t have any paper towels.” That’s kind of like the middle ground that we’re going to have to start building into our software for our users, is gentle nudges, reminders that “Hey, our software won’t do anything until you tell us to do it.” Which I think is a fine middle ground between us and the human. We can’t predict what humans actually want… Maybe they wanted to abandon their cart.

[00:17:59.26] Not yet, man. This AI stuff is quite compelling. And it’s only getting better… I actually just pushed Submit on the latest Practical AI podcast, which is one of the shows here on the Changelog network… And the title of it – it’s a Fully Connected episode, so Chris and Daniel are the hosts of that show. And it was about computer vision being “alive and well”. And they were just saying how everyone’s hyped about generative AI, but meanwhile, you’re sort of looking at that lens of artificial intelligence, it’s this whole other area that researchers are working on, and it’s actually very practical to look at computer vision and its advancements. And so that’s a pretty interesting thing. It gets to be predictive based upon what it sees.

Yeah, what do you think is gonna happen with all the computer vision stuff, and advancements?

I would say – listen to the episode, but I would say… Something I saw recently - and it was kind of like, this is where I like… So I’m wearing actually the T-shirt right now. We were at a conference called THAT Conference in February. It was like early February. And I had a conversation there with two folks around ag tech. So agricultural tech, around farming, and plants, and growing, and food production, and the whole food system etc. And the one cool thing that I’ve learned recently about computer vision is they have this thing that just like – I don’t know, a vehicle or something that goes over the plants, and it uses computer vision to determine what is the plant that needs to keep growing, and what is a weed.

And what is a weed. Yeah, I’ve seen that.

And it zaps it with a laser.

It’s crazy.

I mean, it’s industrial scale level, but at some point that will be available for my backyard, and I’ll be so excited, because I will stop doing pre-emergence… I can just zap them in their tracks with my robo laser all-in-one lawnmower.

Yeah. It’ll be like a post in the middle of your yard, that just does it all day all, all night, without you needing to do anything. It might be an eyesore, but… Yeah, I think that’s so cool. The computer vision stuff is really awesome. And I think the next iteration of it too is like – the embeddings that you can create, the vectors that you can create from images, and do similarity searches on images now is just mind-boggling to me how good it is, and how fast it is, too. That’s like math that – I didn’t pay enough attention for that kind of math.

Does that make you wish you had chosen a company direction that was more physical than – not say ephemeral, but it’s in the… We can’t see what your company prevents. It’s all in the – it’s in the mist, you know? It’s behind the scenes, it’s hidden in the digitals, the ones and zeros, the bytes… Whereas if you were an agricultural technologist, so to speak, then you could be creating or working with that kind of thing. I mean – I guess it’s interesting to even think about incidents in there, like “Oh my gosh, we’re zapping the wrong plant.” That’s an incident, right? Like, raise the flag!

Right? Stop the lasers!

We zapped our strawberries instead of the weeds… And that would 100% be an incident for a farm…

It would be.

Maybe we should figure out this ag tech company and reach out to them, but…

Oh, it’s so booming, whatever’s happening there… Because somebody’s gonna be alerting that stuff, right? It’s not a cloud stack that you’re worried about, or a trace to a frontend, or replay to worry about… It’s legitimately in the physical, real world.

Yeah. And I’ve seen this video, and it is wild how close these weeds are to the actual vegetable, agriculture that they’re farming… So it does make you wonder, does it miss? What’s the SLO for a weed laser? Like, is it supposed to be 90% accurate, is it supposed to be 10% accurate? What’s the SLO on it? And at that point, I think it goes back to the farmer is definitely the one reporting that incident; probably not the machine itself.

[00:22:13.19] Although it could have a second camera that one camera is computer vision to say what to target, and the next camera is after the fact that’s saying checks and balances. Almost like garbage collection, in a way. In same motion, not–

Real user monitoring, run monitoring.

Yeah, you know? That’s right. On “Did we zap the right thing or not? Yes or no?” I’d imagine my SLO if I were targeting would be like anything above letting these weeds go rampant or using substances, or chemicals that prevent them, what’s the delta between the other options, essentially? As long as it’s above or below that threshold, in that case, I’d be totally happy as a farmer.

Yeah. [laughs] Well, there’s a lot of waste, I’m sure, too. Unfortunately. But to your question around would I like to do something physical - I think that what we are doing has physical impact. Is it a thing I can hold and touch? No. That’s why we make cool shirts. But instead, I don’t know – I can’t say the companies, the really big ones that use us, but every single day, I’m using a product that Fire Hydrant helps them with incidents. From streaming services for a few folks, to some other big, big companies. And I kind of look at that as a major win. That’s the physical component that we have.

For sure. Yeah.

It’s like “Oh, this software that I use every day is working right now. And if it stops working, I know that they have a tool that’s gonna help them get it going faster again.” So that’s how I find my joy with our product in the physical world.

Yeah, I’ll concede that, for sure. While you don’t specifically work in the physical, you enable brands, services, products that do have a real world, physical impact. That’s pretty cool. I mean, software that’s useful, that actually manifests itself into the real world… That’s what software’s for, right? It’s not just like a dev tool in that case… Which I don’t mean as a pejorative, “just a dev tool”, but a dev tool is kind of in the bytes and the bits, not so much in the physical. It’s a tool that helps other tools be better.

Yeah. I think that’s because we sell to businesses; we’re b2b, and some companies are b2c… And I think it’s rewarding – you have to search for that, I think, as a founder or employee of a company selling b2b software… It’s like “What is the secondary effect of our software?” And we have to look at our customers and go “Their customers are getting a benefit by using our tool.” And then that scale - it’s hundreds of millions of people that have a secondary effect from Fire Hydrant. That’s what makes me happy. Once I had that realization, I was like “Oh yeah, this is cool. We don’t need 10,000 customers. We can have a pretty small set and have a massive impact on the world.”

Mm-hm. Well, I suppose speaking of that notion, I mentioned that it’s been a couple of years since we spoke. I’d imagine that you’ve learned some things, I’d imagine that the company has grown, I’d imagine that you’ve improved and added things… Take me down the journey. What have you learned? How have you grown? How have you personally grown in your own skill sets, as a leader? Have you gotten better, or worse? How would you grade yourself? Wherever you want to go.

Oh, wow.

Do you grade yourself? Do you give yourself a score?

I do, yeah. I’m very critical of my yourself.

Are you hard on yourself?

[00:25:55.29] I am. I don’t know what dial I want to put this at right now. Like 11… Or maybe like a seven. I’ll put it at a seven. I think that for the last two years, the company has matured in a lot of ways. When Fire Hydrant started, I was 28, 27 maybe… Actually, I think I was 27. And 27 is pretty young. You have a lot of life ahead of you, and there’s certain experiences you just haven’t had yet. And so when you’re starting a company and you haven’t had those experiences yet, this is why second-time founders always get better terms in their companies. And actually, the most successful companies - Harvard Business did a review on this… They said that companies with founders that start in their 40s actually have a way higher success rate. And the reason for that is experience.

So in the last two years, I would say that that experience has been very material. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve gotten better at certain things. There’s still a list of things I want to get better at… But I would say that one that I’ve really settled into is being yourself is important, and not sacrificing the things that give you a lot of joy in the company just because, I don’t know, the broader environment would suggest that you should. Like “It feels faux pas for the CEO to be in the code, writing code still.” But like - oh yeah, there’s still features I build. And I love that. And if you take that away from me, you’re actually just taking away a part of me; something that makes me happy.

And about a year and a half ago, two years ago maybe, I said “I’m going to stop writing features. I’m going to remove myself from the codebase.” I actually had IT revoke my access in Okta. It lasted a month. I was so depressed… I was like “I wanna write code.”

And that was when I realized “I’ve gotta make sure I continue doing the things that make me happy.” Because then the negative impacts impact the whole company. I had to rein it in, and I have to be careful with what I build, and what autonomy am I accidentally stripping away from other engineers in the company… So now I try to pick up smaller things that I see, like maybe a bug, or a little mini feature that I think would make a customer happy. I’ll go do those things. And it’s a nice balance that we had to strike.

I think that another thing that has helped a lot is being clear in what you’re doing on a more shorter-term basis. I think it’s common for founders to speak too big, at least for me. I’m really pie in the sky, really magical thinking… But not giving the steps to get there, one by one, quarter by quarter, brick by brick is detrimental. It means that your company and the people in it won’t feel like they have a path to walk down, and they’re walking through a swamp, hacking down thickets to try to get somewhere and they don’t even know if they’re going in the right direction.

So I’d say in the last year and a half especially the company has gotten a lot better at that, with me just saying “We’re gonna do this revenue number this quarter. We’re gonna do 100 product improvements, and XYZ.” And it’s quarter by quarter, it gets reminded every single company update, and that has been a very material change to the business. And it was a super-easy, low-lift thing for me to do; I just had to learn to do it.

Break: [00:29:27.22]

How is the company led? Is it led fully by you? Not so much that every decision is made by you, but the direction - are you the rudder? Like, if you say go left, everything goes left. Is there any red tape, board, anything that’s sort of preventing you from casting a vision and helping your team give that path to apply?

I think it’s a little bit both. I think that as a CEO, I do have a board, I have three board members, all investors in the company. We’ve raised a good amount of money. And you want to make sure that everyone is aligned to a big bet before you make that bet. You want to make sure that everyone – and you need to be able to explain why you want to make that decision. And it’s a good forcing function, honestly.

About a year ago, I said “We need to build on-call. We must. That’s where the market’s going. I want to be the first there.” And I had to do a lot of work to get people onto that page. Like, on call, you’ve got this big incumbent out there, publicly-traded, there’s a couple of others… How are you going to do it? And it was a lot of work. But ultimately, it was me saying “I want to do this. I think it’s the right thing. I’ll do my best to build the trust into why I think this is the best thing.” But ultimately it is the CEO’s job to make the call. And sometimes that call needs to be made faster, and luckily, we did this so fast a year ago that it was easy to get the conviction to go that direction.

So I would say a little bit of both… And sometimes I have to restrain myself. There’s things I want to do that you don’t have time, or capacity, or really a clear enough picture even to make that call. And I did that early on at the company. I think that four years ago I was kind of shooting from the hip on more things, and built some things that I would take back, honestly. I would unship them, if I could.

Interesting. Can you name any of these unshipped things that you might unship? What would it be? Is it big, is it small?

[laughs] No, there’s a couple of small ones. We have some stuff that is just kind of confusing in our product that I would probably either decide “Do we want to reinvest in this idea? Did this idea have merit? Or is it just code that’s in our way to building something else right now?” I’ll say one. We have service dependencies in Fire Hydrant. You can actually link services to each other. I would say we went 50% of the way with that. It’s not automated, it doesn’t link into a service mesh so it automatically creates those links for youl; there’s a UI for it that you kind of have to do it. And it’s just kind of missing things. So again, you have to just decide, “Do we want to invest in this thing that’s sitting there? Is it a house that’s in disarray, that no one’s lived in for three years, and we’re trying to buy it and fix it? Or do we level it and clear that land for something else on top?” You’ve just got to make that call. We have a few of those around our app. We’ve been around for over five years…

[00:36:04.12] For sure. Can we talk about I suppose then to now? Again, back to talking two years ago, scale - what size was the company then? What size is the company now? What’s the challenge to managing the current scale? How have you learned to manage the current scale?

[unintelligible 00:36:19.11] good amount of revenue. And we had, I want to say 45-ish employees two years ago. We’ve got 63 today. So we’ve had some modest growth. We were impacted by some of the conditions, and did have to let go of a few amazing folks in the past… And that is always challenging. But I think the learning from that is don’t grow too fast with your headcount. Stay super-focused. Pick a mountain to climb, and don’t stop until you climb it, or until you don’t have a good reason to climb it anymore. And I think that comes with – the scale of Fire Hydrant at this point is we service – we have a lot of people that use our products. We have a lot of massive companies that use our product. And when you’re operating in that segment, the scale that you have to operate has to change. You have to have people that have been there, done that. You can’t have a team that hasn’t worked with a multinational, publicly-traded multibillion-dollar company. You have to have people that have worked with that type of client. And I think that we have gotten really good at finding and knowing that we should be building that type of team. We’ve gotten clarity on that.

I don’t think you can scale without clarity, and I think three years ago is when I would say we needed to get better at it. Then we’ve gotten, I would say really good at it lately. Our team has been crushing a lot of features. I mean, we’ve built an on-call product. We launched that, went GA recently, and we did not focus on anything else. We only focused on that, for months. And I think the payout is obvious, and now we don’t want to build anything differently. We want to use that same method moving forward.

Yeah. Describe clarity. How do you get to clarity? What exactly, in quotes, is clarity? I mean, I get it, but when you say that - help me understand how things became less opaque and more clear for you.

Early on, Fire Hydrant was a lot – I mean, before it was even a company Fire Hydrant was a side project. And for me, it was a “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” And that was kind of the product motto? “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did this?” And the clarity comes from when you start asking that question paired with “What problem are you trying to solve?” Are you trying to innovate something? Are you trying to offer a product that’s better, for a better price? That was our choice. And you need to pick the problem, be really clear on that, or you’re not going to clearly solve it. You’re going to build something that’s really nebulous.

I think of it like a noble gas. Noble gas will expand to the space that it’s in. And if you have a really giant – let’s use a football stadium, a covered football stadium. The gas will expand to the whole space. So you need to pick, like, are you trying to fill a football stadium? Or are you trying to fill a little tiny box? Because you don’t have that much gas to go in with in the first place, as a startup. So if you’re going to concentrate on something, you need to pick the space that you want to fill out, and I think that that clarity is extremely necessary, or you will suffer from things taking too long; really trying to do too much has a confusing – an identity problem. If you build a feature that’s trying to do too much as an identity problem. So I think that you just have to get super-clear on something - what is the problem you’re trying to solve? And every once in a while it’s okay to say “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?”, but you should pair it with something else.

[00:40:04.20] Yeah. What do you do to keep everyone so focused? At your scale, 60-some people in the company, you cast a vision, you laser-focus for months, you ship it, you’re happy with that, you want to keep rinse and repeating that process again… What are some of the literal tools behind the scenes? Do you guys just use a ton of Google Docs? How do you keep people informed? How does communication happen? …that kind of stuff.

Yeah, I mean our tool chain is probably similar to what others have. We have JIRA, Slack, Zoom, we have Google Docs for a lot of stuff… The normal toolchain, I would say. We don’t use email. Fire Hydrant doesn’t use email, really. It’s used for some stuff, with different teams.

My role in keeping the trains on time is honestly more in having just a kick ass team around me. There are limitations to what a single person can do, and having the executive team at Fire Hydrant that we do now has been life-changing for me. I don’t think about sales. I don’t think about marketing. I have a VP of engineering that lets me not think about engineering a lot. And that means that I can go focus on – because the next obvious question is “Well, what are you thinking about?”

That’s what I was thinking.

Yeah. So it kind of frees me up to think about, “Well, what’s Fire Hydrant in two years, not two days? What is our financing? What’s that look like? Do we need to do XYZ or something bad will happen?” Those are the things that I can focus on now, and the only way you can achieve that is by having an awesome frickin’ team. So for any founder listening to this, build a great team. That’s the only way you can scale. That’s the only way you can manage beyond 50 people.

Yeah. I mean, that seems like obvious advice to some degree, but at the same time it’s not obvious. And then the next question is “How you pay for it?” I mean, you obviously raised money, so that’s one way to pay for it. And I think – I can’t recall if when we talked before you said you were cashflow-positive. I don’t know. You can share if you are now, but I know you were winning good contracts, and multi-hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts I think you said in the conversation, if I recall correctly… I mean, to build a team, you have to be able to afford a team… So that’s kind of half the battle sometimes too, is like “I know where I want to go, but I’ve gotta have money to get there, and I’ve gotta sustain.”

Yeah. Money is commonly a limiting factor for any startup, right?

Yeah, absolutely.

I think it’s a good one though, because again, that forces clarity. Like, “Okay, if we can only build one thing, which one are we building?” And you’ve gotta be really clear on it. I don’t know, maybe this isn’t what the question is really asking, but I think that compensation policy for me is – it should be worth it. It should be worth paying people great salaries. Otherwise, why would you try to get a really good person for a cheapskate compensation? That doesn’t make sense to me. You’re not gonna get that person. Really good people will know that they’re really good, and will know their value, and they will ask for more money… But you have to ask yourself “Okay, if I think that this person is going to do –” Let’s use a salesperson. If I think this salesperson who has a quota of - let’s just use a million dollars, for sake. Their quota is a million dollars a year, and I think that they are going to have a better odds of achieving it, 50% better odds of achieving it if they get paid $20,000 more a year. Why would you not do that? Why would you ever nickel and dime to that degree if you have 50% better odds of achieving a million dollars? And I think you need to apply that logic across a lot of facets of the business. I think you need to think that way with every department.

[00:44:07.22] We’ve had great salaries and compensation at Fire Hydrant since the beginning. We’ve always aimed at paying people very fairly. We do not have regional salaries. If you are in Oklahoma, you get paid the same for the same title and the same job as someone in New York. And that’s just a policy we’ve had since day one, because we pay for the work. I think that’s the philosophy that I’m actually pretty proud of, that we’ve maintained.

Yeah, for sure. Well, for somebody who likes to be in the code so much, you’re certainly not in the code as much, given that you’re focused on two years – but I suppose that could be somewhat code-related, but not actually building features…

“Robert after dark” is the joke.

What’s the joke?

Robert after dark.

That’s when I crack a bourbon open, or a scotch, and –

Oh my gosh, man…

…sit on the couch and write something.

Do you have any hobbies?

Writing code. No, I do. I have a photography hobby, I love skiing… I actually have all of my camera lenses on my desk right now…

Nice. Are you Sony or Canon?

I’m Sony. I have a Sony A74R. It’s a great camera. It’s super-versatile. You can do so much with it. So…

I think mine is an A7R3, I want to say. It’s about four years old, three years old maybe. Mirrorless is my way.

Mirrorless is great.

I’m big fan of Sony. I’m actually looking into a Sony A6400, I believe.

The A6400 is one I want to maybe grab, just to have as like a webcam, too. It’s lightweight, it’s got a great camera body… I agree. Great resolution…

It does.

And I can use all my lenses with it, too.

Here’s something I’m using, is this 24mm. It’s an APS-C sensor, so it’s a 30mm equivalent, full-frame.

Do you have the Grand Master? The 24 millimeter 1.4, this this one?

No, this is just a Zeiss. It’s a tiny one. No, not a Grand Master. That’s a big one. That’s heavy. This is a Sony, but it’s a smaller one. It’s not the GM.

Zeiss though, that’s – that’s a nice brand.

Yeah, for sure. But yeah, I love cameras, too. I just asked you that because you were talking about clarity, and sometimes you get clarity by sort of stepping away, to get unstuck… Sometimes we’re stuck and we’re not even – we don’t even know we’re stuck. Do you ever feel stuck?

Like, in this vision casting, is it pretty clear for you to be visionary, to be a futurist?

No, I – I’m maybe opening myself up here, but the I need to step away. For me to think clearly, I need to disconnect. And that’s why we have a policy at Fire Hydrant, a minimum time off. You have to take at least three weeks off a year. It’s something that we push. And I’m not excused from it, actually. And it it’s freaky for people; I think that there’s this hustle culture, especially in America, of “If you’re not working 80 hours a week as a startup founder, you’re screwing up.” And I take a more scientific view here. There’s plenty of studies that say if you do that, you’re eventually only working the equivalent of 40 hours a week anyways, or less. So why do that?

It’s just so inefficient.

It’s so inefficient. So I’ve stepped away. I’ve done long ski trips before, I’ve done – in the duration of Fire Hydrant I did a trip to Argentina for two weeks, in the early days. I’ve done trips to Scotland by myself. I’ve done a really long, working on the road road trip, and had a couple of days here and there. And honestly, at the time it felt odd. I felt weird doing that. But I do not think that we would have been as successful if I hadn’t. And it’s a hard thing for founders to admit. It’s an image thing, I think.

[00:48:09.28] Yeah. Do you hang out with other founders? What do you do to kind of get some osmosis going on from other folks that are walking your walk?

I do, yeah. There’s actually a weird cohort of people that were at DigitalOcean with me, that are all founders. And I’m not kidding. It’s not just one, it’s six of us, that all work together, that all have companies… And all of them are doing oddly well. So DO back in the day was kind of a breeding ground for founders, I felt like.

Yeah, it was.

So yeah, I still have conversations with folks. I went to a meetup for a company called Vantage, a cloud cost optimization tool here in New York City. Both of the founders are awesome. And yeah, I like to stay in touch with those folks. It’s really the only group that kind of understands some of the other hidden stresses of the job, I would say, that can actually kind of commiserate and be empathetic.

Do you get stressed out a lot? Do you stay pretty – how do you de-hulk the Hulk, so to speak? Do you do breathing tests? Do you control yourself? I know every night with my son – because I’ve got to a four-year-old, and my wife and I, we swap out; we have a seven-year-old going on eight… Or I might just say eight, because tomorrow he’s eight. So we have an eight and a four-year-old in our house, both boys. And one night I’m with one, one night I’m with the other. And my one son doesn’t like to do it, necessarily. I think he does, but I don’t know… It’s a thing I’ve done with the other son, basically, is the long story short here… But it’s a breathing thing. And since he’s four, we take four good breaths. “Okay, deep breath in. Hold it, hold it. [exhale]” And we just do four of those, because he’s four. And for kids, obviously if you take more oxygen into your body, it’s easier for you to have a better brain, because it literally has more oxygen to feed itself, and to survive, and to thrive. I’m curious, what do you do to maintain your stress levels?

Yeah, I mean, there’s a couple of things I’ve done… You know, I’ve tried to get on the meditation train. Honestly, I struggle with just remembering to do it. But the one thing that I’m very consistent about is I go to a lot of concerts And I mean a lot. And I’m a big pop punk fan, so I go to shows with mosh pits, and crowd surfing… It gets a little crazy, but it’s a good release. You get to go listen to this angsty music, and that’s just kind of my choice. And last year I saw 24 concerts… And it’s –

That’s a lot of concerts.

….just a lot of shows, a lot of festivals.

This year I have five music festivals lined up, all across the US, and one in England. I have multiple shows that I already have tickets for. My TicketMaster has a scroll bar of shows, so…

That’s, that’s what I do…

You’re serious about this, man…

I go to a lot of concerts, yeah.

Do you ever come here to Texas, to Austin for ACL, or even South by Southwest? I know South by Southwest is mostly film, and stuff like that. There’s a lot of music around that [unintelligible 00:51:25.20] festival.

Yeah. I haven’t been to that one, but I did go to Dallas last year for a music festival called So What Music festival. Small little festival in Dallas, but it had a bunch of bands that I love, and I said “Yeah, why not?” So my girlfriend and I, we flew down to Dallas for a few days, and tried not to get injured.

There you go. Wow.

It was hot, too. It was 116.

[00:51:47.28] Very cool, man. I love that. It’s good to – it seems trivial in a way, but I think to test a leader is to also test how they take care of themselves, and how aware they are of what they need to do to take care of themselves. And I always find myself – I have a thing that I’ve learned from other people, but it’s “Adam, what are you optimizing for?” If I know what I’m optimizing for, if I have clarity on what that goal is, whether it’s specifically in one lane, or just generally my life… I know what I’m trying to do. I know how much time I’m trying to enable myself to have for the things I know I need to have to recharge, and recoup, and reconnect with people, with myself etc. I feel like you can really tell a leader, a good leader, based on how aware they are, of what they know about themselves to take care of themselves. And I think maybe 27-year-old Robert may have been less in tune with that. I’m not sure how old you are now, but you’re probably more in tune with that.

33 as of a few days ago, actually, but…

Oh, happy birthday.

Thanks. But I think that’s right. You do have to think of your body as a machine; what you put into it is what you’ll get out of it. If you put crap in, you’re gonna get crap out. Just in the way that data analytics works - crap in, crap out. Same thing with Salesforce hygiene, and marketing data, and software… It’s always the same - if you put crap in, you’re gonna get crap out. So you have to make sure that you put the good stuff in; you’ve got to put fulfilling things in, you’ve got to put good food in, you’ve got to exercise, you have to put exercise into your body. It’s not exertion, it’s - you’ve got to put the exercise in. And that’s been something that’s definitely clearer to me now than I would say when I was 27.

Yeah, that’s certainly true. I do want to zoom back out again to the Fire Hydrant. Can we talk more about the state of better software, the state of incident management? What opinions do you have? I know you’re kind of obviously biased, but how do you feel about the state of tooling available for developers? And how do you feel – like, if we’re measuring, I suppose, success, or just judging ourselves, how do you feel Fire Hydrant is doing in that mission to help enable better software to be out there?

I think there’s a long, but rewarding road ahead. We’re really focused on the end to end experience right now with our software. We really want people to have a one-stop shop, no swivel chair experience for incidents, on call, retrospective, status pages, tracking change events, all that good stuff. And we’re well along the path, but there’s a long ways to go. Ultimately, my kind of adjusted phrase is “The best incidents are ones that don’t happen”, and whatever we can do to accomplish that, we’ve got years ahead of us to build those things.

And then I think the state of the developer tools market is seeing something similar right now. I think that you need to have a platform play. I think the era of small niche tools is hard to justify right now, just from a spend perspective, for the businesses that are purchasing them. And I think that for the larger tools, that want to become big businesses, with great returns, us being one of them - you kind of have to focus on solving multiple problems, and solving them very, very well. So on calls are an answer to that; it’s the beginning of multiple other answers that we’ll have throughout this year. We’ve got a lot of exciting stuff queued up.

So more big features like this?

We have some big ones in the bag, yeah.

Okay. On call is a big one for you guys. I mean…

On call is not easy to build. It’s tough. And I’m so proud of my team for building that functionality. We built it with really good tech, really good testing, really good reliability, really good design… And we’ve built an iPhone app and an Android app. I mean, that’s pretty sweet, too. So that’s not a small feature. There’s a lot to do. But some of the next stuff I think is also just super-exciting. We’re on a mission here. A world where software is reliable by default… We’ve got to build a lot of things to get there.

So we’re fans of Jelly. we had Nora on the podcast a while back. I was always a fan of her thinking… And I suppose as you talk about the literal tools having to be not small anymore, but come to a platform play… They were acquired, by Pager Duty. Were you surprised by that? I’m not suggesting you have ill wishes, of course, but what are your thoughts, I suppose, on that acquisition of Pager Duty and jelly?

Yeah, I mean, I think that Nora was the right person to build Jelly with that team. They had a lot of people that were very passionate about the space and the problem. We think that that’s good for them to be acquired. And I congratulate them. I think our play is just a little bit different, if I’m honest. I think that we want to control our own destiny there. I do think that acquisitions are interesting for businesses - they can go really well or they can go really badly. There’s companies that are really good at M&A, there are companies that are really bad at M&A. And candidly, Pager Duty just doesn’t have enough for us to know yet. The only notable acquisition that I can think of from Pager Duty was RunDeck, and Jelly was kind of the next one. And that was years later.

So I think the time will tell. Can you integrate Jelly into Pager Duty effectively, in an amount of time that works really well for the business and the outcomes? And the sales team is probably itching to get it, because I can see from my perspective that there’s a lot of people paying Pager Duty and a lot of people paying us at the same time. So you’re gonna see a very interesting market because of that acquisition, not only from us, but also our competitors, too. So what you do is, well, you’ve gotta go build something else as well. You’ve got to play the game, you’ve got to build a really awesome kickass on call tool. But there’s a lot of other things that we’ll have to build in the future to remain competitive, and I think that that’s obvious.

Break: [00:58:15.08]

What are your thoughts on - will you always build your own features? Do you think you have this – I mean, I suppose at that level it’s not necessarily just build versus buy, it’s built versus acquire… Which is sort of buy, of course. But are you more in the camp of “Let us examine our hypotheses about x, and then go build x”? Or is it “Let’s examine our hypotheses and go acquire”? What are you feeling for your future?

We’ve thought about some small ones in the past. We’ve written them down as ideas… But the idea behind controlling your own destiny, I think, is – I like building software that is yours. I think that acquisitions - again, it can go a bunch of different ways. I’ve seen companies that try to fill a gap in their product by acquiring another one, and it does not go well. It still feels like two different products. It still behaves and is designed as two different products. And ultimately, it becomes an interesting “Do you have a oil and water situation with the people that built that product and your team as well?” Do they build software in the same way? And they may not have any animosity towards each other, but they’re not interchangeable.

A good example is Namely. Namely has changed a lot since then. There was a merger into a larger company, about a year ago… And we actually licensed the software for our payroll. It was not part of our Ruby on Rails app. It was a Ruby on Rails app, and then there was this other payroll software that was written in C#, and it ran on SQL Server, and it was – we bought the codebase, and we used it for our payroll, and suddenly, Namely had payroll. But payroll was on And the HRIS system was on And our customers felt it, our engineers – it was like speaking different languages to each other; literally, C# and Ruby. And it took a very, very long time to finally start integrating those tools together. It was a multiple-year project just to combine the authentication for those two tools together.

So I had that experience, I’ve seen it a bunch of other times at other companies… And I prefer - if we can build it, and we can build a good version in a year, it’s likely more worthwhile. That’s my perspective. It’s likely more worthwhile to do that, than to buy a company that “fills a gap” for you for a few years, but it’s gonna rear its head at some point. I think a couple of companies have nailed this though… Datadog has some awesome acquisitions in the past that are integrated into Datadog that you wouldn’t even notice. Their logging tool, they bought a company years ago that did logging. They didn’t have it. Another company that does this well as Salesforce. Salesforce has a bunch of acquisitions. They buy multiple companies a year. But they have a muscle and an energy to do that.

Again, it really depends on the organization. I think for us, for the time being - we don’t have an acquisition team, we don’t have the muscle to do it. Probably a bad idea for us to try to mix in something just to cover off a gap, when we could probably just go build it in some amount of time.

Yeah. Any possible tease of a next big thing for you? I mean, I know since you have an executive team that lets you have that freedom to think about two years from now… What’s two years from now? A version that you can share of it.

Yeah, I thing the version of it is we help incident responders do a whole lot of things. We help them declare incidents, we help them get paged now, we help them do retrospectives… And something that we want to do is help the responder do more during the incident. And I’ll say, we’re going to make it a lot easier during the heat of the fire.

I like it. I like how secretive you are of it, too. You almost have this – no one sees your face; I see your face. You have this confidence, but yet you don’t want to share too much. You’re like “You know what - this is my secret. I’m not sharing all this.”

It’s a competitive market right now, man. I’ve got competitors, they’re gonna listen to this. [laughs]

Yeah, they are… Can we talk about that? Do you mind going one more layer? I mean, you just mentioned on call, because that’s what you all built…

Someone else just built on call as well.

A couple others built on call.

I don’t know who all the others are. I only know of one, other than the other incumbent.

Yeah. I mean, look, I actually really respect those folks… And I’ll say, it’s There you go. Steven, and Evan, and all those guys. Lawrence.

There you go.

I think that’s a great team. I think they’ve got a good product. I competing with them. This is a big, big market. This is a multibillion-dollar market. By our math, this is a $20 billion dollar market that we’re going after right now. If each of us comes away with 3% of it, we’ll come away with five, and we’ll come away with 10 at some point… I don’t think anyone’s gotta be mad about the outcome. So it’s competitive, it’s gonna keep being competitive for a long time…

[01:06:10.15] I think at some point you’re gonna see a really clear distinction between the tools. But - I mean, honestly, Pager Duty left this castle-size gate down over their moat, and you have us and a couple others sprinting across it to claim the land that’s been a little long in the tooth, a little asleep at the wheel… So that’s what’s gonna happen for the next year. It’s going to be very, very interesting.

Yeah. Well, what do you think happened there to leave this castle­-sized gate down over their moat, as you had said, to quote you back? What do you think happened there? Who’s letting that guard down? That’s a guard down situation, right?

You know, it’s hard to speculate, and I don’t have any ill wishes. I mean, that company is publicly-traded, you can see all of it. It’s hard to slander a company that’s doing $450 million in annual revenue, worth billions of dollars… I do think that there is about to be a very tough moment where people are going to start asking a question… I get asked that all the time, and I’ll be honest, I don’t know. I really don’t. I don’t have an answer. I’ve written a blog post about this… People asked me “Why didn’t Pager Duty build this?” and I just cheekily say “Why didn’t they build anything else?” It wasn’t just incident management, it was a lot of other things. For years. Status pages… They only recently came out. came and obliterated the market. Everyone had

And Atlassian acquired them–

And then Atlassian bought them.

…probably eight years ago, right?

Like five years ago, I think.

And the folks that built that tool made out like bandits. They did a great job. And then you see tools – like, change events aren’t being tracked, for up until last year. And Fire Hydrant’s had all those things for five years. So I don’t really know. There’s a lot of phrases; innovators dilemma probably is the most apt one to use there… But I think at some point I would love to sit down and ask “What happened here? Was it technical debt? You just couldn’t move? You were in a tar pit? Was it limitations of cash?” I don’t think it’s that. I don’t know, I really don’t have a good answer here.

Maybe I should get their CEO on a podcast.

And Jen is great, and she’s – honestly, she’s great in person, she’s great on all the things that she does… So I don’t know, it’s interesting. I mean, I think that us and the other folks that are kind of clamoring for this incident management space right now, it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next year.

Yeah. She may even have different opinions, too. She may think that –

She might come on and say “Robert’s an idiot.”

She may have a different vision, right? And she’s like “You’re behind! You’ll see…”

Yeah. Again, you’ve gotta look at the scoreboard. So 450 million in revenue - that’s a lot. If one of us goes and gets 20% of that amount, we’re not complaining. So it’s all about perspective… But I do think - I’ll say it again and again; the next year or two, you’re gonna see something changed, pretty quickly, I bet.

Yeah. Maybe this is, I suppose, somewhat – I don’t know… I don’t know how to describe it, I suppose… But at what point are you personally done with this mission? What is “Done” for you? The pie is baked, it’s all over… Folks are – I don’t know, I can’t come up with an eating analogy that’s any good, but let’s just say it’s done. The thing is done.

I don’t think it’s a goal. I don’t think it’s a target. I’ve been asked in the past, “What the goal here? Acquisition or IPO?” And my standard answer is I can’t aim at either of those things. Those are the results of execution. So I just have to keep executing, and one of those things will happen. And then beyond that, I don’t know. I think it’s a feeling. I think that you can see other founders, and they’ll write their departure blog posts, and commonly you’ll see the line “It’s time.” It’s just time. You know when you know. I’m far from that. I’ve got a lot of gas in the tank, and I just want to keep going.

[01:10:20.12] Do you enjoy being CEO?

I do, yeah. I mean, I think it’s great when you have an awesome team to run up a hill together with. I think it’s a fun space, that I understand, I’ve experienced myself. It’s fun working with the types of companies that we do, these massive companies, huge logos, paying substantial amounts of money… That’s fun. I want to keep doing that. So yeah, being the CEO of Fire Hydrant’s really fun.

Do you watch much television, by any chance? TV episodes? It’s not called TV anymore necessarily, because it’s like not TV, but it’s like episodes stuff…

Yeah, yeah.

Shows, I suppose. Not movies. Do you watch much?

I’ve watched – I just got obsessed with a very subpar show, honestly, but it’s Halo on Paramount. I played a lot of Halo as a kid. I played Xbox…

Looking forward to the movie. The movie trailer looked pretty good. And I’m a non-trailer watcher person. I don’t like to watch trailers; it ruins it for me. But what I did see looked pretty cool.

I played so much Halo, man… So I started watching the series, and - like I said, it’s pretty subpar, but…

Subpar, huh?

It’s cool to see this world that I was so immersed in as a teenager come to life. And I think that’s why I’ve spent – I was up until 3am two nights ago, finishing it…

[laughs] Yeah, that’s [unintelligible 01:11:43.01]

“Must watch to the end…!”

And also Next Level Chef, Gordon Ramsay; ah, you beautiful genius. It’s like the best dumb food reality TV show. It’s so good.

I’ll check that out. Well, I asked that question to see if you’d just by happenstance mentioned Silicon Valley, the TV show. Because as we have this conversation, and you look at your incumbents, and the market share etc. I just think to myself - one, I suppose, did you watch that show, ever?

I never actually watched Silicon Valley. I’m actually scared to.

No, you should watch it. What gives you this fear? We hear this often. I always mention Silicon Valley. It’s my thing.

I’m afraid it would hit too close to home. I don’t know if that’s true, I’ve never seen it, but… I don’t know.

Well, I think it would hit close to home. I’m not sure I would say – maybe it would be too close to home. I guess it depends on what you’re guarding yourself from… But I think it’s pretty comical, in a way. The satire was just so on point. And talking to somebody who hasn’t watched it, it’s kind of hard to explain it without potentially - not ruining it, but revealing a little too much. One, I would say a prescription for me, if I’m your doctor, Dr. Adams says “Go, Robert, and binge.” Whatever binge is for you.

What is it on? Is it on HBO, or where is it?

It’s on HBO. You can also purchase the discs, which is what I’ve done, and I’ve put it on Plex, and so I have it on repeat on Plex… The conversation we’ve had, and the direction we’re going, and how you’re competing, and how you even have that happy competition between you and Incident, as an example, and Steve and the team there, to me seems a lot like the overarching thing that happens throughout the six seasons of Silicon Valley. And I think it’s pretty – I mean, I don’t know, I think it’s kind of enjoyable. It’s almost like art imitates life. I think you’d enjoy it. I’m actually curious if you watch at least season one…

I’ll tell you what, I’ll take my prescription and I’ll watch an episode tonight. I’ll do that.

Okay. How about this - if you end up liking it and go beyond one episode, and you watch seasons, or all the seasons, let’s come back and pod just about Silicon Valley, and your perspective on it, and what you think about it.


[01:14:08.11] The show is just so spot on.

A 15-minute one. Yeah.

It’s an absolute masterpiece, in my opinion, of art. And given what we do in our business… I mean, we’ve been doing this as a podcast for – I’ve been podcasting almost 20 years. 2005 is when I started a podcast. So in a couple of years, next year is 20 years of podcasting, for one. This show has been on the air for 15 years; we’re in our 15th year as a podcast. So we’ve watched the trend in your DO days, before it was even Fire Hydrant for you. So we’ve watched the trendlines and we’ve seen this play out, and so that’s why I personally enjoy the show so much, because it does satire a lot of what we experience day to day.


And nothing else can match that. There’s no other show, ever, that matched its level of clarity, of accuracy… And I suppose just like fenomenal humor. There’s so many details in there. You have to watch it 1000 times to get every single one of them. It’s so good.


That’s how I feel about it.

Well, like I said, I’ll watch it. I’ll watch at least one tonight.

What else is on your mind? What else is in your purview that we can share before we call this Friends a Friends?

We have covered so much… I think the last thing to maybe kind of chat through here is, for any founder on this, past, present and future, the hard times of venture capital are getting better. The hard times of sales cycles, elongating and procurement taking their time on signing contracts are getting better. And I think my kind of unique perspective right now is that we’re definitely seeing things kind of come back to life. It’s been two years of pretty rough times, and I don’t know, maybe just trying to offer hope to people that are out there, listening to us, as they watch sales cycles get harder… It’s getting better, for sure.

I’m glad you said that, because I feel that pain as well. I mean - yeah, the last two years have been challenging, and I see this year already changing dramatically, in a lot of cases back to - not so much the best of times, as we’ve said here in tech, but better times, where people just have, I suppose, more hope in the market, more opportunities coming up… People are loosening up and doing more what they had to do; they realize they’ve gotta market developers. You’ve got to talk to people, you’ve got to share your ideas. You can’t just stay in a vacuum and post on LinkedIn. That has a measure of success, but it’s not the only way to do things, you know. And so I feel you on that. I’m glad you said that, because – it’s good to hear you say that, because I need hear that, too. That things are getting better, and there is hope to be had, so to speak.

[laughs] Look, I mean, we went through a pandemic, we went through some of the worst startup financing environments since 2008, 2001… So it’s definitely coming back to life… So you’ll feel it soon, I’m sure.

Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Well, Robert, I call you a friend. That’s why we had you here on Changelog & Friends.

Thanks or having me.

It was cool catching up with you, diving deep into some details, catching up with some bourbon tactics, the way you think about different things and whatnot, what you do to recharge… And obviously, how you’re leading Fire Hydrant. I love what you do over there, I think you’re doing great. And I love a lot of the – even the new design I think is super-awesome, that you guys put out there.

Thank you.

It’s spot on. I like the colors. And I like a lot of the way you think; that’s why I invited you back. Even if you don’t call me a friend, Robert, I call you a friend, you know what I’m saying?

[laughs] I call you a friend, Adam. No, that new design, I cannot – that’s not me. That is the stunning marketing team and design team that we have. So yeah, that’s their work, not mine.

[01:17:51.17] Well, it’s good. It’s good, and I like it. Very, very well done. Tell them I said very well done if they don’t listen on this podcast. Tell them personally from me. And man, get a merch store and put those bourbon glasses on the merch store, man.

I have thought about it.

I’m sure you’ll have some Fire Hydrant fans out there… I mean, put them on there for like cost, if you’re not wanting to try to make money… But that’s so cool. I love the idea of that line going down.

I was thinking of like a credit system, like resolve 100 incidents on Fire Hydrant, get a shirt. Resolve 1,000 incidents on Fire Hydrant, get a bourbon glass.

You know, make a rewards system for our most prolific incident commanders.

Oh, my gosh… That would be cool. And I like that idea. The unique swag to me is super-cool, especially if it – you know, you as a founder, CEO, that’s one of your personal passions to enjoy, is bourbon. So there’s a connection there. We’re not just connected to companies through its usefulness, we’re connected through relationship. I’m far more loyal when I like the people behind the thing, not just the thing itself.

Totally. Yeah.

As a buyer. You know what I’m saying?

And it comes through, too. It comes through every aspect of the business. So… Awesome.

Yeah. Alright, Rob. Well, thank you so much. Bye, friends.

Thanks for having me.


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