Last month, Dave Link, Founder and CEO of ScienceLogic, joined ACG National Capital as a special guest speaker for the chapter’s October Monthly Meeting, where he shared insights about founding, fundraising and scaling a successful global technology business with a long-term vision from the start.
The meeting’s moderator, Cresa’s Aaron Berkey, opened the meeting by giving a brief background on Mr. Link. Before founding ScienceLogic, Link served as senior vice president and a corporate officer at Interliant, where he helped establish the company’s strong presence in the application service provider (ASP)/managed service provider (MSP) market. He also held senior management positions with IBM and with CompuServe.
In 2003, Link and two other co-founders came together to start a company, “in a way not too dissimilar to many other companies that are founded,” according to Link. The three had previously spent a considerable portion of their careers in IT operations, managing everything from data centers and networks, to servers and firewalls.
It was during this time when they realized that the operations systems that IT professionals were using weren’t “fit-for-purpose,” and that there needed to be a better way to run IT systems.
“When we started the company, each technology genre had their own tooling and their own systems that they would use to run the network,” explained Link. “You then had different data silos. And when things went wrong…you’d have to go to each group to figure out where the problem was.”
Link and the co-founders identified a solution to streamline these fragmented data silos into a fused data lake, so that companies could then understand how the different IT technologies were behaving in real-time, as one system.
Five credit cards and one $50,000 line-of-credit signed by Link’s father-in-law later, and ScienceLogic was born.
Throughout the discussion, Link made one point consistently clear: ScienceLogic was in for the long-term. Link and his co-founders had no desire to create a company solely to beef up and then sell early-on. They wanted to create an industry-shaking company that had a long-term horizon.
According to Link, it only took one year to code and build ScienceLogic’s initial solution. After the first year of selling to the marketplace, ScienceLogic was able to break even.
“That was pretty miraculous,” admitted Link. “That is not common for a technology software product. It usually takes many years and a lot of funding to build enough capabilities and feature functions in the product to get to a run rate where you can get customers to say, ‘Yep, that’s what I want.’”
Link attributes ScienceLogic’s early success to simply, “…delivering great business value to the customer.” According to Link, “We made it really clear, very quickly, that when you buy this, it’s going to solve some very painful problems.”
Fundraising with a shared vision
For its first seven years, ScienceLogic operated in a bootstrapped environment, without taking any external capital. But when the company did decide to bring on investors, Link and his co-founders agreed that it was a requisite for potential investors to share the same long-term vision that they had. Their evaluation criteria for the right investors included a unified vision of a long-tail investment in the space, that would, “…really transform the way the space works.”
According to Link, when the time came to fundraise, it was not difficult to find backers. He explained that throughout the company’s first seven years, ScienceLogic had landed on the Inc. 500 and the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 lists several times. “Once you get on these lists, the calls start coming,” said Link.
During the Series A round, ScienceLogic chose NEA as the lead investor. Link credits a shared vision between NEA and ScienceLogic as the deciding factor. “NEA had a long-term vision as well,” Link explained. “And that was the unified viewpoint where I knew I was partnering with somebody that was aligned”
Link explained that Intel Capital just barely missed out on being the lead investor during the Series A round, but the venture capital firm persistently checked in on the company after the initial round. According to Link, this persistence created a sense of trust between Intel and himself. For that reason, and due to also sharing the same long-term vision for ScienceLogic, the company chose Intel Capital as its lead investor for its Series B round.
In 2015, ScienceLogic chose Goldman Sachs to take the lead for ScienceLogic’s growth investment fund. And in January of this year, the company added Silver Lake Partners as an investor, in a round totaling $100 million.
Leadership in the time of COVID and the “Great Resignation”
Link admits that the past two years have been a difficult adjustment for ScienceLogic, from a company culture perspective. But as CEO of the company, Link has had to learn how to commandeer during times of uncertainty. He pointed to the 2008-2009 recession as a huge lesson for him. “Principally, leaders have to figure out a good way to absorb fear and uncertainty,” explained Link. “And it’s hard to do.”
Link shared that good leaders use times of uncertainty as a catalyst to reinforce a resilient vision throughout the company, and consistently communicate it to employees in order to create a connected environment. But he admits that the ramifications of COVID-19 have severely affected ScienceLogic’s culture.
“What we’re realizing is that managing people in this 2D video conference [environment] is not very good,” Link explained. “There’s no water cooler, there’s no coffee talk…So you have to find a way to re-insert that back into the business.”
Link also identified the “Great Resignation” as another pain point that ScienceLogic is currently navigating. He believes that due to the lack of personal human connection in a post-COVID, remote work environment, employees do not find it difficult to part with their employers. Link shared that because of this, “We’ve had our worst attrition we’ve had ever in the history of the company.”
He continued by saying, “When we lose these people, we lose acceleration opportunities, because the next person comes in and takes a long time to get up to speed.”
To remedy these challenges, Link is now requiring executives to participate in weekly skip-level meetings, to build an atmosphere of camaraderie and connection throughout the company.
“The skip level meetings are intended not to talk about the business, but about the person,” said Link. “And what it means is you have to sacrifice your time. You have to be more selfless about prescriptively dedicating time to meet with people at all levels of the organization. If you’re not willing to do that, then you’re not managing.”
ACG National Capital’s November Monthly Meeting
ACG National Capital’s next monthly meeting will take place on Thursday, November 18, featuring special guest speaker John Wood, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Telos Corporation.
Telos is a leading provider of continuous security solutions and services for the world’s most security-conscious agencies and organizations.
In his roles, Wood orchestrates the company’s support of corporations and government agencies worldwide in cyber, cloud, and enterprise security. With the company since 1992, John is a leading voice on bringing together the private and public sectors to address cybersecurity issues.
He is a frequent speaker on cybersecurity at industry and government events, and testified at a congressional committee hearing on, “Cybersecurity: What the Federal Government Can Learn from the Private Sector.”