podcast • 51MIN READ
From Devs, to VPs, to Co-Founders: 10Xing a Startup 5,000 Miles Apart
We knew we had to kick off the new year with something big - so welcome to Season 2 of Dev Interrupted!
This episode probes the murky depths of a time before the pandemic by exploring the story of LinearB's founding in 2018, how co-founders Dan Lines and Ori Keren met at Cloudlock in 2012 - and how they decided to co-found a company while 5,000 miles apart.
Listen as Dev Interrupted host and all-around renaissance man, Dan Lines, steps behind the mic to be interviewed not as host of the podcast, but as COO and co-founder of LinearB. Joining Dan is his good friend and fellow co-founder, Ori Keren, LinearB’s CEO.
With Producer Conor Bronsdon stepping in to guest host, Dan and Ori detail their transition from developers and VPs at Cloudlock, to deciding to found a company while on separate continents.
Episode Highlights Include:
- LinearB’s founding story
- Managing hypergrowth 5,000 miles apart
- The importance of choosing the right investors: alignment > money
- Designing a product with the goal of a million end users
- How to 10x your startup
- Dan’s favorite guest from season 1 of the Dev Interrupted Podcast
Engineering Insights before anyone else....
The Weekly Interruption is a newsletter designed for engineering leaders, by engineering leaders.
We get it. You're busy. So are we. That's why our newsletter is light, informative and oftentimes irreverent. No BS or fluff. Each week we deliver actionable advice to help make you - whether you're a CTO, VP of Engineering, team lead or IC - a better leader.
Conor Bronsdon: Host
Ori Karen: Co-founder and CEO of LinearB
Dan Lines: Co-founder and COO of LinearB
Conor: [0:00] Hi, I'm Conor Bronsdon, your guest host for today's Dev Interrupted. Usually, I'm behind the soundboard, producing the podcast, but I managed to convince our host Dan Lines to come on with his co-founder Ori Karen, to answer some questions about their own journey to creating a startup that grew tenfold and 2021. We had an incredible conversation about the lessons these two co-founders have used to create LinearB while being five-thousand miles away from each other with Dan in Los Angeles and Ori in Tel Aviv. They talked about their experience at helping build CloudLock, what that company's three-hundred-million-dollar acquisition taught them about what they did and didn't want from their careers, and how to build a cohesive, driven team, when employees are rarely, if ever, in the same room, let alone country. I hope you enjoy this pod as much as I did, and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review Dev Interrupted on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or your podcasting app of choice.
[Music fades out]
Conor: Hey, everyone, welcome to Dev Interrupted LinearB COO, and co-founder Dan is our guest today, along with his co-founder at LinearB, CEO Ori Karen. Ori, Dan, thanks for taking the time to sit down with me today.
Ori: [1:02] Thank you Conor!
Dan: [1:03] Yeah awesome to be here.
Conor: [1:04] Dan, I got to ask does it feel a little strange to be on the other side of the mic?
Dan: [1:08] It feels great. First of all, thank you for being a great producer. And I feel honored to be on the other side of the mic. We have so many great guests that come on to Dev Interrupted, and I get to be a guest now, it feels awesome.
Conor: [1:19] Great. Well, I'm really excited to be here in person and awesome with you both. And I can't wait to go in depth about your careers as engineering leaders, the founding story of LinearB, and also recap our first year of Dev Interrupted, and talk about what's next. I want to begin by giving the community a chance to get to know you both better. Dan let's start with you. When did you know you wanted to be an engineering leader?
Dan: [1:41] Yeah, great question. I-I never had a goal to be an engineering leader. I never said like “Oh, I'm a software developer. I'm an engineer.”, what I wanted to do was create great products.
Conor: [1:51] Gotcha.
Dan: [1:52] That’s what I was really into so like growing up, like, I was reading about Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, you can get a small group of people, software developers that can create like a world impacting piece of software. That's what I wanted to do. So, I was more into that, and then software development was a means to actually get that done, [crosstalk] [2:11] make the right tool, the perfect tool, so that's kind of how I got into it.
Conor: [2:11] Yeah, right tool for the job.
Conor: [2:16] And Ori, I've heard you say that you knew you were going to be an engineer in fifth grade?
Ori: [2:21] Actually, I didn’t think that. I don't know if I knew I was going to be an engineer by ten. In fifth grade my parents bought me my first computer, and you know, I started by playing some games there are there in length, I found that there's another thing like that it was BASIC you can like type commands and build small programs, and it was magic. I forced my parents and my sister “Hey, look at this crappy thing I built”, hey it was better than without it right?
Conor: [2:44] You ever tried to make a game with BASIC?
Ori: [2:46] Yeah! Yeah, yeah, sitting there and seeing them like try to do stuff, it's magic. I actually did other stuff in my childhood, I was an athlete, I've played basketball, so I didn't know I wanted to be an engineer. But when I got my first job, it was actually like to-the equivalent of Yahoo in Israel, and I was like doing data entry, putting websites into an index.
Conor: [3:08] Yeah.
Ori: [3:09] The room next door, there was the developer that say, “Hey, what are you building?” And I got the BASIC book, I say, “It's the same thing that I did, like ten years ago, when I started, and this was my first job. And ever since then, and then I'm super excited, like building stuff, seeing what people are doing with the things that we're building that's still like the kick.
Conor: [3:26] So I know that you both met at CloudLock, but not all of our audience knows that. In fact, Adam in our Discord asked for the story. So let me ask two questions. One, how did you both end up in CloudLock? And two? How did you meet and decide to eventually become co-founders together? Can you start Dan?
Dan: [3:44] Yeah, I’ll-I'll start. So, I went to school at Villanova University, outside of Philly, and then I got my first job, it was in-Jersey area, it was not a startup job. I had to dress up, I'm wearing a collared shirt, on Wednesdays we had to wear a tie, [crosstalk] [3:59] as a software developer.
Conor: [3:59] I can’t picture you like that to be honest.
Dan: [4:02] I was just trying to ensure that I could actually get a job out of school.
Conor: [4:05] Totally!
Dan: [4:06] Nine months into that I was like, I can't do this anymore. Going to look for a startup. And I started looking for a startup I found what became CloudLock it was actually called Aprigo at the time. I was like twenty-three years old, did an interview there and I don't know it just felt like in five days or something or whatever you put in your two weeks I'm packing up all my stuff from Jersey, move to Boston, started, it was an up-and-coming developer company, I was a junior developer there that's how I got started.
Conor: [4:34] Well you were like one of the first developer hires, right?
Dan: [4:36] Yeah, I think I was like the second person.
Conor: [4:38] And I didn't realize you had to move from Jersey, you were just like “You know what, I'm doing it. [crosstalk] [4:41] Let’s go to Boston.”
Dan: [4:41] No, I was just done, like pack-I had like a tiny apartment, living by myself, it takes two seconds to pack. Throw it all in the car, it's like okay, here's possibly a life changing event, it ended up being [crosstalk] [4:51] a life changing event.
Conor: [4:51] Yeah it was!
Dan: [4:52] Just wanted me to happen, yeah.
Conor: [4:54] what about you Ori?
Ori: [4:55] I actually came to CloudLock already with, like, some experience. When I arrived- before I was working in another company that got acquired, another startup in Israel that-it was called Interwise that AT&T acquired, and they did some other things. And a buddy of mine was one of the founders of CloudLock that gave me a call, “Hey, why don't you join us?” it was like the perfect timing. So, I started building a team in Tel Aviv-I'm from Israel from Tel Aviv.
Conor: [5:18] Right.
Ori: [5:19] And we built the complementary product for CloudLock, and it was very successful. So, we grew the team like to, like I don’t know, ten people. This is, more or less, I think where our roads cross.
Conor: [5:29] Was Dan an engineering manager at this point?
Dan: [5:31] I was like an up and coming manager.
Conor: [5:33] Yeah so you kind of worked your way to engineering manager.
Dan: [5:34] For the- in the US side, Ori was in Israel.
Ori: [5:37] Israel, yeah.
Conor: [5:38] What made you two decide to become co-founders together later?
Ori: [5:41] Well, this is like six, seven years later, but we had quite a journey, right? We joined forces, and we worked in all I think all the permutations at the beginning. Like I became like the VP of R&D, Dan reported to me, and we built this amazing organization, then I moved to do some other role. And I felt like the natural candidate to lead like this organization is Dan.
Conor: [6:02] Awesome!
Ori: [6:03] So I needed more stuff from him, because I was sort of like a CTO, hey, I need the resources, so. We had an amazing experience working together seeing each other, [crosstalk] [6:12] high symbiosis.
Conor: [6:12] Just kind of synergy.
Ori: [6:14] I think that built the relationship. It's almost like a marriage to build a company.
Dan: [6:18] Yeah-yeah, we had like a remote relationship before it was.
Conor: [6:23] Oh my god, that's true, actually. Yeah.
Dan: [6:24] Where you needed to do that, like-like you have to do now.
Conor: [6:27] Do you think that set you up for success in the modern era, as I'll call it?
Ori: [6:30] I'm pretty sure because you know…
Dan: [6:32] I think yeah.
Ori: [6:33] So we've-we worked a lot like also face to face. I was traveling to Boston, Dan was coming to Tel Aviv, but I think the fact that we started remote, and it was always there, then which, which was okay,
Conor: [6:45] Like, we know what to do here. Yeah, we know what to do, like.
Dan: [6:47] And then when we founded LinearB [crosstalk] [6:49], if you think about Ori was in Israel, I was in LA
Conor: [6:49] Right, yeah. Totally.
Dan: [6:53] So, it was just like, oh, wait, we already know how to do that
Ori: [6:56] There was a year that we didn’t meet though. because of COVID, I don't think-I've heard a lot of stories of like founders hey, like losing trust, I don't think like we would be able to pull this off if we didn’t have this, like, one-hundred percent trust.
Conor: [7:10] That makes sense.
Dan: [7:11] That’s a good point.
Ori: [7:12] Like professional respect to each other.
Conor: [7:13] I also know a lot of leaders who listen to this show are maybe trying to start companies like you two have or are part of companies that may seek to eventually be acquired or are looking to be acquired now and you both went through a big acquisition with CloudLock’s three-hundred-million-dollar acquisition by Cisco. Can you tell me a bit about that experience? Maybe give any lessons learned for other leaders?
Ori: [7:34] I'll start?
Dan: [7:35] Go for it.
Ori: [7:37] So, even before the acquisition the things I really learned in this journey is like be restless.
Conor: [7:42] Okay.
Ori: [7:43] There's no point with “Okay, we made it!” like, every point [crosstalk] [7:46] in your journey.
Dan: [7:46] Keep pushing.
Ori: [7:47] Yeah keep pushing, keep iterating, keep changing stuff. Our CEO Gil Zimmermann, I learned a lot from him still-we’re still like movie relationship. I give him thoughts every now and then. But I think it's engraved into like the LinearB DNA like, “Okay, we're doing great. What is the game changer [crosstalk] [8:05] now that can change everything?”
Conor: [8:05] What’s next?
Ori: [8:07] And CloudLock had that great culture, they even when we you know, we're selling at ten-fifteen million dollars, we would say “Okay, is there something we're missing? Is there like a product or something that we can build that will change this?” so, I think that was like really one of like, the biggest lessons I learned, and it's really got like into my DNA now.
Conor: [8:26] Was it tough though, when you went to Cisco and have this, like, totally other culture you're having to deal with?
Ori: [8:30] So I got to give compliments on Cisco. Cisco knows how to do acquisitions very well. To me, the experience was amazing. For six to nine months was super cool, we were able to keep our brand. They gave us everything that we wanted. We-we had to fight for some things like offices
Conor: [8:45] Sure!
Ori: [8:46] And we know how to fight, but the significant difference, no matter how well they do it-.When you're a startup, your entire energy goes outside.
Conor: [8:54] Gotcha.
Ori: [8:55] “Know me, I'm here.”, you work in marketing, “We’re amazing! See us, we're here.” and then when you’re at Cisco and it was an enterprise, all your energy is saying how can I persuade these people…
Conor: [9:04] Oh, it’s internal. Okay.
Ori: [9:07] …to make this move, so it's-that's like the significant difference that like, at least for me, it was too much and I decided I'd like to move on.
Conor: [9:14] What about for you, Dan?
Dan: [9:16] Yeah, I would say-so some of the lessons; so, when you're in a startup, it's definitely a grind, so one of the things that I-I kind of said myself is like, every day just take it day by day, be your best self every day. If you pile on good days, good day, after good day, positive things will happen. It’s like an at bat at baseball.
Conor: [9:37] Build strong habits and just keep- keep.
Dan: [9:39] Yeah. Yeah, you’re going to get another chance. Like, just stay consistent with it. Stay for the journey. If you start thinking too far into the future, what's going to happen? Your brain can get all messed up. Just come in, do a good job. The other thing that I learned probably from Gil as well and actually I think Ori kind of embodies this or we talk about it at LinearB. You got to know what time it is in the business. Is it time to scale and put your energy towards hiring? Is it time to figure out a really important technical challenge, or something with infrastructure that will set you up for the next two years? Is it time to innovate? The earlier that you can like, recognize what time it is, the better off you'll be. And I do think it's a skill that you can learn. Or you can ask yourself that question, what time-what are we trying to do in the business? What time is it right now?
Ori: [10:27] Yeah, and I read this post, I got to find it, where there was the CEO, every year he would write like the job description for the CEO. He was saying, “Am I right for this role? What should I change?” and every year, and by the way, by the seventh year, I think he said “Okay, it's not me, it’s somebody else.”
Dan: [10:43] And it doesn't matter if you're the CEO, or you're [crosstalk] [10:45] leading a team or whatever it is, it’s like a good move to do.
Ori: [10:45] Whatever you do
Dan: [10:50] Because if you're in a startup that's doing well, that job description changes right?
Conor: [10:56] I feel like one of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given was to kind of do exactly what you're saying, Dan, where like, nail each day, just try to try to have wins each day. And then every ninety days, look and say, “Okay, am I doing the right things?” because you need enough time to try things and make sure something's working, give it an effort, but you have to then change over time as well. And so, I think that's exactly what I'm talking about is this, you know, things come in phases, it might be that in six months, LinearB is focused on quadrupling hiring, or it could be that we need to really focus on ARR, and it'll depend on the phase of the business.
Dan: [11:27] Yeah, yeah.
Ori: [11:28] Absolutely.
Conor: [10:29] So, what are some of the challenges you think led you to learning these lessons or becoming the leaders you are today?
Dan: [11:36] I think a lot of the challenges that I had was usually around people. At CloudLock I was a first time leader, that's when I went from developer [crosstalk] [11:45] to team leader.
Conor: [11:45] You worked on the job, yeah.
Dan: [11:47] We’ve done a blog about it. We've done pods about it. One of the toughest things. And then you go from Team Leader, maybe you have a team of ten, all of a sudden, you might be managing multiple teams, maybe I have twenty-thirty people under me.
Conor: [12:00] Yeah
Dan: [12:01] I was then a director; I think I was reporting to you at that time [to Ori]. I became a VP, oh, now I'm scaling up to sixty-seventy people? That's where the-for me the challenges are, there's the hiring, there's the retention, there's setting people up for success, of course, it's like, are we choosing the right technologies? Or is our infrastructure built in a way that we can rapidly release? There's challenges too, but all of that is also reflected on how you're setting up your org structure.
Conor: [12:31] Right.
Dan: [12:32] And we have a global development team. I mean, we have people in the US, we have people in Israel, we have people in Ukraine, we have people in UK.
Conor: [12:40] Very distributed.
Dan: [12:41] Very distributed before its time. So, I would just say a lot of what shaped me was understand what's going on with the people. That's how you're going to make good things happen.
Conor: [12:51] What about for you Ori?
Ori: [12:52] I think it's a combination. One party is kind of the same with people, like so, I was a manager before, and the first thing you learn, people is like-I always talk about the transition from working with a computer and every function is deterministic, like you put the same parameter in the function, you get the same result, people are not like that.
Connor: [13:12] Yeah.
Ori: [13:13] you do “Action-A”, one person will react a great way and the other person will react different. So like, learning this like the first step and then scaling this like definitely. To me, it was even more challenging because the first time-remember the first time we came to Boston? [Dan nods] It's like okay.
Conor: [13:29] that's probably a different culture still too.
Ori: [13:30] Different culture. And then you need to understand like, how you get people moving, right? In Israel, like everybody, you know, we all have to do army, like.
Conor: [13:38] So it was very regimented?
Ori: [13:40] “Hey, we're gonna do this thing.” It's like, great, everybody's moving, and you guys are like “Okay. Let’s start. Here's the context!” Dan was like, super helpful, like, to okay, how do you communicate?
Conor: [13:50] Learn the different communication styles?
Ori: [10:52] Yeah, and also, when it changed, I had like two roles. I was VP of R&D, I also was the site leader in Israel so, I think travelling, making sure everything was working and building this operation until it kind of led me to what I'm building here at LinearB. So those are my challenges.
Dan: [14:07] I’ll say one more thing.
Conor: [14:08] Yeah, do it.
Dan: [14:09] There was like a-because there's so many challenges, right? I just remember the other thing since the business is moving rapidly-so you can get a business idea faster than you can develop software. Like I can think of the next thing.
Conor: [14:21] Right.
Ori: [14:22] Always.
Dan: [14:23] So if you're a leader, there's that constant check in with the business alignment. Are we doing the right things? I have to re-say if we're doing the right things, like, to my executive team, I have to maybe change something they were not-like, our investment in this one area is like totally wrong now, but two weeks ago, it was right. So, like constantly having to say are we doing the right things for the business from the engineering side, and usually you're lagging the idea is I think that-that was challenging.
Conor: [14:50] And that's not only a skill, but also a tooling thing of how much visibility you have and that's why everyone's talking about observability these days. I know we're going to get into that a bit later.
Dan: [14:57] Sure.
Conor: [14:58] But beforehand, I want to ask, one of our Discord members, Jaap asked me to find this out. What do you each view as your leadership styles? I think this is a great congruency with what we were just asking about, like changing that. Like Ori, why don't why don't you start? Like I know you've had to adapt, but what's your style as you think?
Ori: [15:13] It's a great question. I think what it depends on the size, but I think my way and what's the feedback that I'm getting, I need to understand details. I need to see data. And I think my role is like a CEO. Now, sometimes when I'm sitting with my VP of sales, marketing, whatever, is okay see the data and offer like a second opinion and a got to understand the details at a level that can be there and then challenge. Yeah, I'll let Dan answer. But I think Dan has like this other quality that compliments that, better facilitator, better listener.
Dan: [15:49] The styles that we have, I think are complimentary.
Ori: [15:52] Yeah absolutely.
Dan: [15:53] Works well. And, I just tried to think how do I enable my people in the best way possible? Like, my job is to facilitate them being the best they can be, and I need to trust them, like that-so, someone that's working for me, honestly, has to be really, really good, because I'm putting a lot of faith that if I enable you, you're going to do the right thing. And I think stars are-are kind of born from that, or like stars kind of thrive in that type of atmosphere. Now on the flip side, one thing that I have learned from Ori and I want to get a little bit better in, some of the reasons that we founded LinearB, a little bit more data driven. If you can see the data, you can help people more because you can see some of the behaviors that they're experiencing, without having to go into every single detail about their job description. Oh, I'm seeing this number, you know, going up a little bit here. Let's talk about that. That's cool.
Conor: [16:47] And I think as you both point out; these are congruent leadership styles. And I know we're going to get in this more when we talk more about LinearB but having the data and the understanding of what's going on, it should be used to complement how you then work with your people, like that's the ideal congruency, and I think it’s-it's the problem you're both trying to solve with LinearB is, how do we get the data to help you help her people?
Dan: [17:07] Yeah.
Conor: [17:08] And it's also very clearly, like, how you two work together, which is-which is awesome to see. I like what you said, Dan, about building trust too because I know it's something when I came on board to work on the podcast with you, it took a couple of weeks, you know, we had to like work it out, talk and get to know each other, you know bond over fantasy football or whatever. And then now we have like this built-in trust where like, okay, like here's how we work together. But it-it's definitely a really important function of being a leader. And we've had people on the podcast talk about like, Rukmini Reddy VP of Engineering for Slack came on, and she talked a lot about this like fostering trust, really getting to know your people.
Dan: [17:37] Yeah. So in like my leadership style, you have to have the trust or then it's honestly like, also chaos. And the other thing I like about the trust is, I think like if I bring a piece of data to you, or I don’t know, hey Conor, the pod view is going down-
Conor: [17:54] Right
Dan: [17:55] This week, I want to talk about it, you know, I'm coming from a good place, we can see that data and say, Okay, let's have a real conversation about the [crosstalk] [18:04] details behind it.
Conor: [18:04] Right.
Dan: [18:05] That's best-case scenario for me.
Conor: [18:06] Well and even if we have a disagreement in the moment, we can go okay, like we have this built trust, so we can then move forward and adjust and iterate off of it. And I think to your point Ori, and another guest that we had was Brendan Burns, the co-founder of Kubernetes and CVP at Microsoft and one thing he talked about, most of his job, he leads a six-hundred-person organization, he says he does ten to twenty-thirty minute one on ones a day, sometimes, just so he can get to know the details. That's the challenge I know that we're trying to solve a LinearB of having more data to back us up. But it sounds like that's something that's very true for you, you need to get to know people so you can understand the details of what's going on.
Ori: [18:39] Yeah, absolutely, and also, this is how I operate. I meet every person in the company, at least like every six weeks, I think it complements each other like you got to have the trust, you got to let people shine. You got to give them runway to build great things. But at the end of the day, you're also hey, let's look at some data. Let's see what's working. Let's see what's not working. Let's offer a second opinion on what we can employ. I think my next challenge is how do you do it at scale? Forty-fifty people when you grow more, how do you preserve that culture and that mentality? But we’ll figure it out.
Conor: [19:09] From my viewpoint, it sounds like this experience of working remote and then having to build these teams that have maybe these different initial cultures really is made you think intentionally about how to build the culture for LinearB today. Are there other things you think about as far as culture where you go, okay, like these are the key things I want to make sure we're building on, beyond trust and kind of data orientation?
Ori: [19:28] That's the culture that we're trying to encourage; bring great people give them space like to grow and build great things then once they do it throw them over there. It's great. People like to do more things. I really love that aspect of our culture.
Dan: [19:40] A small anecdote. Our head of sales kind of told me, it's in a nice way but he's like, “Hey, most companies really just celebrate when you make a sale.”
Conor: [19:50] Yeah,
Dan: [19:51] And everyone goes “Ah, CEO says like, that's the number one thing you just made a sale. It's a big amount of money and you celebrate, like, what I like about this company is we celebrate when the product’s adopted. That's a different mindset like, okay, let's get it up and running, it's got to be used. That's what we're like, most proud of.” So that was cool to hear him say that.
Conor: [20:10] Yeah! Oh, and it's true! Like when teams sign up for WorkerB people are going nuts in Slack we’re are all stoked, we’re like “Yes! Like-but you know it’s [crosstalk] [20:15] working, it’s going to help them.
Dan: [20:15] Yeah, help the developers. Developers.
Conor: [20:17] Yeah. So, I guess like, we do talk about LinearB on the show sometimes. And I also feel like we've never really given folks a full deep dive into LinearB and how it started. We've kind of alluded to it a bit here. But what inspired the two of you to start LinearB?
Ori: [20:32] It's interesting, I think both of us left Cisco, at the same time honestly-
Dan: [20:36] I was first your first.
Ori: [20:37] You were first, okay.
Ori: [20:39] Got it I guess, [crosstalk] [20:40] He was first, he was first.
Conor: [20:40] Dan is like, “No, no, no. I was first!’
Ori: [20:42] But, you know, when the conversation started, like one of the things it wasn't clear what we want to do exactly. But hey, let's think about, remember when our team was like, executing like crazy, everybody knew exactly what they need to do? How can we help people that are going through the same journey to find that point, and then like to optimize to that point, this was like the background story [crosstalk] [21:02] of how we started LinearB.
Conor: [21:02] Okay.
Dan: [21:04] So it's a good point, because I think when-again, we-we're coming from a scale, a lot of the customers that use LinearB are in successful scale ups. So even if you're a large customer, you're doing something innovative, you care [crosstalk] [21:17] about delivering a great product.
Conor: [21:17] Right.
Dan: [21:19] And to Ori’s points, like you go through waves of; I know what's going on and I know how to help, I don't know what's going on, I don't know how to help. I know what's going on-and it might be because you're hiring managers below you are you're in the details, you're not in the details, it goes through waves, some of what LinearB does like when we-and the products evolve, but it kind of allows you to make an impact at any time, you can always have the ability, then go and help your team be better. It's not just inserted weigh ins, it’s ability.
Conor: [21:52] Yeah, let's boil it down. So, if someone's listening to the podcast, and they're not familiar with the company, what's the problem we're gonna solve for them?
Ori: [21:58] We think there's a super interesting problem in the world right now. If you're an individual developer, nowadays, everything is like faster. You can customize GitHub on your laptop, everything is localized.
Conor: [22:09] Right.
Ori: [22:10] You get all the notifications, everything is moving fast. And going into 2020, to develop a process for teams to work together was already in my opinion, half broken, and then came 2020, with everything that happened [crosstalk] [22:22] in the world and I think it did completely break.
Conor: [22:22] Yeah, really.
Ori: So LinearB’s mission is to help teams building working software and accelerate it and improve how you deliver software. Our philosophy is that it has to include three layers. For a CTO, or somebody who’s running the engineering organization, it has to build like a business alignment layer, like Dan said, a CEO would come and say, “What are we working on? Can I see like, where are we investing time?” so that's one there, there are companies that are doing that. And there's another layer, which says, “Okay, we have a development pipeline here, how can we optimize that things are moving fast?”
Conor: [22:56] How to help my team solve problems?
Ori: [22:59] Yeah, remove bottlenecks, etc. Because, you know, in software, there's this, I call this-this bicycle syndrome. If you move fast enough, you're actually like in better quality.
Conor: [23:09] Right.
Ori: [23:10] It’s sometimes counterintuitive, but if you slow down-let’s say we have quality problems, let’s slow down. Developers will still develop code, then you end up with big releases, that will hurt your quality. It's a vicious cycle. So, if you move fast-optimizing on the development pipeline is super important.
Conor: [23:25] Right.
Ori: [23:26] And then last but not least, is the piece of like-we're in the development, productivity business, and we talked about those developers that all their dev environment is, like, now customized and it can move fast. Now, if they work in a team, they are spending extra hours, sometimes more, in just updating tickets and being in meetings, this shouldn't be allowed, like, things they shouldn't do.
Conor: [23:47] A lot of cognitive switching between.
Ori: [23:49] Exactly, exactly. And then what's very unique about LinearB’s solution, you won't find anywhere, is that we invest a lot of time in what we call the developer workflow optimization. We want to take an hour off all this bureaucracy from developers. That's our philosophy because we truly believe that if you really want to help improve, it's not about-just about dashboards for managers, we got to get the developers to adopt it too. And we're super proud of our numbers, when we go, and we will roll out and we get between like sixty to eighty percent of the developers using the product every week.
Dan: [24:20] Probably the best evolution of our business is going from yeah, you need the visibility for your senior leaders all of that…helping developers deliver code every day. Like, that's what's actually gonna matter if you want to be more efficient, move with better quality, save your developers time, not work crazy hours, you have to do something to help them and that's what we're doing now with WorkerB.
Ori: [24:44] WorkerB, yeah.
Dan: [24:45] So, that’s like probably our most proud feature.
Ori: [24:49] Yeah. Like Dan said we are growing fast. We’re grow- we can talk numbers but we're growing really fast. But honestly if you asked us what we’re proud of, like we have a Slack channel that every time-I mean the developers are loving the product, if we thought about it two or three years ago, developers would like their productivity, and we cracked something dev productivity, for me as a developer is, hey, take this bureaucracy off me and let me focus on my craft. And we were able to build something that helps them do that.
Dan: [25:15] So the thing is, if you think about where does my time go, as a developer. Where do I want to go? When I was a developer, I liked coding like building the thing we talked about, “Am I creating something great?” Now, maybe thirty percent, or less, of my time is going there. A lot of my time is going to my updating my project management tool. Where is my code? Am I waiting for someone to renew it? Did it get released? Is it being tested?
Conor: [25:41] Right.
Dan: [25:42] How could I take all that style of-the non-coding effort, off of a developer, let them create amazing things. And I think that's why the developers like it.
Conor: [25:50] And I've heard you use the phrase “automated continuous improvement” which it sounds like is because when developers are using this product, it helps them become more efficient by eliminating some of this idle time, and letting them reduce that cognitive load, reduce cognitive switching. And then for the leadership team, they get to just have these improvements happen because this product’s been used.
Dan: [26:10] I don't know, automated continue-it's like a business phrase, but if I really broke it down, like, Okay, if you're a leader that's interested in LinearB, like, what I was asking myself in the beginning, what are you doing to help every one of your team members? So, let's translate again, what am I doing to help all of my developers improve? Now we say “automated continuous improvement”, well I’m putting something into the hands of all of my developers that save them all one hour a day, you're gonna see gains on I'm delivering my projects on time. I have happier developers. as Ori was saying, it's like riding a bike. As you move faster, you actually get more stable, move faster, get stable. So, that's all the things that you get.
Ori: [26:50] Yeah, if your cycle time is faster, like, you're most stable. If I'm a developer, and by the way, I think this company, it's-it's so funny, I’ve thought about it in the last days, when my first kids were born, you go through a journey of like becoming a child again, remember, like, you get excited. “Ah, first time at the beach! Ah the beach is amazing!”
Conor: [27:06]: Let’s build some Legos. Yeah, yeah.
Ori: [27:08] So I think this journey is also about “Okay, let's-I’m going to discover what it means to be a developer like, [crosstalk] [27:13] from the ground up.
Conor: [27:13] Totally.
Ori: [27:14] So, yeah, if I'm a developer, that's what I want, I want you to save me some time. I want when I'm, when I'm pushing a PR, and I want somebody to review. If it happens in the same day, you know, when-in thirty minutes from when I'm requesting it, and by the way, another thirty minutes in production, it's the safest because everything is in my memory. If a day passes and I need to remind myself, it takes like twenty-three to twenty-five minutes to get to the same cognitive situation where you know you-
Conor: [27:44] Yep, there’s a lot of research on us.
Ori: [27:45] That's what we believe in. That's the way to improve.
Conor: [27:47] I think that'll be a huge differentiator. What are some of the other key advantages that you see LinearB having versus competitors in the marketplace?
Ori: [27:55] We talked about the developers base, I don't see any other competitors that are getting to that level of eighty percent usage. We talked about how it's a win-win situation, because-
Conor: [28:04] Right.
Ori: [28:05] If I'm a developer, I want to push my code faster, and also improve the quality because again, everything is fresh in my mind and also improve, like, the time-to-value because we're able to push more code so managers are happy too and they can see it in the metrics. I think if you're able to kind of like align everybody together to the same vector, same thing, that's something super unique about the LinearB solution that nobody else has. So, the adoption numbers, those things, the WorkerB tool is giving us visibility to first party data that nobody else has, like the idle time. If I asked a review from Dan, I can know how much time it took for Dan to like to understand that I asked him. We have some data that nobody-again, nobody else in the industry has, and we're building intelligence and solutions on this data. And so, we feel very strongly in what we have. We will continue to improve.
Conor: [28:55] The automated continuous improvement and workflow optimization that LinearB is doing, particularly with WorkerB is super exciting. How do you see that expanding and growing in the future?
Dan: [29:04] We have a feature right? It's called WorkerB, developers are using it. I think it's doing a really good job right now in the pull request review lifecycle, making that more efficient, giving the time back to the developers, kind of letting you know, hey, maybe this is the best pull requests to review right now. We got some interesting machine learning going on there, that say “Hey, this one we'll take you thirty minutes, but based on your past behaviors, like this other one's gonna take you like forty-five minutes. Don't start it right now.” Because starting and stopping is like the worst thing you can do. Where I see it going-so more actions. I can take an action, you know, that you're getting these messages into Slack right now, I can take an action, I can merge the PR, maybe some more visibility into what your code is doing in production. Did it get released? Is it being used? But the other thing that we've been talking about that I think will be really cool is reduce that project management stuff.
Conor: [30:02] Yeah!
Dan: [30:03] I think-I don’t know, you’re though you're using JIRA, you have to link a branch to a [crosstalk] [30:06] ticket.
Conor: [30:06] Nobody likes JIRA, let’s be honest.
Dan: [30:08] I think developers don't like not coding and you have a non-coding activity to update your manager or you know, what's going on, the iteration, where my ticket is in the lifecycle.
Conor: [30:18] So, how can we automate that then?
Dan: [30:19] Yeah, let’s link the branch up for you automatically to the ticket. [crosstalk] [30:22] Let’s move the ticket around.
Conor: [30:22] That’s awesome.
Dan: [30:24] We've been talking a lot about that. I think that will save more time going on. So there's a few interesting things that we're doing.
Ori: [30:30] Yeah, definitely. We’ve been considering, like, we'd be getting requests to take some of these capabilities and putting even, you know, in the IDE for developers.
Dan: [30:38] Yeah.
Ori: [30:39] Because that's where, like, [crosstalk] [30:40] they were spending a lot of like their time.
Dan: [30:40] Closed circuit.
Ori: [30:43] But, I think okay, you have a point. If I can go through a day and everything I need to do in my project management and JIRA, and all these other things I can-you can automate it for me and save me those road trips, again, context switches, it's dramatic. Because having so many time-everybody's trying to optimize the big, big things. No, like you can optimize, save and mean it, you're doing like, one-hundred times a day, it's dramatic.
Conor: [31:06] If I make every developer in my organization's job easier, and save them time, that will trickle up to the entire rest of the organization.
Dan: [31:13] You see it in the data, the cycle time goes down as more [crosstalk] [31:17] developers use WorkerB.
Ori: [31:17] Oh, dramatically. Dramatically.
Dan: [31:19[ It's like, I don't know, like developer-like if I was a developer, to be honest, I don't know that I really care that the cycle time is necessarily going down. I'm getting my work out, but if you’re like a leader, right, your responsibility back to the business is to deliver projects on time, do what you say you're gonna do, like, if you care about doing that you want to cycle time to decrease that's what it does.
Conor: [31:40] Right, and as a developer, I-my code gets to production faster, I don't have to come back to it two weeks later, and go okay, [crosstalk] [31:45] what was I doing here? Just get it done, and I get to code more.
Dan: [31:45] Yeah. Just happier.
Ori: [31:48] Once someone’s integrated, it'll be better to everything that happens after-you'd like your release your code. Was it really successful? you know, the DORA metrics, like everybody's talking about change failure rate right now. We have some great solutions that are coming out like to have the full package of all the DORA metrics.
Conor: [32:07] Awesome.
Ori: [32:08] So, saying something about like, well, how stable are these, once you release.
Conor: [32:11] So, I-I’ve dragged us down into the weeds a bit. Let's zoom out of it and get to know LinearB a little bit better. The two of you raised a successful sixteen-million-dollar series A back in March of 2020. Or sorry, March of 2021-I forget what year it is, okay, it has been a blur for me.
Dan: [32:24 Yeah it’s a blur. Twenty-one.
Ori: [32: 26] March 2021 seems like three years ago.
Conor: [32:28] It really does. Ori, can you tell the audience a bit about the team and then whose backing LinearB?
Ori: [32:34] We have an R&D team that is based in Tel Aviv, a very, very strong team. We have an amazing team on the other side of the ocean in the US based on like a couple of hubs, success marketing sales. And in terms of who's backing LinearB, we were lucky because we have an amazing board. We have Ariel Maislos, he was part of angel investors that invest in LinearB from the beginning.
Conor: [32:59] Awesome.
Ori: [33:00] Really supportive. I really like, you know, sometimes he's challenging us. Like, I'm challenging like [crosstalk] [33:04] everyone else.
Conor: [33:04] Yeah.
Dan: [33:05] Yeah Ariel is awesome.
Ori: [33:06] Ariel is sharp.
Dan: [33:07] A great entrepreneur. [Laughing]
Ori: [33:09] And then you have, like, Gil Goren from 83North, all the crew there is amazing. And we did a round with Battery and TechAviv partners, amazing investors, Dharmesh Thakker, he adds so much value to us. Like he has like this perspective of seeing how companies scale he's said okay, how do you go from two million to eight to ten? And further on, so we have some good advices there. Amazing board.
Dan: [33:36] Our investors not only believe in the company, they know the space like-
Conor: [33:41] They bring a lot to the table.
Dan: [33:42] Yeah, developer adoption. That's what matters.
Ori: [33:44] I would add to that it wasn't always like the highest offer to take. Sometimes we think like the second best, but the first best in terms of people.
Dan: [33:52] Yeah, overall what will be best for the company.
Conor: [33:52] So let's say someone's considering applying for a job at LinearB, what are the things you want them to know? Like, how would you-how would you pitch me if I'm applying?
Ori: [34:02] I-honestly my style of pitching-first, like I know people are really nervous. Like when they're ducking down, I'm starting to say hey, let me tell you about my journey, telling the LinearB story. And well, where we are right now and what we're looking for and then the culture, we talked about how demanding it is, but also how like with people that grow and build great things. Those are like the things that I'm looking at, like when I'm in an interview, like I want to hear about, you know, similar experiences where you solve a problem and you say okay, I want in and I want to build that's like the kind of quality that I'd really like to look at before, but that's at least my style of how I would interview.
Conor: [34:41] What about you Dan?
Dan: [34:42] I don't even pitch. If you come to LinearB, you have an opportunity to make an impact beyond just even the role that you're signing up for. You want to grow your career? Everyone works hard of course, and you-you want to work hard but you want to get something out of it for yourself and that's the right time and light for you? That's what we can offer. If I try to just describe here's what's going on at LinearB.
Conor: [35:09] Right.
Dan: [35:10] Is this the right situation for you in your career? And a lot of the great people, like you said, yeah, it's the right time. Other people might say, “Hey, that's not the right time for me. I'm not ready for that big growth.”
Conor: [35:22] Are there any mistakes that you feel like you've made so far that you're like, oh, people should learn from this or that you feel like you've learned from-from?
Ori: [35:27] You mean today or?
Ori: [35:29] We make mistakes every day!
Conor: [35:31] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just so far in the life cycle of the company.
Ori: [35:35] I don’t know, honestly, those are divided into two parts, like the answer. I think that we make mistakes all the time.
Conor: [35:43] Sure.
Ori: [35:44] And the trick is, like, to be honest, identify fast, and change.
Conor: [35:48] Yeah.
Ori: [35:49] So, that's like a general-
Conor: [35:51] Fail fast.
Ori: [35:52] Yeah and fail fast. And, one of the things like I think, I mean, when we started in 2019, we were kind of tempted into-because we got customers fast. And we had like, a bunch of customers were using the product, but the position that we sold, it was like a very top-down, managers used it.
Conor: [36:11] Right.
Ori: [36:12] If I would try it over, I would say-and then by the way, we caught ourselves. I said, “No, that's not the product, that’s not the culture, like, we know how to improve it. It's like bottom-up and we talked about it. So maybe we wouldn't go through this-
Conor: [36:23] It’d be even earlier on going bottom-up.
Ori: [36:27] But there's no-I don't see this mistake that's your journey, like you change you-as long as we looked that's the reality. You know, really quickly, we identified it, and we change the like-you make mistakes, all the time, you just react to that change.
Dan: [36: 42] Yeah, here's the thing. Sometimes your strength can also be your weakness. So Ori and I are engineering founders, right? Not necessarily coming from like an MBA background. And so, I think our strengths is kind of a little bit of that engineering, personality. Build a great product, do it the right way, high quality, be humble, you know, like, you're not like bragging or being like super ec-eccentric. Now, on the flip side, I think maybe sometimes we've built something that is unbelievable, then maybe we need to double down on getting the word like, I don’t know, not even the word out there. Like hire more sales more rapidly, or maybe just to open it up a bit and knowing Hey, you really have something incredible.
Conor: [37:30] Alright, well, I want to close by giving the community a bit of a recap of our first year of Dev Interrupted, and a bit of a look at what's next. So, Dan, what are some of the biggest takeaways from a whole year of hosting the Dev Interrupted podcast?
Dan: [37:43] Geeze, okay. So, I'll try to do it from a few different perspectives. Like I haven't been a podcast host, this is my first pod like you can start something like a podcast or an engineering leader, like people want to hear what's going on. And there's not as many avenues for engineers or engineering leaders to speak about a story or to show like something impressive that they've done or something that they’ve learned then you would think.
Conor: [38:09] Particularly for leadership I feel like.
Dan: [38:10] Yeah, particularly for leadership. I don't even know if all developers’ stories really get out there either. But particularly for leadership, we had an incredible season one, the guest list is like oh my god!
Conor: [38:21] Yeah.
Dan: [38:22] Listen to the episodes, check them out. There are nuggets of knowledge in there that can jump careers jump-become an elite leader, right? So, I guess I would just say like, what I learned is, there's so many stories out there that haven't been told. I'm happy, we were able to get those stories out there so other leaders can improve.
Conor: [38:42] I'm excited about it. Like, you know, personally, I'm particularly excited by some of our recent episodes, like Heidi Williams, who came on. She's the head of B2B and platform engineering at Grammarly and some of our upcoming episodes in season two are really exciting too. You know, we have Jason Warner, he's the former CTO of GitHub and the managing director at Redpoint Ventures now so he's gonna have a really unique perspective I think. He’s coming on the show for season two. Do either of you have any particular favorite episodes last year? Ori?
Ori: [39: 08] I haven’t listened to everything but I had an opportunity at Interact live to host the panel.
Conor: [39:12] That was cool.
Ori: [39:13] So, it was the first time where, you know, when you’re running a company, you're always like heads down into your own small universe. So, to me it was really refreshing to have a panel of three engineering leaders-four I think sorry, and I learned from each one of them in like this one hour-said “Hey, there's this thing where you can listen to people and learn from them not just be focused on your journey.” So, it was super refreshing experience for me.
Conor: [39:37] If anyone did miss that, it is live on our YouTube you can check it out there, whole thing’s on there. I also intend to get several of those leaders back on the podcast in season two so we'll hear more from them.
Dan: [39:35] Cool.
Ori: [39:36] Great.
Conor: [39:37] Dan, what about you? Favorite episodes?
Dan: [39:48] Yeah, I was gonna go with the cop-out of like they're all great but I do have a favorite and they are all are like pretty damn good. I like the-Charity. Charity-
Conor: [39:58] Charity Majors. Yeah, she was amazing.
Dan: [40:00] Honeycomb. I have a pretty good engineering story, you know, it had some successes, we're doing the LinearB thing, things are going great. Charity inspired me. That's why I'm like, oh, this, like, you know, this is my favorite because I came off that pod-she has a whole thing about “Got to get code out there. Fifteen minute feedback loops.”
Conor: [40:18] Yeah!
Dan: [40:19] And some like, brash like ways of saying, “Hey, if you're at a company that doesn't respect having a quick cycle time, getting your work up, just go somewhere else. Like I've felt rejuvenated and energized by that conversation,
Conor: [40:31] I love that.
Dan: [40:31] So I would say yeah, Charity, Charity Majors.
Ori: [40:34] She has this tweet or something I would say that's like, “Releasing code should be as unremarkable as a heartbeat.
Dan: [40:41] Yeah.
Conor: [40:42] Wow.
Dan: [40:43] She's got a way of saying if you're like “Ah, I’m inspired.”
Conor: [40:46] Another huge thing that we've done, and you mentioned this Ori, is we hosted Interact, a virtual conference for engineering leaders took place September 30th again. It's all up on our YouTube if you want to check it out. We had more than seven-hundred engineers and engineering leaders join us from over seventy-five countries, for our first ever conference. We hope you will join us for Interact 2.0 on April 7th. What were your other takeaways from interact? What did it tell you about where you see the community going forward?
Ori: [41:12] As it-to me again, it was a refreshing experience, because Dan was doing all these things, to see all that potential, all the reactions, it was so cool.
Conor: [41:22] People loved it.
Ori: [41:23] People loved it and reacted in new ways. People said stuff and it was like on the broadcast. It was a refreshing experience for me like to see. It's not that we didn't know that when we started. We said “Hey, there's a vacuum right?” There’s conferences for every developers, but engineering leaders are so lonely, but it was super refreshing, like, to see that again to see the volume of interest. So, to me, that was great.
Conor: [41:45] What about for you Dan?
Dan: [41:47] Yeah, I mean, it was-so Interact conference, right? Content; super high quality. And I knew we're building a great community and Dev Interrupted is just an extremely awesome community. But when everyone's showing up, they're contributing, like Ori was saying they're in the chats, all the chatter and hitting you up on LinkedIn, that's when you really know that, okay, this is important, that’s kind of what hit me.
Ori: [42:11] When you want to help somebody that's in this position, a product is great, we have a product that measures things, help you improve, like we all described. But it's not just that you got to have all the resources and other people that you can talk to. This is how we build a company. Now it's a complete thing. It's a product that helps somebody it's also the community those resources. Once you have both, which is another like big advantage of LinearB, it’s much more of a wholistic approach to how to improve.
Dan: [42:39] You're joining a community of people that also want to be elite. You don't get that everywhere.
Conor: [42:44] We have almost two-thousand engineering leaders in our Discord today. Discord.gg/devinterrupted, check it out. We have daily discussions during the week about engineering leadership topics. Are there goals that the two of you have for building that community and building Dev Interrupted in year two?
Ori: [42:58] One of the things that we want to do is even double down on the investment of how to help developers. Like, developers are also, you know, they want to build stuff, like I remember, like this fifty percent also are aspiring to be leaders. So, there's contradiction there. I think the next goal is like, build something like Dev Interrupted to help developers and to think about-the discussions will be “Hey, how do you take all the-you know, the bureaucracy and all those types of things. So, I think if we're successful in building also that, something that let the developers know if they're on the next level.
Conor: [43:33] I love that. Who are your dream guests? Who do you want on the podcast?
Dan: [43:37] So season two, here's what I think we're gonna get. Lots of inspirational stories about achievements in technology, or engineering leadership. So, here's what I'm hoping for, like I was thinking, oh, maybe I could think of a big name. But it’s like, there's people maybe behind the scenes that build the infrastructure for, I don’t know, WhatsApp or something that’s not necessarily the biggest name and I want to come hear a story of how you scaled that amazing app, that you built. And that's what I'm excited for.
Conor: [44:11] Okay. What about you Ori?
Ori: [44:13] I really want to interview my two grandfathers. Both of them are no longer with us. But it's my dream. Like I had one grandfather, who was like in Kibbutz, he was working out all the time. Now another one was in the intrapreneur. And I never got a chance to meet him.
Conor: [44:28] I had a normal answer. I was gonna say Jack Dorsey of Twitter. That's the one I want to get. But I like I like your two answers better, I think. So, wonderful. Thanks, Dan, for letting me take over as the guest host this week. It's been great giving our community the opportunity to get to know the both of you a bit better. And Ori, it's fantastic sitting down with you as well. I loved the founding story of LinearB that you both shared, and I'm excited for year two of Dev Interrupted. To close out, for those who want to learn more about LinearB, what's the top thing you'd recommend they do?
Ori: [44:58] I'm a product person, so I’m saying like, there's all these resources you can watch, you can go and listen to podcasts in Dev Interrupted, you can go into Discord, but I say try our product. It helps like dev teams improve, to self-serve, you can start within like two seconds. So, the best recommendation, like use a product, tell us if it's good, tell us if it is bad. Tell us everything.
Conor: [45:20] LinearB.io, check it out. And if you're interested in joining a really incredible company, it's a great place to check out our career page too. Anything else from you, Dan?
Dan: [45:28] We built the product that you can try for free, it's easy to get set up, go see what you think. Hook up WorkerB, try it for yourself or your developers.
Conor: [45:38] And also be sure to join the Dev Interrupted Discord community. The discussions get better every day, where engineering leaders have these kinds of conversations all week, and we dig into how to improve your engineering organization. And third, I just want to say thank you to the nearly two thousand of you, [music starts] who are now subscribed to our weekly Interruption newsletter. We bring you articles from the community, our weekly podcast, inside information, and a look at what's coming for Interact 2.0 on April 7 in 2022, and also, on what's coming up in season two. As always, links will be in the description below. And thanks for joining us for another week of Dev Interrupted.
Ori: [46:11] Thank you Conor.
Dan: [46:12] Thank you both.
Conor: [46:13] Yeah thanks Ori and Dan.