Leader Q&A: Dyn's Jeremy Hitchcock on attracting big name clients
MANCHESTER - From humble origins 13 years ago as Dynamic Network Services, Dyn Inc. has become synonymous with Internet innovation and the evolution of Manchester as a high-tech hub.
CEO and President Jeremy Hitchcock has been there from the beginning. He and Dyn co-founder Tom Daly were named New Hampshire High Tech Council Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2012.
The company's client list includes Twitter, Netflix, Pandora, Zappos, CNBC and Photobucket, among many others.
In the past year, Dyn took on its first outside investment, created a new board of directors, made several high-level hires, expanded its international offices and set the stage for doubling the space it occupies on Dow Street in the Manchester Millyard.
Q: It was quite a year for Dyn in 2012. Would you say it was a transformational year?
A: Every year has its own shape, its own narrative. I guess you could say there were more changes than before. Every year we've had a pretty decent growth clip, so the company has changed; people's roles have changed. I think it's probably year two in three years of moving from a small, startup type of environment to a more established, mid-sized, larger type organization. So if you're looking at the past 12 months, it's probably the second part of a trilogy in our evolution.
Q: So we're entering the third year of a three-year plan?
A: I think in '11 and '12 we moved from a corporate space to more of a dot.com type of environment that really represents our character and culture. We continue to do more and different types of events, things that are kind of outside the box - the Dyn-tinis and networking events - showing commitment to the community.
For this year, we have a lot of ground to cover. We have a pretty good hiring plan ahead of us. We'll increase the company size 50 percent, hiring about 100 people or so this year, and we are exploring some crazy things, like running a shuttle service down to the North Station area to pick people up as we wait for rail to become a reality. Another one would be a code camp where we have people from around the United States come here and hang out for a week and have a class of about 20 to 25 for people just out of school with a few years of experience, and teach them about Internet infrastructure and what that means to us.
Q: How would you explain to the layman, not familiar with Internet infrastructure as a service, exactly what you do?
A: I hope in 60 to 90 days we'll have a much better answer, but today's best effort is that we basically write software, we run it, and people pay for the ability to use it in a subscription model. The type of things that people purchase from us really have to do with the back-end parts of their Internet technology or infrastructure - their websites, how they communicate with customers.
Our technology is used to geo-locate the eyeballs of customers and users. It's basically a traffic cop in the cloud saying, "Oh, you look like you are coming from New Hampshire, so we're going to send you to a New England data center." ... That's one portion, and our customers choose us because we have advanced features and knobs that other people don't provide. Then another part of the business is the transactional email side, where users interact with a website. When you purchase something and get a receipt, we send some of the messages that ultimately end up in your inbox.
Q: What about the origins of Dyn as a DNS (Domain Name Systems) provider, translating IP addresses that network servers recognize into the url names we are all familiar with?
A: We've been joking that the one who does not call it DNS wins, because people don't wake up and say "Hey I want to figure out DNS." But they do want to figure out traffic management. The nice thing about the DNS protocol is you can do a lot of things that give you hooks and knobs and levers that enable you to move traffic around, and it's part of our evolution to think of ourselves in that wider space.
Q: Which is going to make it even harder for us to explain what you do.
A: We're equally troubled and puzzled by the space and what it really means, because ultimately our buyers are performance buyers, but there are also security aspects to what we do. There are analytics and big data aspects to what we do. So we are kind of mischievous rogues trying to find our home. We're a little bit nomadic, but we're having a good time doing it.
Q: Are most of your customers businesses, as opposed to retail consumers?
A: It's a mix, and it's a continuum. The business started in an open-source world, and we provided remote access technology that was powered through DNS. People could get a name addressed to their home, cable or DSL connection, and they were able to do remote access or anything they want. It was infrastructure technology with applications on top of it.
Customers would then grow out of that remote access technology and say, basically, "I need a more sophisticated set of knobs," and we built that sophisticated set of knobs, so our customers would evolve from a small startup saying, "I have this project at home," and now it's today's Twitter.
Q: Do you think you need to obtain a higher level of consumer awareness of Dyn for continued growth, or can you keep doing it with industry and business users?
A. We're kind of at a crossroads on that. I remember an interview with Jon Schwartz at Sun Microsystems (they're not around anymore so maybe this advice isn't the best), but he said, "I really don't care if my mom knows exactly what I do, but the person who is buying hardware and server equipment, I want that person to know intimately what we do."
Q: Given your plans to grow by at least 100 new hires in the year ahead, do you think the talent is available in the region?
A: There is full employment right now in New Hampshire and New England in the computer sciences and for network engineers. That means that all the good people are employed. So it's a challenge. It's not impossible, but you wish there were more. I believe there will be 50 to 100 computer science graduates in the state this year, and there are about 1,000 postings for people in that field. So even if ambitiously we could get all of them, we would still be a little bit short.