Sitting on the sun-soaked deck of Manchester, N.H.-based Dyn, the company he founded in 2001, Jeremy Hitchcock not only seems completely happy, at home, and at ease, he exudes a confidence, lacking any trace of cockiness, that most chief executives lack in spades.
It must be the New Hampshire ethos; that hard-working, grind it out mentality that is also coupled with a joie de vivre that courses through the Lakes and Seacoast in summer and the White Mountains in winter.
That spirit is also ever-present within the walls of Dyn, one of the world’s leading online traffic management and web performance companies.
Born in New York, Hitchcock grew up in Manchester, N.H., and ended up at WPI after touring multiple engineering schools. He decided on Worcester Polytech after a memorably bad (he actual remembers the exact date, Sept. 26) experience looking around a different highly-regarded tech school. After watching students stream in and out of buildings and then sit down in the dining hall without acknowledging one another or “looking up from their problem sets,” he decided to go to a school that offered a lot more of the college experience and was a bit less intense as far as the approach to engineering.
Hitchcock started Dyn, originally called Dynamic DNS Network Services Incorporated, as an undergrad at Worcester Polytechnic Institute with classmates Tom Daly, Tim Wilde, and Chris Reinhardt. Initially an open-source project to help students print documents to remote printers on campus, the company shifted to the domain name service game and found what was initially shocking success for the startup.
“Networking wasn’t quite as robust back then,” Hitchcock said of the remote printer system. “We figured out this robust addressing scheme and word of mouth got it up to 25,000 users.” For the founders, however, the project quickly became a bit overwhelming. “It was no fun,” he said, “cause it was a lot of work and we had a lot of requests.”
The team, who were freshman at the time, told users that they were going to shut the project down unless they got a dollar from each user. Within a month, they had $40,000. “That was an inconceivable amount of money for us at the time,” Hitchcock said. “All of sudden, before you knew it, we had a bunch of people who were paying users, and we were off to the races.”
Hitchcock credits many of the mentors and professors at WPI for allowing them to build the business as part of their WPI education.
“Organically,” he said, “the company continued to find users.” The company shifted to a software-as-a-service model and kept adding customers. Then, Dyn kept adding employees and moved back to Manchester and built a business around a suite of IT services.
As for the continuous growth, the company announced in May, that since 2009, Dyn has had 21 successive quarters of revenue growth. (Dyn doesn’t disclose its revenue numbers anymore; however, my colleague Kyle Alspach did report in the BBJ that they “closed more than $15 million in bookings” in Q3 last year.) Currently, Dyn employees 350 in Manchester, and at offices in San Francisco, England, and Australia.
The company grew by helping to make networking infrastructure better for Internet companies (by monitoring site performance, managing domain name services, and offering tools such as URL redirection— like if I type in twitter.org, it redirects to twitter.com). Dyn has shared that it has Twitter, Tumblr, Netflix, Pandora, and Zappos as clients, as well as many more they can’t name.
“We have a really good technology base and it’s a good place to be,” Hitchcock said.
“Every company that uses the Internet has no way to really manage it or to know if it’s working or to have some sort of control of content going back and forth,” he said. “We give some sanity to business owners, CTOs, network people, operators, to give them the ability to know how the network works and how they connect with their customers.”
Building One of Boston’s Biggest Up-and-Coming Companies (in Manchester)
In 2012, the company took its first funding — a $38 million round —and brought on a board, including “This Week in Startups” host Jason Calacanis and former New Hampshire governor John Lynch. The board is quite eclectic, but has been helpful in Dyn’s development. “On one end, you have straight up angels,” Hitchcock said, “and on the other, you have the former governor who has a background in private equity. You kind of get a spectrum of the different types of funding and operational contexts.”
The funding was led by North Bridge Venture Partners and helped Dyn expand its sales and marketing teams (and almost every department at the company). However, Hitchcock said that the company continues to run as “a customer-funded company.” Additionally, Dyn has acquired quite a few companies in the same space, competitors or software companies that offer Internet performance tools that add to Dyn’s capabilities.
When I asked him about the rumors that the company is going public soon, Hitchcock said, “One of our company goals is to be a ‘public ready’ company in 2014. Good companies have good options and you want to be ready for a variety of things.”
With a wry, knowing smile, Hitchcock added, “Hey, [an IPO] could be any day or it could be 10 years from now.”
“In the end, what does it matter for customers, that’s the important part,” he said.
Along with Wayfair and HubSpot, Dyn is one of the most likely big “Boston” IPOs that could come soon. Although they don’t have the billion dollar revenue like Wayfair and the enthusiastic user base like HubSpot, they do have something that may be their ace in the hole: a consistently improving service that its clients love and know the value of subscribing to.
Dyn is not only able to sustain its monster growth and huge employee base without any new funding, they are able to make money, from loyal users and a growing list of new clients. Such is the appeal of SaaS.
Board member Jason Calacanis, who once called Dyn “Google of the North,” said he was attracted to the company by the executive team of Hitchcock and chief revenue officer Kyle York, but also because of how important what Dyn is doing is for the future Internet.
Of Hitchcock, Calacanis said, “He’s a true leader, constantly working on his development as well as that of his team. That’s pretty impressive.”
“He’s advancing at a faster rate as an executive than the business is,” he added, “which is a good sign for the business.”
Of the seemingly laid back yet confident manner I witnessed in Manchester, Calacanis said, “He seems laid back like a tiger. He’s like a tiger who sits there but is ready to pounce, wreak havoc at any moment.”
Hitchcock as a Mentor and Investor
For people in the know, Hitchcock has been mentioned by quite a few Boston startup founders and entrepreneurs as not only one of the brightest local executives, but as one of the most savvy and helpful tech investors.
Some of the startups that Hitchcock has invested in include Objective Logistics and ReKindle, Dunwello, ApplyKit, Playrific, and Blank Label, among many others (some that are undisclosed).
“I’d say I am an amateur right now,” he said of his angel investing. “I’m not doing it for the money, I’m doing it for the pattern recognition.” It seems that through his investments, he is finding out what problems other founders are dealing with problems and how they are recruiting their teams, among many other issues. “It has to be something where I can help and add value,” Hitchcock added.
Phil Beauregard, co-founder of both Objective Logistics and ReKindle, said of Hitchcock, “He’s a rare combination of intelligence, kindness, and true grit.”
“I’m lucky to count him as a mentor, investor, and a true friend,” he added. “He’s truly built and continues to grow one of the area’s pillar companies.”
As for what’s next for Dyn, Hitchcock said simply, “Do more.”
“There’s more of the Internet to run,” he did add. “One of the mantras we have is to ‘Run the Internet,’ and I think we do a better job at it than most people We want to keep taking on more of that responsibility, more liability, and more speed, to make the Internet a better place.”