As a bootstrapped company for most of our existence, I am always on the lookout for ways to reach our goals at the minimum cost. So, over the years, when a group of Vyopta team members needed to attend an event or visit customers, we often stayed together at a home rental with AirBnb or HomeAway. Those trips generated countless comical situations, new business ideas, and honest feedback that helped us grow as team members and a company.
From these humble beginnings, we now serve an amazing group of customers including Bloomberg, Stanford University, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs, that we merely aspired to reach when we started back in 2007. In the past year alone, things have really taken off. Our internal staff and client-base have more than doubled. Yet, as recently as last month three of our remote employees rented a home through HomeAway when they visited our Austin office. They had fun, deepened their bonds, and we had a great work week.
I learned a long time ago that business is a team sport. To capitalize on the opportunities and overcome the inevitable challenges and uncertainty that comes with pioneering a new business, you need a great team that enjoys working together. To build a great business you need a great culture.
Recently, our employees voted for Vyopta to be named in Austin’s Top Workplaces of 2016 – and we won! The following post is meant to provide some insight into our company and to serve as a thank you to our awesome team.
When we founded Vyopta, Andrew Chen, Rick Leung, and I knew video communication was going to change the way people worked together. What was science fiction to us as kids watching captain Kirk having video calls, was now on the cusp of making its way into the workplace, and we wanted to be part of the movement. What’s more, as technologists, enterprise video meetings were very interesting to us since it involved multiple technologies including video, voice, content sharing, messaging, networking, and the cloud.
At first, we built a services business that helped large enterprises deploy video systems. However, over time we kept getting asked to help the IT team manage and support these investments. So being entrepreneurs, we shifted the focus of the company to building software products to monitor and optimize video collaboration systems. Shifting from a services business to a SAAS product company without external funding was a daunting challenge for the entire team. The founders put more money into the company, we secured debt financing from two advisors (Patrick Drew, Dan Keelan), and the entire Vyopta team worked tirelessly to make the transition. Over the next 18months, “the new Vyopta” was born.
Vyopta’s vAnalytics THEN
Today, Vyopta’s mission is to help large organizations manage and support video and unified communications (e.g., video, audio, live content sharing, chat) at scale. If we can enable more people to collaborate effectively on video, we can help teams unlock more productivity, creativity, and strengthen the bonds between people who work hundreds or thousands of miles apart.
We are and will always be a product company first. We strive to create products that help customers solve real problems in a way that makes them want to work with Vyopta over and over again. Product management, engineering, user experience, and customer success are at the core of our business.
At the same time, we are looking to expand our market and build the value of our brand. Expanding our customer base is core to our mission of growing the use of video and improving team collaboration. It’s exciting to see how our sales and marketing teams work together to innovate how we go to market.
One of the biggest things I love about the team is that we’re eager to learn from each other. As our team expands, we gain new ideas and experiences that help shape our culture and improve how we work together. What’s more, we have studied how other amazing organizations (e.g., Atlassian, Netflix, Hubspot) have approached the challenge of building and sustaining a great team and culture. We take great ideas and mix them in with our own personal perspectives to come up with a culture that is true to Vyopta. Our goal is simple: build an organization that can accomplish great things, where we push each other to constantly grow, and where we enjoy working with each other.
Some of the values and attributes we look for in people we hire and that we work hard to live by include:
|Get Stuff Done (GSD)||We need doers who take smart risks and get things done.|
|Positive Problem Solving||Building a new market requires us to solve new problems, face adversity, and tackle uncertainty. We need a team that is excited to confront these challenges in a constructive and positive way.|
|Believe in the Magic Wand||Never be constrained by the status quo. Imagine you have a magic wand that can make the best, simplest solution possible and work with the team to make it happen.|
|Push Each Other Up||We value a transparent culture where we push each other to improve the right way. Listen first. Provide constructive feedback. No “#%!-holes”|
|Always Be Improving (ABI)||The best teams are made up of individuals with complementary and extraordinary skills. We hire talented people and encourage them to develop remarkable skills. Get “1% better” every day.|
|Have Fun, be Good!||We spend a ton of time together so let’s have fun and treat each other with respect.|
Although perks are oftentimes clichés that substitute for the real work of building a culture, there are several things that we do that make Vyopta a fun and interesting place to work including:
- weekly bring your dog to work day
- company-wide fantasy football leagues
- buffet Tuesdays
- Friday all hands over beer
- periodic street fighter video game tournaments
- lunch and learn for continued development
- support community (Coat for Kids, Food Bank, Adopt a Family)
Also, our Austin office is pretty cool. We are located just south of downtown and next to the Barton Creek greenbelt, which leads to impromptu walks and hikes when we need a short break. Plus, our IT team just spent a great deal of time and energy expanding our office space to accommodate our growing team.
I am extremely appreciative of the entire Vyopta team and the progress we have made in creating an organization that we are all proud to be a part of. Our recent Austin Statesman Top Workplaces award is a reflection that we are on the right path.
I am also thrilled about the board members and advisors we have added to our extended team. We have a team of successful CEOs (Mark McClain, Michael Bennett), investors (Chris Pacetti), and operating executives (Rita Selvaggi, Josh Stephenson, Patrick Drew, Dan Kellan) who can push us and support our team as we grow. They have all built great companies and teams, and we look forward to learning from them as we pursue new opportunities and face new challenges.
Board & Advisors
When it comes to culture, we know it’s easy to say something and much harder to do it. We need to work hard to live up to our values, hire people that can help us improve, and ensure as we grow we never stop trying to be better than we were yesterday. If we do all those things, then we will have an excellent opportunity to do great things and make a big impact on our industry and community. But most importantly, we’re all excited to be on this journey and look forward to what we can do together.
Alfredo Ramirez is a seasoned entrepreneur with direct experience in building early-stage software technology companies, which is why he proudly serves Vyopta as CEO and Co-Founder. A nod to his passion for pushing the button of innovation, Alfredo previously co-founded Vitalz (a venture backed enterprise software company acquired by Oracle) and Daman Consulting. He holds a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and writes about topics such as technology, employee engagement, and innovation from the CEO perspective.