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Outlier’s Path

This past week, Pat Grady hosted an invite-only event to meet Frank Slootman, an iconic CEO, who led Data Domain, ServiceNow, and Snowflake to massive success. Founder Tanay Tandon returned from this trip and sent the following email to his board and his employees. Thank you Tanay for being this week’s guest post.

Commure Board –

This week I had the chance to visit Frank Slootman (many thanks to Pat and Alfred from Sequoia for having me there). Slootman is a historic CEO, and one of my personal inspirations – it was an incredible experience.

I sent a note to our team following the visit weaving in some of Slootman’s thoughts, and our own core value of speed. Sharing below for the board and our investors.


Commure’s most important value (and the most often challenged) is “Speed Above All Else”. Velocity and Speed were core values at Slootman’s companies as well.

Multiple times a week I’ll get the question / challenge – “if we are in healthcare, how can our value be speed”. Or “you can either have it good, or you can have it fast”. Or some other ridiculous “either-or” type posit.

This is a false dichotomy meant to pigeon-hole you into mediocrity. Speed does not come at the cost of rigor. Almost all real work is done in intense, focused, deep sprints. No distractions – limited meetings, and just real heads down pushing.

Some examples:

1. Google Maps was slow, clunky, and an XML-driven monstrosity. Bret Taylor (early engineer) was pissed off, and re-built it from scratch in a 48 hour coding binge over the weekend. It became the infrastructure that still runs, 1/3rd of the size, and literally 10x faster load times:

2. The initial iPod was conceived, designed, and shipped to customers within 7 months of starting by Tony Fadell and Apple. This is a complex hardware device with little to no initial supply chain. It became the basis of a 10 year transformation of Apple into a trillion dollar empire. That 7 month sprint was somewhat unprecedented in consumer hardware, but built that foundation.

3. The Empire State Building was entirely built in just 410 days in 1930. It has lasted a century, is structurally sound, safe, a beacon of America, and continues to function. Compare this to the Millennium Tower built in San Francisco in 2005. It took 5 years, with multiple “committees”, “planning sessions”, “community guided safety”. It is now leaning/tilting, deemed unsafe, and cannot fully be used. Competence matters.

More here:

More often than not, the “either or” dichotomy is posed by someone lacking the horsepower to work with speed, rigor, and intensity simultaneously.

Do not let this person slow you down. Build and operate with strong edge-case detection, great testing frameworks, pre-mortems, and with intense heads down focus. Write down a plan, test it in your head, and sprint. Things are often possible in insanely fast timelines.

Some broader notes from Slootman that are inputs into making this possible:

1. Increase Velocity and Urgency

2. Raising Standards

3. Your job is not to make your reports happy. Your job is to get shit done. Over-indexing on how they are “feeling”, or whether they feel “attended to” is counterproductive.

4. We are here to accomplish a job. Despite taking the company from $1B market cap to $80B market cap, under Slootman the average Glassdoor rating went from 3.3 to 3.4.

5. The people that matter are getting shit done – and that’s all you need to cater to.

6. You’re looking to hire people that are a little damaged / unhinged. Intensity does not come with “normal functioning people”. Drive comes from somewhere, not nowhere.