Darren Guccione and his business partner had a lot of time to develop their idea of providing a better way to protect mobile devices — they were in the midst of a 20-hour flight to China.
“The iPhone had just come out and the App Store was about to come out and we had the SIM Application Toolkit and my partner, who is a hard-core software developer was tinkering with it,” says Guccione. “We were just looking at the apps and we were like nobody is doing any type of password management or secure digital file storage on mobile devices. Everyone was focused on the desktop and the browser. We thought, ‘What a massive opportunity.’”
That was in late 2008. By 2009, the partners had released a free application, got immediate traction and Keeper Security Inc. was born. Today, the company has 50 employees in three offices in Chicago, California and the Philippines and expects to have more than 100 employees by 2016.
“The key for us was how do you take something that is very complex and very difficult to do the right way like encryption, something that has a very complex back end, and make it very easy, seamless and elegant,” says Guccione, the company’s co-founder and CEO.
“When you design an application, it’s very easy to overdesign it, put too many processes in and try to overcomplicate things,” he says. “It’s very difficult to refine and continue to simplify an application where it continues to be robust and valuable for the user. That was the hardest part.”
The key to overcoming that urge was focusing on creating products that he finds useful in his own everyday life and using that as a guide.
“Too many companies try to do too many things and cater to too many different people,” Guccione says. “You wind up with something that’s more like a tossed salad. It becomes very cluttered, confusing and unfocused. It goes back to elegance and simplicity. When things are elegant and simple, they are very clear.”
Guccione says both he and his team are in constant search of ways to make Keeper Security’s product even stronger for consumers.
“I’m very tight with the product on the front end as far as what the consumer is going to see, feel and touch,” he says. “In the past few days, I’ve probably made 50 to 100 iterations in the design of certain screens. Most people don’t realize how much refinement goes into a product, but that’s what drives growth and it’s what consumers love.”
Look for nice people
Guccione has a simple rule when it comes to building up the personnel side of the business.
“The key to having good customer support is to hire nice people,” Guccione says. “There are just people out there who aren’t very nice. We can pick up on that in an interview. We look for people who send positive energy, who smile and who have a way about them whether it’s how they speak, how they listen or how they sound. These things are very important to us.”
In addition to personality, Guccione wants people who feel a strong connection to Keeper Security and its mission.
“They have to be able to envision themselves engaging with the product and being part of a movement to create the best mobile security application ever invented,” Guccione says. “That’s what we look for in every position.”
If someone slips through the cracks and makes it into the company, then turns out to be a bad fit from a cultural standpoint, Guccione acts quickly to remove the negativity.
“When you have negative people or negative energy in an office, it metastasizes like cancer,” he says. “It can kill a company. I get rid of those people extremely fast. I don’t give them many chances.”
Guccione says he’s looking for people who can become “intrapreneurs” at Keeper Security, people who will be willing to give the same passion and commitment to their work that he and his partner did to start the business.
“Except they don’t have the financial risk,” he says. “They just have basically the risk of failure, which hopefully drives them to succeed, work really hard and build a business. Treat what they’re doing like their own ecosystem as if they were building their own business.
“When you set people up that way and empower them to do that, you’ll take an ordinary person and make them extraordinary. That’s why we’ve been able to accomplish a lot with a much smaller staff than a lot of our competitors.”
It then falls on Guccione to deal with the important matters that affect the company and not lose his cool when challenges arise.
“The big problem that you see with younger leaders who haven’t led before is the lack of emotional intelligence,” he says. “People follow you because you’re confident. When there is a crisis, you understand that the calm head always prevails. You have a sense of control and supreme knowledge about what you do. That is what drives people to follow leaders in businesses.” ●