The February 2017 installment of Denver Founders saw Dan Lynn, Co-Founder and CEO of AlwaysEncrypted, in the hot seat. Lynn discussed his early entrepreneurial beginnings and shared some of the things he’s learned along the way.
Lynn’s first sojourn into entrepreneurship came at the tender age of 7 when he roved his neighborhood, selling his grandfather’s honey. From there, he graduated to running a basic IT networking firm with his father when he was still in middle school. It wasn’t until high school that he started to really get into computer programming. He completed a couple of years of a computer science degree at Metro State before deciding that the college life wasn’t for him.
Next, Lynn ventured into a musical interlude of sorts, cutting his teeth in sales while working at Guitar Center. At the same time he was working in a recording studio, but there wasn’t enough money in these pursuits for them to be sustaining work. Getting back to his roots, Lynn started a software consulting firm. This eventually morphed into FullContact, which, true to startup form, essentially started in his basement.
Lynn’s FullContact co-founders were Bart Lorang and Travis Todd. How FullContact happened was Lynn and Todd wanted to start a company, and Lorang was in grad school and already had a company, RainMaker. RainMaker was web app that synced with Google Contacts and then synchronizes that data with other platforms to build out contacts. The three got into Tech Stars with RainMaker, but it evolved into FullContact. In 2011, FullContact raised $1.5M in Series A funding.
FullContact quickly became a success and this led to one of Lynn’s personal business lessons: “Figure out how to fail faster. If you have a good idea, figure out the cheapest way to prove whether or not it is a good idea.”
The company received quite a bit of ink in 2012 when they created a bonus to incentivize employees to use vacation. Numerous founders have spoken about the ills of burnout in the startup world, so it’s easy to see how something like this could be valuable. This move got picked up by the mainstream press, like Good Morning America, and while it was good for publicity, it also completely overshadowed their Series B announcement. It also made a lot of people want to work at FullContact. The few job postings that company had at that time received over 4,000 resumes.
In the summer of 2014, Lynn walked away from his role at CTO at FullContact. This may be a head scratcher for some. After all, FullContact had multiple successful rounds of fundraising and things were good at the company. However, his favorite part of his job was resolving the most difficult challenges, and instead of spending time on product he was spending increasingly more time managing people. This led the company to hire a Vice President of Engineering.
Once the full engineering team was in place and humming along, Lynn began to have discussions with his colleagues about finding a replacement CTO: things just weren’t as fun as they once were.
Seeking greater fulfillment from his worklife, Lynn transitioned to doing ad hoc CTO consulting, which eventually turned into a CEO gig at a company called AgilData. AgilData is focused on extending Agile development principles into the world of databases and database administration, an area that typically gets overlooked or pushed to the margins in the Agile process.
In addition to AgilData, Lynn founded a new company in January 2017 called AlwaysEncrypted. The company aims to bridge the gap between securing sensitive data and reporting on it, i.e. providing reporting and analytics on that data. In order to get AlwaysEncrypted going, Lynn noted that he’s booking every possible meeting he can and learning about as many verticals as possible in order to better understand where AlwaysEncrypted fits into the tech world.
He offers the following advice to fellow entrepreneurs: “You don’t know where the business-making opportunity comes from. A lot of these things come from one random meeting, which leads to another meeting and then it evolves. Stay open to, and continue meeting new people.”