757: GPEC Event - Todd Davis, Founder of LifeLock
Welcome to the tank bloke writer podcast, your guy to future, Tech, Trends and innovation in a language. You understand now. Over to your host Neal Hughes. Welcome back to another episode of the tech law. Grow a podcast. Now this week. We're going to be reporting live from sunny Arizona in between podcast. I'm hoping to grab a little bit of vitamin d after escaping the cold bridge weather, just a few days, not one of the reasons our record the daily tech podcast. And also take you on the road is to try and inspire listeners in over one hundred sixty five countries where people listen to the show because I think very often that the tech media will tell you all about I was inflated exit numbers and leave you thinking all I need is one idea and exit quickly, but that is a long way from the truth and equally it's misleading school of thought that will leave many people on their own startup journey to feel out there failing. And today, I want to tackle that subject. Head on for example. Todd Davis is the founder of lifelock. An a quick Google search about him and his journey with lifelock. We'll tell you that Symantec famously acquired lifelock for over two point three billion dollars a few years ago, an equally Wikipedia will tell you that taught won the Ernest and young entrepreneur of the year for top emerging company for Orange County and desert cities in two thousand nine and he was also awarded the CRM's magazine service elite ward, the Arizona business leadership associations leadership award and the Arabs ONA business journal twenty-five most admired CEOs in two thousand nine book. None of these. We'll tell you how he faced death sat on the Cliff's edge. Not sure if he's company would exist the following month during the infamous roller coaster journey of startup life. So I caught up with him today to try and learn more about his personal story and hear about the thriving Texan here at Phoenix. And also what businesses setting up camp in the Grand Canyon state. So buckle up and hold on tight. So I. Beam your ears all the way to Phoenix Arizona. So you can join me chime with Tony Davis in a coffee shop in Phoenix. There might be a little bit of traffic noise that you just have to the ambiance and essentially have a listened to two guys grabbing a coffee together. So I was thanks for joining me today. Towed in Sunni, Arizona, the Pekka van but for listeners tuning in from all over the world. Okay. Tell me a little bit about who you are. And what you do. Sure. So I am lucky enough to have been the founder and CEO of a company called lifelock. Which we started here in the states and initially was only available in the states. But we came the fastest growing identity theft protection company in the world. We grew over twelve years, we grew to almost seven hundred million top line revenue about five million subscribers in the US, and we've gone public and then later were acquired by company called Symantec that does Norton antivirus. And so we had a really couple of great exits. But more importantly, the legacy. I'm proud of is that we really were the first ones at the forefront of defining this new industry of identity theft, protection and specialness age of data breaches and more day. Being out there that we really empowered and summers to take control of their own destiny. Protect themselves, but have their back if something went wrong. And so I'm most proud of that legacy that we were able to define this new industry and do it at such a such a high standard and testing. Now, you have a very rich history of working in the tech industry with several textile ops and also you'll tell him dovecotes. But what is it about fate? Knicks is making a halt bagful technology companies right now, especially compared to which is Silicon Valley. Absolutely. So probably a couple things. A couple of dynamics at work together. One of them. Of course is just the sheer competitiveness of our states. So California pretty big tax burden high cost of living. You know, the competition from the tech companies part of the times just out vetting each other. You know, what are the amenities in those kinds of things versus an Arizona has the ability to come track much lower cost of living. But we've seen. This big infusion of that experienced great talent. Our universities have really done a great job of stepping up. Young four. It was a of here's the book harassing with dated your. I'm not getting cutting edge stuff that Silicon Valley was really allowing the younger folks to learn from a coding user interface, creative artwork really see out on horizon. Well, that's all changed him. And so we're really able to attract a high level of talent. I will say there's a often we did it with lifelock. I see it with several companies on vested now kind of a symbiotic relationship. We may have a few key elements of talent that we will still look for in Silicon Valley have a base of operation there. But instead of paying a fifty percent premium on overhead and salaries, etc. Where they have stole lower living in a standard of living because of the cost we're able to just place out talent that the. Little bit of talent. We might be able to find in a Phoenix. But now because we've got critical mass of tech companies now we've had enough success stories like a lifelock like a or I ram it or so many others now that have come out their web MD, great technology companies that had very successful exits with them. It really allows us to attract that same come talent that standard living in. I will also have the the school systems have dramatically improved. Arizona's been very open to charter public schools. So not the expensive private school. They deemed public schools, but they're charter which allows you to really be selected what what kind of education. Do you want for your children, and we have some of the highest rated charter schools in the nation here in Arizona. So that makes it even more attractive for people to come. And that's one of the things probably our international list is fully understand that let me say excuse competitiveness, isn't it between the states, then it's not just US as warm. It's. Yeah. While we're all proud to be American, right? We're incredibly competitive in we want our state, even to some of our cities will compete to who can attract the best talent have the standard of living. You know, have a lower tax base. So we're not a burden on the families, but can give a high standard of living. You know, make sure the infrastructure's there things like charter schools. So those are the kind of benefits instead of just being a cafeteria on site, that's free food or massage therapist right cleaner at the office. That's great for a company. We will do it as fate. We'll Louis cities. How do we find the best charter schools? How do we make sure the tax base? How do we give you some great options on in living, you know, per square foot? What that looks like what kind of home you can have for your family. It'll be very competitive and you have to have everybody aligned, right? You have we have our legislators our governor. And our legislators have done a great job of San. Arizona's opened for business. We're gonna make business friendly to come here to the state of Arizona, and we sometimes might even critically California. How cumbersome? Regulatory tax. We might point that out every once in a while to attract other companies. Why? Now, you did mention a few moments ago that Symantec famously acquired lock over two point three billion a few years ago. So what would it biggest lessons that you learned from entire Ginny? Oh, wow. So many great ones. Most importantly, probably the culture matters so much more than people can understand in the success of a company seeing have a great idea. And there's been tons of great ideas as companies never got off the ground because they didn't have culture that starts leadership for sure, but it really diffuses through the entire organization because you'll always have the challenges that come with it. You know, I got to be one of the few people who was a founder venture capital backed company public. Somehow still remain see of a publicly traded company even through good times bad and then the acquisition by Symantec. So it was really a staying focused on what our four value was actually pretty simple knew what you should not. Which can if it sounds elegantly simple much harder temperament on a daily basis and hold people accountable to it. But by doing that staying on mission weaker was withstand. I mean, people have no idea you can look at it now and talk about two point three billion dollar acquisition. And it looks like well that was easy. And he saw me you filled it you had a big exit. I faced death. I stunt on the Cliff's edge. Five six times that I was not sure we would exist. The next month. And so it was the culture. It was the dedication that allowed us to survive that and that's the story that we get to have it. We'll hear about success axes, but not the ten year overnight success to well. That's just their right? Everybody looked at that was so obvious. Of course, she went after identity theft protection. It was the number one consumer complaint America or you got consumers. Okay. Well, of course, no one knew that was a problem you had to what we would call evangelize and educate you that not only what's the real problem. But what's the solution? You should take steps dividing though. You've never heard of us. And of course, here in the states is a big deal. I had to ask you are you worried about identity theft. Well, you've never heard of me. But if you'll give me your name address credit card, number birthdate and social security number which course here in the states were you told never give out your social security number. I need all that to protect you. So if you'll just give that to me that was not an easy ask into to get millions and millions of people. The trust us took a billion dollars in marketing over those twelve years to build the Bryant. That's not an easy undertaking. So looks easy after you don't know about the times, we almost yourselves to death while the times, my competitor. We're trying to kill me. Not literally but figuratively in the business where we had legal fees in the tens of millions or startup company one year just to survive, but when you're focused, I call them, decisive points when your folks on those decisive points that is what we kind of pride ourselves in calling the great American story, right? This is the option to started from nothing checking in made over one hundred millionaires when we went public. I mean, it's something I'm extremely product tested. So as a traveled five thousand miles to attend the J Pekka, then I'm fascinated by violating the region is not home to three hundred tech companies real strong vibe over here is undergoing this huge hi-tech, Mike. So why is it that you love about Phoenix from a personal level and also from someone right at the heart of the tech industry. Yes. So I do think you really seen a cultural shift. So we really were known before Amazon a-, and we got all of our seas about, you know, cattle farming cotton. Copper you know, we were real estate. Investors would come here and buy real estate just from an investment standpoint. And so and some level tourism, right? Certainly, it's great weather. I won't make invite feel bad who has to listen to the fact that you had to come to this Ruutel. Brutal conditions to meet me. But we had all that. But we didn't have that same Nukus. We didn't have that identity as company like a Silicon Valley did, but it was those successes, and then we all kind of unified. So I know a lot of the people you'll be talking to this week. We are truly a community were proud of what we built we get together. And talk about what the horizon of technology looks like and how we can work together. What's needed? The universities have done a great job all them. You know Grand Canyon yields which university of Arizona. Arizona State University. They've all done a great job of listening to the tech community saying that we're missing the skills you need to build programs that deliver us higher -able graduates immediately and done a fantastic job of building those programs and interacting with the private sector. Yeah. That to the idea that we really did get a business friendly. You know, change certainly in governor and our governor. So you quick side story that just made me extremely proud. When governor Ducey was first coming into office. He was going around meeting everyone to what your job what you're all. You run this -partment you run this department, and we're about to have the Super Bowl, which courses the big football vent. Yeah. That's coming up. We'll we going to have it here in Arizona, and he was going around and talking to different people. And there was someone who ran weights and measures the -partment, and he said, so, you know, tell me what your job is. How do you measure success? He's a good business oriented guy and the person who was running the department said, well, I've got a whole sting operation set up for Uber and lift when the Super Bowl comes. And so we're really going to drop the hammer on Uber. And lift governor Ducey said interesting walks out goes to his well, someone remind me what's my thority with this person. Is they work of the pleasure of the governor. Okay. Your fire. Why why would we want to sting? Culturally changing, we should embrace these technologies and by doing that he's attracted them to come do some of their development here have some of their training centers do work here. Well, that's exactly what we're looking for. We want to know that there's going to be someone who's trying to get in the way stop innovation. Stop change. We want someone who's gonna Bryce it work with us. So that's a great just microcosmic example of how that culture is changing. Why you now see three hundred tech and growing companies some which we set really resonates with me because old Thomas. Vehicles. For example. This is a big hall of it here. Isn't it the very hard? Now, it helps that we also have an AVI very grid. Light flat grid light. You know mean there's mountains around you. But so for them to do the mapping. We did have a tragedy here. Also, we had one the accidents that unfortunately, someone lost their their life of my circles or someone crossing the street with a bicycle that being said, you know, we're losing a lot more people every day on our cars, we drive ourselves. And so, you know, everyone took a pause it took a step the government others to say, let's make sure that we're really doing. This development is technology about not taking unnecessary risk. But really still embrace the fact that you know, it's not going to be easy. It's not always going to be pretty I I certainly don't want to make light of someone who lost a family member this way. It's extremely tragic. But again, we're losing family members every day by doing it the way we've been doing it. I certainly would love. I'm telling my parents now, it will be very soon. You will no longer be Bryant. On. I was chatting with the guys at ways a few months ago. And I got very similar viewpoint. And they said that can actually say in ten years from now people will question why we ever let people drive victims of accidents. That goals seem silly. And you see, and I love it. So you see total changes look at the the industries that are gonna change because of it. How the automotive industry the insurance wrecks are going to go down. So now, you're seeing all the people who are primarily in the car insurance business, knowing we have to change our business model because we can't charge the same premiums because the risk just went down dramatically. Can you imagine? How many people were still going to get freedom to that? Can't get out drive today. There were going to say, okay, we'll make it available to you again. I mean, just I love how technology that's why I've done some technology startups. I love seeing technology change lives for the better. So I always tried to research on all my guess, googling Utah on live you go simulate you look to show. Off doing entertaining in the basement, which is just a few feet from your own personal boats. So I've got to go there and ask you is this something that you'll still proud of and wondered if you could tell me a little bit about if it is sure. So. Sure. So I'm a guy who jokingly tell the story but had nothing fifteen years ago, literally nothing, and so to be able to go from scratch with an idea that was brilliant co-founder who started with me, but for me to be able to be CEO from day one into go through this journey, and then, you know, be able to have the financial success that goes with it. I was able to build truly what you you would lay their dream about. And what's on really good that June and July? It's not as much fun to play golf here. It's kind of warm, so if I'm going to be here, I can do it in the comfort of my seventy degree basement and walk over to my bar between swings have a cocktail. So this is the drink country right for an Arizona guy. And and the rest of the the other nine months of the year when you can really get out and have fun. I'll do it on the golf course. But my game doesn't get to rusty because of it. I was able to build my truly measuring house. If we have someone listening to this conversation. Anyway in the world is inspired by your story. What's the best advice? You pass on him at the beginning or any stage of their own personal textile. Probably the thing I try to share most that I wish someone had probably enlighten me as I started my journey. There are probably three things most specifically I please be able to say what is makes you decisively better than anyone that's out there in whatever your solution. Whatever you're bringing from your business. But if that value prop concisely able to articulate what makes you dramatically different almost your unfair competitive advantage. If you decide what we better customer service, or we can do it a little cheaper. You do not have a sustainable business while so really be true to yourself. What is my competitive advantage that can build on men are to you're going to get people who are gonna come. And the first people you're going to be able to hire or your friends and families and loved ones that will believe in your vision in your. Name be ready. You're gonna rope part of them and your responsibility as a leader is to make some tough decisions. And it's find that balance point loyalty and your role as a leader of the company. I didn't always do it. Well. Sometime site to on. But I've also fired best friends and cousins, and I guess it would be now. My ex wife, I'm sure that contributed to the reason she's my ex wife 'cause like her when she was still my wife. But you had to make hard decisions. Right. And and you owe it to buy new relation be to do that. But finally most importantly define what I refer to as decisive want. So the whole lot of goals, you have what you want to look like five years from now, you know, what you want sales to look like in revenue expenses us kind of angst. Those are all good goals. You can miss though, slightly a decisive point probably only two or three in any given twelve month period that half to happen for you to be successful that if you aren't if you do not accomplish them they can have catastrophic events to your future success. So be again, rudely honest with yourself about what are those decisive points? Never miss a decisive point you may miss revenue. In fact, you're going to miss revenue every once in a while. Right. You're going to have expenses. They hire them winter once in a while you're gonna get into a bad partnership every once in a while you can survive all of those the fine decisive. Points as what has to happen. And then every single day is a leader. You've got to make some movement toward that goal. You have to even if it's inches. Make sure you making some level of movement to that decisive point and your probability of success and survival those up dramatically if you can't keep that laser focus. Don't get mired in the weeds of what the lease agreement now for your space. Let's like it a dollar per square foot is not if that's the difference. Whether you're company made or not something went terribly wrong. So what's next few taught his anything else you can show today about you'll plans for twenty nineteen. And of course, beyond sure. So you know, I never I can say definitively of the site never say never never take an operating role again for day today. Because I know what the sacrifice means to be successful in my loving family. Put up with a lot of gone trying to build a company. And so I love the challenge of trying to be a great husband a great father, by the way, being a great. And father is much different than being a really good one. When you can be one those are very different roles. Take a lot takes a lot of energy to be a great other and husband. So that's really now I want to leave sides of business. I certainly invested in. Typically technology startups, I more most motivated to invest in people. So people I know people I believe in who have, you know, high character who I can trust to be high probability of successful. And then I try to get back to the community. So I said on several charity morgues Merrill near logical teach for America some called conquer process now so rock and trying to get back from the community takes our experiences and some of our financial fortunate we've been able to build in and give back and try to, you know, pay back. I'm extremely blessed. I don't deserve the great life. I have. But I'm not giving it back. Saw this try to be nice and thankful for it with a huge. Thanks for joining me tonight before I let you go. You just reminded listeners of way, the confined you online or what maybe even come to reveal. Any questions about how conversation and great were having him and famous. Sure. So it's pretty easy. My emails just lifelock CEO at g mail. Lifelock. Is let me keep that one was for nice if the physician so lifelock CO g mail, they can pigmy and there's something they want to catch up on. There's not really much of a team anymore unless you do my wife, my boss or my Oriole daughter. She's my chairman of the board. My wife's my boss, that's pretty much the team these days. I think you've extremes success you've been on an inspirational journey, but it's not about that success for me. Like, you said a few moments ago fifteen years ago, you had nothing on it's not journey at. Now, you grateful for everything either J, protect my face Lee. So a big thank you for joining me. I appreciate it. Thanks so much. I hope Sharon some the story Spier someone to take that chance. It was well worth it. That was nothing more rewarding. An inspirational journey told his bane on and look how he pointed out that fifteen years ago actually had nothing. I'm so glad he took the time to common Speight with me while I'm in Phoenix. Also frees honesty on that ten year overnight success journey. A no matter where you're listening to me in the world, if you're on your own personal textile took journey no matter what stage up. No for you to let me know about your thoughts your takeaways were on today's conversation and indeed hear more about your personal stop journey. And if you're not even on it just to now, if today's conversation to slit, the spark that was waving and as always you can do that. By emailing me tech, blog writer, outlook dot com. You can get me on Twitter at Nailsea Hughes unavo- saw upon Instagram recently with with the same username, Neil c Hughes. Now, I have seen a number of autonomous self driving cars while I've been here in Phoenix. And it's easy to see why such a hotbed for testing with these incredibly. Long roads. And remember if you're in town, and you wanna grab a coffee or a cold beer feel free to give me a shout. However, I'm afraid that's it. For today's episode. I'm going to try and find so more. Great tech stories. I can share with you while I'm over here. So come and join me again tomorrow, we'll do oriented until next tone. Dr based Ryan. Thanks for listening to take ROY support cost until next time. Remember technology is best when it brings people together.