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“Many times, I could imagine ways to improve certain products, but it wasn’t my job to do that, which made things even more frustrating.”, with Dmitriy Akulov

I enjoyed what I was doing. I enjoyed building our products and seeing them being used by real people. That was one of the most rewarding experiences for me. I could live a comfortable life by working for someone, or by continuing to run my consulting gig; however, in both cases, I was stuck helping […]

I enjoyed what I was doing. I enjoyed building our products and seeing them being used by real people. That was one of the most rewarding experiences for me. I could live a comfortable life by working for someone, or by continuing to run my consulting gig; however, in both cases, I was stuck helping people maintain and build services that I didn’t always care about. Many times, I could imagine ways to improve certain products, but it wasn’t my job to do that, which made things even more frustrating. This was my primary motivation to start my own company. I would be able to build and work on projects that I liked, and I could not imagine doing anything else.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dmitriy Akulov, CEO at PerfOps and founder of jsDelivr.

Tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I enjoy building things related to servers and infrastructure, content delivery networks (CDNs), and domain name system (DNS), so I’ve focused on that space since the beginning.

When I was 16 years old and working as a junior developer, I built jsDelivr, a free multi-CDN for open source projects. Today, it serves 45 billion requests every month. That alone opened many doors for me and provided me with the experience and specialized knowledge.

The project also helped me get hired by a US-based CDN company, MaxCDN, where I learned even more and built projects for developers for their marketing department. However, I’ve never really enjoyed working for someone else and prefer to do my own thing which is a lot more fulfilling for me. That’s why I finally quit the job and started my own consulting company, specializing in the same industry. One of the many projects I built took off and became a startup company of its own, called PerfOps.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

At first, I was running a one-person company, and I was writing the code, managing the servers, finding customers, and doing support. Eventually, the revenue I was generating from consulting was enough to hire a full-time developer and part-time designer to help me build the services that would grow the company.

It was challenging at first. The company itself was bleeding money as we were focused on building a very complicated product. I was the only source of revenue that kept the lights on.

We were the epitome of frugality, saving money on everything we could with non-existent marketing and relying on Google entirely to bring us customers. However, it actually worked, and I think it was because we were literally the only ones offering this kind of data for free.

I funded the company out of my own pocket for almost three years before releasing a solid first version of our enterprise product and raising our first seed round of funding to build the next iteration of my idea. During those first few years, we slowly grew and hired additional developers, but we still relied on my personal revenue from consulting. Eventually, it wasn’t enough to grow to the next stage. Nowadays, our main difficulty is hiring good people to help us grow.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I enjoyed what I was doing. I enjoyed building our products and seeing them being used by real people. That was one of the most rewarding experiences for me. I could live a comfortable life by working for someone, or by continuing to run my consulting gig; however, in both cases, I was stuck helping people maintain and build services that I didn’t always care about. Many times, I could imagine ways to improve certain products, but it wasn’t my job to do that, which made things even more frustrating. This was my primary motivation to start my own company. I would be able to build and work on projects that I liked, and I could not imagine doing anything else.

How did Grit lead to your eventual success?

We are only at the first stage with a long road ahead of us; however, all of these years of hard work did pay off so far. There are very few people who could do what we did on such a tight budget and have it actually work with a great user experience. Our investors understood that, and I think it was one of the main reasons why they joined PerfOps.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Unfortunately in this industry, there are no funny mistakes. But in general, one of the main mistakes we made was not investing enough in sales and marketing early on. Google did all the work for us, which was amazing, but if we had a sales team from day one, it would’ve made things much easier later on.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are customer focused. We were literally the first ones to offer DNS and CDN data for free to everyone on our websites, cdnperf.com and dnsperf.com. Existing companies that had similar data were hiding it behind sales calls and contracts. Even now with the release of our latest load-balancing product, FlexBalancer, we are the only company offering a free plan, free online tools, transparent pricing, free support, and a polished user interface. We are first and foremost trying to help people, regardless of who they are and their budget.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Travel and work remotely. This really recharges me. Even though I stay online and regularly work during my travels, I can still spare a few hours to go sightseeing and explore new cities and places. After working from an office for so long, it can be very energizing to work from a coffeehouse in Berlin, London, or Paris.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Definitely my girlfriend who has helped me and supported me every step of the way. She has helped me beyond moral support, by taking care of the bureaucracy and dealings with the government, taking over the accounting for the business, and even accompanying me to conferences, such as the one where we found our investors.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Our free versions really help anyone with little to no budget for our services. We can offer DNS and CDN data for free to everyone on our websites, cdnperf.com and dnsperf.com.

Tell us “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. That it’s easier to secure investment that I thought. One of the main reasons I didn’t pursue funding our company sooner was because I thought it would be too difficult to do, especially in Europe. In fact, it was an investor who contacted me first, and his interest in investing pushed me to look into it more.
  2. Opening an office is not critical at first. I spent a lot of money on opening an office as soon as possible and hiring people to work there. As it turned out, the value of doing so was quite low, especially with such a small team. Hiring full-time remote team members is a much better strategy at the beginning stages of a company. Only after the team has grown, and you can really afford a good office space, should you do it.

These two lessons are the main things that I wish I knew earlier. I knew from the start how hard it would be, and I read a lot to educate myself as much as I could.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can learn more about PerfOps and our load balancing and data analytics products on https://perfops.net and follow me on Twitter, @jimaek.

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