Danny Shader, a former entrepreneur-in-residence at both Benchmark Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, was recruited to lead Good Technology's entry into the enterprise market after its initial — and unsuccessful — foray into consumer devices. Since his arrival at Good (www.good.com) in December 2000, Shader has put together an executive dream team that includes Joel Jewitt, a Palm cofounder; Jill Norris, former VP of service delivery at Sprint PCS; John Friend, former engineering director at AOL; and Andrea Cook Fleming, former Netscape enterprise marketing director. Together they've created something that many are calling the BlackBerry Killer — a no-cradle-required, continuous-sync, secure service that runs not only on Good's own device, the Good G100, but also on other wireless handhelds — including RIM's BlackBerry. Here's Shader on what it takes to keep a cool head when you're on a hot seat.
Why did we name it "Good" and not "Great"? Well, you can spell it in every country. And it's about underpromising and overdelivering. We don't want to overhype. We just want to make sure we get you your mail.
Our design criterion: Make the biggest possible screen that you can — but keep it small enough so that you can still wear the device on your belt. So we have a much- higher-resolution screen than anyone else. We designed our own fonts to get more information on the screen.
When we originally pitched our product, we would show the end user its features. We'd say, "We've got attachments, we've got reliable message transport, and you don't need to install anything on the desktop." And people would say, "Wait, wait, wait! Nothing on the desktop?" We said yes. They said, "You could save us millions of dollars." And we sort of realized — "Oh, I guess that's the message." We knew it was important, but we didn't know how important it really was.
John Doerr [of KPCB] once said something to me that I'll never forget: "Cradles are for babies."
When I went from Silicon Valley up to Amazon, I learned that the Valley tends to be very technology-centric, and less customer-centric, because that's what typically has made the Valley great. When I saw at Amazon that they brought in people who fundamentally understood customer service, it was an epiphany for me: If you're trying to build a service organization, you'll need leadership that you may not be able to find in the Valley today.
I can do a whole demo for you with one hand! It's an ambidextrous device. Did you know that left-handed people make up about 15% of the population? That's huge. You don't want to ignore those people. But the other thing is, even if you're right-handed, there will be times when you're in the airport, you've got your phone in your right hand, and you want to look up a number or do something with your left hand.
I'm an email head. One of the first things that I was asked to do for Kleiner Perkins was to hook them up with the Internet and tell them what I thought was interesting. I simply said, "Mosaic browser? I don't think that's exciting. Internet email is the most important thing that's going to happen." Of course, I completely missed the browser because I was so focused on email. But email is the killer app.
When you assemble an executive team, you want to have a diverse set of expertise — not group think, but a common set of values. If you do that, the diverse people will pool their backgrounds and you'll end up with ideas and referrals from a broad set of organizations. It's all about cross-fertilization.
Technology businesses are very competitive, and you have to keep improving. The good news is that the more often you give customers something, the more often they will tell you what they need.
Good isn't a company that runs under the motto "A genius with a thousand helpers." I'm not this company's product picker, and I'm not its visionary. My job is to put a team together so that the people who are visionaries can do the right stuff.
A version of this article appeared in the September 2002 issue of Fast Company magazine.