Taking a Leap: Entrepreneur in Residence at Accel

Wed, Nov 4, 2015

I’m excited to share that I’m going to be joining Accel as an Entrepreneur in Residence. I’m honored to be invited to work with Accel to explore ideas that will hopefully result in founding a new company.

I’m committed to staying in Seattle. While I’ll be traveling down to the Bay Area quite a bit to make the most out of this opportunity with Accel, my heart and family are in Seattle. Seattle has an amazing legacy and talent pool. The startup community is growing rapidly. I’m excited to explore joining it as a founder. In addition, I can be a bit of a bridge for Accel to the unique opportunities that are developing here in the Pacific Northwest. However, while I plan to stay in Seattle, I’m open to working with strong people wherever they may be based.

So what’s the story behind this move? After 10 years at Google, I went on leave back in February. I was a bit burned out and my goal was to relax and actually spend time with my family. After three months on leave, I was having so much fun I decided not to return to work at Google. My time at Google had been amazing – both in exposure to amazing technology and amazing people. I’ve learned an enormous amount and grown both as an engineer and how I view our industry. Over the summer our family did some traveling together: a camping road trip down the coast and a visit with family in Chicago. My wife and I also had a chance to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary with a trip to London together. I am very fortunate to have been able to take this time off.

As the summer wore on, I knew I’d want to figure out what the next arc of my professional career was going to look like. To this end, even though I’ve been “funemployed”, I’ve been spending a ton of time meeting all sorts of people from around our industry. Talking with new people and hearing about what they are building has been invigorating.

One of the people that I’ve had a lot of great conversations with is Ping Li from Accel. I’ve known Ping now for over a year (time flies!) and I’ve recently started meeting some of the other folks at Accel. I’ve been impressed with the depth of thought that Accel brings when evaluating opportunities along with the courage to be the first investor in.

My first task is to figure out how to spell “entrepreneur” reliably. Past that, I’m want to do three things during my time with Accel:

  • Prepare myself for the marathon. I’ve never built or worked at a startup before. In this instance, I’m pretty out of the ordinary for an EIR. But I do know that it is a grueling process with very high highs and very low lows. I need to make sure that I’m ready.
  • Find the right co-founders. I’ve met lots of great people during my 17+ career in industry. There are plenty that I’d love to start a company with. All of them are currently employed. The EIR is a great way to get started while making sure the timing is right for any co-founders.
  • Put together a compelling vision. A technology is not a product and a product is not a business. While it is possible to start a company without much more than a general direction, that isn’t good enough for me. I want to have a good coherent vision for how whatever I’m going to do will hang together as a business. This will take time and research. I’m planning to tap Accel’s network and portfolio companies to validate ideas and plans.

Throughout my career, I’ve continually built platforms. I like building systems that help others do things that they couldn’t do before. My recent work to help start the Kubernetes project speaks to this. There is a good chance that wherever this leads will involve Kubernetes in some capacity.

I’m also taking personal responsibility to make sure that the workplace that I help to craft is empathetic and diverse. We have huge problems in our industry and I want to do my part to create some sanity.

Wherever this road leads, I’m sure it won’t be dull. I’ve enjoyed myself most when working with a small team to create something from nothing and I’m really looking forward to doing that again. If you’d like to chat in depth about this please don’t be afraid to reach out. I’m active on twitter as @jbeda. I’d be happy to throw ideas around there or over coffee.