People Of Authy: Serge Kruppa
Lots of work, but no roots.
I wrote my first program in 1987, when the number of Internet hosts barely exceeded 10,000. This seems like eons ago. Since then, software has been steadily eating the world and I have been traveling around it, starting up companies that attempted to make real-time communications more cost-effective: failing often, moving forward always.
There’s a lot I have learned after nearly 30 years in tech. A key lesson is that while merrily coding out of the limelight in Latin American cities like Bogota, Medellin or Mexico City, you can find talented developers who wouldn’t be out of place in San Francisco or London. I’m talking about young men and women who will nail a Hacker Rank test in 5 minutes flat and ship fabulous software that will blow the socks off the most demanding customers in New York or Sydney.
The trouble is that the overwhelming majority of local businesses do not truly value the skills of these developers and fail to offer them an environment that nurtures them or allows them to realize their full potential. Some Latin American startups do, but it takes lots of guts to join an underfunded team with a 90% chance of eventual failure.
Authy is one of the few Colombian startup success stories and, as a Y combinator alumni, survived a harrowing 24-months-long launch until it closed its first major customer, Cloudflare, which remains an important and valued Authy client.
Since the very beginning, Authy’s team has been hyper-focused on making it easy for developers to add two-factor authentication to their apps. So it was only logical that Twilio, the worldwide cloud communications juggernaut, acquired Authy in February 2015: both companies owed their success to empowering and enabling developers.
This union has created a unique chemistry, producing one of the most fascinating software businesses in Colombia: a fast-paced, high-energy place to work with a strong ‘maker culture’. So let’s look behind the scenes to uncover what makes Authy such a special company for its employees and customers:
The team embraces the lean startup philosophy: we release early & often to stay ahead of the competition. We love to experiment and we eagerly listen to the feedback from our customers. Decision making is decentralized because our leadership recognizes that no plan survives contact with reality outside of the office.
At Authy our goals are clear and we’re free to come up with the best solution to achieve them. This is the polar opposite of most centrally managed, slow-moving, mammoth corporations in Latin America. We call this “drawing the owl.” It’s based on the Internet meme of how to draw an owl. It says: “Step 1, draw some circles. Step 2, draw the rest of the owl.” In other words, there’s no instruction booklet: just start and figure the rest of it out, learning and improving as you go.
Working at Authy simply “feels” great. There’s a “zero-BS” culture grounded in the company’s Nine Core Values that act as a compass to find our way through unprecedented situations. Frankly, I have never experienced such a strong and positive company culture. We’re an “opinionated” business with principles that benefit customers and employees alike. New joiners who identify with those values tend to fit in quickly and make spectacular careers at Authy.
At Authy, customers are king! Every developer has to walk in the customer’s shoes and handle escalated support tickets. Everyone—developer or not—has to build an Authy app and demo it to the entire company. We always do our level best to deliver an outstanding user experience in addition to the highest system uptime: that’s why end-users trust us to protect access to their favorite app.
The Good Stuff.
What about cool perks? After presenting your demo you get your own red, Twilio track jacket, one you may recognize in the ’Silicon Valley’ TV series. As a matter of fact, Authy feels like a Silicon Valley island that drifted high up into the Andes! Besides awesome company swag, we get our own Kindle with US $30 credits monthly, gym reimbursements, weekly meals, genuinely fun monthly events, and much more. We realize that working at a startup can be exhausting. This may sound strange in an industry with an awful reputation in terms of work/life balance, but we honestly care that employees take enough time off—so we give them unlimited time off.
In software, perhaps the most important benefit of all is to have the opportunity to learn new skills every day and grow as a professional. At Authy, we constantly raise the bar, hiring only the very best developers who not only excel at programming but also at mentoring their teammates. There are internal “Tech Talks” almost weekly and the opportunity to attend tech conferences in Colombia and abroad. And relaxed 1-on-1 sessions are conducted by managers every month to identify career and personal growth needs. It’s sort of like a constant feedback loop: no one is left alone or behind, ever.
Finally, there is Tweek. Similarly to Google in its early days, Authy sets aside one week, twice a year, for the engineering teams to work on their own projects: they have the freedom to build cool stuff that more often than not makes it into the commercial product shortly after Tweek. Some of the most ground-breaking Authy product improvements were developed during Tweek.
Yes, I confess I’m in love with Authy and my team—that’s why I wanted to write this blog post, to share that feeling with you, potential Authy customers, clients, partners, and teammates. Our results speak for themselves: with millions of happy end users and thousands of satisfied customers, our engineers in Bogota are proving to the world every day that a Colombian team can develop world-class software.
We’re always looking for doers to join us and have fun building the best 2FA platform. It took me 30 years to find my dream job, why don’t you take 30 seconds to drop us a line and maybe discover yours?