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Hi, this is Mark Maunder, the founder and CEO of Defiant Inc, makers of Wordfence. If you’re interested in any of the roles listed above, I’d like to give you some background on who we are as a company, our culture, how we like to work and why Defiant is different.
The culture at Defiant has been shaped by a wide range of inputs. My co-founder Kerry Boyte and I have worked for years with industry experts in HR, benefits, finance, legal and other areas to optimize our team’s work environment, and this is an ongoing process. Today we are one of the best companies in the world to work for, because we have great benefits, a sane and predictable 40 hour work week, challenging and rewarding projects, and a friendly, relaxed and collegial team culture.
I’d like to share with you how we arrived at the culture we have today, from Kerry and my perspective, because in a post-Covid world, many companies are now checking the ‘remote’ box, but in fact, they are large companies that are new to remote working and are making mistakes. We’ve seen mature companies who are new to remote work using a hybrid model, which leads to team segregation or using remote as a ‘perk’, which leads to uncomfortable hierarchies. Another mistake is to ‘allow’ team members to work remotely for a few months, and then require them to return to the office, which creates a brutal context switching overhead: As you begin to hit your stride working remotely, you find yourself back in the office.
We believe that:
- Knowledge workers should all work remotely as far as possible.
- Remote work should not emulate an office. It should embrace our ability to have a purely intellectual relationship and mode of collaboration.
- Video communication should not be a requirement. Audio calls remove distractions and have a leveling effect in an organization that creates more effective collaboration.
- Commuting to an office is an environmental catastrophe.
- Clustering workers in an office is the result of a lack of trust and the desire to exert control over employees.
- Cities are an unhealthy symptom of an office-based work model that forces millions of families to literally live on top of each other.
- Working significantly more than 40 hours a week is worn as a badge of honor by some, but is in fact a result of bad planning by leadership.
- Asynchronous collaboration is often more efficient than synchronous, even if it makes legacy managers feel a lack of control.
- Trust is critical to the success of a remote work model.
- Radical transparency leads to healthier and more collaborative companies and teams.
Thomas A. Anderson (Neo) was right to question the very nature of his reality, considering how closely it continues to emulate the absurd control-centric model of the modern software megacorp. The year is 2021 and the Internet has been generally available for over a quarter-century. How is it that we are still using work models from the previous century in companies that, in many cases, are far younger than the Net itself, and are helping build it?
The good news is that things are changing thanks to two major catalysts: In late 2019 Covid hit and forced companies who would never have considered remote work to give it a try. They muddled through and proved that the sky didn’t fall when all or part of their team worked remotely. But they have a long way to go to achieve a healthy, sustainable, and sane model for remote work.
The second catalyst is the general availability of broadband everywhere via Starlink. I ordered Starlink for a piece of land I own in Colorado where cellphone internet is spotty and broadband isn’t available. I opened the box, placed the 23-inch dish on the dirt, plugged the router into a battery/inverter, and had low latency 120Mbps broadband in my airstream trailer in a few minutes. Historically we’ve all been tethered to phone lines, coax, fiber, or a nearby cell tower to get broadband. I realized that our species had just become untethered. I can’t overstate the transformative effect Starlink and similar products will have on how and where we work.
Starlink will launch a mobile version for RVs and boats soon. In this new world, clustering on top of each other in cities and commuting back and forth, while longing for the weekend when we might be able to leave the concrete jungle and catch a breath of fresh forest or sea air, should be entirely unacceptable. Live by the sea. Live in the forest. I live near both on Orcas Island in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Many traditional corporations demand your mind, body, family life, proximity to and presence in a physical office, and (it feels like) your very soul. At Defiant, all we want is your intellectual output.
In 1998 I moved to London from South Africa. I was living in a concrete jungle but was working on fun and challenging projects for companies like Coca-Cola, Credit Suisse, BBC, and others. I wanted the best of both worlds: To work on fun stuff and earn good money while being able to do it from wherever I wanted. I started touring data centers and trying to build a server that I could remote manage via a built-in modem, even if the link went down. This was way before cloud computing made all of this and far more possible.
I met Kerry Boyte in 2000 while we both worked at eToys.com during the dot-com boom. She shared the same vision – to be able to work from anywhere without the nonsensical traditional constraints that the office comes with. We had worked for some of the same companies and seen some of the same generally accepted things that companies did that we vehemently disagreed with. For example, what we call the ‘glass room’ of executives and leadership making decisions while the rest of the team sits outside and watches them from a distance, without any opportunity for input or transparency, having their marching orders handed down from on high. We felt this wasted the incredible power of a fully collaborative and transparent team, while serving egos and a sense of “management knows best”, which is usually not the case.
Today at Defiant we run a fully integrated fast-moving and highly collaborative team with a culture of transparency and a focus on outcomes. It has allowed us to grow Wordfence to over 4 million customers, launch FastOrSlow.com, create documentaries, publish groundbreaking research on a weekly basis, become authorized by Mitre to hand out CVE identifiers to security researchers, and much more.
Speaking of transparency, I often get asked whether we’re going to sell the company and about raising funding. Kerry and I own around 80% of the business. We have a few shareholders that hold around 17% of the business between them. Kerry and I control the Defiant board with two seats. Naval Ravikant is our third board member and was an early investor in Defiant. Naval joined back in 2008 and has been a great partner since then.
We’ve had several serious offers to buy Defiant from big companies you’ve heard of, and these have progressed to the in-person visits and serious conversation phases. When Kerry and I chat about selling the company, the conversation goes like this:
“OK so you sell Defiant tomorrow and you end up with a ton of cash. What do you do?”
“Well, I’d do what I love which is to build and run a software company. So I’d start a company, assemble an amazing team, build great products that customers love and help make the world a better place. Oh right, we’re already doing that.”
So, if you want to work for Defiant, that’s why we’re still independent and why we’ll most likely stay independent. And if you’re thinking of acquiring us, sorry but we’re not for sale. We’re also 100% self-funding and financially very healthy, so if you’re a VC: We are not raising money and have no plans to, ever, so please stop asking.
Most importantly, Defiant is founder-controlled. Many companies don’t share their cap tables and board structure the way I have here, and after raising two or three rounds of funding, founders are essentially employees reporting to a board of directors. This can limit the kind of work-style innovation we have engaged in. Boards love pattern matching, and if BigTechCo X does it this way, then you should too. We have had, and continue to have, total freedom when it comes to inventing a new way of working that produces spectacular productivity and outcomes while sticking to an 8 hour day with tons of PTO and company holidays.
But we do love meetings. The more and the longer they are, the better. [OK just kidding. I put this in here to see if Kerry notices. She hates meetings too. Ours are relaxed, brief and outcome-focused, and the fewer the better. And mostly we do audio-only, so feel free to attend in your pajamas.]
At Defiant we don’t put any artificial constraints, like age, seniority, or time, on your career progression. Chloe Chamberland is a great example of this. She started with us a few years ago and has progressed at lightning speed in the organization. We have a strong bias towards promoting internally and we also fund certifications and college education, which helps speed our team’s personal growth. Since we filmed the video below, Chloe set up our CNA program collaborating with MITRE and administers it, along with her role as threat researcher. She is also beginning to play more of a business-focused role. We have many other stories like Chloe’s and I’m proud that we also have many team members who have been with us for 6+ years since we first started hiring.
Our hiring process includes a 2-week trial where we ask you to work for at least 10 hours per week, paid of course. This gives you the opportunity to try us out and the same for us. I haven’t encountered anyone who can’t make this work around their schedule, and it generally works well for prospective employees and for our team.
Our benefits are absolutely excellent. If you apply for any full-time role at Defiant, be sure to ask for the details. We’ve worked long and hard to create a small business that has a benefits program that exceeds many large company standards.
The team right now is around 38 people. We are mostly USA-based, but have team members in Europe, the UK, Australia, and other parts of the world. If you’re in a different time zone to the east or west coast USA, we can work with you asynchronously and continue to be effective. We do this with some of our team in Australia and it works well.
Every year that doesn’t have a pandemic, we attend a range of conferences including sending our whole team to DEF CON in Las Vegas where we have a lot of fun eating amazing food and taking limo rides. Travel is optional, but when you do travel we take very good care of you. So far we’ve always flown everyone business class. That may change in the future, but I certainly hope it doesn’t because it makes the flight part of the fun.
Defiant is far more than just WordPress security. Since we’ve grown and our budgets have increased, we have begun to actively engage in philanthropy, specifically by bringing power and light to a school campus in Uganda. At the time of writing [July 7th, 2021] we have not yet announced this publicly, but will do so shortly. Our team has been helping out with some of the technical aspects of this project which has been tremendously exciting and rewarding.
We also have a large media department with some amazing filmmakers on the team. If you’re at all interested in becoming a well-known voice or video/film persona, I think Emily our producer will definitely want to chat with you. We are in the process of massively expanding our media footprint.
At Defiant our primary goal is to serve our customers and their needs. We have found a healthy and sustainable way to do exactly that, with an amazing remote team who love what they do, and we’re now beginning to give back to the community through philanthropy and other community-focused efforts. As Mohammed Ali said: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
Whether you’re interested in a role as a senior developer, DevOps engineer, customer service engineer, QA engineer, Media creator, security analyst, threat researcher, or another exciting role at Defiant, I very much hope you’ll apply and learn more about the exciting work we do here and how we have stayed true to our company name and have been Defiant in creating our own style of work environment that works well for our team, the business, and our customers.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. We’d love to hear from you.
Mark Maunder. Defiant Founder & CEO.