Startup founders typically face a management challenge. They often began their careers in technical engineering jobs, and are thrust into the CEO role when starting a company. Sometimes it makes sense to bring in a more experienced executive to guide a fast-growing startup, and that is what Snyk announced it’s doing today, shifting founder/CEO Guy Podjarny to president and chairman of the board, while bringing in board member and investor Peter McKay as CEO.
Over the past 18 months the company has grown significantly moving from just 18 employees to 150 as its open source software development approach to security has taken hold in the marketplace. McKay is someone who makes sense for the job given he has been involved with the company as an investor since its early days, and has known Podjarny in various roles for 15 years. The two talked about having a good working relationship, something that Podjarny said was essential to this transition.
“I think I would be going through many sleepless nights if I was bringing just somebody we interviewed into the company for a role like this at a time like this,” he said. He added that having known and worked with McKay for so long has helped ease the role changes.
As important as the working relationship between the two is going to be, McKay brings an executive pedigree that includes stints as co-CEO at Veeam and general manager of Americas at VMware, where he managed an operation with $4 billion in annual revenue.
McKay says that he and Podjarny have had many conversations about how they will handle their new roles moving forward. “Guy and I have spent a great deal of time talking through a lot of [issues] before we ever said that we were going to move forward with this change,” he said. He added, “We wanted to make sure we’re aligned on how we would handle decisions. We want to be aligned on how we handle things like diversity, how we handle things like empowering and core company values,” he said.
As for Podjarny, he says this move allows him to return to a more technical function, and the two will take advantage of each other’s strengths as they move into these new roles. “Peter brings in extensive large-scale management experience, experience with markets. This is experience that I don’t have, but which naturally complements my product vision and community leadership skills,” he explained.
As a startup grows, picking the right leader to guide the company into the future is a tricky decision, and one that Podjarny and McKay did not take lightly. In spite of their long relationship, they recognize there will be challenges ahead as company founder and board member/investor take on new roles, but they believe that this is the best decision for the company to develop and grow moving forward. Time will tell if they are right.