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#42: Matt Biilmann, Co-Founder and CEO of Netlify — career pivoting, marketing for mass adoption, and growing company culture remotely

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Matt Biilmann is the Co-Founder and CEO of Netlify. He was trained to be a musician and music journalist, but early into his career, he pivoted to programming. Among his creations was a content management system that helped web design agencies to build websites. The idea evolved into Netlify, which he launched with childhood friend Chris Bach in 2014. Netlify helped pioneer the movement to decouple front-end web development from back-end server management. Mattel, Unilever, and Verizon have all used Netlify to launch websites.

This was a fantastic conversation about Matt’s career journey from his former studies in music to pivot towards programming and starting Netlify, what you need to know if you are marketing your product for mass adoption, how you can foster company culture even if you are hundreds of miles apart, and the questions you need to ask when you are hiring!

Key highlights in the episode

  • The founding insight of Netlify (01:54)
  • How Matt’s liberal arts background allows him to predict future tech (10:19)
  • How ideas spread and what drives mass adoption of a product or service (12:43)
  • Why they adopted a distributed culture at Netlify (22:48)
  • The cultural components & tools necessary to make a remote culture thrive (26:52)
  • The hiring process at Netlify and examples of hiring questions that Matt asks (30:46)
  • How can managers know that work is getting done in a remote working system? (34:45)
  • Step-by-step process of how they thought of the values and how they have refreshed them to shape the culture at Netlify (37:50)
  • Netlify’s “own it and ship it” value (47:54)
  • What are the markers that signal he needs to hire new executives? (55:04) 
  • How Matt learns and ensures he is continuing to grow as a founder (56:48) 
  • Ways in which Matt has grown as a leader (58:34)
  • His experience with the impostor syndrome and how to overcome it (59:44) 
  • What Matt wishes he had known earlier on his journey (01:02:09)
  • His advice for other founders as they embark on their journey to grow into leaders (01:05:04)

Notable Quotes

  • “Culture is what you’re doing and how people act.” (38:49)
  • “There is always a limit to what you can learn from other people’s experiences.” (01:02:38)

   

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