Lead Your Company Like a Punk Rock Star

Lead Your Company Like a Punk Rock Star

It's hard to imagine that Tim Eades, the CEO of security company vArmour, used to be a part of the punk rock scene in London. He hung out with the bands, drove to concerts, and adopted the lifestyle of questioning the norm. Guess what? That view worked perfectly for his role as entrepreneur. It can work for you as well. Here's how.

How did you get involved in punk rock?

While I wasn't in a punk rock band, I lived in the world of old British punk -- I adopted the punk rock life style and closely followed the scene. When I was very young, my two older brothers would take me to raging loud punk and indie bands like AC/DC, The Cure, The Damned, and The Pogues. Once I learned to drive a car, I'd make the trek to London, which was a commitment -- the drive was 75 miles round-trip -- and I'd go to as many punk and rock 'n' roll shows as possible. During this time, the punk and rockabilly scene was a tight-knit community. Eventually, you'd go to enough shows that you started to hang out with the band.

As a kid and teenager, these types of shows start to shape the person you're becoming. The punk rock lifestyle and mentality has stuck with me over the years, permeating every aspect of my leadership style and entrepreneurial spirit.

At vArmour, I designed an album record wall for our office, and the name of each album represents a unique aspect of startup culture -- and the trials and tribulations that every aspiring young entrepreneur encounters. For example, a few of our album covers include "Too Much Pressure" by The Selecter, "No Rest for the Wicked" by New Model Army, "He Who Dares Wins" by Theater of Hate, and "Dig The New Breed" by The Ham.

As most know, startup culture is often a healthy mix of volatility and competition, but also extreme passion, commitment, and drive. The album names on our wall are especially relevant to vArmour, as they represent the critical moments and feelings we experienced as we went through the process of starting a company, from the initial idea, to going through stealth mode and bringing our product to the masses.

Who were some of the bands you hung out with?

I frequently hung out with a range of bands, at places from small "grotty" pubs to reasonably sized venues, and was around The Damned, Stray Cats, Guana Batz and Demented Are Go.

When did you first make the switch from punk rock to startups?

Punk rock and startups are fundamentally one and the same -- I did an eight-year stint at IBM, and the "cleansing" worked for a bit, but I relapsed right back into my entrepreneurial mindset. Startups, like punk rock, are all about the adventure. At the end of the day, entrepreneurs are daring -- we're not scared to take real risks and challenge the status quo. If no one were to contest the traditional way of doing things, then how would we ever innovate? If you really believe the old way isn't the right way to do things now, then something needs to be the catalyst for change.

The slightly ironic thing is that, once an entrepreneur, you're always an entrepreneur -- it becomes an intrinsic part of your DNA. As a kid, I lived in a small village and would have to travel 9-10 miles on a school bus to get to the nearest town and go to school. If you went on the bus on the way home, you weren't allowed outside of the school premises (for protection purposes). Being entrepreneurially minded from the beginning, I'd sneak off, go to a nearby ice cream van and would buy candy -- then, I'd sneak back in and sell the candy at a premium on the bus. It was, and still is, all about supply and demand.

How has punk influenced your leadership style?

In punk, you have to be aggressive and confident, relentless in your drive for change. Most punk rockers come from poor backgrounds and they're nearly always outnumbered. Similarly, entrepreneurs have to pitch their product and rely on VC funding, all while attempting to overthrow tech behemoths and improve obsolete processes.

Punk is truly all about taking a DIY approach to the traditional forms of music -- it embraces scrappy, self-produced recordings made in basements and garages, and the use of alternative approaches when faced with obstacles. As a tech leader, I believe in being a catalyst for change. However, you can't wait for that change to happen, you have to be motivated and passionate enough to proactively do something about it. And you can't be concerned with what others think about you --it's imperative to remain focused on being comfortable with who you are and your core mission, despite traditional pressures trying to prevent you from becoming who you're meant to be.

What are some things about entrepreneurship that are similar to being in punk rock?

Every decade spawns a new music genre -- and the same applies to Information Technology. Just as there was an inherent need for punk to drive change in music, there is an immediate need for seismic change in data center security. Security innovation is powered by passionate entrepreneurs who are committed to solving complex customer problems -- paving new paths in the traditional security roadmap.

While punk rock's emergence is debatable, the fundamental premise was the rejection of the mainstream to challenge a status quo that was dependent on established structures. Punk rock was not about doing something incrementally better, but rather, it emerged as an entirely new genre of music. In the data center, disruption has, and always will be, the driving force behind industry transformation--first, it started with computing, then moved to storage and networking. Security is the natural next step. For data center security entrepreneurs, it's not about taking an incremental approach, but completely rebuilding for the cloud, from the ground up.

Authenticity is at the heart of every true punk rocker -- and they're quick to reject posers and those who are attempting to be something they're not. As a tech entrepreneur in a world filled with "the next big thing," the ability for a startup to be authentic is a key barometer of a company's success. vArmour offers the real deal, protecting the data center in a way that traditional security vendors can't come close to attempting -- it's nearly impossible for them to take an old-world method and apply it to a new-world problem. Similar to how punk rockers threaten authority, entrepreneurs and startups threaten the traditional approaches. You have to surround yourself with the crazy dreamers who can be catalysts for change in the industry.

To quote Joey Ramone, "To me, punk is about being an individual and going against the grain and standing up and saying 'This is who I am.'"

Punk rock has always had an affinity for the nontraditional -- shows would be held in basements, alleyways, and the like. For entrepreneurs who are breaking down barriers between the traditional and nontraditional, it's always been about independence and the need to escape from existing paradigms and norms. Consider what we're doing with vArmour: we broke away from the industry standard to create the only distributed data center security solution on the market today.

The punk rock movement has inspired countless other bands to form their own, unique type of music, encouraging musicians to bring the punk rock spirit to different genres. For entrepreneurs who want to build a better data center, it's about finding collaborators who are doing something different -- and coming together to integrate products that drive value in ways that were never before deemed possible.