Do what you like and like what you do
Founder, WhiteSource Software
Dr. Ron Rymon is Executive Chairman of WhiteSource, a company he co-founded after experiencing the adversities of legacy code scanning solutions. A serial enterprise software innovator and entrepreneur, prior to WhiteSource Ron founded Eurekify – the pioneer identity and role management company (acquired by CA Technologies); and LetMobile – provider of an innovative mobile security solution (acquired by LANDesk).
He is also co-founder of TestCraft – an innovative codeless test automation solution. Ron also enjoys advising and assisting other entrepreneurs. Ron holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Pennsylvania (1993), and has served on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
Dr. Ron in an interview with our magazine talked about his success & failures in life and the lessons learned.
Tell us about your professional journey so far?
I started my career in software development, then took a 10-year pause in Academia (pursuing a Ph.D. in AI and Machine Learning at the University of Pennsylvania, and then doing research and teaching), and then started my entrepreneurial journey.
Entrepreneurship is addicting, and so after my first company was acquired (Eurekify, by CA Technologies), I went on to start a few more companies (WhiteSource, LetMobile (acq by Ivanti), and TestCraft). I especially love the first stage where you have to put together vision and technology. Building products that provide value to customers are the key to everything I do, and seeing my products being used by customers gives me the utmost pleasure.
All the entrepreneurs and employees that work with me know that I always put the customer’s interests first. It may sometimes hurt commercially at first but always pays off in the long term.
Tell us about your company WhiteSource.
The three of us (Rami Sass, Azi Cohen, and myself) started WhiteSource in 2011, in a way as a reaction to an experience we had during the acquisition of Eurekify. At the time, the acquirer (CA) asked us to scan our code for open source components, and that’s when we discovered that the then-prevailing technology is old, cannot scale, and contradicts all new development paradigms (especially agile, DevOps practices, and the overall empowerment of developers).
So we set out to find a better solution to the open source detection and license classification problem. And along the way added security vulnerabilities and quality assessment. Initially, it was very difficult to push a solution that worked differently, but the benefits prevailed and I am proud to say that the entire market moved to provide a solution similar to ours, including the incumbents with the old technology.
What challenges you faced while growing your company and what you did to fix them.
In each of my companies, WhiteSource included, you always face challenges. Our first challenge was to educate the market that scanning for code snippets is not practical and often impossible to do with any reasonable accuracy. Going for snippets spends 100X the required energy, and will stop the wheels of your development. It was difficult to educate a market that was used to think of the problem in a certain way.
So what we did is to invest in our technology to make it very easy to deploy and use, in a way that would enable a prospective customer to evaluate the results in minutes. Just for comparison, a code scanning project could at the time have taken weeks before demonstrating any results or value.
This came handy because it was easier to convince people to try. And once they did, it became clear to them they would never go back to the old way of doing things. It also helped us build a low-touch sales organization which in turn allowed us to lower the price for customers.
Your Successes/failures in life.
There are too many to list here. As an entrepreneur, I often face multiple successes and failures in the course of the same 24 hours. I think this is the roller coaster that I became addicted to. I often count the number of customers that use products that I contributed to as my most important success metric.
Most of my failures have been around explaining the value of new technology and convincing customers to use it for the first time.
What choices did you make in your life which made a significant difference in your life?
I think that people are most important, including both family and business partners. Other than that, I think migrating to the US for my Ph.D. gave me a very important opportunity and perspective on life. Then, migrating back to Israel at a time of a technology boom was also very influential. I give less importance to other choices in life because I think that one can often make up for less than optimal choices through dedication and effort.
Walk us through your workday?
I like to start the day by reviewing what happened on the other side of the globe while I was sleeping. That often entails going through a ton of emails, and I am not sure it’s the best use of the morning hours. Afterwards, I usually try to pick 2-3 targets for the day, and simply pursue them. Ideally, this entails identifying the key opportunities, or blockers, for my companies. In practice, this often means putting off fires. I also have a number of pre-set meetings every day with my colleagues. In the evenings, I like to unwind, either by doing sport or by watching sport (usually soccer). I try to minimize late evening calls.
How do you keep yourself productive and motivated?
I am lucky but I really don’t need to do anything to keep myself motivated, and I hope productive. I simply enjoy everything I do.
What do you do to keep yourself on the growth path?
This is something we do regularly as a team routinely. We always try to understand what works and what doesn’t. As much as possible we do this by putting together the right business metrics and using them for all sorts of diagnostic purposes.
What tools/apps do you use for managing work and life?
Probably the usual suspects: from Microsoft office tools to Salesforce, HubSpot, etc.. And my calendar manages me. I often don’t know what I will do tomorrow until I take a look at it. But when I need to think about something new, I often prefer pen and paper (or electronic notes).
Your favorite books?
I am information junkie and interested in many areas, but I often don’t read books. Occasionally I start a book but don’t have the patience to finish. (I think I may suffer from ADHD, which gets worse with age…)
People who have inspired you and made a difference in your life.
I was lucky to have good mentors in both academia (Prof. Bonnie Webber), and industry (Roni Einav). But I learn a lot every day from many people, especially my co-founders and business partners. I have taught myself that it’s never a waste of time to hear another opinion, and I often seek additional opinions even when I am very confident I know the right answer.
How do you hire your team? What traits do you look for while hiring?
The most important criteria for me is that I would enjoy working with that person. Life is too short and I better enjoy it. The second is trustworthiness. For similar reasons. Then, I probably overrate smart people, and I sometimes fall for people that are smart but not as productive. Then comes skills, experience, and of course fit for the job. I almost always do an unsolicited background check about people, and I don’t touch people that come with bad (credible) references.
What advice did you get which changed your life?
I cannot count the number of times I got bad advice from well intending people. I seek and get a lot of good advice every day. But I cannot say that one advice changed my life. It’s a lot of smaller advice that influenced and continue to influence me.
What advice would you give to people looking for success and growth in personal and professional life?
Do what you like and like what you do. The best you can hope for is that you wake up every morning and still eager to go do something.