Catching Lightning In A Bottle

This has been an interesting week. Yesterday, HashiCorp listed on the NASDAQ under the ticker $HCP, for HashiCorp Cloud Platform. Over nine years ago, a close friend introduced me to one of his star colleagues, Mitchell Hashimoto, who wanted to get some advice on how to better publicize his side project at the time, “Vagrant.” I vividly remember meeting him – 21, graph paper notebook, left-handed writer with clean penmanship. I was not 21 at the time, and he stood out. Months passed and that holiday season, I decided to “start a small fund” and when he ended up putting a seed round together, I asked to invest a small amount.

This proved to be an important introduction and important decision.

When I reflect back on the journey of HashiCorp. it is something larger than I could’ve imagined. As a very early investor, the reality is that I end up remember helping Mitchell when he was by himself in those early days. I wasn’t working “on a company.” I was becoming a friend to Mitchell. Despite our age difference, he was great to interact with. I could barely believe someone just out of college and over a decade younger than me could be so organized, clear-minded, and precise.

When I look back at the ledger, Haystack helped HashiCorp – or rather, helped Mitchell gain the space, with Armon, to create what is now Hashicorp. But, HashiCorp helped Haystack even more. By investing in HashiCorp so early, within a few years Haystack held a crown jewel, “N of 1” shares of stock in a company that was impossible to copy. I meet lots of new fund managers and try to help them – many ask questions about arcane topics of fund management when they’re starting, when in reality all that matters is DGD = “do good deals.” Once you do a few good deals, you can worry about the rest. But if you don’t DGD, there’s no point. As an early investor just starting out, you have to catch lightning in a bottle, and for me and Haystack, HashiCorp was that bolt of lightning.

When folks ask me to recite what makes HashiCorp special, there’s the tech angle, sure. You can read all about that online from people smarter than I am. To me, what was special is that, when we funded HashiCorp, there was just Vagrant. Then over time, Mitchell’s close college classmate Armon Dadgar became a co-founder, and that was a special addition. I’m a big music fan, and the way I explain this period to those who inquire, is that Mitchell and Armon were like a pair of musicians who cut seminal rock albums during a two-year period – a flurry of open source projects, such as Packer, Serf, Consul, Terraform, and Vault, and others. These all folded underneath the umbrella of HashiCorp. Today we marvel at companies like Google transforming into conglomerates like Alphabet, or Facebook into Meta… HashiCorp is somewhat akin, a patchwork of businesses that are so large and strategic, many of them could stand on their own.

But, as always, HashiCorp as the umbrella is greater than the sum of its parts.

Ultimately, as I’m writing this on a Friday night with a quiet household, my wife away for the night, my kids tucked into bed early — after a week of many warm messages, I feel incredibly grateful for the chain of events over the past decade which led me to write a post like this. I’m grateful my friend Courtney introduced me to Mitchell; I’m grateful Mitchell was willing to accept my help and guidance, and that he made room for me when I was starting out; I’m grateful for mentors like Glenn and Puneet who carried me along for the ride as I was learning to be an investor; and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to catch lightning in a bottle.

It’s hard to really look back. When I transport back to that time, in early 2013 when I could barely muster the funds to make a commitment to my own fund, I somehow had the opportunity to follow my instincts with Mitchell. At that time, I didn’t have a career at all, I was just flailing. We just had our first kid that April. We weren’t sure if we could stay in the Bay Area long-term. We didn’t know what the future held, but life was moving fast and out of our control. Fast-forward to this week, that resolve was rewarded. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot more about how much luck can drive outcomes in this part of the world. I’ve learned just how hard it is to commit everything to a goal, and the cost of that commitment. I know I could never do what Mitchell, Armon, Dave, or their colleagues do — but I am lucky that I get to be close to greatness so early, to see that greatness up close, if even for a fleeting moment in the long arc of life.