Innovators: New Relic President and COO, Chris Cook

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Chris CookInnovators. They come in many forms. They dream big but they aren’t just dreamers. They form raw ideas into cool products with disruptive business models. They shatter entire industries and leave established leviathans running scared with their tails between their legs. The Innovators interview series connects you with the most driven people on the planet. What makes them tick? What advice do they have for tech founders? What tools do they use to get the job done? Read on to find out.

Chris Cook joined New Relic as its President and Chief Operating Officer in 2011, bringing more than 25 years of experience in the software and performance management industries. Previously, Chris was corporate senior vice president and general manager of CA Technologies’ Service Assurance business, where he was responsible for all aspects of the business and P&L on a worldwide basis. Prior to that, Chris was senior vice president of worldwide field operations at Wily Technology, and held executive leadership positions at Quest Software, Peregrine Systems, BMC Software and IBM. Chris holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

What do you enjoy most about your work and why?

I’ve been in the software business for 30 years. I’ve worked for very large companies and for small start up companies, but what keeps me going every morning is the dynamic nature of our business. That goes for New Relic, but also for the technology industry as a whole. Our engineers are constantly iterating, always striving to make better software for our customers. And often, these changes are influenced by larger technology innovations. So there’s always something new to learn. There’s nothing static about this business and I love that.

Where does your passion come from? What drives you, inspires you, excites you?

Growing a successful business from the ground up certainly keeps me excited, but it’s what’s behind that—the very reason for our success that keeps me passionate—and that’s our customers. You can’t grow a business without being responsive to your most important constituency. One aspect of our business that really makes this rapid responsiveness possible is our SaaS delivery model. Because of that, we have a unique, 24×7 view into how they are responding to the features we are constantly introducing. We can build, measure, and learn (as our friend Eric Reis would say) to see what works or not. It keeps us on our toes for our ever-evolving cloud customer base. It keeps our focus on our customers and on understanding how we can help web businesses perform by managing their customer’s experience.

Someone reading this wants to start a tech company. What’s your best advice for them?

First, understand your customers and why they will be coming to your door. You’ll have to look ahead too, and ask yourself, “What will the market be like in two years when I’m shipping stable product?” Always be ready to learn. A learning attitude will take you a long way.

What are a few tech startups that you’re really excited about right now and why?

GitHub is the “go to” place for New Relic app developers, but also for most of our customers. This company understands what developers need to collaborate and communicate more effectively for developing software. It shows.

Not only is Twilio is creating a mind shift by integrating SMS, VoIP and voice calls into mobile and web systems, but we admire their community-minded approach to build up the developer community.

Zendesk is another prime example of a company that is capitalizing on the scalability of cloud technology, a consumer-like interface and the speed of an agile development team to provide a more effective service.

What tech tools (websites, apps, gadgets, etc.) do you rely on both for work and in your down time?

Since our company provides a service, we have to be more customer centric than most and Zendesk helps us be more responsive and collaborative. Their business approach matches our own.

CloudBees is a hosting platform service that we use to run and manage our Java applications in the cloud. Their developer-centric approach and on-demand capability provides a flexibility that enables us to have an agile business edge.

Digital marketing is hot and on the front burner for New Relic. Optimizely has been a huge resource for our design team to analyze and optimize our web site for converting visitors to actual paying users.

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