My Start-Up Story: an Atypical CEO and a Backend Design Problem

I’m not the typical tech founder and CEO. But after seeing firsthand the challenges that development teams face when it comes to communication and collaboration, I knew I wanted to be part of the solution.

My Start-Up Story: an Atypical CEO and a Backend Design Problem

I’m not the typical tech founder and CEO. Honestly, I never set out to become one. But after seeing firsthand the challenges that development teams face when it comes to communication and collaboration, I knew I wanted to be part of the solution.

I’ve spent the majority of my career in tech marketing and communications. I am fresh off a four year tour of duty at MongoDB and before that I was at DigitalOcean. During this time I immersed myself in the world of developers. I saw which tools solved real problems and which just added to the SaaS sprawl. I listened to the frustration of the teams around me. Most importantly, I took stock of what it takes to be a company that developers trust with products they actually enjoy using. So, along with our CTO, who created this beautiful product, I decided to start Multiplayer.

Frontend developers have incredible tools like Figma but backend developers have had nothing to help them visualize, collaborate and communicate about distributed software design. This is why they resort to primitive solutions like whiteboards and diagramming tools. These can provide a static picture of your backed software platform, but if you want to have an actual design review, you have to patch together a bunch of documentation or jump right into the code.

Backend software design is happening, but it’s not easy, collaborative or efficient. Multiplayer is here to make the process better.

Who, me?

If you look at a bell curve of the most common CEO attributes, I am an outlier. Not only am I a woman, but I am also a marketer, a person with Tourette Syndrome and I happen to be married to our CTO. Is this an unusual CEO profile? Sure. But it’s also a unique and distinct set of characteristics that make me well suited for the job. The experiences I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned because I am different have informed how I’m running Multiplayer. A few that top my list are as follows.

  • Keep Users at Your Core

At DigitalOcean and MongoDB I learned the true power of community. For as many times as they would rush to defend us, they’d also call us out when we were slow to bring a new feature to market or fix a bug. Our communities kept us focused, checked us when we needed it, and gave back so much more than we ever could have imagined.

Before we started Multiplayer we received feedback from a developer on a large team that really stuck with us. He said they kept track of their backend software platform by meeting annually, unfurling a giant piece of poster board, sticking it on the wall and letting everyone sketch out their part of the architecture. Yikes! These are the stories that surface when you stay close to your users and you listen to your community. At Multiplayer, one of my highest priorities is to build and nurture an engaged community, and a large part of that is asking for customer feedback and hearing (and amplifying) great user stories.

  • Focus on the Content, Not the Package

When I started my career in the 90’s, I was in the financial services industry. I was told that I should wear conservative suits so I would appear more “credible” and I got “bonus points” for being “chubby” because it made me "look older". Back then, I was grateful for any advice that made my counsel more convincing. 30 years later I realized this kind of commentary was misguided and offensive.

Years later, when I had team members with a set of characteristics that might be “atypical” for a certain role, I made sure not to let assumptions (mine or others) impede their progress or undermine their credibility.

I’m proud that our founding team is diverse, geographically dispersed and a mixture of experience levels, ages, backgrounds, genders and abilities. The best ideas can come from anyone and it’s my job to spot them, help bring them to life and check my assumptions at the door.

  • Be Vulnerable

While many successful CEOs are neurodivergent, there are very few with Tourette’s. Celebrities like Billie Eilish and Seth Rogen are causing it to trend by sharing their own experiences, but reactions can still be surprisingly negative. I’ve received a multitude of different responses ranging from the weird, “should we do a press release about it?” to the offensive, “does Tourette’s give you a low IQ?”

Having Tourettes has given me the ability to make personal connections quickly. Colleagues tend to share more details about themselves with me in response. Sometimes it’s personal and sometimes it’s related to work - like how they prefer to receive praise or the best ways to give them feedback. Regardless of what they choose to share, the information makes it easier for me to create an environment where they feel psychologically safe and they can do their best work.

  • Surround Yourself with the Right People

Some of the most successful partnerships in tech succeeded thanks to the blending of diametrically opposed skill sets. Our CTO and my partner, Thomas, and I have almost comically complementary talents. There is literally nothing on our respective to-do lists that the other one wants to take on. I am focused on Go-To-Market and all of its demands and he is excited about spending all day every day building the technology.

Our team is mostly developers and they have experienced the pain that our company is here to fix. Those of us who aren’t developers have spent years focused on user experience and building community. Our investors deeply understand our space and care about developers too. We are lucky to be working with Bowery Capital and Okapi Venture Capital alongside powerhouse founders like Mitch Wainer and Edith Harbaugh who have built their own wildly successful developer tool companies.

Where Do You Fit In?

I have witnessed the power of an engaged and connected community many times in my career and that kind of community is what I am going to build for Multiplayer. One where our users and our employees feel a sense of belonging. And one where there is mutual respect and a real system of support for the developers who are using our product to build great things.

My favorite communities are the ones where questions can be asked without fear of judgment and members can benefit from the spontaneous sharing of ideas and challenges so we can all learn from each others’ experiences.

If this sounds like a community you’d like to be a part of, please follow us on X (Twitter), join us on Discord, or visit www.multiplayer.app and sign up for the beta!