David Henzel of MaxCDN

Founder Coffee episode 011

I’m Jeroen from Salesflare and this is Founder Coffee.

Every two weeks I have coffee with a different founder. We discuss life, passions, learnings, … in an intimate talk, getting to know the person behind the company.

For this eleventh episode, I talked to David Henzel, Co-Founder of MaxCDN and now TaskDrive. In his previous life he was delivering content faster to web visitors, now he’s helping companies to find the right leads.

David is German and used to live in the US, but is now living on a warm Turkish beach. He’s very much into mission driven businesses and managing happiness, and maintains a blog and podcast about the topic.

We chat about how he manages his own happiness, how he builds companies with a mission and vision behind them, and why the right mindset is the most important thing you can have.

Welcome to Founder Coffee.

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Jeroen: Hi David. It’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

David: Thank you very much for having me. Excited to be here.

Jeroen: You are mostly known as the Founder of MaxCDN. But you’re now working on Task Drive. For those who don’t know these companies yet, what do they do?

David: So MaxCDN is a content delivery network that makes websites faster. We started MaxCDN in 2009 and sold it early — two years ago actually, to a company called StackPath.

TaskDrive on the other hand, is a lead research business. We find B2B leads for companies that do outreach.

Jeroen: So you get B2B businesses email leads or is it in some other format?

David: Yeah, it’s email leads. But well, they could be from anywhere. It could be from someone who is running an SEO campaign and wants to find places, or someone who’s looking for affiliates. We basically have a very large team of researchers that can find you anything that is hard to find otherwise.

Jeroen: So how did you get into MaxCDN at first and how did that then evolve in the end to working on Task Drive?

David: I’ll give you my background — very compressed. I’m originally from Germany and I have always been an entrepreneur. School was never really my thing. But I went to 14 different schools. Yeah, I was a trouble student!

Then I found this entrepreneur thing which worked really well for me. I had an IT business in Germany where we were maintaining the in-house service of local businesses. Back then, one of my customers was the biggest importer and manufacturer of things like water pipes. He was very persistent, and was pushing me to open up a store for him.

This worked really well so I had to stop my IT business and start selling stuff online. But my big dream was always to move to America and have a business there.

Jeroen: Why was that?

David: First of all, I always loved LA. I was there when I was 19 for the first time and I kind of fell in love with the city. Then, I was always fascinated by startups. Back then when I made this decision, there was no real big startup scene in Germany or in Europe. I was very drawn to go to the west coast in America.

So, I sold my eCommerce business which gave me enough money for my investor visa to move to the states. Then we founded MaxCDN and ran it for eight years. It was a very personal moment for me.

My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Knock on wood, she’s doing good today. But back then, this really threw me off to make me reconsider everything. I basically thought of me on my deathbed looking back at my life thinking, “Did I do what I was supposed to do, did I have the impact I wanted to have,” and basically will I be dying with regrets?

MaxCDN was cool and all. It was growing and it was fun. But it wasn’t really what I was truly passionate about. So my business partners and I, decided that it’s a good move to sell the business.

We moved back to Europe. My wife wanted to go back to Germany, but I couldn’t get myself to move to a cold climate again. So we moved to Bodrum, Turkey, which is on the same latitude as Los Angeles. So a nice and warm climate!

Then I was just actually working on a course called Managing Happiness, where we apply business principles to my family life. My wife and I figured this out to make it easier for my wife to be married to an entrepreneur. We released the course, but I was still drawn back to business. So I started to mentor and consult with a few businesses.

One of the businesses was my old business partner’s business, called Task Drive, which is the lead research business. He was kind of tired of it and wanted to focus on the stock market. So it was a good opportunity for me to acquire this business. We’re almost done with the acquisition process now.

Jeroen: Because you mentioned that MaxCDN wasn’t really your passion, you do feel that Task Drive is?

David: I went through a, how do you call this, a soul searching journey in terms of really figuring out what I really want. What it comes down to, is what I’m really passionate about and it was to help businesses or to help entrepreneurs succeed. This is why Task Drive is one element of this — the purpose or the mission of the business is to make sure your team wins. We work with our customers to make sure we set them up for success, so that they can grow their business.

Jeroen: Let’s say you work with Salesflare. What will you do exactly to make us succeed?

David: Well, focusing with Task Drive, the focus is on lead research. So we would find the ideal customers for you, analyze your ideal customer profile, companies that have sales teams who are bigger than X but not too big because they probably would prefer an enterprise solution, and other aspects. Our researchers would find you the contexts that are relevant for you and then you can reach out to these people and convince them to buy stuff from you.

Jeroen: So you’re actually delivering leads. How do you differentiate this from other lead generation businesses? Because there are so many out there right now.

David: The thing that make us unique, is that we provide dedicated researchers that are trained and dedicated to one customer. So they really understand the customer profile and they’re not working for random customers. We found that this approach makes it much more effective.

The second thing is that we always deliver you a product manager that is managing the researchers. So it doesn’t matter how many researchers you scale up to, you always have one point of contact and this project manager always knows all the playbooks by heart.

So there are different ways how we can find leads or stuff that works for businesses. You always have somebody who can brainstorm and come up with new outreach campaigns. The third thing is that we focus on operational excellence, so we have a separate QA team.

We have office tools that make us more effective in terms of delivering high quality and good output of things.

Jeroen: I’m supposing you target slightly bigger companies with this then?

David: Yeah, so the ideal focus is on companies who have a sales team of at least ten reps. This is what works best for us.

Jeroen: Got it.

David: But lately, we started to branch out into the SEO world, focusing more on marketing teams for the affiliate outreach and to find pages that have good draft back links to the article that you just published. I haven’t fully defined what’s the ideal target market here. But this is also working really well.

Jeroen: Cool. Now going back to your youth, you mentioned that you were a troubled student and went to 14 schools. Was that because your family was traveling or was there any other reason?

David: It was partly both. We moved twice, but yeah. When I liked a teacher, then I had straight As and when I didn’t like the teacher, I had Fs. I showed the teacher I didn’t like them I guess.

Jeroen: So it was a bit about feeling your passion and then you could do anything. But if you didn’t feel it, then you couldn’t do it at all?

David: Yeah, absolutely. And then when I dropped out of school, I discovered that I actually love to learn. It’s not that I don’t like to learn. I’m a huge personal development geek. So I consume lots of books on random topics that are of my interest. I’m constantly learning, reading a minimum of one book a month. But I just want to be self-directed in terms of what I want to work on first.

Jeroen: But you seem consistent in your choice as to what you like because you’ve been working for many years on MaxCDN, for instance. It’s just specific things that don’t appeal to you, right?

David: I guess so. It’s not that I’m only doing stuff that I like. I often have to do, when you have your mission or your vision defined in your business or in your personal life, then sometimes you have to do things that really suck. That just drives you towards this goal that you have. It’s not that I want to avoid things I don’t like, but they have to bring me towards the right direction.

Jeroen: Was there anyone who influenced you into entrepreneurship? Your family or a friend?

David: A good friend of mine, actually. He took me by the hand and showed me what it is like to run a business. He used to freelance before in IT and we started this business together. He basically took me by the hand and said, “Hey dude, let’s do this together.” This worked out great!

Jeroen: That was the guy you started the IT business with?

David: Yeah.

Jeroen: Are you still working together?

David: No, he’s back in Germany. When I started the eCommerce business, we separated and I focused only on the eCommerce stuff.

Jeroen: Did you ever have a quote-unquote, “real” job then or was it always startups?

David: No.

Jeroen: Never?

David: Actually, as a contractor, I did something for Lufthansa. Like some rollout, IT rollout for two months or something like it but never really a ‘real’ job.

Jeroen: So it was some kind of an on-site consulting job?

David: Yeah. But I never really had a ‘job’ job.

Jeroen: You were always doing startups then?

David: Yeah.

Jeroen: Is there any big founder that ever inspired you? Someone that you looked up to; that you say, “This is a guy that I want to be. This is how I want to build my business?”

David: Not really. But I admire what Elon Musk does for example in terms of being so mission and vision driven. Or actually, I just read a book called Conscious Capitalism. Have you heard about it?

Jeroen: Yeah, actually. My wife is into CSR and sustainability, corporate social responsibility and sustainability. So she told me about it. I didn’t read it myself though.

David: The idea of the book is that a business is the best vehicle to have a positive change in the world.

A traditional business only focuses on the shareholders, increasing the shareholders’ value. Other businesses are focusing on taking care of all the stakeholders like employees, customers, partners, suppliers and also the community, and the planet.

The book shows that if you really take great care of all the stakeholders, then your business will prosper more. It feels much better to focus on these things whereas just focusing on money. I also think that money is just a side effect of providing value. If you provide as much value as possible to as many people as possible, then you will be the richest corporation around. So I really admire what they shared in the book about the stakeholders. For example, the importance of the co-author of the book.

Jeroen: Is this something you’ve always had as a basis for your business? Like looking at value, not so much at money, or is this something you’re just learning?

David: I never had any scarcity growing up, so I was never really money-driven. I really like people, helping people, solving people’s problems. This was always the thing that drove me way more than money.

Jeroen: This is kind of the passion part in building your business then?

David: I guess so, yeah.

Jeroen: For you, building startups is kind of a way of life?

David: Yeah, absolutely. If you’re not helping other people with your startup, then you probably will not be successful in the first place and the startup will not be around for very long.

Jeroen: I totally agree. What is it that you are currently in and spending most of your time on?

David: I’m in the process of taking over the operations of Task Drive. I basically reviewed all the processes that we currently have in place and optimized them. I have an engineering background, even though I haven’t really touched a server in a very long time. I’d like to build quote-unquote, “machine” like processes that work really well together and then always review them and tune them consistently.

I’m pretty much done with it so everything is running really well. I implemented the entrepreneurial operating system into the business which is something that so simple and amazing. I wish I could have had this at MaxCDN. It’s basically all the pitfalls that we fell into, would have been avoided by following this framework.

Jeroen: What framework is this?

David: It’s called EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System. The website is EOSWorldwide.com and the books around this are Attraction: Get A Grip On Your Business and more. One book is called ‘Get A Grip’ and the other one’s called ‘Traction’. It basically outlines how you run your business in a very effective manner.

Jeroen: Is there any big takeaway that you could immediately share? Something that we could apply or is it only the thing as a whole that works?

David: I mean there’s just tons of takeaways to it. One is how to figure out your mission and vision statement, which we had at MaxCDN. We started as NetDNA, which was an enterprise-focused CDN. But we didn’t really have a differentiator; we were just the light version of an EdgeCast or an ARCNY.

We were basically doing it for the money and we didn’t really think about providing lots of value to people. We just said, “Okay, we just make it a little cheaper and this should work.” But it did not really work.

Then we thought about, “how can we provide real value to people?” Back then CDN was something that only big companies could really afford, because it was like having a long-term commitment. You had to sign a minimum of 12 months contract and it was at least a several hundred dollars a month. Not really affordable for a small startup!

We thought, “Hey, let’s just make this a very frictionless, easy process to sign up and get started, for the user.” This really took off and we launched this under the MaxCDN brand. So this started working really well. But the thing that we messed up is, we never wrote down that our mission is to get CDNs into the hands of everybody, to make it as easy as possible to use. We never wrote down that mission and we never communicated it to the new hires.

The company grew and we ended up running into ten different directions. The new VP of sales wanted to focus on enterprises, and our head of engineering built this crazy analytics platform that was good for a handful of customers but the majority of our customers had no use for it. This is all because we didn’t really stick to our mission and vision.

Jeroen: So you started for a reason. At least you moved to a certain direction and then didn’t stay with it because you didn’t communicate this mission and vision correctly to everyone.

David: Yes, correct. So this is something that they show you in the book — how to define your mission and vision and how to communicate it to everybody or to figure out if the right people are in the right seats. They show you how to run your meetings in the most effective manner. I really recommend every entrepreneur to read this book. It’s really life-changing!

Jeroen: I will certainly do so. It’s interesting, actually. It’s exactly where a lot of startup businesses fail I think, on really keeping the direction and not tweaking it. Some moments like going upmarket is a classic. Many companies see that there’s more money upmarket and forget their initial goal of helping small companies, making it accessible, easy to use and all these kind of things.

David: Then you get lost, yeah. It’s also I think an amazing management tool. A friend of mine started Ring.com. They just sold it to Amazon for over a billion dollars. Lucky him!

Another friend of mine is running his development team for AI in the Ukraine. They just released a new product, where you have on the side of your house, a camera with floodlights. So when somebody walks past, the lights go on for security. Their mission is to make neighborhoods safer. One of their engineers said, “Hey, since we have a microphone at their end, we have these lights that we could make the microphone listen to music and then the lights flash to the music.” But nobody said something like, “Dude, what the heck does this have to do with making neighborhoods safer?”

If you have a strong mission and vision statement, it becomes very easy for everybody to make the right decisions and not build stuff that is not really in line with what you’re doing.

Jeroen: Exactly. You know where to go. Don’t you think that is kind of the role of the founders and the CEOs to do?

David: Absolutely. Lance Crosby, who bought MaxCDN, CEO of StackPath, he was also the CEO of Softlayer. They sold to IBM for $2.7 billion.

He told me once that a CEO has only three tasks. One is to preach the mission and the vision like a parrot to everybody on the outside world and everybody on the team inside, to constantly repeat it so everybody knows what you’re about. The second thing is to make sure the company doesn’t run out of money, make sure sales are on track and that you raise enough funds. The third thing is to hire people who know what they’re doing in the key positions and then leave them alone, hire people that are much better than you in this area. And then leave them alone, let them build a team and just focus on KPIs and not be too much in the weeds.

Jeroen: Makes a little sense I think.

David: At MaxCDN, we were very much in the weeds and it was a real wake-up call to see how he was managing the team. After the purchase, I was the chief marketing officer for the business and while putting together the brand and the marketing plan, I was following meetings. He sat through the meetings, said, “It’s good,” and then left.

After the second time, I was like, “Dude, am I not doing this right? Give me some feedback.” He’s like, “No. You got this. I’ll just let you run with it.”

It was very eye-opening for me to be able to let go that much and let somebody else run this.

Jeroen: Were you the COO before?

David: No. At MaxCDN, I was running product and marketing.

Jeroen: Product and marketing, okay. Talking about work/life balance, because you touched this before and talk about it actively. What are exactly the things you advise to people in terms of achieving that balance?

David: What my wife and I have put together, it’s called Managing Happiness. You’ll find it at Managinghappiness.com. The idea is that you apply business principles to your family life.

We had the idea when I came home after a meeting about roles and responsibilities at MaxCDN. I was sitting on my couch with my daughter and my wife, and my daughter needed a diaper change, and I pointed this out to my wife.

I said, “Hey, did you see Emma had a full diaper?” My wife got a little bit upset that I told her basically to change the diaper and didn’t do it myself. I thought, “Okay, why are we fighting about this? I’m totally happy to do it but I didn’t know it’s my second this turn right now at 8:00 PM on a Tuesday, this is my turn now.”

Then I felt like, “Hey, let’s sit down and talk about our roles and responsibilities in the relationship.”

By doing this, all these unspoken expectations went away and this really eliminates the majority of our friction in the relationship.

Jeroen: Specific to this case, how do you manage this now? Is there somebody responsible for the diapers or is there somebody to take charge of some of your work?

David: She is not in diapers anymore! But we just divide up the areas of responsibility.

Jeroen: Haha, obviously. But you guys obviously split up the work. Right?

David: Yeah. I bring my daughter to school in the morning, my wife picks her up in the evening. During the week, my wife puts my daughter to bed and on the weekends, I put her to bed. It’s just things, and they’re not really set in stone but it’s nice to have a guiding framework so you don’t have discussions about this. Like, “I’m tired, I don’t want to do it.” She’s like, “Okay. It’s my task, I’ll do it.”

Jeroen: So you have set clear responsibilities. Everybody knows this person does that, the other one does that. You can jump in when there’s an issue or something. Correct?

David: When there’s a need or even if you want to do it then you can do it. Yeah.

Jeroen: But the rest of the time, it runs like a train right?

David: Yeah. Building machines again, that’s the German engineer in me.

Jeroen: You do the same in building companies now?

David: Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s super-important that there are clear roles and responsibilities. Also a clear mission and vision statement for your personal life and for your business, or clear core values.

Every time when you want to make a big decision, it makes sense to run through your mission, vision and your core values to see if it is in line with what you want to do or who you want to be. That makes it much easier to say no to things. I have a really hard time saying no.

I always want to help and I always want to do everything, and I always see tons of opportunity everywhere. But by doing this, it makes it much easier to say, “Thank you for the offer but I’m not interested because it’s not in line with what I want to do.”

Jeroen: More about work-life balance. What does your day kind of look like and how do you keep things balanced?

David: The word work-life balance, is not ideal because it is always changing. You always have a tug of war between work and life. I think it’s better to call it a work-life integration, and to find ways to how you can integrate your work and your life so it fluidly runs together.

Ideally, you set it up in a way that you don’t really feel the need for and go,”Oh, I need a vacation now.” I think if you’re doing it like this and need a break from your life, then you’re doing something wrong.

So the idea is that you have a holistic view on things. In terms of structuring my days — In the morning, I get up fairly early. I do a quick yoga — meditation routine. Then I bring my daughter to school and then I often go to the gym, have some call. I work from home right now, which was very irritating for me in the beginning because I was always used to having lots of people around me.

The gym is in the hotel, so I just hang out in one of the restaurants in the hotel and have a few calls there. Then, I have lunch and come back, work a little bit from home. Then my daughter comes home and then I have a blocked time where I play with her — like two odd hours.

Because I have a hard time saying no, if you would ask me to schedule this call at 3:00 AM, I’d say, “Yeah sure, let’s do it.” Or even if you want to schedule this call during the time I want to play with my daughter, I would do it as well. So I’m always using Calendly and I have this time split in my calendar. It’s not only much more efficient in terms of finding a time but I protect myself from myself by doing these type of things.

Jeroen: How does it then actually work when you’re a CO or a Founder? Isn’t your job partly to say no to things?

David: Oh yeah. It becomes very easy when you say no to things based on your values and your mission and vision.

Jeroen: Got it.

David: It’s like my tool to always run it through and then it’s very easy to say things like, “Hey, thanks, but no thanks!”

Jeroen: You could apply the same to your life, I guess?

David: Yes, correct. Of course!

Jeroen: “My mission and vision is that I also need to sleep” or something like that.

David: That’s all something. You have to see it in a holistic manner. So when I do my daily planning, I have my roles spelled out — I’m a father, I’m a spouse, I do Task Drive, I am a consultant and I also have to do personal growth and self-care. So when I plan out my day or my week, I always take these things into consideration. I make sure that I don’t say, “Oh, I actually haven’t done anything for personal growth in a while, or self-care, or going to the gym, or working out.” So I’ll make sure that I schedule these things into my day or my week.

If I don’t do this, then I focus 100% on work and I forget everything else around me. So this is a very healthy thing for me to always remind myself, like, “Okay, I have to do these things as well to stay productive, healthy and happy.”

Jeroen: I think many entrepreneurs have the same issue. Because you’re working for a passion, you’re very involved into what you do. I remember before I was building my own business, that I could very easily flick the switch at a certain time and forget about work. But that’s not really the same anymore since I am now in business.

David: It never really stops!

In this regard, what helps me, is to leave the distractors away. Like not to have my phone when I want to spend quality time with my wife or my daughter. Because if I have my phone, and I get a Slack message or something, my brain drifts full force back to work and thinking about solving this issue or whatever it is. But I want to be present with my family at that moment. Spend quality time with people.

This is something that helps me to keep these things away, or when I spend time with my wife, we often go to the gym together or we go for a run and do yoga together. Because after you exercise, your mind is kind of clean. It’s easier to spend quality time together then.

Jeroen: It’s true. I also just started running again and you can really feel the difference of exercise and then the time you have after that. It’s really nice.

David: Also, I have the best ideas or I solve the most issues while running or after yoga when my mind is completely relaxed, in free flow state. For me, it’s really necessary to solve hard issues.

Jeroen: You mentioned you’re located in Bodrum in Turkey now. Are you then working remotely for Task Drive or how does that work?

David: Yeah, we work remotely. We have an office in the Ukraine, an office in India and also a few people in Serbia. For clients and for conferences, I travel to DS on a regular basis.

Jeroen: Sorry, you are basically doing everything remotely, alone, from Turkey?

David: Yes, correct. I mean nowadays with video calls that doesn’t really matter.

Jeroen: Yeah, true.

David: With MaxCDN, we also had an office in Belgrade, Serbia, one in the Philippines, headquartered in LA, and also an office in Vegas and a team in the Philippines. It doesn’t really matter where people are anymore!

Jeroen: Are there any other startups in Bodrum or is it just you on the beach?

David: It’s just me on the beach. I haven’t found anything!

There are some guys who are into Bitcoin mining and stuff like that, but no real startups. Only in the summertime, you see a lot of wealthy Turkish families here. So in the summers, lots of entrepreneurs come over and in Istanbul, there’s quite a startup scene.

Jeroen: Cool. Wrapping up a bit now. What’s the latest good book you read and why did you choose to read it? You told me already about Conscious Capitalism. Is there any other one?

David: I don’t read books anymore, I only listen to them.

Jeroen: So which one did you listen to?

David: I just re-listened to ‘The Four Agreements’, which is on the top three list of the books that influenced me the most in my life. I highly recommend it!

Jeroen: And why is that?

David: The Four Agreements talks about the agreements that you make with yourself. They have an example in the book in the beginning. A mother comes home from work, had a terrible day at work, has a crazy migraine and her daughter is jumping on the bed and singing and the singing makes her migraine goes worse. She loses her cool and yells at her like, “You have a terrible voice, nobody wants to hear you sing, stop singing.”

And then this girl makes this agreement with herself that she has a bad voice and never sings again; even has a hard time speaking up in public. It’s because she has made this agreement with herself. Same thing if you make a disagreement with yourself like, “Hey, I can’t be good with numbers, I can’t do this or I can’t do that,” then it sticks with you.

My favorite quote by Henry Ford is, “Whether you think you can do it and whether you think you can not do it, both times you’re right.”

So I think it’s a really big mindset thing. And another aspect in the book with the agreements, is that often we have conflicting agreements in our minds. For example, I want to be the world’s best dad and I also want to be the world’s best entrepreneur. These things don’t fly together and you’ll always have conflict in your mind.

If you come to terms with what you actually want to do, then everything becomes much easier. It’s a very short book but it’s really, really packed with amazing personal development tips. So I highly recommend it.

Jeroen: Nice. If you were to start over as an entrepreneur, what would you have done differently?

David: I would have implemented traction, that’s another book I recommended before. The US entrepreneur operating system, I would implement this as soon as humanly possible in every business.

Jeroen: What is the main premise of Traction?

David: It’s a whole system on how to run your business, how to run meetings, how to define mission, vision values, how to pick the right people for the right seats, et cetera. So it’s like a holistic view of running a business.

Jeroen: Right. Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you ever got?

David: It’s going to sound very hippie but my yoga teacher once said that every decision you make in life, you either make out of love or out of fear.

If you make decisions out of love, you’re on the right track. If you make them out of fear, you’re on the wrong track. For example, let’s say in sales, I want to sell you a product. If I sell it out of love, then I sell it because I know it’s a good product and I know that this product solves the issues. That it’s good for you! Then you will feel my intention is I’m selling out of love and you’re more likely going to buy it. It’s going to be very easy to sell that way.

Same thing we talked about before you recorded, we talked about being insured. If you act out of fear, you’ll always get locked. If you act out of love, then things become much easier. Back to the sales example, if I sell out of fear and my motivation of selling is because I want to make the money to pay my mortgage or my VP of sales holds me accountable to hit certain numbers.

If this is the motivation behind why I’m selling this, then you will sell out of fear and the other person will also feel this. Then selling will become much harder.

Or back to the introvert thing. If you have to give a presentation and you give this presentation out of fear, you’re going to deliver a very shitty presentation. If your predominant thought in your mind is fear, then you think about how I’m perceived, what do people think about me, et cetera.

But if you turned around and you do this presentation out of love, because the things that you’re going to tell this audience will help this audience to do things better, then it becomes a whole different ball game and you can actually deliver a much better presentation.

Jeroen: Cool. That’s actually a great advice!

David: That’s my best advice to everyone out there.

Jeroen: Well, and that’s all I had to ask. Thank you again David for being on Founder Coffee.

David: Thank you for having me. It was fun!

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Jeroen Corthout