This week Nabeel and Phillip had the pleasure of speaking with Grant Kirkwood, a serial entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience building and operating both networks and companies. Kirkwood currently serves as the CEO of Contrivian, a new Cloud Service Provider (CSP) focused on transforming the enterprise experience of finding and utilizing connectivity services. Kirkwood joined from north of San Francisco, California to discuss his experience that spans multiple startups, technology evolution, and much more.

After seeing what technology was capable of for communication and learning in the early 1990’s, Kirkwood decided to join the industry himself. He shared that, though he came from a family of scholars, his learning came from real-life experiences and immersing himself in the booming industry of digital infrastructure.

“Everything I’ve learned has been from running companies, working for companies, learning from people, no formal education at all.”

Kirkwood continuously emphasizes the importance of prioritizing and appreciating the people in a business because, at the end of the day, the people matter most. He believes that while technology is an important piece of the puzzle, having an amazing team is what allows a company to do amazing things.

“Ultimately, it’s people that matter. Yes, you have to solve technical challenges, but I spend most of my time thinking about how to enable a really high performing team to do great things.”

Learning from within from the beginning of his career, Kirkwood discovered the value of listening to the smartest people in the room as opposed to trying to be the smartest person in the room. As a result, he acquired mentors, one of which taught him the importance of communication.

“The biggest thing that I learned from him is to just communicate to people. These are the facts and you don’t need to sugar coat things. You don’t need to hide the hard things so that people don’t worry.”

Kirkwood gained experience with data centers and the technology space early on in life, learning from within the industry, and breaking things to understand how they work, allowing him to develop a unique perspective that he brings to the table today. While the digital infrastructure looks very different now than it did when Kirkwood started his first business in 1996, he is always thinking about people, the team, and how he can create the best culture possible in his business before technology.

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