Lynn LeBlanc is the CEO and Founder of HotLink, an award-winning startup in the virtualization and hybrid cloud space. In her 25-year career in enterprise software and technology, Lynn has worked with Fortune 500 companies and Silicon Valley startups, and cultivated a track record of bringing emerging technologies to market and seeing businesses through successful exits. Prior to founding HotLink, Lynn was CEO and founder of FastScale Technology, which was acquired by VMware in 2009.
Q: What does entrepreneurship mean to you, and what makes for a successful entrepreneur?
A: For me, entrepreneurship is the entire process of starting with a blank canvas and creating something that is unique, relevant to your industry and commercially viable. Through all the twists, turns, ups and downs, successful entrepreneurs are those who are able to assemble all the puzzle pieces together to ultimately create a profitable company and/or produce a financially beneficial exit. This process typically takes many years, and the outcome is never clear or certain. True entrepreneurs have the tenacity and drive to sustain their energy level and motivate their teams over the long term, despite the many obstacles and inevitable setbacks. While the science of business can be taught, that entrepreneurial drive is much more personality-based.
Q: What drives you and your team at HotLink?
A: HotLink is on a mission to dramatically simplify hybrid IT management complexity through the power of our patented transformation technology. HotLink commercialized the first open, enterprise-class, interoperability and integration platform with fully automated transformation, so enterprises can easily mix and match their choice of virtual infrastructures, whether on-premise or in the cloud.
Q: What led you to launch a company in this space, meeting this particular industry need?
A: This is my second company focused on hybrid IT. My last company, FastScale Technology, was acquired by EMC/VMware in 2009. Most members of the HotLink team have backgrounds in enterprise software, and over the years we have consistently seen the integration and management challenges large data centers face when deploying disparate platforms. This problem is accelerating with the mix of various on-premise virtual platforms, such as VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V, and cloud-based solutions, like Amazon Web Services. This year, industry analysts project that 74 percent of enterprises are pursuing hybrid IT roadmaps, so HotLink's decision in 2010 to focus on unique technologies to address the management challenges of hybrid IT is proving to be a very strategic and effective choice.
Q: Tell us about an instance where you had to go against the flow to realize your goal.
A: I am pretty sure I have been going "against the flow" for most of my career, so it's tough to pick a single instance. However, I have often sought out the business problems that others avoided and turned those into opportunities to excel. Anytime I heard multiple customers expressing frustration with the status quo, I looked for how to potentially fill that gap with a technology solution. A good number of those opportunities resulted in new lines of business or entirely new companies. Whether at a Fortune 500 company or a startup, targeting unresolved customer issues has consistently paid dividends for me.
Q: What are you most proud of in your professional career?
A: I have been fortunate to work with some exceptionally talented people during my career. A number of these people have now worked with me at multiple companies. The fruits of our collective labor have produced life-changing outcomes for many, both financially and professionally. Moreover, I have gained some true and loyal friends. Along the way, we faced many challenges that seemed insurmountable at the time. However, when you are able to cultivate a talented team with a strong work ethic and mutual trust, the possibilities are almost unlimited, and the end result leads to very proud and satisfying moments.
Q: If you could do something over in your life, what would it be?
A: I don't believe in looking back. My path has always been to set goals and put everything I have into achieving them. At every juncture, I believe I made the best decision given the information I had at the time. With different information, who knows what choices I would have made differently? Having said that, I certainly learned life lessons along the way. Rather than regretting the past, I believe applying these lessons to the future is the best way to put them to use.
Q: If you were to give advice to your 22 year old self, what would it be?
A: I was very fortunate to grow up in an entrepreneurial household and unknowingly internalized a few lessons that I would reinforce to any 22-year-old. First off, a strong work ethic can overcome almost any challenge. Business success takes a sustained commitment over a long period of time, and having the tenacity to power through all the obstacles is a prerequisite to large-scale success. Secondly, I would advise young adults to think really hard about their top priority. If it's life as an entrepreneur, keep the rest of your life as simple as possible to avoid being spread too thin. Finally, be diligent in seeking out like-minded teammates with complementary skills. Ultimately, you will need a strong team you can trust if you want to build a company from the ground up.