Spotlight On: Ross Chaldecott, Kinde
Ross Chaldecott is a tech entrepreneur and co-founder of Kinde. He sat down with us to share his insights on how working for some of the world's great companies led to being a founder and why Kinde's mission is grounded in helping people be better founders.
With over 10 years of experience in technology startups, Ross has seen firsthand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to driving success. Read on to learn more from his extraordinary founder journey so far.
Blackbird: Pre-Kinde, you (and your co-founders) worked for some global names in startups. What were the biggest lessons you learned there, and did you always plan to build your own company?
Ross Chaldecott: We’ve been very fortunate to have worked at great companies like Shopify, Atlassian and Campaign Monitor. When you work in those places, you get to see how world-changing products and cultures are made and how the best-performing teams treat each other.
Kinde’s values are, in some ways, an attempt to distil the essence of those great cultures.You can read through our values on our website, but there are a few key points that I believe are critical in creating a truly high-performance trust culture:
- Autonomy and Alignment - Making sure that every one of your people understands what you are trying to achieve as a company and how that ladders up to success is critical.
- Ownership mentality - Making them owners, literally giving them shares in the company, transforming how people think and make decisions.
- Build for customers first - If you don’t keep customers front and centre in everything that you do, then you’re never going to succeed.
- You don’t have to know all the answers. But you have to know how to learn - The best people I’ve ever worked with have been incredible learners.
- It’s okay to have fun - probably most important of all, is if we forget to have fun along the way, then what really was the point?
I started as a founder and always intended to return. It took me a long time to get back to it with an idea that was worth investing time into. It also took a long time to learn what great leadership looks like and how it works.
I aim to be even half as effective as some of the leaders I’ve had the opportunity to work with in the past. Kinde feels like a natural full rotation through being a founder and now circling back – with a lot more experience – to solving the problems I experienced the first time around.
Blackbird: Having worked with both of your co-founders previously, was it a moment of ‘when you know you know’, or did you realise you wanted to build something together over time?
Ross Chaldecott: I discovered through my career that the infrastructure of the internet was fundamentally broken. When you look at basically every startup, they all go and build the same core infrastructure pieces: Authentication, Feature Flagging and Experimentation, and Billing. Without fail. Because these are the basic building blocks of any SaaS system, only once you have these in place can you actually start building a product?
The trouble is, building those systems takes founder time away from actually building the value of your product – you’re just building a commodity. And so infrastructure becomes one of the biggest killers of speed to market for startups.
Both my co-founders had joined a small startup but were also tinkering away on the side with parts of what later became Kinde. They had noticed a lot of the same problems in the world and had started working on how to build a better version of auth.
So by chance, I reached out just to see if they had any interest in doing something together. We got talking and realised we were all on the same path. And the rest is kind of history.
Blackbird: We love Kinde’s mission of ‘creating a world with more founders’ How have your previous experiences led to this ambition?
Ross Chaldecott: At the heart of it, founders are the people who evolve humanity. They push us as a society and a culture forward. True innovation very rarely comes out of big businesses.
Incidentally, there are always exceptions. Founders, in my mind, are not just people who start companies. They are just as often to be found making huge changes in existing businesses. Places like Atlassian and Shopify are really great at fostering that entrepreneurial mindset.
At Kinde, we discuss this idea as creating abundance in the world. The way we see it is if we can all come at things with a mindset of there being enough for all of us, then we will all live abundant lives and not compete with each other as if resources were scarce. This will be self-fulfilling and grow us as a society. The name Kinde literally comes from this idea. That creating more abundance in the world is, quite literally, the kindest thing we can do (I’ve had to ban puns about the name Kinde but sometimes it’s important to use them to explain this one).
But entrepreneurship is also one of the hardest things you can ever do. A lot of the reason Kinde exists is the realisation that starting companies, especially SaaS companies, is fucking hard. So anything we can do to help people on their journey will hopefully make an impact.
Blackbird: Cybersecurity is having a real moment (for good reason). Can you give us more information on the importance that Kinde’s two-factor authentication can have?
Ross Chaldecott: Great security is critical in every business. I would even go so far as to say it should be a baseline requirement of running a business. If you are planning to handle people’s personal information, you’ve got to have your shit together. You have to make that investment.
Until recently, people haven’t taken it all that seriously, so we have started to see these high-profile hacks happening. The cost is high if you get compromised: the average cost of a data breach in 2021 was $4.24m. That’s not factoring in the human lives impacted. The knock-on effect of a breach the size of, say, Uber is exponential.
The hard part is that 77% of all data breaches involve stolen or compromised details. That means humans. 84% come from password breaches. Passwords are the worst and most easily compromised part of every security chain. The next biggest attack vector is social engineering attacks. This is what you saw with the Uber attack. To some extent, this is a problem that can be helped with appropriate training. But people make mistakes. Businesses need to own that responsibility and understand how they can take as much of that problem on themselves as possible – securing both their team and their customer’s data.
Multi-factor (MFA) and Two-factor Auth (2FA) are really critical first levels of this defensive layer. Think of them as extra protection on top of passwords. Every time you log into a system with 2FA or MFA turned on, you’re prompted to enter a code from your email, an SMS or an authenticator app (MFA may require more than 2 types of authentication – that’s the difference).
With a system like Kinde, MFA is built in. All a founder needs to do is switch it on. So founders don’t need to think about this, and they can easily protect their team and their customers.
Social auth – signing in with a social provider like Google or Facebook is also a great way to secure things. This offloads the responsibility to existing vendors that people trust and are already used to working with. With Kinde, adding social auth is as simple as clicking a switch to enable it.
Then there’s the second layer of security. And this is where many companies fall down—the social engineering side. There's no point in locking everything down with MFA if a team member is going to be tricked into revealing a unique code. But there are tools that we can employ here to protect things, like role-based access (RBAC), an access strategy that restricts what people can see based on their role and permissions in the system. Kinde natively provides structures to help our customers further restrict who can see what data. This means you don’t have people seeing production data that they shouldn’t have access to (or accidentally changing customer details in production).
You have to combine all of these pieces to create a really strong security strategy. Unfortunately, we see many people (especially early founders) trying to build their own. That’s a mistake. It seems like a saving at the time. But there’s a lot more detail to auth than at first appears on the surface – and wouldn’t you be better off outsourcing that development in favour of focusing on your product? You’re also not actually paying for the software. You’re paying for the security, the protection, and the long-term maintenance.
We should all really be demanding that every software vendor we use is properly certified and safe. At Kinde, we’re in the process of building a free security guide to help you get better at knowing how to protect your customers and your team. That’ll be on our website soon.
Blackbird: It feels like the audience for Kinde could potentially be anyone. How do you and your co-founders decide where to focus? Any lessons for other B2B founders facing a similar situation?
Ross Chaldecott: There are really two parts to that first question. There’s the product part and the GTM part.
If you’ve followed Kinde for a while, you will have seen us discussing building a product combining Auth, Feature Flagging and Billing that gives founders everything they need in one place. Our product vision has always been, to build out a single SaaS infrastructure platform that will revolutionise the industry. Now, as you can imagine, that’s a time and resource-hungry initiative. A big part of the reason for raising a huge Seed round.
So we have to find ways to make that manageable. One is to build in stages. We started with Auth - because people need to get their users into the system before they can do anything else. We’re now also working on Feature Flagging and Billing. But within that, we don’t try to build everything simultaneously. That would be impossible. Instead, we look at the whole and ask 2 questions.
- What do most people need most of the time? If you’re trying to build a horizontal platform, then you can’t be the deepest vertical vendor in every part of that. You have to build the bits that most of your customers will all need, which involves being pretty ruthless about removing things and really great at listening to customers to find out what they need.
- Where are we uniquely positioned to add value? There’s a bit of an unfair advantage to being a compound product. We get to build for the gaps where the other products end. This is a massive advantage because we have a wealth of knowledge about customers, usage and purchase that other single products can’t have.
We find that if we look at everything we build through that lens - it tends to highlight the things that are most worth doing.
Building anything really well takes an incredible amount of time, and often there are no real shortcuts. Our auth offering is amazing and widely loved because it’s a full-featured auth offering that competes directly with mainstays like Auth0 - at a fraction of the cost.
The GTM part gets really interesting. We see founders from every industry using Kinde. So it took us a while to figure out how to target them. It took us a while to realise that our segment has nothing to do with industry and much more to do with stage, role and company size.
The reality is that we don’t have the full compound product ready for use just yet (although it’s close). So we deeply focus on what we do have. And that is one of the most powerful auth platforms in the world.
Blackbird: Finally, what most excites you about the future of Kinde?
Ross Chaldecott: The first thing, without a doubt, is our team. I get the privilege of working together with the most amazing people. The vast majority of the success of Kinde is down to the team that we have, and I am thankful for the superhuman effort they put in every day.
The second thing is the product that we are building. Creating something that will become the infrastructure for millions of founders and part of the internet's underpinnings. That’s a pretty exciting thing to build. And so, returning to our purpose of creating a world with more founders, it feels like we’re doing something pretty worth doing. And that’s exciting to me.
Your spotlight on:
- A book that is worth reading or a film you loved:
So many, but everyone should read The Hard Thing About Hard Things and Shoe Dog
- A podcast you never miss or your favourite music album:
I’m a huge lover of film soundtracks so many come to mind: Guardians of the Galaxy, About Time, Walter Mitty, Benjamin Button, Interstellar, Baby Driver. All incredible compilations or scores tell their own stories
- The last great article you read:
Mike Cannon-Brookes on how he learns and makes decisions
The View From the Top with Fleet Space
Fleet’s mission is to connect everything on Earth via sending toaster sized satellites into low Earth orbit.