Dyn Interview Written by Sandeep Goel
Alumni of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) are known to be prepared for life after school. Some go into the private sector, some the public sector; some pursue higher education like medical school, law school or MBA. Tom Daly, a Class of 2004 ECE major, and Jeremy Hitchcock, a Class of 2004 MIS major, went in a different direction. They started their own company, Dynamic Network Services (aka “Dyn” and pronounced dine). Executives Tom Daly, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and Cory von Wallenstein, Chief Product Officer (CPO) and a Class of 2004 ECE major, were interviewed about their experiences at WPI and what has made them successful entrepreneurs.
Dyn was founded in 1998 by two WPI alumni, Tom and Jeremy, Chief Executive Officer (CEO). What started as students just trying to logon from off-campus to turn in homework assignments has blossomed into a Dynamic Networking Services Company. Since the founding, Dyn has expanded its services to become an Internet Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) leader.
Cory always has enjoyed building things. After learning software development in high school and starting a software development and hosting company, he came to WPI to learn the Electrical Engineering side of things. After learning what is “under the hood” of computers, he decided that he wanted to go back to building things on the software side. Later, he joined the company that Jeremy and Tom had founded. His passion is to be a “part of an organization that tackles bigger and bigger problems whether it’s hardware or software.”
Tom comes from an entrepreneurial family with his father owning his own restaurant and running logistics companies. He has aunts and uncles who have their own businesses. While at WPI, he worked with an internet service provider (ISP) in New Hampshire and was the founder’s right hand man. This is where he learned about the internet, knowledge that he brought to Dyn to kick the company off the ground. One of Tom’s passions is the internet which he feels should be accessible to everyone ubiquitously regardless of location.
With academic projects being a core component to the WPI curriculum, it was important to find out what Cory and Tom had done for their projects as well as how they felt it had benefitted them by participating in such projects.
For his IQP, which is usually completed as a junior at WPI, Tom was a student at the project center in Zurich, Switzerland. For the project, which is the social application of technology, he studied industrial architecture throughout the country. For his deliverable, his team created a website (www.industrial-heritage.ch) that displayed catalogued architecture from across Switzerland. His MQP, which is usually performed as a senior at WPI, was to design and build a third octave audio equalizer. From this project, he learned black box integration and black box testing. The usefulness of this project was learning how to get systems that were never meant to talk with one another and get them communicating.
Cory did his IQP at an Assabet Valley Vocational Tech High School. His team’s task was to design an electronics computer engineering curriculum to get the kids excited about math and science. They used robots as the vehicle to teach the math, science, and engineering to the children. His MQP was done at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. His team worked on next generation weather satellite hardware. His takeaway from the entire project curriculum was problem solving. It didn’t matter what type of problems he was faced with, the project experiences helped him discover how to deal with it.
Both Cory and Tom were ECE Majors at WPI who took a Capstone Design class which taught them the essentials in creating a product, like market research, identifying a customer base, setting pricing, designing a system, testing, QA, validation, and accounting. This helped set them up for the future of creating products like Dynamic DNS at Dyn. This design class has given them an entrepreneurial spirit to start a company.
There are two ways to come into a market, “first to the market as a disrupter or come behind and do it better.” Dynamic DNS, which was their first offering, came as a disruptive technology that started because students “didn’t want to go up to campus computer labs to turn in their homework so they did it remotely using Dynamic DNS.” This was before WIFI had been introduced and the campus was all networked via Local Area Network (LAN). “Traditional Managed DNS has been around for as long as the internet, offered by a users’ ISP”. Dyn improved the existing technology to create a better product by offering its services through a better web user interface with security controls and ways to help a user improve their website through features such as advanced traffic management. Dyn has been “a company that has been first-to-market and disrupter in some cases and a better than everyone else in others.”
With their free time, they give back to WPI by volunteering their time giving guest lectures, judging class projects and making presentations to the students in the Electrical Engineering Department and in the School of Business. They also keep in touch with WPI faculty and collaborate on projects as they see fit. The latest being the User Experience and Decision Making (UXDM) Research Laboratory which was made possible through a generous gift from Dyn. Dyn approached Professor Soussan Djamasbi, Director of the UXDM lab, with an MQP idea about usability in 2008. After four years of research, the idea has come to fruition. Recently the UXDM celebrated its Grand Opening, showing off its eye tracking capabilities to the public. Being an innovative company Dyn believes in basic research as a primary driver of innovation, as evidenced by Dyn’s generous gift to support leading edge research in the UXDM lab. Basic user experience research has a significant social impact because it affects how individuals use the Internet which is considered as an important “social capital”. It also impacts the economy because it has a significant impact on the return on investment of many firms. As Dyn aptly put it: “having usable-interfaces and understanding how a user interacts with a website can have a huge impact on the bottom-line.” Dyn believes that the knowledge attained from user experience research can make using their product easier for their customers as well as their designers. By supporting the UXDM lab, Dyn helps to share the social and economic value of this research with a larger community.
Dyn’s hopes for the future look bright. They have WPI’s project curriculum and faculty to thank for it. What makes Dyn unique is that they not only look for what the next best thing is, they tackle problems by researching the next best thing while sharing it with a wider audience.