CEO, Akamai Technologies
No. 1 on Business 2.0's list of the 100 fastest-growing technology companies
When you download a song from iTunes, stream a video on MTV.com, or watch a newsreel on Yahoo, Akamai is working behind the scenes to make sure the audio and video arrives at your computer without a hiccup. CEO Paul Sagan talks about the company and how it took inspiration from the tragic death of cofounder Danny Lewin in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
On Akamai's academic roots: Akamai was about a big idea. The original founders wanted to make the Internet work for business. The Internet was designed for e-mail to small groups. People were trying to use the Internet for something it was not designed for, such as real-time commerce and entertainment. The Internet's simply not built to do video. Akamai wanted to see if it could use some very esoteric math and ideas of distributed computing to make the Internet reliable and scalable, given all of its weaknesses, by overlaying this technology we've developed.
On benefitting from the broadband revolution: We got to a magic number, a tipping point, some tens of millions of homes with cable or DSL connections about 18 months ago. Those people started to listen to Internet radio, download songs, watch video. And when that happened, it really drove a lot of demand for what we do because we make those things work so much better. We've always done well, outside of the near-meltdown after the bubble. But what really pushed our growth was this proliferation of broadband to the home.
On the loss of cofounder Danny Lewin on 9/11: It was a horrible tragedy, him among many that day. He attracted a lot of really smart people, many of whom are still here, to the company, and we really understood what his vision was. We were determined, in many ways more so after 9/11, to see it played out. A lot of people told us we should just sell the company for scrap and give up. Everybody was damn determined to prove Danny right, and not give up, if for no other reason than his memory, because it would have just been like rolling over. He was the most competitive person I ever met.