Accel Portfolio Days

Accel Portfolio Company Days are quarterly workshops during which we open our doors and invite entrepreneurs and experts within our network to roll up their sleeves and dive into a specific theme. They are designed to help our portfolio companies share and discuss best practices with entrepreneurs in similar functional roles at other companies.

“Big Data” and “sales strategy” seemed like obvious topic selections for Accel’s first two Portfolio Company Days of 2013.  Both themes are of critical importance to companies—Big Data is enabling entrepreneurs to build product and analytical experiences that are more personalized and valuable than ever before, while competitive sales strategies underpin today’s enterprise software revolution. Both topics also happen to be rather en vogue.

Yet web performance optimization may have the broadest and most profound impact of all issues facing today’s technology companies. In a world that is web-first (and increasingly mobile-first) the initial touch point between consumer and brand almost always occurs online, and the importance of perfecting that first interaction has lasting implications for a user’s ongoing perception of the brand. Operationally, enhanced site speed dramatically saves server capacity (reducing hardware costs) while also improving search rankings and minimizing abandonment rates (increasing revenue). Web Performance Optimization is not simply a technical detail; it is a company-wide priority that merits innovation and ongoing attention.

With that in mind we recently gathered technical teams from around the Accel family at StumbleUpon’s vibrant and open office space in San Francisco, to collaborate with some of the world’s leading performance experts on ways to improve front-end latency.

Our program was headlined by Steve Souders, Head Performance Engineer at Google (as well as author, professor, co-host of the Velocity Conference, creator of popular open source testing tools and services—truly a guru in this area). In Steve’s morning remarks, he shared best practices with the group and offered supporting data to quantify the business impact of web latency.  As he succinctly put it, "when the web slows down, business slows down."

To illuminate the point, Steve offered some notable examples:

  • Netflix saved “six figures per month” by turning compression on and cutting outbound traffic from its data center in half.  
  • Edmunds.com similarly cut traffic to its CDN by 34% simply by adding an expires header. 

Steve’s morning talk was followed by a mobile-focused panel on “Optimization in the Age of Fragmentation.”  We were fortunate to be joined by experts driving mobile strategies for some of the internet’s leading e-commerce and digital media innovators:

  • Brady Archambo from Tiny Speck
  • Jeremy Edberg from Netflix (and previously Reddit),
  • Jonathan Klein from Etsy
  • James Pearce from Facebook 

Our panelists drew from their very different backgrounds across companies of all sizes to explore the nuances of mobile optimization, compare metrics and KPIs, and underscore the complexity of perfecting the user experience across devices, operating systems, and networks.  Best of all, each panelist offered his top five tips and fielded questions from an audience representing 25+ companies.             

Steve returned to conclude our workshop with a live performance analysis, providing real-time feedback on the site performance of many of our attendees.  It was interactive, engaging and full of insight—a perfect way to wrap up a productive morning.  

We felt incredibly lucky to be joined by so many entrepreneurs and technical teams from around our portfolio, and of course are thankful to Steve, Brady, Jeremy, Jonathan and James for sharing their perspectives with us.  We’re already looking forward to our next Portfolio Day--stay tuned for more info on that.