Everyone likes an underdog.
The “miracle on ice” of the 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team. The 199th draft pick, Tom Brady, won his first of seven Super Bowls just two years after the draft. Daniel “Karate Kid” LaRusso beat his rival Cobra Kai.
All of these are compelling, famous stories of underdogs.
However, an underdog that might not immediately come to mind for most is also incredibly common: every bestselling novel.
The likelihood of a novel becoming a bestseller is pretty grim. It’s more likely that someone would be struck by lightning twice or win the lottery than write a best-selling novel. No matter how compelling the characters are, to create a bestseller takes the perfect combination of storytelling and timing.
For Wasabi Technologies, a hot cloud storage company, the perfect timing and story are happening right now.
“Wasabi’s exponential growth continues to skyrocket; this includes becoming a member of an elite group of companies that have achieved ‘unicorn’ status,” said Chief Marketing Officer Michael Welts. “It’s time to write the next great chapter of our book.”
In May 2023, just a year after leaving his role as Chief Marketing Officer of Wasabi — a post he had since 2017 — Welts felt a pull to come back to the burgeoning tech company.
“I felt a magnetic force drawing me to return and continue the dream that started in 2016,” said Welts. “Wasabi is a truly special place to work where we feel valued — enjoy collaborating with colleagues who are not just great at what they do, but are good people and truly like going to work.”
For Welts, what sets Wasabi apart is the team culture and collective efforts of each individual.
“Our culture starts at the top of the organization, so every member feels invested, engaged and is eager to contribute to the company’s overall brand purpose: becoming the world’s best storage company,” he notes. “It’s that common bond of ‘bleeding green’ that brought me back to Wasabi with a clarity of purpose and to finish what we started together.”
Built In sat down with Welts to hear more about the Wasabi story and how he is helping make it a bestseller.
I view each and every one on my team as a partner in building the business. I don’t see people as resources or employees. Instead, I see them as architects, contributors, and builders of the business. My role is to provide a vision point and a strategy for reaching that vision. Each team member plays an important and unique role in contributing to that vision.
I employ what I call the “16 Wasabi Marketing Mantras,” a guideline for how to build and operate as individuals and exceed as a team. The mantras philosophy is based on a leadership and culture technique used by the world-renowned All Blacks rugby team in New Zealand (the winningest sports franchise). In these mantras, I speak of the importance of building your personal brand, having an opinion and mastering your own playbook. Execution starts with a vision, plan and setting clear expectations. Mastering the “Three Es of Excellence” — efficiency, effectiveness and execution — is key to optimizing and refining your playbook. The key is to identify patterns of success that create predictability and repeatability to execute at greater velocity.
Rinse. Repeat. Reach Higher.
What is the employee value proposition for those thinking about joining your company?
The value proposition is simple: This is a new adventure where opportunity abounds, and the book is still in its early chapters of being written. If you’re looking for an opportunity to create, contribute and control your future, Wasabi is the company for you. We provide a high-performance culture for people who want to challenge themselves to become and achieve greatness as individuals, as a team and as a company.
“This is a new adventure where opportunity abounds, and the book is still in its early chapters of being written.”
Think of Wasabi as a painter’s palette. This is your opportunity to paint your vision and fill it with the most vibrant colors and landscapes imaginable. What more can someone want? A growing company in a generational market. A market that is quite literally a bottomless cloud. The opportunity to be able to say that you were one of the people who helped to build the world’s next great technology company and a recognized global leader in your category, that will write the path for someone’s career opportunities.
How do you build team culture?
My philosophy is to create a high-performance culture to make Wasabi’s marketing team a lean, mean marketing machine. I believe that culture begins with leadership and how we act as a leadership team. I operate with full transparency with my team. At Wasabi, transparency begins with strong internal communications and a commitment to always providing a lens into the business, its opportunities, challenges and strategies for growth.
We lead from the bottom up as a management team, meaning that we empower our teams to do what they know best and to manage upward under one common vision that cascades from the very top of the company. This approach provides for greater productivity and scale as an organization and removes the bottlenecks of leaders needing to be involved in every conversation and decision. Self-awareness, confidence and competence are keys to success in this management approach.
“We lead from the bottom-up as a management team, meaning that we empower our teams to do what they know best and to manage upward under one common vision.”
Wasabi has an incredibly talented and accomplished team. We practice humility as a culture, emphasizing that no one person is superior to another, and that a team wins every time over an individual.
How do you help your team grow their careers? What tools and support do you offer to allow them to stretch their skills?
At every level of the organization, I encourage and require a vision point for the person’s career. What’s their vision of where they’re going? How can we merge their vision with our team and company’s goals?
I use the SWOT technique but instead of the traditional “threats” quadrant, I call it the “tomorrow” quadrant, focusing on where they want to go in the long term and how they see their career progressing along that path. Each of the other quadrants apply to where their current role sits in terms of what’s working, what’s not and opportunities for improvement or accelerating results, but the “tomorrow” quadrant is where the individual gets to see the future and what it will take to reach their personal goals.
I try to remind my team that they should constantly be building their own brand, and that branding is a daily behavior at every level. I believe that everything you do represents your brand — as a person, product and company. I ask them to define their purpose, audience and value proposition and why they matter. I believe brand equity is a lifelong investment that needs constant reflection, revisiting and reminding.
“I believe that everything you do represents your brand — as a person, product and company.”
What are you most excited about accomplishing with your team in the next year?
I call it the 10x factor. As a business, we’ve proven that we can compete with the big dogs and win consistently 90+ percent of the time. So, how do we take that proven formula and scale it to the next level? What does 10x look like from a marketing standpoint? What is required to achieve 10x? How will we make it happen? How soon can we make it happen?
I’m a huge believer in defining moments. Whether those moments are in your personal life or in your career. We are at a defining moment at Wasabi. The great migration from on-prem to cloud is in full motion, yet it’s still nascent. Nobody thought we could compete with the likes of AWS, Google or Microsoft when we started yet, seven years later, we are becoming the de facto multi-cloud storage solution player in the market. We have built the industry’s only pure-play cloud storage company and are on a mission to store the world’s data.
“I’m a huge believer in defining moments. Whether those moments are in your personal life or in your career. We are at a defining moment at Wasabi.”
As for me personally, I’m re-approaching my role as CMO with a growth mindset of 10x-ing the business. This is our time. The mission has never been clearer. The opportunity has never been greater.