Episode 143: From Marine Corps to Tech Entrepreneur

November 10, 2017
Episode 143: From Marine Corps to Tech Entrepreneur
Episode 143: From Marine Corps to Tech Entrepreneur

Nov 10 2017 |


Show Notes

In honor of Veteran’s Day, Sherry interviews Tony Perez, Co-Founder of Sucuri, about his life as a Marine and how his experiences shaped him as an entrepreneur. They talk about the value of having a clear purpose, channeling intensity, and the overlap between the demands of military life and the demands of founder life. Tony shares about his struggle to return to civilian life, his experience of PTSD and his discomfort with “thank you for your service.”

Episode Transcript

Sherry Walling: Today is Veteran’s Day, so our podcast guest is a former Marine Corps corporal, and one of the co-founders of Sucuri. Tony Perez, and his partners, took a small web-based security company from zero to 12 million dollars in six years. They were recently acquired by GoDaddy and Tony is now the head of the security business organization. In today’s episode, I talk with Tony about his experiences in the Marines, and how that’s shaped who he’s become as an entrepreneur. Part of my philosophy of interviews is people should use whatever language they wish to use to talk about their own lives, so just a heads up to some listeners, that there’s some choice military language in this particular episode. So, if you are listening with small kids or listening in the car, you might want to save this one for a time when grown up language is more appropriate.
  For those of you, like Tony, who have done two very difficult jobs in your life, being both in the military and entrepreneurs, kudos to you. Neither of those activities are easy, and the fact that you have had the energy, passion, and stick to it ness to do both is commendable. So we salute you on this Veteran’s day. A big thanks from ZenFounder.
Sherry Walling: So I am here today talking with Tony Perez, who is the co-founder … Right? Are you co-founder or are you founder, founder?
Tony Perez: No, no, I’m a co-founder, I’m not that lucky to be a founder.
Sherry Walling: Or you are lucky to be a co-founder.
Tony Perez: I am.
Sherry Walling: Because your co-founder is pretty cool.
Tony Perez: That’s right.
Sherry Walling: Anyway, co-founder of Sucuri, which is a business that specializes in internet security. Tony is a former Marine and he is now the head of security business organization at GoDaddy. After exiting earlier this year, in 6 years, he and his team grew Sucuri from zero to 12.5 million dollars, so they’re pretty awesome. He’s pretty successful and he is here talking to me today about his experiences in business, but also his experiences in the Marine Corps.
  So, thanks for being with me, Tony.
Tony Perez: For sure. I’m really excited to be here, doc. Just so you know, I’m going to call you Doc, because that’s what we do in the military, we call our Docs and that’s a term of endearment, so please don’t take it any other way than that.
Sherry Walling: What’s up, Doc? It’s cool.
Tony Perez: I was gonna intro it like, “What’s up, Doc?” But you didn’t give me the opportunity so now I have to kind of add context.
Sherry Walling: Yeah, that makes the joke less funny [crosstalk 00:03:20].
Tony Perez: Yeah, I know, every single time I have to add context, which freaking sucks. So, what’s up, Doc?
Sherry Walling: Well, I want to know what’s up with you? You’ve had this amazing success in the last six years and now this exit and no you’re rocking and rolling in the corporate world, but I would actually really like to talk with you about your experiences in the military and how they shaped the entrepreneur that you’ve become.
  So, first things first, what led you to enlist in the Marine Corps?
Tony Perez: So, as for how I got into the Marine Corps, I’m a first generation immigrant here, so my parents came over from Cuba in the Floatilla, and then my mom came over from Columbia. We didn’t have a lot and I was raised down in South Florida, Miami and I was raised in little Havana. So, for me, my aspirations weren’t very high, I was never around this eco system of people with high aspirations. We were just kind of grinding it out, living life. So when I was around 16, 17 years old, I just didn’t have a lot going for me. I was getting involved in gangs and doing bad things and just things that weren’t necessarily my proudest moments in life. One of my uncles, who is getting married into the family, had gotten out of the Marines.
  He came up to me one day and was like, “You know, man, through life, you have this point in life where you have to make a decision. You have this fork in the road, you either go left or you go right. You’re heading down this path, where you’re gonna get involved, you’re gonna get deeper with gangs, you’re gonna get deeper with drugs, you’ll end up in jail. I will go into your closet right now, I will grab all the clothes you have.” Thankfully, I didn’t have a lot. It was a very small closet, but he says, “I’ll throw everything away and I’ll go buy you new outfits for everything.” He offered that to both my brother and I. My brother was too proud, was like, “No, I’m not gonna do that, fuck that.” Then I said, “Wow, that’s really interesting, I never really had that in my life.” So, I said, “Sure, fuck it, let’s do it. Let’s get some new gear and let’s see what’s up.”
  So, it turned out that he was a Marine. He started talking to me about his time in the Marine Corps and how it changed his life and he was a special operator and it was one of those, “This is for me. This is gonna be what my life is about.”
Sherry Walling: Was there something in particular that made you think, “This is me”?
Tony Perez: No, just the structure, the order. I think it was the purpose. All of a sudden, I felt like there was a purpose. For my country. It just felt like something I couldn’t get my hands around and it was just something that was so much bigger than me, that I was just kind of infatuated with the idea. So, he kinda talked to me and kinda got me engaged with it, next thing you know I’m at the recruiters office. I was trying to drop out of school to go in the Marine Corps. It was like, “This is what I wanna do.” I was what you call a motivator, I was hard charged and ready to go. I’m a very intense guy and it started at a very young age.
Sherry Walling: No one who knows you would ever think that.
Tony Perez: So, I was I don’t know, I just kind of … I was so ready for a change, there was a lot of shit happening in my life growing up and always scraping for stuff and I just wanted to get out of it bad. I just wanted to see something different. So I just kind of went all in, I said, “This is all I got. This is what I’m gonna do.” So I went and talked to the recruiters and I originally signed up to be a grunt. A grunt is what you would call … We call them bullet catchers. These are the guys that they’re carrying rifles and they’re just shooting. I was like, “You know what, that’s fine.” I had a very … I don’t wanna say low self esteem, but it was just kind of … This is what I’m good for. I can catch bullets.
Sherry Walling: You didn’t fight for anything higher for yourself?
Tony Perez: Yeah, right, that was just … I’m cool with that. If I die, my mom gets some money, I’m set. So, I did that but then they wouldn’t let me drop out of school, they said that I needed to finish my senior year, so I did. But then during my senior year, we were playing football and naturally, my approach to life, I ended up tearing my meniscus. That ended up delaying my entry, so at the time, when I was going in, you weren’t able to sign up for their special ops group, 0321, but because of my knee injury, I had to drop backwards. So, my secondary choice had been intelligence. Thankfully, I don’t know how, I ended up getting decent scores on my ASVAB, which is the test you have … It’s kinda like the SATs to go in. I guess I did alright, so when I went to bootcamp, they had us in a line and they’re like, “Perez!” And I’m like, “That’s me!”
  They’re like, “You need to go that way, everybody else go this way.” I was the one out of the whole team that got pulled aside and they’re like, “Okay, you’re gonna go down the intel side.” So you walk down to this door and there’s another group of people in intel and they’re like, “Okay, who had the highest math?” At the time, I had done some calculus and some advanced math, they’re like, “Okay, well you’re gonna go be an 0361.” Which is a geo-spatial intel guy. So I said, “Fuck it, whatever, that’s fine.”
  So I did that. What was interesting is that even when I went in the Marine Corps, there was a lot of struggles that I had to go through in bootcamp. One of the things that they told me early on was like, “The quickest way through bootcamp is to go through bootcamp.” Anything you …
Sherry Walling: Like to just do it.
Tony Perez: Just do it, right. I took that to heart. The reason that was so important was because there’s a lot of guys that try to get out of bootcamp by injuring themselves or doing silly things and what ends up happening is they’ll end up two, three years in bootcamp. It’s horrible. You go into the medical platoon and you’re doing all this stupid stuff and you’re picking up trash. It’s just horrible. So I just could not allow that to happen. I just couldn’t fail. So why that’s important to know is that at the time, I was still recovering from my knee. Well, me and one of my DIs, we just kinda butted heads a little bit. So he found out that I had a knee injury, then he would make me do squats and he would make me do duck walks up and down. He’d rough me up with my pack and I’d have to go up and down the halls. He’d have be running, he’d have me in the pit. Just anything to do to get me to drop out. Then my knee would swell up every night, so every night I’d be laying there with my knee swollen, lifted. Then at three in the morning, he’d come hollering at me, getting me out of the rack, tossing my stuff, just getting me to work more.
  Then it so happened that in bootcamp, you gotta go through to do all your medical. They ended up wanting to pull my wisdom teeth. You don’t have much of a choice in bootcamp. So they pulled my wisdom teeth. The problem is they have a lot of student doctors coming through the place, so they’re clamping on my wisdom and they’re yanking on it. They’ve got a lady holding my head down, the other person with the pliers and they’re just pulling on the crap. I’m like, “What the fuck is going on right now?” So they pull it out. Lo and behold, it gets infected. The whole back of my mouth spreads open and I get these huge … If you had video you’d be able to see, these big balloons. It looked like I had mumps or whatever it’s called right in my jaw.
Sherry Walling: Oh my god, that’s terrible.
Tony Perez: Yeah it was horrible. So again, my DI is like, “You’re gonna drop out. You’re gonna drop out.” I just refused. I could not talk. But then they would want me to scream the responses back. It was just oh my god, but I just refused. All I could remember was what they told me going in like, “The quickest way out is just to go through it.” So there I am with my bum knee, and my busted mouth and they’re giving me like 800 milligrams of Motrin, whenever they get around to giving it to me. Because you can’t have the meds yourself, you have to go to your DI, you have to knock on the door. I’d be like, “My knees … my mouth is hurting.”
Sherry Walling: Please give me drugs. So you had to fight really hard just to get in and stay in, from the very beginning.
Tony Perez: Yeah, I was like, “Why is my life so difficult? What happened here?”
Sherry Walling: So it sounds like you made it through bootcamp, eventually.
Tony Perez: I did. Yeah. I made it. I did my three months, like everybody else. I did my three months then I got sent to my school, up by D.C. What was really interesting about this is … I get to school and I missed a class. I don’t know who the fuck was planning this shit, but I missed a god damn class. So I had to sit there for an entire class before I started my class. So I’m like, “You’ve got to be shitting me.” So for another nine months, I’m sitting up there cleaning decks, buffing floors, just all this bullshit. Then 9/11 happens. So my class starts … I’m up there in Bellwort and everybody’s freaking out. Bellwort is just a few miles south of the Pentagon. So we’re like, “What’s going on?” Everybody’s in arms, we’re working huge details, working the fences, working the gates. It’s all hands on deck.
Sherry Walling: I didn’t realize that you were enlisted during 9/11. That’s …
Tony Perez: Yeah, yeah. What’s interesting about this is … I do my school, it’s another nine months, then I get shipped to the fleet. That’s what it’s called when you leave the school and you hit the fleet. I get attached to a First Marine Expedition Air Force, out in Camp Pendleton. Well, that’s it right. Everybody’s going to shit, OAF is kicking off with Afghanistan. We’re prepping a lot of support back stateside to the guys going in country in Afghanistan, things are about to pop off. This is 2001, 2002, things are about to pop off in Iraq. I weasel my way into getting into what’s called the First Marine Expedition Brigade. Or the MEB. Then that gets shipped out to Kuwait. In advance of potential attack into Iraq. Everybody’s still saying, “We’re not going to war. We’re not going to war.”
  So there I am in Kuwait, with my saga and I’m driving behind Jeeps. You know what I mean? Escorting … it’s funny because I go through all this school for my training and I did so little of it early on.
Sherry Walling: You didn’t do a lot of your spatial engineer?
Tony Perez: No. It was like … I was a [inaudible 00:12:17] I was on the back of Jeeps, going back and forth between the ports and the commando bays. We get to the commando camp in Kuwait, just south of the border and we’re just setting shit up. We’re getting all the gear in spot. It’s just long days, long days. So I get attached to the MEB. The rest of the MEB eventually falls as first mar diff coms and then around early 2013. So I get out there October, early November 2002, around early … February, March time frame, you start having the rest of the unit come out. Then I get attached to the MEB again. This is the MEB that was actually going to deploy into Iraq. So, I get attached to a five man team and we gather up all our intel. They send us out just about maybe two, three days before the actual war kicked off. March 19.
  So I’m attached to this five man team, and this five man team has … What we’ve done is we’ve essentially taken all the intelligence we have, we’ve consolidated it, we’ve put it into these Humvee and into these armored Humvee and we’ve taken it out into a grid point. Out in the desert. Completely far away from the command camp. It’s just the five of us. Just south … It’s kind of our assembly point. Just south of the border, or the berms. So we’re sitting there, nobody’s communicating with us, it’s a complete blackout. Then this skud gets sent across from Iraq into Kuwait and it lands just 50, 100 yards away from commando camp, which is the camp I was at. Then all shit breaks loose.
  Next thing you know, the fucking mic is hot, everybody’s coming out. We’re all getting ready to go, “Let’s go, we’re gonna do this.” And it’s just like, “What the fuck.” Next thing you know, I’m all geared up in my mod four, level four so that means you have all your plastic gear on, your gloves, the whole nine yards, it’s already 100, 105 out there.
Sherry Walling: In the event of chemical exposure?
Tony Perez: That was the big concern back in 2003, it was, “Oh my god, Iraq has those WMD, we’re all gonna fucking die.” The staff sergeant comes around, “Hey, write your letters home. Tell your moms you love them, put them in a plastic bag, but them in your pocket. That’s it. We’re going.” I said, “Alright, fuck it, let’s do it.” So you’re like, “This is what it’s all about, baby.” I’m in full mop gear, ready to go. The only thing I don’t have on is my gas mask. So, we get the call, marks my team, we’re in our Humvee and then boom. The convoy’s pushing north.
  So we’re pushing across the Berm, I rode the whole push up during the first 45 days of the war from the Kuwaiti border. We pushed all the way through the oil fields all the way up to Baghdad.
Sherry Walling: Wow. That’s an amazing experience to be there before it gets started and then to be on the team that’s the first through. You were an intense guy before you joined the Marine Corps and I can only imagine the level of intensity of the things that you’ve experienced and done has … I don’t know do you think it’s increased your intensity? Has it mellowed you out a little bit? How did your experiences shape who you are now?
Tony Perez: It’s interesting. I remember when I first got back, I looked at the world very differently. There’s something you go through when you kinda come to terms with the fact that, “Okay, yeah, I’m supposed to be dead here in a couple hours. That’s cool.” Everything just seems simpler. But in many ways, this is kinda what a lot of guys go through, is that you come home and you just can’t relate anymore. The things that should be important don’t feel as important. It’s just a fundamentally different way of looking at the world. I think in many ways, that’s probably what’s changed is things that a lot of people will freak out about, I won’t. I will just kind of, “Okay, whatever, that’s cool. Let’s do it.” Nothing seems that hard when you compare it to what’s really happening in the world. It’s kinda like, “Yeah, this is fine. Nobody’s dying. Nobody’s going to prison.”
Sherry Walling: Well, nothing you’re going to experience at GoDaddy is going to be harder than what you’ve experienced in the Marine Corps.
Tony Perez: Right. That’s exactly right. I’ve been out now … I got out in 2005, and as with Veteran’s day coming up, I was actually in the process of drafting a post, where I’m kind of capturing all these moments and even 1 years later, the experiences themselves are still very vivid in my mind. The feelings are still very real. It was kind of interesting but it puts things into a very interesting perspective, but what it does do, however, is it’s built a certain level of … I just kinda go out at everything really fucking hard. I’m always pushing the limits on stuff. I have this kind of motto of, “No obstacle too great.” Everything’s about the experience and I really believe that. I really live that.
  I see obstacles as nothing more than something for me to completely destroy. Unfortunately I kind of approach everything with that kinda mindset, even business. Business is war for me. It’s strategy. How I go after my competitors, how I go after customers, how i engage and how I manage and engage my teams. It’s very, “We’re doing this, it’s all or nothing. We’re leaving it all out there.”
Sherry Walling: You’re all in, all the time.
Tony Perez: That’s exactly right. With almost everything that I do. I don’t know why that is. I don’t know if that’s a carryover or now, it’s just been part of my personality. So I promoted to sergeant … SO, going back to my story real quick. I promoted to sergeant really fast in the Marine Corps. I was always kinda a go getter. I wanted that next notch, next notch. So I was attached to … I picked up corporal when I got back. Then I got assigned to the Marine Expeditionary Unit, 11th MU. In the 11th MU, we were one of the few Mus that sent back to Iraq. I was like, “Fuck my life.” I joined the Marine Corps to see the world and all I’m seeing is this god damn sand pit.
  I got sent to Iraq, responsible for [inaudible 00:17:43] and [inaudible 00:17:44] provinces. This is in 2014, to 2015. I was in the country for about another nine months. This was when [inaudible 00:17:52] and [inaudible 00:17:53] were going. I don’t know if you remember back in 2014 with Fallujah and all that craziness.
Sherry Walling: Yeah.
Tony Perez: So that was my next experience. So I ended up spending in country about a year and a half, a year and three quarters, total. So that was kind of interesting. Then when I came back, that’s when I was like … I was having real detachment issues from reality. I was coming back and I just couldn’t relate with the civilian population. It just … It was just tough. So I found myself thinking, “I think this is going to get worse. I don’t know what the hell is going on in my head, but I need to get out.” I found this craving for an attachment with another person, so I ended up meeting my wife when I got back. I actually met her online, but that’s a different story. But then I ended up saying, “I need to get out.” That was just kinda based on the experience I had with that additional nine months. I just needed a break. It just felt like a lot.
  This is nothing compared to some guys, some guys have done five, six, seven, eight different deployments. They’re all in and that’s great. Just for whatever reason, I just found myself in a very tough spot at that time.
Sherry Walling: Two was enough for you, yeah.
Tony Perez: Yeah, so I got out and I became a defense contractor. But I got out … I was like one foot in, one foot out. So I became a defense contractor and then I was working with the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force. So I just never really pulled myself away from that environment. I did that for another seven years. Then in 2011, I did another deployment as a defense contractor. But this time, to Afghanistan. Around this time is when Dre, my brother in law, introduced me to Daniel, who’s the actual founder of Sucuri. The both of them approached me and was like, “Hey, man, you kinda go at it at all you do. You seem like a pretty smart dude when it comes to managing projects and getting shit done. Do you wanna come help us build this thing?” I was like, “Yeah, fuck it, man, let’s make a little cash on the side. See what’s up.”
  This was my first foray into the world of entrepreneur. I never really set out to be an entrepreneur. I just … I’ve always considered myself an operator. I just get shit done. So when they invited me to come on, I was like, “Well.”
Sherry Walling: That’s pretty much an entrepreneur.
Tony Perez: So I was like, “I don’t know how hard this is but we should be able to get this done.”  That’s kind of fast forwarding to 2011 when I first kinda came on with the Sucuri team. Then from there, it just kinda …  We just started figuring things out as they came up. We didn’t have much of a business plan, we didn’t really have much of a market. It was just, “We’re gonna do cool shit for our customers and figure it out.”
Sherry Walling: Are all three of you veterans? Because Dre was in the Marines as well, right?
Tony Perez: No, Dre was in the Navy. Dre was in the Navy. Then Daniel, he didn’t go active military in Brazil, he’s Brazilian. He was in the military academy. His dad’s in the military. His dad’s a four star general down in the Army right now in Brazil. So he was like the black sheep of the family, didn’t go in the military.
Sherry Walling: So in addition … Besides the intensity.
Tony Perez: That’s a lotta shit. I’m sorry.
Sherry Walling: No, I’m just gonna ask, besides the intensity with which you tackle everything, are there other ways in which your experience in the Marines has shaped the kind of entrepreneur that you’ve become? I guess one of the things I’m thinking about is that you said you went in really because you were looking for a sense of purpose. You were kinda adrift as a young man and needed something to focus you. I wonder if being an entrepreneur has had that similar focusing effect.
Tony Perez: Yeah, it’s funny you mention that. I gave a talk recently to a bunch of Veterans at a Veteran’s summit, that I was invited to keynote. One of the things I told them was that when I first got out, I had lost my purpose. If you recall, I told you, when I joined the Marine Corps, it gave me a purpose that I’ve never felt before. I was there for my brothers to my left and to my right. I knew what I was doing. This is my focus, this is my task. It felt like a meaningful task. Through my years as defense contractor, I just never had that same purpose again. So I struggled a lot, those initial years. It was actually when they invited me on and I started focusing on this, this became my new purpose. I told the entrepreneurs at that summit, saying, “I believe that every one of us needs something like this when we get out of the military. We need something to channel our needs.”
Sherry Walling: Something to fight for. Something to want. Something to go after.
Tony Perez: That’s right. Because nothing seems to fill that void when you get out. Nothing at the right scale. You can get out, you go get a job, but you just feel like you’re just passing time. You’re not longer …
Sherry Walling: Like, not as alive as you were when you were deployed. I’ve talked to lots of folks about this and the experience of being deployed and having all of your sense engaged. You’re listening, you’re watching, you’re thinking. Everything is amplified. Then you come home and it can feel like you’re sort of walking around half awake, the zombie version of yourself.
Tony Perez: Yeah, I can relate with that. So yeah, I don’t know. I think that the company gave me a purpose again and in fact, when we exited back in April, even though I had migrated over to the new business, with GoDaddy, I found myself all of a sudden in the same place I found myself back in 2005 with a huge void inside of me, where it was like, “What the hell just happened? Who am I?” Even though I had a job and my team was still there, I was still involved, et cetera. I had felt like I had lost something again and I found myself looking to see if I can reenlist again.
Sherry Walling: Really? That recently?
Tony Perez: Yeah. Then I was actually even thinking of quitting GoDaddy and going to be a law enforcement. I actually applied to the FBI. I was like, “I need better …” I don’t know what it was. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just mentally weak.
Sherry Walling: Or under stimulated. You need a harder job at GoDaddy.
Tony Perez: That’s true.
Sherry Walling: Who’s listening to this? Tony needs a harder job. He needs more work. He needs an outlet for his intensity.
Tony Perez: So yeah. That’s how I got here.
Sherry Walling: I get the sense that … because of some of the things that we’re talking about, an entrepreneur”s life, in some cases it’s a really good fit for people who are coming out of the military and going through that reentry experience, because it does give you that single focus, it gives you something to fight for an be intense about and the most intense you are, the more successful you are, if you can channel your intensity well.
Tony Perez: Oh, yeah. They teach us, they teach in the military you just don’t give up. You keep going at it, you just dig deep. When we go on hunts [inaudible 00:24:09] you just kinda put your head down, you don’t look at the target, you just keep marching, you just keep pushing, you just keep pushing. A lot of those things that we’ve learned are things that carry over really well. It gave me an amazing work ethic when I got out. You put me against anybody and it’s like, “This guy doesn’t fucking stop.” I was like … I just didn’t know how to stop. Running a company was amazing for that because I could work as much as I wanted, as often as I wanted, I just drive, drive, drive. I loved it. I love the highs and the lows, I love … One day we’re up on sales, the other day we’re down, we got a pissed off customer. [inaudible 00:24:37] is beating our ass. We got [inaudible 00:24:40] person, somebody’s upset. It’s like, “What the fuck is going on?” You’re getting hit from all different angles. But I kind of like lived off that high.
Sherry Walling: I gotta ask you just because of who I am but … What’s the mental health story? To live in that intensity for so much of your adult life.
Tony Perez: It’s funny because … We met over a [inaudible 00:25:02] recently, right? I had actually never been really open with mental health, even though some folks that we mutually know like Cory and a few others have spoken about it, I’ve always been really quiet about it. But I don’t know what it was about the talk that you were giving, but I just seem to kind of connect with it and I was like, “Man, you know, if I’m being honest with myself, I’ve actually probably had a lot of mental health issues in my past.” So … It’s true, I was diagnosed with PTSD when I got out of the Marine Corps, and I was put on meds and then I had my bouts with alcohol and stuff like that. I don’t know. I don’t know where you wanna go with that.
Sherry Walling: I guess, I’m not prying as much as like … I appreciate you’re talking about it because it is a really common experience, obviously, for people who are, specifically for people who are making that transition from military life to perhaps, becoming entrepreneurs or are trying to figure out how they can make that shift. I think your stories are powerful because you had three deployments. You were in the middle of all of this shit and it did affect you, but yet you’ve still been able to be very successful.
Tony Perez: That’s interesting, right? Because I think that for a long time I was very ashamed. I never really talked about it. Even … I’ve actually never really talked about it publicly, either. I struggle with a lot of it. Just getting myself back up, focusing myself. I really had to … Even today I still struggle with anxiety issues when my heart rate starts going, I get really, really anxious. I had the cold sweats and the waking up at night and stuff like that. I had this big period where all I wanted to do was get in fights. I just couldn’t understand. I think that what I had to learn over time was just channeling that energy. I didn’t go to the VA … I mean, I did go to the VA, that’s where they prescribed me with meds and I became very comatose and I just couldn’t do that so I said, “Fuck the VA.” And I got rid of my pills. Then I just tried to figure myself out on my own. I didn’t believe in talking to a therapist, I didn’t believe in … I don’t know. I’m fucking weird like that.
Sherry Walling: Except you’re not weird, I think that’s probably, unfortunately, how a lot of people feel or experience the VA. You know this, other people might not know this, but I spent many years as a VA psychologist and training in the VA setting. I’m familiar with these conversations and how hard it is to get connected to treatment that’s helpful when you’re in that situation.
Tony Perez: It’s just tough and then I didn’t really like talking about my experiences. It was just weird.
Sherry Walling: I think it’s like so many things in life, it’s both a super power and a liability.
Tony Perez: It is. It’s funny, I just found out recently about … We all talk about post traumatic stress disorder, right? But nobody ever really talks about post traumatic growth disorder.
Sherry Walling: Except it’s not a disorder, it’s just growth.
Tony Perez: Oh, well, whatever.
Sherry Walling: Sorry.
Tony Perez: It’s my growth, I guess, yeah. It’s kind of interesting because I think I’ve only heard a little bit about it but I think I went through this transformation period where I think I was able to channel that energy and just put all that that I had going on towards growth. Even the days that I was just really, really struggling with stuff, I just kind of … I don’t know I forced myself into this way of thinking and doing stuff. Eventually it’s gotten me to where I am today. But when I first got out, I struggled. Talking to people, I just didn’t have much of a filter. If you’re a Marine, you get it. Especially on the listed side, you say what’s on your mind, you call people out on their bullshit, because you don’t have time for anything else other than that. This is just what’s up. You’re just a fucking idiot, or you’re not.
  That got me in a lot of trouble with HR, and stuff like that, with some of the companies I had to work at. Then, slowly, I’ve had to do a lot of self awareness, self actualization, and realize, “Okay, I’m going to have to adjust certain types of my personality, still keep my authenticity, or keep who I am, but adjust and realize that I’m in a very different environment now.” So I don’t know. I feel like I’ve kinda migrated into this post traumatic growth, where I just continue to grow. By just channeling all my energy on this. I don’t know if that’s a thing or not, but that’s what it feels like.
Sherry Walling: It’s totally a thing, Tony. I think you’re a great example of it because you’ve been through some really hard things and I think the experience of figuring out how to not let those things break you, but instead to fuel you, is the conversation about growth. Some people survive hard things and some people turn it into fuel to thrive. That’s what post traumatic growth is.
Tony Perez: Oh, then there you go. I just … I guess the way I always looked at it was, I didn’t survive that time in my life not to do something with my life. You just keep thinking, “I want to do more. I want to have bigger impact.” Even here, at Go Daddy, I’m trying to push us to have a bigger impact. Have a more social good impact in the world. I don’t know it just kinda drives me right now.
Sherry Walling: Are you happy?
Tony Perez: Wow. We’re going deep with this. Happy in what way, what do you mean?
Sherry Walling: I don’t know. Are you happy? I guess, the background of my question is when there’s constant drive, is there ever moments of satisfaction? Do you ever let yourself sit back and be like, “Okay, I’m proud of what I’ve done and for this moment, it’s enough. I can just be content or happy.”
Tony Perez: I have yet to reach that point where I’m content with what I’ve done. I just … I don’t know what it is. I just have to keep pushing, I have to keep doing. I think that’s what hit me when we first did the acquisition. All of a sudden I had a boss on top of me, that was running the organization and they were working on integration and I had done my job negotiating the deal, which took me about six and a half months. All of a sudden I was put to the side, I was put on the bench for a bit and I just kinda sat there like … I couldn’t help go through this mental exercise of, “What have I done?” In terms of, what have I done in life? I haven’t achieved anything. Here I am, I just sold our company. But in the back of my head, I’m thinking, “I’m nothing. Nobody will ever understand. That was my highlight. What am I gonna do now? I’ve got nothing to show for myself.” I was just like kinda going through this whole process like, “I gotta figure this shit out.” Then I kinda got myself in this phase like, “Fuck that, I gotta figure something out, I gotta do something, I gotta double down on something. I gotta start over again.”
  Then about four months in, things started to change in the organization, they made an adjustment saying, “Okay, Tony, you’re not gonna run the organization, but we do a new reorg structure in the company.” And all of a sudden I felt this new energy like, “Fuck yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. This is what I’m gonna do.” Then i got the fire in me again I’m like, “Fuck yeah, this is what we’re gonna do.” A week in I’m like, “This is the strategy, this is what I’m thinking. This is how we’re gonna change the fucking world when to comes to internet security.” They’re like, “Holy shit, what the hell is going on?”
  That’s the only pace I know how to go. I just needed a new mission. So, to your question, am I happy? Yeah. I mean, I think I’m happy. Am I ever satisfied? No. I’m always looking for the next big challenge. I’m always looking for that thing that’s gonna keep me grinding it out. I love being in that space. For instance, I’m a grappler as well. I train Brazilian jiu jitsu, I shoot guns, I snowboard, I go off roading now. I’m just constantly looking for that next thing I can do like, “Hey, can I prove myself. Can I do something bigger? Can I do something badder?”
Sherry Walling: The next level of intensity.
Tony Perez: Yeah, can I push the limit, just a little bit further?
Sherry Walling: I keep getting back to this issue of how you balance purpose and intensity. Because you go balls to the wall for everything. There’s this huge intensity inside of you, but is that ever tempered by a greater purpose?
Tony Perez: I guess I don’t see them as split. The things I do on the side like jiu jitsu and wheeling and shooting and stuff like that, those are the things that I do to just keep my sanity in life. But right now, all my energy, all my intensity is being poured into what I’m trying to do here at Go Daddy. So that has become my new purpose. I’m trying to create a new security standard for the world. I’m trying to take what Google has done with [inaudible 00:32:53] everywhere, and take it to the next level. Kind of help any website in the world, thinking about security in what I believe to be the right way. That is my drive. That is my focus. That is my purpose right now. If I can do that, I honestly feel we can change how … We can make the internet safer for our kids tomorrow. We can keep the internet open, we can solve this problem. That’s become my purpose so I just channel all my intensity into that. That’s what keeps me up at night, that’s what keeps me from sleeping. I love that. I love that conviction on that. I just need that.
Sherry Walling: You’re kind of like the Marines of the internet. In a way, you’re the dude that’s like standing on the wall protecting everybody. Making sure that people don’t get hurt.
Tony Perez: That’s actually interesting because I’ve done a lot of jobs and when I got out but the only thing that’s ever kept me happy was here at Sucuri and I think the reason it always kept me happy was because I always felt like I was doing something for our customers. I was keeping them safe. I was keeping the bad guys out, we were fixing their websites. We were changing their lives. There was no greater experience than I would get on a call … It’s not a great experience but you get on a call, a customer’s crying, she maybe has a website that’s generating $1000 a month, or something like that.
  For us, relatively speaking, it was a material, but for them, it was their livelihood. Maybe somebody had retired, it was extra income, they’re on a fixed income. They were kinda making ends meet or paying their bills, et cetera. I would hear these stories and I would just feel so connected with them. It would hurt me inside. We gotta do everything we can to fix this. Then it became every one of our customers was like that. It was like we could live and breathe what the customer was going through and it would just break our hearts that they were going through it. We felt like nobody should have to go through that. So, yeah, I don’t know. Maybe there’s a level of intensity there, I don’t fucking know, but it was just like … you just wanted to reach through the phone and console them and be like, “It’s gonna be alright. We’re gonna fix this for you.” And that, is what fueled my fire for six, six and a half years.
Sherry Walling: I think we’re all probably glad you’re doing that. You’re making the world a better place. How do you feel about people saying, “Thank you for your service?”
Tony Perez: I hate it.
Sherry Walling: Why?
Tony Perez: I don’t know. I feel like … I feel like people say, “Thank you for your service.” Because they’re obligated. They feel obligated to do it. If they truly understood what was going through my head at that time, why I did it, stuff like that, they probably wouldn’t thank me. Everybody likes to thank because, “Oh, it’s the cool thing to do these days.” Everybody feels patriotic. I thank everybody that didn’t come home. I thank those folks that really put it all … I just put a little bit out there. Some people put it all out there and don’t ever have anything. Those are the people I thank. I don’t need anybody to say thank you for what I did. I did it because I needed it and I loved it and if you knew what was going through my head at that time, you probably wouldn’t thank me. I was out there and I was like, “I’m gonna kill every bleep I find.” And that was okay in my head, people don’t wanna know that.
Sherry Walling: Maybe I’ll say it differently. Maybe I’ll say, “I’m glad you came home. I’m glad you came home and thank you for making the internet a little bit safer.”
Tony Perez: Yeah. I don’t know what it is about that that I dislike so much. I feel so unconformable when people tell me that. I’m just like, “Cool. Thanks.”
Sherry Walling: Well it doesn’t sound like you did it for the thanks.
Tony Perez: Yeah, that’s the thing, I feel like I could have done so much more. I don’t know.
Sherry Walling: Well, thank you, for your time. Thank you for your services and [inaudible 00:36:22] the podcast. Will you take that?
Tony Perez: Yeah, yes, ma’am, I will.



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