How We Hatched: Will Wilson, Co-Founder of Antithesis

Jun 25, 2024

How We Hatched: Will Wilson, Co-Founder of Antithesis

Dive into the entrepreneurial journey of Will Wilson, Co-Founder of Antithesis, in this episode of “How We Hatched.”

Host, Tim Winkler, interviews Will about:

  • HIs journey into technology, including his inspiration to start his own company and the mentor who inspired him to take the leap.
  • His career path to becoming the founder of Antithesis, including his time spent at Apple and Google.
  • The problems Antithesis is solving and the impact they’re making in the tech industry.
  • The decision to operate Antithesis in stealth mode for 5 years and the team’s experience transitioning out of stealth mode.
  • The advantages and disadvantages of staying in stealth mode, including access to investors and capital without public exposure.

About Will Wilson: Will Wilson is a former mathematician who switched to software because it seemed easier. He built distributed databases at FoundationDB, Apple, and Google. Along the way, he realized that computers are actually the enemy, and founded Antithesis to put them in their place.

Check out Antithesis: https://antithesis.com/

Sign-Up for the Weekly hatchpad Newsletter: https://www.myhatchpad.com/newsletter/

Transcript
Tim Winkler:

Welcome to The Pair Program from hatchpad, the podcast that gives you a front row seat to candid conversations with tech leaders from the startup world. I'm your host, Tim Winkler, the creator of hatchpad, and I'm your other host, Mike Gruen. Join us each episode as we bring together two guests to dissect topics at the intersection of technology, startups, and career growth. Let's jump in. So Will, thank you for joining us on The Pair Program. Thanks so much for having me, man. Yeah, I appreciate you joining us. Uh, this is a, another bonus episode of a. Of a mini series that we call how we hatched. Um, you know, today we've got Will Wilson spending some time with us. Will is the. CEO and one of the co founders behind Antithesis, uh, a startup that is revolutionizing software testing and system reliability. Uh, Will is also a father of, uh, four kids with a fifth on the way within just a few weeks of, uh, of, uh, us recording today. So I am very excited to lean into some of those questions on, on how you juggle the chaos of production. Of building a startup and raising a family. Uh, I'm sure a lot of entrepreneurs out there could take some notes. So again, excited to have you with us today and, and, uh, thanks for joining us on the pod and. Let's, um, let's jump in. So I always like to start, you know, these, these episodes off with a pretty thought provoking question, which, uh, would be what did Will Wilson have for breakfast this morning?

Will Wilson:

So I actually generally don't eat breakfast and then, and then I eat lunch really early and everybody here makes fun of me for that, you know, sometimes at like 10, 15 AM or 10 30 AM, somebody will come ask me like, Hey, isn't it a So today was no exception. I did, I did not eat breakfast and then I ate lunch at 11 20 a. m. Oh, nice. Is a perfectly reasonable time.

Tim Winkler:

Yeah. You always find folks that are either like super gung ho breakfast, like, what do you mean you don't eat breakfast? And then the folks are like, yeah, I don't eat breakfast. And it's just like, yeah, it is what it is. Um, cool. Well, um, uh, let's, let's kind of set the stage for, for our guests here on. You know, what we're really going to, to be dissecting on this episode. So Antithesis is a startup that operated in stealth mode for about five years. Um, I'll repeat that for our listeners, five years in stealth. Uh, prior to kind of making the public, uh, the company known publicly. Uh, and this is a topic that we get a lot of interest from our community specifically. Uh, so we will be chatting quite a bit on that self mode journey. In addition to, you know, obviously learning a bit more about the problems that you're solving at Antithesis. But I did want to mention that early on for our listeners that are tuning in. Um, so on these episodes, you know, I do like to kind of turn back the clock a little bit and initially just kind of hear a little bit about you will, and your journey down that path into technology, you know, when. When was it that you kind of realized that you had a passion for, for tech?

Will Wilson:

Sure. So I, like I screwed around with computers a lot when I was a kid. Um, in high school, I installed Linux on a laptop and I'm so old that this was back in the days where doing that was very, very hard. And I, you know, I actually learned quite a lot about computers just from that experience alone. Then when I got to college, I basically didn't do anything related to tech or computers at all. I studied pure math and it's, it's, this is actually kind of funny and a little embarrassing maybe. Um, so I was in school in like the mid 2000s and I distinctly remember having this thought that was like, Hey, this tech stuff seems pretty cool. Too bad. I'm too late, you know, too, too, too bad. Like all the interesting companies have already been started. And you know, like, you know, there's already Google, there's already Facebook. What else is there to do? Like, like that's so over, you know, I'm just going to have to find something else. So I didn't really do anything with computer science or tech at all in college. And then I graduated and I worked in like. Like science, like biology, medical research, um, did a bunch of different things and like had this like very jarring experience where I realized one day that my ability to write like a really low quality Python script, you know, in 45 minutes that would like automate, you know, some entire large task I had to do, or one of my lab mates had to do was like by far the most valuable quality I brought to that job. And I was like, huh, like maybe. Maybe this computer science thing has something to it after all. And then, you know, I also got very interested in databases because I saw this database query, which took like days and days to run and, you know, made a small tweak to it and it, you know, finished in five minutes and I was like, that's weird. Like how, how did that happen? Right. Like, and so, you know, I had these, I had these thoughts that maybe there was something cool there after all. And then I. You know, basically my first kid was born and I wanted to find a career that had better hours and better pay than than what I was doing. And I was on paternity leave. And so I just started studying data structures, algorithms, all that stuff, um, using like online classes and so on. And. You know, found it very intellectually engaging and very satisfying. And I was like, wait a minute, like this is, this is totally unfair. You mean there was this job out there all along, which is like interesting and pays you well, like, and is like full of nice people and like very low barriers to entry. And like, you mean I could have been doing this the whole time. Right. And then I, I sort of did a career switch into tech, uh, in my, in my mid to late twenties and been here ever since, you

Tim Winkler:

That's so fascinating when you look back and perspective of, you know, all the good big tech companies have already been built, you know, what's left to be built. And then, you know, you fast forward to today. It's like AI is just eating the world, but, but it's so true. I think, uh, I think we were kind of, we're kind of in a similar, um, uh, similar age. So I can. Remember back to those early days when, when Facebook was, was the thing. Um, now, you know, looking at your, your kind of profile on LinkedIn, just kind of studying a little bit about your journey, um, you know, this computational biodynamics, um, company jumps out to me because it looks like early on you were. Kind of drawn into the world of, you know, serving as an entrepreneur, um, expand a little bit into, you know, how that kind of opportunity was, was formed. And, uh, you know, what, what drove you down that path of wanting to do something on your own?

Will Wilson:

Yeah, no. So, so that was a very right. That was a very, very early job of mine. Basically, um, I worked when I was in high school as an intern at a hospital. And, um, became close to one of the doctors who worked there and he had this very good idea. It's still a very good idea for a startup. Um, and basically I did a gap year between high school and college and, and worked with him on that. And then also, um, worked on it on and off throughout college and then for a little while afterwards. And, you know, it was very cool to see that you can just like take an idea and start it. Start trying to do it. Right. And that was like a little bit of a revelation to me at the time. And it was like, definitely a very valuable thing I got out of that experience. Like the other valuable thing I got out of that experience was like a little bit of an indication of what not to do. Like the problem that we had at that company, I would say the fundamental problem and the reason that it wasn't ultimately successful was that, you know, it had a large number of quote unquote co founders. All of whom were working full time as surgeons or doctors or scientists, you know, or professors, you know, and, and we're mostly dedicated to that. And we're kind of like doing this nights and weekends. And it's just very hard to make anything big and real. If at least one person isn't making it, they're like full time occupation,

Tim Winkler:

right?

Will Wilson:

You know,

Tim Winkler:

just trying to juggle a couple of things while building. Yeah, that's right. That's right. So that was a gap year through high school, after high school and between college. And then, you know, we can kind of do a quick sprint through, um, call it like a two minute drill on your journey, uh, up to starting the Antithesis. And I'll have some, some questions digging into a few of those key roles, but give me the quick kind of like two minutes on, you know, where you bounced around to, because I think it's important to build some context on, you know, startups and then some thing companies and, and then leading into this current role.

Will Wilson:

Yeah, yeah. So it was, it was after, after a computational biodynamics, after a couple of other sort of more science y roles that I got into tech. And the first like really real tech job I landed was at Foundation Deep, which was, you know, hugely influential on me and on my career trajectory ever since then. I mean, not least because like half the people who work at this company now are people who I met there. Sure. Yeah. My, my co founder, Dave Sherer. Was, uh, my boss at foundation DB. Um, our COO, Nick Levetsoe was the COO at foundation DB. Um, you know, our director of operations, our director of engineering, like all worked there. Um, so it's, that's actually really cool. You know, that, that I've worked with all these people for such a long time and that we all know each other and trust each other a great deal. But basically, you know, I got to foundation DB and I saw they're a different, beautiful and awesome side of, of programming, right? Like, you know, I'd gotten really into the theoretical aspect and the, you know, algorithmic complexity and data structures and like, you know, sort of pure CS, cause I was coming from a math background and at foundation DB, like there was a lot of the other extreme, right? There was a lot of like really hardcore, low level systems, programmers, You know, we were writing a distributed database, right? Like people who like lived and breathed, you know, system calls and, you know, how to communicate with an SSD in the most efficient possible way. And like, you know, stuff, stuff that earlier on I would have like sneered at, but like, you know, jokes on me because like, this is actually like just as beautiful and worthwhile and like an intricate and difficult and like, and cool. And, and so I saw that whole side of our industry and, and was really blown away by that and, and very, very, very impressed by a lot of what those people were doing. Um, so the other way that foundation DB really matters to the subsequent trajectory is it gave us, you know, me and Dave, a lot of the ideas that led us to start this company. FoundationDB, we're trying to build a distributed database, which is a very hard thing to build, and a very hard thing to get right. And so in order to do that, We invested in building a really radically different approach to software testing. Um, and it's in many ways the precursor or the inspiration to the product that we've built here. Right? So we're trying to take the thing that we made for FoundationDB to make it possible to test that software and to find all the bugs in it before customers did. We're trying to make that easy for everybody to do here. Um, and you know, that was actually very much influenced also by what we saw afterwards, right? Like we, we got bought by apple in 2015 and went there and you know, I apple is full of like super smart people. It's a very, very high talent density company, but they did not have the internal tools that we had at foundation db and like, that was like, clearly evident in how people operated and made decisions. And, you know, at, at Google, which I left Apple and went to Google and I saw much the same thing, you know, I worked on a team at Google that was also building a distributed database. a system called Spanner, which was a very, very impressive team, really smart people, tons of really smart people, but again, lacking in tools, which could tell them right away when they were making a mistake. And that just like, that just makes you have to work in such a different way, right? Like it means that you're always worrying, Hey, is, is this code that I'm writing going to cause some huge problem in production? Like, you know, how can I, how can I reason through this correctly? How can I like, you know, how can I have some confidence that this is going to be right? You know, and, and I, and I suddenly realized then that my experience at FoundationDB had been really atypical, right? Like having this ability to just like press a button and find out if what you'd done was good or not. It was like actually not how most of the industry,

Tim Winkler:

which is wild, you know, to see that the biggest tech companies in the world, you know, weren't adapting to this kind of philosophy that you all had kind of figured out at foundation DB, which is just, it's gotta be that aha moment that that light bulbs going off, like, wow, there really is something here, you know?

Will Wilson:

Yeah, that's exactly right. And you know, my first, my first concern and actually also Dave's first concern was like, There's no free lunch, right? Like there's no, there's no hundred dollar bills lying on sidewalks. So if we at our tiny startup, we're doing this and it was like so transformative for us and these like giant companies aren't doing it. Like there must be some reason, right? There must be some secret reason why it's not a good idea or it's impossible. Or like, you can't really do this at a large scale or something. Right. But you know, but actually what we've realized, like, there are some reasons that, that make it harder. And, and a lot of those are things that we've tried to directly address with our product and with our technology. But at the end of the day, like the efficient markets hypothesis is just wrong. There actually is like, there actually is stuff out there that would just make the world better that nobody's doing. And if you think you've spotted it and like, you kind of rule out all the other possibilities, like you, you may actually have found such a thing.

Tim Winkler:

Yeah. The, uh, the blog that you wrote that I stumbled across that kind of led me down to, you know, sending you a note and wanted to chat with you is, um, uh, titled is something, is something bugging you. And, um, in that blog, you, you do relate to You relate to starting a company, you know, kind of like telling yourself that when you reach this pit full of poisonous spikes, you'll figure something out. Expand on that a little bit for me. Cause I think that, you know, you, you point that out a couple of times in the blog. I think that's just a fascinating example.

Will Wilson:

Yeah. Well, so the, I guess the point I was trying to make there is that. Usually every company is going to have something about it. That's hard, right? Like I just said a second ago that I don't believe in the efficient markets hypothesis, but like, maybe I believe in a slightly weaker version of it, which is like, if something is trivially easy and obviously a good idea, somebody will probably have done it. So if, if it's a, if it's a really good idea and nobody's done it yet, there's probably something about it that is challenging.

Tim Winkler:

Right.

Will Wilson:

And so, you know, different companies have different things about them that are challenging, right? Some of them. Like the product is really hard to build. Some of them, the product is easy to build, but it's hard to sell. Like some of them it's easy to build and easy to sell, but hard to find a competitive mode. Like. You know, it just depends on the area and on the details of your thing. And I think it's very important to know, or to at least have a guess going in. What is the hard part going to be? Sure. Cause there's probably a hard part and you should probably have a plan for it.

Tim Winkler:

And we're some of these, um, kind of alumni from foundation DB that they all kind of got absorbed into Apple as well. Did, did, did you all kind of stay in close connection here as you're moving on to Google and so forth? Um, I'm always curious on how the. That co founder connection, it kind of stays, uh, relevant even post acquisition.

Will Wilson:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all stayed in touch socially, even as we sort of diffused through a wide variety of companies, like, you know, I would say about half to three quarters of us all joined Apple. Some people decided not to, um, you know, once we got there, some people quickly moved to other parts of Apple. Some of us like, like me moved to other companies. But, you know, we all stayed pretty close. Like, you know, we had all been working together, um, on this startup for like four or five years by the time we were bought. And so we were, we were close. Like we had kids the same age, you know, people, you know, people knew each other. It was a, it was a very tight knit team in a lot of ways. And. It's been awesome getting the gang back together

Tim Winkler:

for sure. Yeah, it's always, um, you can pinpoint a lot of times with the, within an entrepreneur's journey that, uh, kind of like a central role that kind of stands out as like, you know, that was like the, the premise to all of, all of what's, you know, building in, in, in your current venture. Um, and so, you know, really quick, like, uh, diving into the, the, uh, creation of Antithesis here. So you're, you're spending your time at Google at this point and, you know, sounds like you all are kind of in communication about the idea, uh, you know, how does that all kind of come together and when do you, you kind of make the jump to, you know, to, to leave Google and go head first and do this thing.

Will Wilson:

Yeah, so basically, um, Dave had already left Apple and was getting ready to move back to the East Coast when I sort of thought, you know, there really is a company here. Like, you know, I, I was at Google. I was like seeing all these frustrations, seeing frustrations my team was having. And I was like, so I started messaging Dave and I was like, look, man, you, you, you've quit your job. You need something else to do. You know what? Like, like let's do this. And Dave is like a, is like a super genius. And so I sort of gave him my whole idea for how this should work and how the product should be architected and what it should do and so on. And he sort of thought about it. I remember, I still remember this. We got lunch and he sort of, explained to me, back to me how the product should work. But his version was just like 10 times better. And so I'm like, at that point, I'm like, okay, Dave, like, I need you, man. Like, you know, you need to, you need to do this. And he's like, nah, I want to, I want to take a vacation. He moved back to DC and I stayed in touch with him. Um, At one point, I was on a work trip, uh, for Google in Singapore. I was there training a bunch of our sales guys for Google Cloud, telling them about product features in Google Cloud. And, um, You know, I remember I was up in the middle of the night because I was totally jet lagged and you know, there was like nobody who I could talk to in Singapore and so I was just like texting with Dave and being like, look, man, like this company is a great idea. Here's why it's a great idea. And like, you know, that that was like, actually, we were like in very close communication for that week. And finally, by the end of it, he was like, all right, fine. Like, I don't actually want to do a vacation. I do want to start another company, you know? And so as soon as, as soon as I had him on board, like I definitely like Dave immediately starts thinking about how is this going to work? What is the right way to build this? What is this product going to look like? And like, I realized that I did not want to be having those conversations while still employed at another company, just for any avoidance of any kind of, like, question about, you know, where I was working at the time. So basically, I was immediately like, don't talk to me about this until I've quit. And, and immediately set about, you know, leaving Google, um, and then moving back to the East coast. Cause we decided to start the company here. So from the moment that we decided to do it until the moment that I moved East, not a lot of time, maybe one month.

Tim Winkler:

Wow. That's exciting. You've been to Singapore since

Will Wilson:

I wish,

Tim Winkler:

I wish I, uh, the food there is incredible. It's where the magic happened. Awesome. All right. So, so now I want to, you know, pivot into Antithesis here and then we're going to go into stealth mode world for a little bit, but give me the, um, yeah, give me kind of like the, the, the elevator pitch on, on Antithesis.

Will Wilson:

Okay, so if you're a software engineer, um, you probably know that most software engineers spend, I think, stripes at a survey, and they estimate about half their time on testing, debugging, dealing with production emergencies, and CAs. You know, dealing with bugs or inconsistencies in the libraries or the dependencies that your code has, you know, figuring out triaging issues coming in from production and figuring out which ones are bugs, which ones aren't like. By the way, like a lot of non engineers who are in tech don't realize that this is what engineers spend half their time doing, right? In fact, it might be quite a lot more than half their time. Um, they're, they're surprised when they hear that, but I think every engineer knows it. So, so now ask yourself, is this your like favorite half of your day or your least favorite half of your day? And I think for most people, it's their least favorite half of the day. Okay. We're software engineers, right? Like, why don't we, why don't we like automate this? Why don't we get rid of this? Why don't we have somebody else like have a computer do this part of our jobs if we hate it? Like, that's the usual thing software engineers do. Um, well, it turns out it's actually very, very hard, right? Conventional testing, like writing a test that your software, you know, when you do a, it does B. isn't very good at preventing you from running into bugs later in production, because you tend to test the paths or the situations that you thought of, right? That's almost definitional. But the things that you thought of are also the things where you probably wrote the code correctly in the first place. Like the things that lead to actual problems, the things that cause all this wasted time and energy, are the things you didn't think of. They're the unknown unknowns, the things that happen in the real world that you never imagined could happen. And so because of that, testing is like a pretty good way of catching regressions in behavior that you, you know, already made correct. It's a really bad way of like forward looking, ensuring that something works. Um, so our approach here is to try to turn this all on its head and say, instead of writing tests, like you're never going to write another test. Instead, what you're going to do is you're just going to tell us what your software is supposed to do. You're going to say, you know, these are the high level properties or invariants that it has, right? And depending on the kind of software, this could be really different types of things, right? Like if it's a database, it might be like, it should never crash. If it says it stored your data, it should have actually stored your data. You know, if it go, it can go through arbitrarily bad network situations, but then if everything quiets down again, and it's reachable again, after 10 seconds, it should be back up, right? If you're making a website, it could be totally different stuff. It could be like every, there's no broken links. I can get to every page. I can complete the checkout flow. If you're making a computer game, it could be like, it's possible to beat the game. I can load every asset in the game. Right? Like, but like in every case, it's like kind of high level, what it's supposed to do. And then we, by we I mean computers, are gonna try to find ways of proving you wrong, right? We're gonna try to construct test cases dynamically, like, that take some path that you weren't expecting that show you a way of making your software do something that it wasn't supposed to do. And this like, this solves a whole bunch of problems at one fell swoop. It solves one really big problem. Which is the one I said, right? Unknown unknowns. Like, you've just said what you think your software is supposed to do, and we're going to find some way of making it not do that. And the way we do that might be really surprising to you, but it might be really important, because it might be something that you hit in production next week. Um, another problem it solves, though, is like maintainability of tests. Because, like, the thing that, one thing that's bad about testing is, you know, Often, your tests depend on very low level implementation details of your software. And that means that every time you change your software, you, like, break all your tests and you have to change those too. And this is like a maintenance burden and a maintenance nightmare. And so, but, but the high level, like, what is your software actually supposed to do? Like, its specification. That changes much more slowly than its implementation, right? And so like expressing these properties, like it should never crash, it should be available after 10 seconds, whatever, like that tends to not have to change with every single commit. And so what it means at the end of the day is that you're spending way, way, way, way less time writing tests and maintaining tests and trying to figure it out. Um, both of these things like directly attack major time wastes for, for engineers. And then I guess the third thing that's quite unique about our approach is that And, you know, and that's, that's pretty cool is, um, we've developed a way to run any computer system, any collection of software fully deterministically, meaning that, like, no matter what random weird stuff your software does, like, we can make it do it again, always perfect. Um, so that's really cool because, you know, oftentimes people have like flaky bugs or flaky tests. There's this bug. It, you know, it breaks on your computer, but works on your buddies or like even worse than that. Like it breaks 1 out of every 1000 times or 1 out of every million times. And, you know, that's often enough that your customers will totally hit it all the time. And it'll be really hard for you to track it down though. Right? Or it like, Or it like, you know, it breaks. And then when you add some debugging code, it's stopped. Like the problem goes away, right? Like this kind of stuff, like also sucks up countless hours of people's time. And like, we just completely eliminate that problem. Uh, which is also pretty cool.

Tim Winkler:

Yeah. The, the, uh, future of like, I've deterministic testing and autonomous systems, you know, it sounds like you guys are, are really, you know, tackling those problems head on. And I don't. You know, I don't hear too much of a, of other companies kind of like probing in on that deterministic testing piece of things. So it's a really interesting concept. Um, Just talking generally about the company, it's at large. So when, when, when did you all formally kind of stand up shop?

Will Wilson:

I think it was 2017, 2018,

Tim Winkler:

one of those years. So about six or seven years old at this point. Um, and what's the current head count of Antithesis? We're just

Will Wilson:

about at 50.

Tim Winkler:

Okay. Yeah. And, um, from a funding perspective, I guess how, you know, how much funding, uh, have you all received at this point?

Will Wilson:

In total, we've raised, I think, just shy of 47 million over that period. And the, the company has a headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

Tim Winkler:

Uh, yeah, we're actually in Tyson's corner, Arlington and you, the bulk of your team kind of virtual or is it

Will Wilson:

we're, we're pretty much all in person, which I guess these days weird, weird, it's rare. Yeah, it's

Tim Winkler:

cool though. I think, uh, getting back to that from a culture perspective is super key and important for early stage startup. So kudos, kudos on making that decision and sticking to it. Um, so I want to pivot a little bit more into, into the stealth mode journey. Um, so as we mentioned, you know, Antithesis, you all remain in stealth mode for over five years, which is unusual, uh, for, for startups. Can you dive a little bit deeper into, you know, what you would say were some of those key decisions and, and what https: otter. ai Yeah. Totally.

Will Wilson:

So, you know, the first, I think the first thing just to get out of the way is like, we had the opportunity to stay in stealth for a very long time. Many people don't like, and we had that opportunity because we got really lucky. Like basically we had a prior big success and a lot of investors who were excited about Yeah. Yep. Taking another spin with that team, right? And so that meant that we had access to capital and it meant that we had access to investors without having to make a big splash. And that's not an option that everybody has, right? If it's your first company and you're a kid in the garage or, or, you know, or a middle aged person in the garage, um, you, you, you may need to make a big splash in order to attract the attention of an investor. Um, and so then stealth is sort of off the table for you. And that's, you know, that's just like one way. And we were very lucky here is we had the option of doing that because we had existing relationships with people who wanted to give us money. So, so that's what made it possible. And then the question is like, and by the way, it's actually not just access to money. It's also access to talent, right? Because hiring while you're in stealth is actually super, super challenging. But again, like we had, you know, a previous team that we'd worked with very closely for a long time. We were all still really tight, really in touch. You know, we had gone on to meet more people at Apple and Google and other places and could bring in a whole bunch of those people as well. And so, you know, between both capital and talent, we had ways of getting access to it without, without coming out of stuff. So then the question is like, why would you still like, even if you have the opportunity, why would you ever want to do that? Um, and basically, basically we knew, like, it's a trajectory that's like maybe a little bit more common for like a hardware company. Like the thing about our technology and our approach, Was that there was just an awful lot that we had to do before we could like, even possibly start working with customers like we had to write this hypervisor, which can take any software and run it deterministically took a little while and that that was, you know, it's not like writing a website like that. That's hard. And then we, then we had to write the system, which takes that thing and intelligently explores all the possible trajectories and paths your code could take. And that's also really hard, you know, and that took a while. And then, then we had to write the thing that like takes all the results from that and like visualizes them for you and like makes it possible for a human being to understand what it did. And, and that's a whole nother challenge of a very different kind. That's, that's also really hard. And we're like, you know, it's going to take us years to do these things. And kind of would like, there's not a whole, there's not like really an MVP that we can just get out there and have a customer start using. We kind of need to get it all working. Right? And in the meantime, we're looking around the market and, and this was a time when, you know, money was raining from the skies in terms of tech investment. And, and we're like, nobody else is really doing this. Like, do we really want to go get the whole world super excited about this right now? Or do we want to try and get a big technology head start and then get the world excited about it? And that latter choice seemed more attractive to us. Um, and, you know, I, I think on balance, it was probably the right choice. I think I appreciate now that we're out of stealth, all of the, all of the sort of unseen costs that being in stealth for a long time has. Um, so you, you mentioned challenges. There are actually many, um, one of them is morale. I think we never like had really bad morale. Like we never really struggled with that, but like today we have really, really good morale and like significantly better than, you know, before we came out of stealth before we launched. And, you know, that's just like the most natural thing about human beings, right? Like, It's like, it's really hard to work on something day in day out and not be allowed to tell anybody about it. Right. Like, and like, you know, it's hard for me, it's even harder for somebody I hire who's a new grad, you know, whose mom is probably like, why aren't you working at Facebook? Why aren't you working at open AI? What is the stupid company I've never heard of, right? Like, it's really nice for, for that person to be able to send an article to their mom and be like, no, look, this company is actually cool. It actually exists and does something right. Like You know, not just that kind of morale either, but like once you're out there, once people are reacting to you, once, you know, once you're reacting to them, suddenly people conceptualize themselves differently. Like it's not like our company is this like hermetic, isolated environment and we have like various struggles and challenges. Now it's like us against the world. And like, yeah, You know, everybody's pulling in the same direction and people are directly seeing the effects of what they do out there in the world, right? And like some rando on Twitter is like, Oh, this is such a cool feature. Like the guy who wrote that feature is now going to have a great day. Like it just like, it just sort of points everybody in the same direction and catalyzes them in a way that's really, really hard to do while you're in stealth. Um, the other thing, uh, the last thing I'll mention, and then I'll, I'll let you ask a question is, um, Is like, so much of life is about luck, and you can't control luck. You can control, like, the ability to of good and bad luck to strike to a certain extent. Like, and when you're in stealth, you just make it really, really hard for serendipity of any kind to happen. Like, I'll give you an example, you stumbling across that blog post and sending me an email, you know, obviously there would be no possible way for that to happen when we're completely secret. Right. That was just like, that was good luck. That was like a random thing that the universe through my way. But like, it's because I put myself in the position for that to happen by writing a blog post and being out there. And it's like the same way with hiring. It's the same way with customers. It's the same way with like people randomly sending me an email with like a really good idea for like a product feature or like, Hey, you're an idiot. It shouldn't work this way. Right. Like all of that stuff just like cannot happen at anywhere near the same scale when you're in stealth. Right. Yeah. And that is, I think, maybe the biggest cost. And it's one that's like totally hidden as well.

Tim Winkler:

Yeah, it's such a fascinating point because I think a lot of people when they think about running stealth, you know, they're going to think about the obvious things like you pointed out recruiting being a challenge. You know, I could tell you firsthand trying to recruit talent for a stealth mode startup is probably the most difficult thing we've ever had to do because you're selling. This thing that you can't talk about, you know, it's like selling something that you're, you're so secretive about is, it's just extremely difficult. It's already hard enough to sell a startup, even if it's publicly out there and everything else is. Is known, but to keep a lot of those things behind the curtain, um, makes it, you know, 10 times more challenging, but nobody really talks about the, the morale piece to it, you know, the, the thing that everybody's, you know, going back home to their, their family and, you know, another day on the job, but it's like, I can't even look you up, you're, you're, you guys up on a website, you know, it's like, it's, you start to find you almost like Folks don't even believe like it's, it's real, you know, um, and I think that is, uh, a very interesting perspective that I, I have never really heard about from the internal team, that cultural perspective, that team morale perspective that, um, can really, you know, start to weigh on folks if it's one year, but five years, you know, so, you know, it's almost like this, um, Um, you know, all this bottled up energy that, you know, finally just gets to be released when you, when you all made the decision to, to, to, you know, be, be publicly known. Um, did you, uh, you know, what was the strategy and, and were you, you know, how, how are those conversations had, uh, between the team on how we're going to do it in this, why this is now the right time and everything else?

Will Wilson:

Yeah. I mean, I think the single biggest reason that we decided to come out of stealth was, um, well, it was really twofold. Number one. Most of the advantages of being in stealth were evaporating because the world had moved into a much more challenging fundraising climate. Right. And so we were suddenly a lot less worried about a new well funded competitor showing up. And we're also a lot less worried about some big tech company spinning up a team to do this. Like big tech companies are laying people off right now. They're not like funding super speculative efforts. And so like, it just seemed like, like that reason had gone away. And then on the flip side, the opportunity for us coming out of stealth was much, much greater because we had just sort of finally like finished our product and like made it like quite good and made it quite scalable and made it so that the company could take on a lot of new customers all at once. And so we were like, all right, this is it. Like, let's hit go. Um, obviously, like, that wasn't an overnight thing. Like, there was a lot that we had to do. And like, so much of that work was incredibly valuable, even if it hadn't, like, Even if it hadn't led to us coming out of stealth, like, like, like one of the first and most important things we had to do was like make a website. We had no website. That sounds crazy, right? But we had no website. Okay. What's going on the website? Well, I guess on the website, we should tell people what it is we do and how it works. Okay. Well, what is it we do? Like, you know, like we obviously had some idea, right? We had some vision of the problem we're solving and how it cashes out, but like we had never. Like in a systematic and disciplined way, sat down and come up with exactly how you would explain this to somebody and like what, you know, and just like that exercise of like what would go on our website actually clarified. Many other like strategic questions and like, what, what, what product feature should we be working on? Like suddenly it's kind of apparent, like, because we know what we want to put on the website, right? And there's just like a lot of things like that, where the act of preparing yourself to present this to the world forces you to confront certain questions that are actually very important for you to confront. Um, So that was, you know, like our product basically barely had a user interface before we came out of stealth. Like it was extremely cobbled together. And we were sort of like, okay, if we're going to show this to the world and we're going to have a demo on our website, yes, it should have a user interface, right? Like, I guess there should be something like, okay, like maybe we should work on that. Right. Like it just like, it does sort of force you to, to think about it in a different way. And, and, and that's, and that's really good. You know, and then the other strategic question is our, our long term plans are really big. Um, but in the short term, we can't do all that stuff yet. And so like, you kind of need to figure out, like, how am I going to define this company right now? Like when we come out of stealth, like, it's like, they're a blank company. Like, what is that? Like, what do we say that we are day one, right? Right. Even with the knowledge that. 10 years down the line, it might look very, very different. And like that strategic question is also a really, really important one to figure out. And, uh, you know, also a thing that we had to, we had to spend some time on.

Tim Winkler:

Did you guys have, um, much of a go to market team, uh, at this point, or was it really just primarily tech folks?

Will Wilson:

Yeah, we had a, we had a small sales team, um, go to market. Yeah, we had, we had three people working on that. Wow. Um, and they were, I mean, they, they, they had a very tough job, right? Because they were trying to sell something with no website.

Tim Winkler:

Yeah.

Will Wilson:

To sophisticated business buyers. Who, you know, would hear about it and they'd be like, wait a minute. This thing is like a scam. Like, how could this be possibly be real? Right. And so that was, that was very challenging for them. And. You know, but I actually think there's some ways in which that, like, is like amazing training, right? Like, it's like, it's like professional athletes, like practice with ankle weights and like, you know, Roman gladiators used like heavy wooden swords. So when they actually got the real sword, it'd be way easier. You know, Demosthenes, like gave speeches with a mouthful of marbles, you know, like Like, like suddenly, like being able to send people like product demos and websites and stuff and like, you know, other reference customers, it's just like, it's like, Oh, like now it's easy to sell.

Tim Winkler:

Right. I mean, even just like sending them some swag or something, you know, like I could see in the background, like, uh, is this your all, it's kind of like your, your mascot is like an anteater.

Will Wilson:

Yeah, this is a mascot. These are actually like a couple of failed mascots, like eventual success roundup on the website. But these are some like. You know, mid journey generated ones that we decide not to go with.

Tim Winkler:

Yeah, I dig it though. But you know, even something as small as that, you know, just like, yeah, that's all part of branding and marketing and just being able to go out there and show like, yeah, here, here it is. Here's, here's who we are. Um, yeah. Having that training, uh, without any ammunition is, is, uh, yeah, it'll harden somebody and, but make them a better, a better salesperson. So I think that's a fascinating perspective. Um, so, so now you guys have, have been out, you know, publicly known, um, for, for how long? About three months. And have you, you know, what have you seen as the biggest upside now that, you know, the, in these last three months, has it been from, you know, an uptick in, in recruiting has been easier, sales, you know, what, what is it that you've seen, um, as a, as a drastic change?

Will Wilson:

It's, it's been unreal. Like, I mean, I would say. I would say honestly, the most, most obvious and apparent thing is just like every day I walk in the office and the energy is so different. Everybody is like still riding that high from coming out of stealth, which is pretty cool.

Tim Winkler:

That's cool.

Will Wilson:

Um, and, and people are really excited and really motivated to, to make this thing happen. Like yeah, like it has been obviously completely revolutionary for sales in so far as people can now find out about us. You know, we have, we have inbound for the first time ever. Right. That's, that's pretty cool. Um, you know, it's helpful. Yes, it's helpful. That's right. It's been good for recruiting too. It's, it's, yeah, it's been, it's been good for a lot of things. Um, you know, like I, I do ask myself sometimes, like, was it the right decision to stay in stealth for so long? And I think that like, you know, hindsight's 2020 it's, it's, it's hard to, it's hard to say for I think that like, It was the right decision to do it for quite a long time. I think if I had to do it all over again, I might've done the launch like six months earlier or something, but, but I think we did actually get a lot of strategic benefit out of being so quiet for such a long time while we built this futuristic technology. It's just like, you know, if you, if you listener are thinking of doing that, be aware that there are very real costs. Yeah.

Tim Winkler:

Yeah. And I think that you make a really valid point with the, you know, it's been a crazy time in the market for tech, uh, in the last, you know, four years since the pandemic, right. It's been this kind of roller coaster of, like you mentioned, you know, you know, time and a place of, of raising, you know, funds. Yeah. 2021. I mean, there's no better time to be raising capital. Uh, you fast forward, you know, a year and a half to two years later, and it's pretty savage. Um, and so, you know, the, the market conditions and timing of everything, you know, truly, you know, probably, you know, it sounds like you, you acknowledge played a big part in your ability to let's extend the timeline a little bit. We don't have to be so rushed. Um, I think that's a very different argument for somebody that's maybe trying to operate right now. That's totally, uh, under, under the gun, but yeah,

Will Wilson:

like interest, like interest rates being higher just means everybody's looking for a faster return. That's right. Includes investors. That includes you, the founder, right? That includes everybody. Yeah. And so, you know, that does mean that does mean you should be looking for opportunities that can pay off a little quicker. That's right.

Tim Winkler:

Um, well that's kind of a, you know, it's kind of put a bow on, on the, uh, the stealth mode discussion and, um, you know, just one, one final question, uh, in terms of, you know, looking forward towards the future, um, you know, what do you kind of anticipate or see within like those areas of deterministic testing and Autonomous systems evolving, any, anything that you're really excited about? And obviously this will play into, you know, what it is that you're building, but any, any, uh, hot takes or anything that you're, you're anticipating?

Will Wilson:

I think the, everybody seems to be very excited. Well, no, a year ago, everybody was very excited about LLMs writing code. I think now we're sort of like maybe entering the hangover phase where people are like, wait a minute, these things write code really fast and it's not all correct. And, you know, And also someday I'm going to have to modify this code or read it or understand it. And it having been produced by this machine makes it much harder to do all that. And so I think that is going to, but at the same time, there's like real value there. If you could make good use of these things, writing code for you. And so I think that's just going to put a lot of pressure on testing practices, right? Like being able to have any kind of confidence that this thing that chat GPT spat out is gonna like Do the right thing and not crash your computer is like suddenly gonna, it's going to take on way more salience. And so I think for that reason, it's like a very, very exciting time to be in the like software testing or QA space, which is like sort of a funny thing to say, right? Like software testing and QA sounds like the most boring, horrible thing ever, right? It's like taking out garbage. Um, which, which is one reason I like it. It's like a reason people don't do it. So, so then I get to do it. Um, but. But yeah, I think, I think it's like probably the most important time to be working on this problem. And so I think it's going to be cool.

Tim Winkler:

Yeah. That's a good analogy. The dirty jobs analogy. Um, but there's a reason that, you know, garbage men get paid pretty well too. Like nobody else wants to do that job. Um, Cool. All right. I think that's a, that's a good wrap on, on a little bit of your journey and the story. And I think we'll close with, um, our five second scramble segment. So this is, uh, just a little fun rapid fire Q and a, we're going to bounce a couple of questions your way and, and yeah, try to answer them within five seconds. We're not going to air horn you off or anything like that. But, uh, yeah. Uh, are you ready to jump into it? I'm ready or not. All right, uh, explain Antithesis to me as if I were a five year old.

Will Wilson:

Uh, we use AI to find problems in software.

Tim Winkler:

What is your favorite part about the culture at Antithesis? No assholes. What type of technologist will thrive

Will Wilson:

at Antithesis? Somebody who likes working on hard stuff.

Tim Winkler:

What are the, the top tech roles that you're hiring for today?

Will Wilson:

Oh, everything, man.

Tim Winkler:

We'll, we'll direct folks to the careers page, which is now publicly facing, so. That's right. That's right. Um, what, um, what is a charity or corporate philanthropy that's near and dear to you? Corporate philanthropy.

Will Wilson:

Um, I, that's a good question. I mean, do you want like stuff that's like local in our area or stuff that's like something that's maybe just

Tim Winkler:

personal to you, you know, something that's touched you and, you know, over the years or something that, you know, resonates with you that, uh, you know, you, you'd like to donate to.

Will Wilson:

Yeah, sure. So I, I mean, I think there's a lot of really, really good efforts, um, to like anti malaria efforts, like, you know, mosquito nets, bed nets, that kind of thing. I think that stuff has a huge impact and is really, really good for the world. And I think people should like totally donate to that kind of stuff. I also think it's like really important to do something that's directly involved in your own community and that's like closer to home. And, you know, so there's like a bunch of churches in D. C. that have very active homeless ministries that I've helped out with, and there's a lot of homeless people in D. C. these days, and it's, it's a bit of a crisis, and so that's, that's a thing that, that my family's, uh, done some of.

Tim Winkler:

Cool. Yeah. We like to highlight some of those when we post this out. So I'll, uh, I'll get you to, to share, uh, some of the specific boards that, uh, we can, we can highlight. Um, which of your, your four children is your favorite? I'm just joking. It's not a, not an answerable answer. Um, describe for me your, your morning routine,

Will Wilson:

my morning routine. I wake up and I Usually at least one of my children is already awake. And so I get them dressed, you know, feed them. These days the bigger ones can feed themselves, that's good. Um, you know, I make myself tea or coffee. I sadly check up on what's happened with the company overnight. I, um, I usually try to hang out with my kids in the morning because by evening, like I'm tired, they're tired. There's still an opportunity for hanging out, but like, it's a little bit, it has just a different character. Um, and then once, once everybody's off to school, I. Come to work, or if it's a nice day, like today, I bike to work, which is very nice. Very cool.

Tim Winkler:

Yeah. Yeah. It's a nice, nice routine. I, I agree with you that the morning hang with the, with the kids is a different experience. You're, you're, it's, you're less burnout, you're not, you know, you're kind of a little bit more present. So, um, it's good perspective. What's the worst fashion trend that you've ever followed? Uh,

Will Wilson:

bell bottoms.

Tim Winkler:

Solid. Uh, what is something that you love to do, but you're really bad at?

Will Wilson:

Ooh, that's a good, that's a good one, man. Uh, sailing.

Tim Winkler:

Oh, nice.

Will Wilson:

Yeah.

Tim Winkler:

Yeah. It's not easy.

Will Wilson:

It's not. And if I, I like to say, if I had more time, I would be better at it. I don't have any time.

Tim Winkler:

Um, What was your dream job as a kid?

Will Wilson:

I wanted to be emperor of Mars. Seems like Elon's gonna beat me to it. Yeah, I mean, we're not

Tim Winkler:

too far off. Um, and then I'll close with this one. What, what, uh, who is your favorite Disney character?

Will Wilson:

My favorite is, man, it's been a long time since I watched a Disney movie.

Tim Winkler:

Well, now they own Star Wars and all this, all the other fun.

Will Wilson:

Trying to think, um, I liked the beast in beauty and the beast.

Tim Winkler:

Yeah. Sensitive heart, you know, sensitive soul. That's right. But it was always, you know, judged the wrong way. That's right. Good, good, good one. That's a first. We, we asked that question to most every guest and never heard the beast before. So kudos on, on the uniqueness. Um, cool. Well, thank, uh, thank you so much for spending time with us. Well, we're I'm excited for the future of what you all are building at Antipasis and you know, you're you're an awesome entrepreneur and a good human. Good luck on the new addition to the family and uh, we're uh, we're rooting for you all. Thanks for, for hanging out with us on the pod.

Will Wilson:

Thanks man. Thanks so much for having me.

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