Kevin Glass took a strange path to his job as CEO of HayStackID, a Boston-based digital forensics, investigation, security, compliance, and electronic data discovery firm. Before jumping into the business world, he tried to make it as an artist. The plan didn't work out, but Glass applied some of the lessons he learned as a printmaker to building a successful company, as evidenced by the company's 4,171 percent three-year revenue growth, which cemented its status as No. 67 on this year's Inc. 5000. He talked about how being an entrepreneur is the ultimate creative adventure.
-As told to Noah Davis
My day job is entrepreneur and CEO but my real passion is studio arts. I was a visual art major and won a scholarship to any kind of school of my choosing to pursue art. I went to the University of Maine and then I got a fellowship at Ohio University. I earned an MFA in printmaking. I loved the challenge of taking the limited parameters of printmaking and pushing the boundaries to create some far out stuff. I was this preppy, conservative-looking guy producing work that astonished my nose ring-wearing peers. I'd cover buildings with mile-long prints, some real Cristo-like work.
I thought my career arc would be a tenure track position. After I graduated, however, I realized I was a 23-year-old kid interviewing for tenure track jobs. While I had a good reception and a solid portfolio, I had no practical experience. I went to Slippery Rock, Arkansas, for a year. Then I moved to Chicago, where I ended up in retail, and then sales.
I was working for a national, well-funded company providing litigation support services when I saw a shift and need in the marketplace to look at electronic evidence differently. I knew that the company I was with was not going to move at a pace fast enough to enter this rapidly changing market.
I quickly realized that I, along with some talented people, could do this on my own. Better. Faster. Cheaper. We are leading with forensics and forensically sound collection of evidence; someone had to. Too many organizations pick up after the evidence is collected, missing a critical step. And the organizations that just collect evidence are missing the context.
The challenges we face in our business might surprise some. They certainly surprised me. I found it exceedingly difficult to find the right outside professionals to assist me with my business, for example, business attorneys, accountants, consultants, etc. It is challenging that there is no owner's manual for business founders and owners. How do you do the right things? File the right paperwork? Pay the right fee?
Fast-forward to today and all is looking up. We recently had the opportunity to work with a Fortune 100 company on the largest, most complex litigation in its history. The case involved the International Trade Commission, patent infringement, and 31 co-defendants. We provided consultative calls to get an overview of the project, which centered on migrating an existing evidence database. The project was reformatted about five times. Many services, including forensic collection, computer review analytics, web hosting, and attorney review were presented. The case team had spent two months on site reviewing materials, and when the forensics examiner arrived, all the files were archived, deleted, or moved.
We had to quickly integrate with IT to reconstruct the location of the more than 5,000 lost network folders. That reconstruction effort allowed us to run daily data collections, pulled from these folders and streamed into our DataThresher system for review within 48 hours. It provided massive amounts of data in that short amount of time.
In the end, running a business is a very creative thing. It really does satisfy a little piece of that puzzle. You have to be super creative. You have to be appealing. It's pushing the boundaries and the rules.