PEN Profile: Scott Buxton, VP of Finance, Datadog
We established the Primary Expert Network - a select group of NYC Tech’s leading operators and functional experts - to help us support our portfolio companies through the inevitable challenges of the startup lifecycle. The PEN is such an impressive bunch that we created the PEN Profile Series to introduce them to the community at large, and to provide insights into how these influencers think and lead today’s most exciting startups.
We’re thrilled to introduce you to Scott Buxton, VP of Finance at Datadog. A recent transplant from the West Coast, having worked with technology companies of all types in his 10-year tenure at Deloitte, Scott brings a truly unique perspective to Datadog. As the company’s top finance hire, Scott focuses on maintaining open lines of communication and building a clear finance roadmap that establishes his team as true business partners of every department in the company. Read on to see how he accomplishes those goals and why he’s so happy to be a part of the NYC Tech community.
What’s your hometown? San Francisco, CA
What was your first job? In college, I worked at a historic winery in Saratoga, CA, working a concert series and weddings/corporate events.
What brought you to New York? Datadog! It’s an awesome company with a lot of growth ahead of it, and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Why do you love the NYC Tech scene right now? Being a Bay Area native (6th generation), NY is really as exciting as Silicon Valley/SF, with the enormous amount of companies, opportunities and VC funding. I love the diversity of industry here, with tech just a part of the ecosystem, whereas in Silicon Valley/SF, tech feels like the dominant part of the ecosystem.
You spent a long time working in various service lines at Deloitte, and then made the transition to the startup world, first at GitHub and now at Datadog. What drew you to the startup world? What officially drew me to this side of the profession was when I started to work with Yelp in 2007, while I was at Deloitte. At the time, Yelp was under 100 employees and had a very small office in the SOMA area of SF. Over the next five years, through their IPO in March 2012, I watched what the company grew into and I knew right then and there that I wanted to be part of a progression like that.
What’s your hidden talent? Having worked at Deloitte for 10 years and seeing so many different tech companies, and then working as the No. 2 in charge of finance at GitHub, I’ve definitely seen a lot of different stages and lifecycles of a VC-backed company - from M&A to IPO to bankruptcy/liquidation. This is a really unique and beneficial perspective to have when you’re dealing with any number of challenges or upcoming milestones in a company’s life.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome at Datadog? I joined Datadog as the top finance hire; when I joined, we had been relying on outsourced bookkeepers assisting our finance manager, so my first priority was to build out the team. Now we’re 13 months in and a team of six, no longer reliant on outsourced bookkeepers. To do this effectively, I think you really need to come in with eyes wide open and understand the needs of the team as it relates to company growth, with the goal of adding as much value as possible across the board. For instance, I spent a lot of time analyzing and evaluating the finance roadmap and establishing priorities for the whole team. From these learnings, I have been able to develop a team that can make the biggest impact on the company and really be a business partner to other departments and help them hit their goals which, in effect, helps the entire company achieve its broader objectives.
What are some of the unique finance challenges of startups that you wouldn’t encounter at larger, more established companies? Large, established companies tend to have a lot of red tape in the form of policies and procedures. Some of this is required for compliance reasons like Sarbanes Oxley 404, but some of it really is a function of how the company chose to grow themselves. In a startup, your priorities are constantly changing and you are often doing things that were not necessarily outlined in your job description. To me, it is exhilarating and challenging in a good way to see as many pieces of the puzzle as possible, compared to working at a Fortune 500 company where you might see very little.
How do you keep your team engaged? Open communication is key here, whether that’s through team meetings, happy hours or quarterly dinners. Everyone on the team should have visibility into the exciting things going on at the company, and have an understanding of overarching company priorities and goals. Additionally, everyone should have the ability to ask questions and/or challenge the status quo. These open lines of communication help keep everyone on the same page, and give people more of a sense of ownership and accountability over their own personal targets.
Who is your key mentor? My father.
What’s the thing that drives you most crazy? Annoying vendors that are disrespectful of your time, or call your cell phone or send incessant emails pushing their product.