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ExtraHop CEO Arif Kareem speaks during Day 1 of the GeekWire Summit 2017 at Sheraton Seattle on Tuesday, October 10, 2017. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

Tech startups tend to break through in their early days with a game-changing product or an irresistible service, but companies that last are the ones that invest in their people, according to ExtraHop CEO Arif Kareem.

“You can have the best strategy but it’s the people that are going to execute the strategy,” Kareem said during a lunchtime talk at the GeekWire Summit Tuesday. “At the end of the day the best team wins.”

Kareem joined Seattle’s ExtraHop, which makes network monitoring products that help improve application delivery and security, in 2016, which GeekWire readers decided was the Hire of the Year at our awards ceremony earlier this year. He joined ExtraHop after a six-year stint at Fluke Networks in Everett as president, during which revenue surpassed $350 million.

Companies that manage to grow and thrive tend to do so on the backs of a group of folks that are usually derided: middle managers. “Retaining and inspiring employees is critical, but it’s the middle management layer that really makes or breaks a company,” Kareem said.

Still, leaders have the opportunity to give everyone at all levels of the company the tools to grow and thrive by installing processes and systems that allow both employees and managers to understand if they are making progress against their goals and how to fix problems before they get out of hand.

“Results only come through vigor, execution, inspection, and making sure you are on your path. … That has to come from the top,” he said.

(Editor’s note: Kareem’s lunchtime talk at the GeekWire Summit 2017 was sponsored by ExtraHop.)

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