Seventeen years ago I sat down to interview a prospective software engineer for a job opening I had posted in the newspaper (yes, the newspaper – this was 17 years ago). Sitting across the table from me was this unshaven, tall, gangly, and quite geeky looking guy named Jeff Malek, and he was grinning from ear to ear. His smile exuded much more than just happiness, it was an intriguing mixture of mischievousness blended with anticipation, held together with boundless joy. His only question for me at the end of the interview was, “What happens now?” Little did I know that simple question would become our life’s motto.

Jeff Ring & KeithAfter we wrapped up, I conferred with the hiring manager, and my comment was, “He’s weird. But for some reason I really, really like him.” We offered him the job, and my life was forever changed by the amazingly unique and unstoppable Malek gravitational pull.

Jeff and I have been working side by side for the entire seventeen years since, and somewhere around year six I found myself considering Jeff my closest friend on the planet. I think he finally succumbed to that idea around year ten. Being able to hang out with my best friend every day has become one of the most significant blessings in my life.

It hasn’t all been rainbows and unicorns. We fought, we laughed, we drank, we nursed hangovers, we built companies, we sold companies, we wound some down and we started new ones. It’s been a beautiful, messy, tumultuous, rock-solid relationship, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Keith and two MaleksIt was nearly six years ago that Jeff and I left a company we had co-founded to start BigDoor, and now we again find ourselves in a time of transition. In August of 2014 we decided it was time to sell BigDoor, and last month we finalized the sale of the company to a private investment firm. Concurrent with our sale, we embraced a new operating plan that required us to make some reductions to our expenses, so we regrettably said goodbye to a few amazing members of our team, but the bulk of the BigDoor team is still here and still doing unbelievably great work. During that process it became increasingly clear to both Jeff and me that this was a perfect time for BigDoor to adopt new leadership, so we began working with our board and new investors on a plan for me to step aside and for Jeff to move from CTO to CEO.

Keith & JeffI couldn’t be happier with the board’s choice of Jeff as CEO, and I am thrilled for both Jeff and BigDoor. I will remain on BigDoor’s board, and on Jeff’s speed-dial. Jeff will bring to this new role the perfect combination of continuity and fresh perspective. He knows our team, our tech and our customers better than anyone, and I have complete confidence in his ability to continue building this latest manifestation of our friendship. Creepy love-child analogies aside, I’m stoked to watch my friend grow into this new role and for BigDoor to grow under his leadership.

The optimism I have for Jeff and for BigDoor outweighs any sadness that I feel as I say goodbye to an incredible team of dedicated, brilliant, hard-working folks. I can’t wait to see what happens now.