A Q&A With Jive Communications Co-Founder and VP of Products, Mike Sharp,
Q: The early days of Jive (founded in 2006) were defined by bootstrapping. What lessons did you learn from this period of self-funding and how did this help to shape Jive’s culture moving forward?
Most of Jive’s history was built on bootstrapping. It’s helped mold our culture over the years and has taught us a lot about risk-taking and the importance of being customer-centric.
Bootstrapping forces you to think about and weigh every risk and tradeoff. A big part of building a startup is deciding which bets you want to take. It’s not about avoiding risk or taking every big swing that comes your way, it’s just about taking the right swings. You don’t need to be right every time, you just need to be right on the big decisions that matter. Especially considering that when you bootstrap, you don’t have a big pot of someone else’s money to help bail you out if you get into trouble. So at Jive, we’ve really had to carefully weigh every option and laser focus our energy on our customers.
This is especially important because it was our customers who were ultimately paying for everything from our growth and research and development, to our sales expansion. And I think that this strong customer focus really kept us afloat and led to our success through the years. We knew that if we were to disappoint our customers in any way, whether it was related to the product, support, or the overall human element of the business, then our funding would ultimately dry up. So instead of worrying about what investors, board members or VCs thought, we cared solely about what customers and resellers thought. Having the focus there was really powerful for us. And that’s not to say that bootstrapping is right for every business, or that we couldn’t have grown faster if we would’ve approached it differently, but I like where we ended up. And amazingly, we never missed payroll — which is unusual for a startup.
Q: As a co-founder, what do you believe was the most important thing (or things) that helped Jive grow from an early-stage startup into a large business acquired by LogMeIn, one of the top SaaS companies in the world?
It may sound cliché, but it’s been our people. I’ve been reflecting on this a lot, and we’ve been so fortunate to work with awesome people; people that are honest, willing to work hard, and were ready to join our fast-moving creative chaos. So many of our employees were optimistic and excited to jump in, share opinions and take ownership. And it helped that we were all working towards a common vision and focusing on winning together rather than individually. I don’t know how we would’ve made it as far as we have if not for the right people.
Q: The majority of Jive’s employee growth happened within Utah. What was it about this state that made you want to start and build a business inside Silicon Slopes?
I absolutely love Utah, and we’ve been so fortunate to build a business inside Silicon Slopes. With that said, I think there’s this assumption that every choice we make as entrepreneurs is super strategic and well thought through. And that’s a myth that I’ve found as I’ve discussed with other entrepreneurs. Of course, you’re not successful as an entrepreneur if you have no strategy and if nothing is planned or intentional, but it’s not a binary thing. There’s a whole lot of things we did that kind of just happened. And being in Utah was one of those.
As founders, we all met and lived in Utah — some of us were in school, had just graduated, or were starting families — and we never once thought about relocating the business. And maybe it’s because we did have six founders and moving would have been a headache, but we never consciously thought about moving or necessarily decided on being in Silicon Slopes. However, we all love Utah. There’s nowhere I’d rather be. I know there are good people everywhere, but some of the best people I know live here, and the location has definitely worked out in our favor. We’re proud to be a part of Silicon Slopes.
Q: Jive was acquired by LogMeIn in February 2018. Why was the acquisition the best choice for Jive?
When we began getting a lot of inbound interest and attention from potential acquirers, we weren’t looking to wash our hands of the Jive story (which was 12 years in the making). We wanted to keep building the company, give our employees more opportunities, and help our customers succeed and propel themselves into the future.
We were attracted to LogMeIn for several reasons. Not only were they a great cultural fit and had great people and personalities, but they had a similar vision as us, and a smart, scrappy, customer-centric approach that we could relate with. We also knew that Jive was a great fit in their product suite with products like GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, join.me and more, and that it would offer us more opportunities to grow, develop and innovate.
And from a customer standpoint, that was exactly what we wanted. The days of having siloed communications are past. With LogMeIn, we now have the most robust communications suite on the market. Regardless of how you want to communicate — whether it’s internal or external, or through voice, video, text or screen share — you can do that now. We can integrate all those experiences and bring it into a single experience so our customers can be as efficient as possible, with every tool they need right in their tool belt.
Q: From Jive’s perspective, how have things changed (day-to-day operations, strategy, culture, product, etc.) following the acquisition?
It was definitely a big shift going from a privately held company to part of one of the world’s top 10 publicly traded SaaS companies. There was a different set of factors we needed to think about and account for, and there were different changes in controls. There were also changes made as we merged the companies’ cultures. It is important to LogMeIn leadership that we have a shared identity and culture, so we’ve worked together to figure out how to bring the best pieces from both Jive and LogMeIn, to build a better culture together. That has meant that some things have changed, but a lot has stayed the same.
From a product and customer standpoint, we now have a much bigger suite of products and a massive global scale of services that we can bring to the table to help our customers be effective in their businesses – whether that’s in the Communications & Collaboration space or around remote access and password management or customer engagement and support. There are some really cool tools and products that are part of the LogMeIn portfolio.
Q: In regard to Utah’s business community, what are LogMeIn’s plans (if any) for growth within the state?
We love Utah and have enjoyed seeing all of the growth happening here across many different industries. We have a lot of room to grow here — in fact we just doubled down on our investment in Utah by opening a brand new 110,000 square foot office in Lindon — and we’re excited for the future, whatever it may hold. We believe in Utah as a market and know there are a lot of good things coming!
**Q: Many early-stage entrepreneurs struggle with the highs and lows of startup life. Is there any advice you can offer for those looking to emulate Jive’s 12-year journey? **
I think it’s important to remember that success looks different to everyone. Don’t get hung up on someone else’s version of success. I’ve been to so many startup events where we talk in hero worship terms of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and other one-in-a-million entrepreneurs. And while that’s great, and I have a ton of admiration for those guys, the overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs will never have success like that. If that’s your version of success, you’re putting yourself in a risky position. You’re setting the bar so high that it makes it extremely easy to fall. This is why it’s crucial that we each define success differently.
My definition of success has changed every year. My goal three years into Jive was completely different than it is now, and that’s how it should be. Take things one step at a time because success should evolve. The game you have to play as an entrepreneur consists of waking up every day and executing; taking care of your employees and customers. It’s good to have long- and short-term goals, but make sure they’re always in your line of sight.
A Q&A With Jive Communications Co-Founder and VP of Products, Mike Sharp was originally published on Silicon Slopes.