Company: Jama Software
Year Founded: 2007
What They Do: Build software for product development.
Vision: To make possible the impossible products of the future.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Grappling with the daily possibility of failing in some way.
I started Jama because I hate waste. In the U.S. we waste $50 billion a year building things that ultimately don’t work, and I decided to do something about it. Jama is a software platform for companies that are building smart, connected products. We track all the information that goes into building products, connecting teams to live data, accelerating decisions, and mitigating risk.
I think people are either running away from something or running to something. I was always running away from being a full-time employee. I didn’t want to work for someone else, I wanted to pursue something that I was building and creating. With Jama, I was really running toward something. I felt like there was an opportunity to make an impact.
In the early days, I just wanted to build a product and get if off the ground. Over time, as we’ve worked with some of the world’s top companies—helping them build products from space crafts to life-saving medical devices to autonomous vehicles—our mission has become much bigger. We’re helping companies build the impossible products of the future; we’re helping them get these breakthroughs today. We are changing the world in our own way, and that’s what gets me up every day.
When I think back to my decision to start the company, I had two approaches. One was aspirational—to achieve a longer-term vision of building a global company headquartered here in Oregon. My other approach was to take it day by day. Build the product, sell the product, hire people, do it again. As you’re launching and growing a company, when you wake up every day, you know it’s going to be a roller coaster ride.
You have these rose-colored glasses on, a bit of delusional optimism that everything is going to work out, but every day you also feel like you’re going to fail in some way. And it gets pretty lonely when you’re just plowing ahead.
Through OEN, I was able to make some great connections. I started attending OEN’s PubTalks and met more experienced entrepreneurs who were willing to spend time with me and share how they started their business. One of the great things about Portland as a place to start is business is you can connect with anybody. Everyone is willing to have coffee with you. Mentorship was a really big part of Jama’s success. My background is psychology—I don’t have a formal business background.
Through OEN workshops, I learned skills that were critical for getting off the ground, like how you create a base set of financials and how you run a sales team.
When we were just getting started developing the company and finding our product-market fit, we wound up winning the OEN Development Stage Company of the Year Award. That gave us a huge boost. It helped us with hiring and helped us continue to raise the company profile. And personally it gave us a feeling of, “Hey, there’s something here, we can go do it.”
The people in the OEN network were my cheerleaders, and that counts for a lot. It helps you get through and persevere. OEN is a place where you can go get reenergized, where you can pick up and go try again, where you feel like you can do anything.
Everyone at OEN was a huge champion of Jama from the very early days. Even if I was having a really crappy day—if I had lost a deal—I always felt such strong, enthusiastic support from the OEN network.
Sometimes I feel a bit like a frog in hot water. We’ve been building the company over a period of time, so I don’t always notice it. But when I take a step back, when I wander around the office and look at the amazing people who have been on the journey with me, it’s unbelievable to see what we’ve created.
Even though we are turning ten this year, we’re actually just getting started.