Jason Cohen
Go ahead. Faith will follow.


Austin, TX


Austin, TX

Jason Cohen


  • Jason Cohen has started four companies, all profitable; two of them as sole founder and two of them as co-founder.  Two were bootstrapped, one angel-funded, and one VC.  All were profitable within two years; two of them have successfully sold for cash.
  • Jason's most recent exit was Smart Bear; which he bootstrapped to millions of dollars in profit and sold in 2007.  Before Smart Bear was ITWatchdogs (hardware and embedded software), and before that Sheer Genius Software (VC-funded, consulting).
  • Jason is currently one year into his fourth company WP Engine - Premium WordPress hosting.  We're growing with a profitable model, and always hiring!
  • Josh Baer and Jason are partners in Capital Thought, a combination consulting company and startup incubator.  On the consulting side they do everything from business-level advice and strategy to software design and implementation.  On the incubation side they have lots of ideas; the latest launch is WP Engine which got cash-flow-break-even in just 7 months and continues to grow.
  • Jason enjoys ultimate frisbee and spending time with his family in Austin, TX.
  • [Photo by René Lego Photography]
  • I think the thing I bring to a company is getting from no revenue at all to $1 million revenue. All of those early stage things of mitigating the risk and finding out what people really want.
  • Once the company is really large, like if there are 100 employees? I don't think my particular skill set is a good match and hat I bring a whole lot to that, because that's not the kind of person I am -- I don't see myself as a manager. I see myself as someone who figures things out and does stuff, whether that's writing code, or the marketing, or hiring, or any of that. I just get stuff done, and at the beginning that's what you have to do.
  • So depending on who you ask, between 8% and 13% of every website on Earth is powered by WordPress, which is sort of astonishing. And WordPress just has emerged as the way to build websites and blogs, and CMSs, and all kinds of sites. I mean, obviously, with that many sites, it's all sorts of people with all sorts of sites.
  • And I think WordPress has ties to a couple of locations in particular, and WordPress is really beloved in Austin. And I think the reason is that Austin has such a culture of not only start-ups, but freelancers and designers. And WordPress is perfect for designers because it's very easy to create beautiful and functional sites without too much time, so that is without so much of a budget, which means everybody can have a very functional, changeable, but beautiful and wonderful site.
  • The most common mistake I see startup founders make is that they refuse to interview their customers and really listen to what the customers are actually saying.
  • And everyone now is steeped in the lean startup methodology, so they know they should be talking to customers. They know they should be talking to 30 people before they even start writing code, before they even have a wireframe. They know they should be trained to ask not what features you need, but what is your actual need, and reading between the lines of what they're actually telling them.
  • They know these things, intellectually, and they tell me that they're doing it. But the fact is that almost no one does it. And if they do do interviews, it's a sales pitch, not an interview, and so forth.
  • When I find a start-up founder who hasn't been doing that, and then they start doing that, I cannot tell you how many emails I've gotten of people, "Okay, I did it. You were right. Now I'm doing this."
  • And literally in the course of a week, they've shifted everything. And it's not that their whole company is wrong. In fact, this has put the company on the right track.
  • What's nice about Austin is the diversity of opportunities, that there are so many ways in which you can have a career in Austin, especially when you're young and you're still trying lots of things on for size.
  • It's the kind of place where you can do literally that, even if the specific job you're doing right now ends up not being the thing you want to do. And I feel like, in a lot of other cities, you're sort of locked into a certain mode. In the valley, they have a certain expectation of what a startup kind of means. And if you decided that that wasn't quite the culture that you wanted, that it didn't fit in, you probably need to move next.
  • Whereas, in Austin, you'd might not need to move, and in particular you can just see those things unfolding around you and decide whether those are the kind of things you like.
  • Austin is the kind of place where it's easy to grow a network. And so if you're here for -- well, while you're growing up or even just five years, you just meet a whole lot of people that are doing a whole lot of things, there's a lot of opportunity. It's always growing and thriving, and the city itself has so much different things to offer that you kind of need something to pull you away.
  • And I feel like not a lot of people leave, and everybody comes, and at least the population growth seems to indicate that. I just count myself as one of those people, so I like a lot of places but I have a lot of roots here, and why move when it's sort of the ideal place for me, personally?