Prior to joining TechStars, Jason was a founder of Slicehost, an early cloud computing hosting company. In 2008 Slicehost was acquired by Rackspace and became the core for the initial Cloud Servers product. Jason continued on at Rackspace until 2010 as VP of software development for Rackspace Cloud, managing the cloud engineering teams.
Jason has a B.S. in Computer Science and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology at Saint Louis University.
TALK ABOUT YOUR FIRST COMPANY.
SliceHost was a hosting company. At the time, the type of hosting company we were, you would call virtual private server hosting company, a VPS company. And really, what that is is "cloud" before the term "cloud" became widely used.
So what we set up to build, the two of us, my co-founder and I, was a hosting company on top of virtualization, that was completely automated, that the two – that could be run by two people. I didn't know how rare of a business it was at the time and how lucky we had gotten that what we were doing was just taking off like crazy.
The first time what we were missing was anyone who would ever done it before. When we started Slicehost, my co-founder and I had no, we had no business building a business. We didn't know what we're doing.
But had we brought money to the table from someone that had experience we could have mitigated a lot of, a lot of that risk. Knowing you're not alone? That's unbelievably valuable and certainly worth dilution, in my opinion.
AND AFTER THE PURCHASE BY RACKSPACE?
I worked at Rackspace for almost two years. I was VP of engineering over the cloud group. I spent about a year in this limbo where I was doing this deep soul searching that probably lots of people go through when they kind of exit a big, life-changing moment, you know. And I was in that limbo when TechStars' opportunity kind of fell in my lap.
WHAT’S GREAT ABOUT TECHSTARS?
I enjoy almost everything about working with TechStars and investing in and advising and mentoring seed-stage companies. But what I probably enjoy the most is the diversity of it, the fact that in a day I get to spend time thinking about 10 or 20 or 30 different opportunities or problems or issues or companies and I don't know having felt that if I could ever really go back to just working on one business again.
WHAT KIND OF ADVICE DO YOU GIVE TO STARTUPS?
So what I like to contribute is all of my firsthand experience, but I do it in a way, and it's important to do it in a way where the founder on the other side of the table knows that these are personal anecdotes and it's not a safe or wise practice to extrapolate from that to some general truth.
So the things that were true for me and my startup and my exit and my story? There's no fundamental truth, universal truth to be gleaned from that. The best that you can hope for is to not make the same mistakes that I've made. And that's I think how most very positive mentor-mentee relationships are.
THE BIG QUESTIONS.
So what's the right stage to apply to an accelerator like TechStars? I get this question a lot from companies and the answer really is the complete team that has a mature i dea of what they're trying to do.
So, as an investor investing capital -- someone else's or your own -- in a startup ultimately is an exercise in risk attribution. And so really what you're trying to figure out is at what point am I willing to join the risk of this company being something.
And for us at TechStars, we're willing to do that much, much earlier than an institutional VC but there are still risks that we don't want to take. And on the line of risk spectra for us, that's team.
So we don't want to take any risk, any team risk with you. So we want to see that you have all the members of the team that you need to go and get to the next stage of making something real. And that you have a rough idea of where your aimed.
When is the right time to make a tough call as a bootstrapper? Because the ax is always hanging over your head. It's all about the tension of walking the fine line, of getting exactly the right balance, you know, how much tenacity do we have to push through something that doesn't seem like it's working but you have belief in?
Versus giving up, versus trying again? It is all about balance. You know, life is balance. And the people that can walk that fine line, they're the ones that are successful.
And if you were to go build the the ten commandments of how to, you know, the bible of how to build successful companies probably the last entry would be: know when to to break all of the above rules, right?
And that's the kind of what it comes down to is sometimes you're just, you're just dancing in the fire, right?
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