It was a delight to interview Rajat Bhargava for the Give First Podcast. We’ve been working together since 1994 when I made my first angel investment in Raj’s first company (NetGenesis). We’ve worked on a number of companies since then, some successful, and some not, but our friendship – even with our own personal ups and downs – has been a constant.
Raj covers a lot of ground in this podcast, including some origin stories, his relationship with Will Herman (who co-invested in NetGenesis with me at the very beginning, which is how he met Raj), a moment where I treated Raj poorly and our relationship could have easily gone off the rails if we hadn’t both put energy into acknowledging what had happened and getting back to a healthy place, and how he thinks about Give First, both in the Boulder startup community and at his current company JumpCloud.
Raj – 25 years later, I still learn something from you every time we talk. You are a gem. I’m so glad you came up to me after that MIT guest lecture oh so many years ago.
JumpCloud, one of the fastest growing companies in Colorado, is looking for awesome Developers, QA engineers, DevOps admins, and Customer Success Engineers. Over the next year, they are planning to hire 50 people for the engineering team and about 70 across the entire company.
JumpCloud is focused on delivering cloud-based directory services via a SaaS model. They are trying to solve some very difficult problems around identity, authentication, security, and cloud scaling.
JumpCloud’s mission deeply resonates with me because they are disrupting a two decade old monopoly in directory services and giving IT organizations freedom of choice with their IT solutions. It’s an exciting space and we (Foundry Group, OpenView, and Techstars Ventures) are betting that the JumpCloud team has the winning approach.
Since 1994, I’ve worked with the CEO, Rajat Bhargava, on eight companies and I’m psyched about the company and culture that the team is building there.
If you are up for a new challenge leveraging modern technology platforms at a well-funded startup in Boulder, drop the JumpCloud team a note or feel free to email me and I’ll connect you up with them.
Since JumpCloud plays in the world of digital authentication, they are well versed in security issues and are helping organizations with securely connecting their users to their IT resources (systems, app, storage, WiFi, servers, etc.).
He pointed me to a five-step video they put up about how IT organizations can step-up their WiFi security – not only from KRACK, but from man-in-the-middle attacks and from having poor WiFi security hygiene.
David Cohen coined the phrase “do more faster” and then we made it popular when we published the book by the same name back in 2010.
We wrote the book because it was becoming clear that doing more faster was exactly what businesses were striving to do and it subsequently became the Techstars mantra. As technological advancements gave both the entrepreneur and businessperson a new framework for productivity, goals across industries and departments started taking a new shape, but singing a similar tune: fit more into the day, produce more results, better results, cheaper results, and all in a shorter time frame than ever before.
Whether or not it’s overtly stated, the do more faster mentality has eked its way into nearly every aspect of business.
IT departments stand to gain some of the most significant benefits from adopting a do more faster attitude. If they approach things correctly, IT admins can cultivate an extremely effective development / IT organization and increase the pace of business across their entire organization.
Many of the companies that we invest in help their customers increase the pace of their business so that they can grow faster, be more profitable, and be better corporate citizens. Throughout the years, I’ve noticed that the companies I see who successfully increased their pace of business have three things in common.
- They decentralized decision making
- They push the pace of their product development by more closely aligning with customers
- They create a culture of action
To focus on the mantra of Do More Faster in IT, the JumpCloud team assembled a great group of people to write some thoughts on areas where organizations can pick-up the pace.
- Gene Kim talks about one of the most important movements in the IT world, DevOps.
- Alan Shimel, the founder and editor of DevOps.com, tackles how to make employees more productive through BYOD.
- Ben Kepes nails the concept of hybrid organizations – those that are crossing the gap between old world industries and innovation.
- Raj Bhargava (CEO of JumpCloud) tackles a few different subjects including how businesses can move faster by leveraging more commercial software rather than building from scratch, using remote employees, and leveraging wireless infrastructure.
The quest for increased speed doesn’t come for free. But that’s the beauty of Doing More Faster, Now with IT Control as Raj and his team discuss real steps businesses owners can take to solve the inevitable issues that come up when you start to move more quickly.
If you are interested in doing more faster within your development or IT organization, grab a copy of the JumpCloud eBook The Guide to Doing More, Faster (Now With IT Control).
Raj Bhargava (CEO of JumpCloud) and I got into a discussion at dinner the other night about the major security hacks this past year including Sony, eBay, Target, and The Home Depot. Raj spend over a decade in the security software business and it was fascinating to realize that a common thread on virtually all of these major compromises was hacked credentials.
I felt this pain personally yesterday. A bunch of random charges to Match.com, FTD.com, and a few other sites showed up on Amy’s Amex card. We couldn’t figure out where it got stolen from, but clearly it was from another online site somewhere since it’s a card she uses for a lot of online purchases, so I cancelled it. Due to Amex’s endless security process, it took almost 30 minutes to cancel the card, get a new one, and add someone else to the account so I wouldn’t have to go through the nonsense the next time.
In my conversation with Raj, we moved from basic credential security to the notion that the number of sites we access is exploding. Think about how many different logins you have to deal with each day. I’m pretty organized about how I do it and it’s still totally fucked.
Every major new service is managed separately. Accounts to AWS or Google Compute Engine or Office 365 are managed separately. Github is managed separately. Google Apps are managed separately. Every SaaS app is managed separately. All your iOS logins are yet another thing to deal with. The only thing that isn’t managed separately are individual devices – as long as you have an IT department to manage them. Oh wait, are they managing your Mac? How about your iPhone and other BYOD devices? Logins and passwords everywhere.
Raj’s assertion to me at our dinner was that there are too many different places, and too many scenarios, where something can be compromised. For instance, some companies use password managers and some don’t. Some companies that take password management to an individual level – where a single employee manages her own passwords – end up with many login / password combinations which are used over and over again. Or worse, the login / password list ends up in an unencrypted file on someone’s device (ahem Sony.)
If you are nodding, you are being realistic. If you aren’t nodding, do a reality check to see if you are in denial about your own behavior or your organization’s behavior. Think about how new services enter your organization. A developer, IT admin, marketing person, executive, or salesperson just signs up for a new online service to try. When doing so, which credentials do they use? If it is connecting to your company’s environment, it’s likely they are using your organization’s email address and a verbatim password they use internally as well. That’s a recipe for getting hacked.
So, Raj and I started discussing solutions. Some of it may just be unsolvable as human nature may not let us completely protect users online. But it seems like there are areas where we can make some immediate headway.
- Secure directory services (the approach JumpCloud is taking)
- Multi-factor authentication has become all the rage (I use it)
- Different strong passwords for each service, possibly via a password manager like LastPass (which is what I use)
What other approaches exist that would scale up from small (10 person orgs) to large (100,000 person orgs) and provide the same level of identity and credential security?
Several years ago, I had to go through the process of disconnecting Active Directory and untangling it from a number of services that depended on it. One of these cases was a migration off of all Microsoft services. Another was a result of a company I was involved in acquiring another company that had Active Directory deeply integrated into its infrastructure.
I hadn’t paid much attention to Active Directory or LDAP since them, but I recently found myself in a conversation with Raj Bhargava, the CEO of JumpCloud, about why there was no “Directory as a Service” product. Raj and the team at JumpCloud had begun exploring the notion of a cloud-based directory, I was intrigued and remember the first conversation well. I was driving up to my place in Keystone and Raj was explaining some of the customer feedback they were receiving on their initial product. They were getting positive feedback on the user management capabilities and when they added the ability to execute tasks on servers, the feedback was just add desktop and laptop OSs and voila you have a replacement for Active Directory. Of course, it’s not that easy, but the feedback hit us all like a ton of bricks. Conceptually it was very interesting.
I worked closely with the team over the summer to dig in and really understand the feedback. Turns out, it was more than just moving Active Directory to the cloud. We regularly heard that it was time for a new directory approach as LDAP and Active Directory have been the two dominant directories for the last few decades and there has been very little innovation around them. While Google Apps is awesome for email and apps, it doesn’t really function as a directory, at least, not in the way that IT organizations have come to view them.
As we talked to more people, it was clear that they were looking for a directory that could handle cloud and on-prem systems, variety of operating systems / device types, and the move to cloud services.
So, the JumpCloud team went to work and started executing on that concept. Given the depth of their existing product, adding directory capabilities wasn’t too challenging. Two weeks ago, JumpCloud launched the first ever Directory-as-a-Service offering.
The initial reception has been fantastic. Clearly there are a lot of companies that don’t want to deal with Microsoft Active Directory or manage LDAP themselves. And this was exactly the thesis around the need for a new directory approach that Raj and team had developed from their customer conversations.
If you are interested is using the service, you can do so for free – 10 users are free forever, and then it’s a paid offering. Drop me a note and I’ll connect you to the JumpCloud team or just go on over to JumpCloud and sign-up!
I’d love to hear what you think of the concept and the product if you have a chance to use it.
Our portfolio company JumpCloud is running a survey to dig deeper into the professional lives of IT folks and their move to DevOps. If you are open to sharing your thoughts and experiences, please take their survey. It’s only about five minutes long and they are sharing all of the raw data (anonymized, of course). The survey ends at the end of June.
The IT sector is undergoing some interesting transformations as a result of the cloud, DevOps, and mobile. I’m interested to see what the data tells us.
If you happen to have at least 100 servers, JumpCloud is looking to pick your brain about how you manage them. If you are open to it, let me know and I’ll connect you with them – I’m sure that they will make it worth your time (and I appreciate the help)!
As a bonus, JumpCloud is raffling off a Fitbit Flex (another one of our portfolio companies), an Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung Gear Neo 2 Smartwatch if you complete the survey. Please take a few minutes and help us get some interesting data on how the IT sectors works.
Raj Bhargava (CEO of JumpCloud) and I have been talking about how startups can leverage DevOps and Agile more. We created a conference on DevOps last year for our portfolio companies and it was a huge hit.
DevOps is a movement that we are deeply interested in from multiple perspectives. It’s integral to almost all of the companies we invest in and many, especially in our Glue and Protocol themes, are DevOps driven companies.
In addition to investing in these companies, we are promoting DevOps concepts throughout our portfolio, encouraging learning activities such as the conference, and involved with initiatives such as DevOps.com that is a site to educate the IT community about DevOps.
When Raj asked me to do a Q&A with him on my views around DevOps to help more people understand why I am excited about it, I immediately said yes. If you are interested in hearing my thoughts around how companies can leverage Devops, head on over to JumpCloud’s Q&A with me on DevOps and SaaS and let us know what you think.
And – if you are a VP of Marketing, JumpCloud is looking for a great one.
My partner Ryan McIntyre says that any company doing business on the web should be practicing some form of DevOps. One of the biggest trends in tech today is DevOps, which is closely tied into Agile, Cloud, PaaS, and SDN.
If you remember Gene Kim’s guest post on the importance of DevOp post, or recognize some of the investments we’ve made in our Glue and Protocol themes that are focused on DevOps, such as JumpCloud and VictorOps, this will be a familiar topic.
Last fall, JumpCloud and Softlayer/IBM hosted a DevOps Conference in Boulder for the companies we’ve invested in. At this conference, I heard of an effort to put together a new community site that would pitch a tent big enough for anyone interested in DevOps. This would be a place where technical folks could learn and communicate, where novices could find out more, and where business people could understand why and how DevOps matters.
Alan Shimel, who I have known for over 15 and has been writing for Network World and a bunch of other places was heading up the effort. In typical Shimel fashion, Alan simultaneously put together a top flight collection of content providers while doing a deal and partnering with Martin Logan who had a blog over at the domain, DevOps.com. If you are going to have a DevOps community media site, it is hard to imagine a better domain to for it to live at.
Since that time Alan and Martin have been working hard retooling the old blog into a full-fledged online community e-zine. They launched the site this week with SoftLayer and JumpCloud as founding sponsors. Another one of our portfolio companies, VictorOps is a sponsor and VictorOps CEO Todd Vernon has a regular blog on the DevOps.com site.
The list of contributors to DevOps.com reads like a who’s who of the DevOps world with a goal of having over 100 unique content pieces a month at DevOps.com. But media content is not the only mission. Alan, Martin and team are planning to help amplify the DevOps grass roots efforts around the world through conferences and community events.
I am jazzed to see what Alan makes of it, but I am even more excited to watch the continued growth and influence of DevOps.
Last week our portfolio company, JumpCloud – who is deep in the DevOps market with their automated cloud server management product – hosted the first annual DevOps conference here in Boulder. It was a huge success – we had over 200 people show up and engage in a full day of deep discussions on DevOps.
We are huge fans of the DevOps movement. Similar to how we got involved in the Agile movement early with our investment in Rally Software, we are long on DevOps with investments in companies such as JumpCloud, VictorOps, SendGrid, Pantheon, Authentic8 and others. We see DevOps instantiating the lean startup culture throughout an organization. DevOps promotes short cycle times, automation, and deep integration across a company with the goal of innovating quicker and more effectively against customers’ needs. In short, we view it as a cultural methodology that increases the odds of success for a company.
The day was fantastic, starting with Raj Bhargava (CEO of JumpCloud) and Paul Ford (SoftLayer) kicking things off with a short discussion about what DevOps is. I was next with a quick discussion framing why DevOps is critical to our companies and their customers. From there, we had presentations by Ryan Martens (CTO of Rally) on learnings from Agile, Nathan Day (Chief Scientist of SoftLayer) on the incredible automation at SoftLayer, and a number of great panels from CEOs, CTOs, and VPs of Engineering of DevOps related companies. Three of our portfolio companies – SendGrid, Mocavo, and Gnip – closed the formal part of the day with case studies on different areas of DevOps.
Later, the full group headed to Bacaro for more casual conversations around DevOps. I ended the night at Walnut Brewery with Raj and a few close friends watching the Red Sox lose game two of the World Series to the Cardinals.
The engagement on the topic of DevOps was really powerful. The questions flowed quickly – it’s clear everyone is struggling with how to define DevOps – what it means, who should be involved in an organization, and how to recruit for it. While the word is quickly becoming entrenched, it’s a new category with a wide range of opportunities.
When Raj came to me several months ago suggesting that we should put on a conference around DevOps for all of the Foundry Group, Techstars, and Bullet Time Ventures companies it was easy to be excited about it. I expected about 50 people to participate – it was amazing to look around the room and see 200 really engaged people. I’m proud of Raj and Paul for putting this on and thankful for all of the effort that our companies made to get there and participate!