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On Marketing Technology

MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here? What inspired you to join a Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) company?
I was on a hike with John Kim, managing partner at HighBar Partners, just before New Year’s 2015. John was very excited as he described a “Portland-based identity company called Janrain.” “We’re looking at a team that invented social login,” I recall John saying. “The company has evolved over the years to provide identity cloud services for some amazing marquee brands.” As he described founder Larry Drebes and the team, it was easy to get sucked in. It was an amazing story.

But to be honest, what intrigued me equally as much as the identity space itself was the fact that the company was based in Portland. Larry, the founder, was part of Jerry Yang’ team at Yahoo! back in 1997, and later decided to move from Silicon Valley to Portland.

“Interesting, John. I wonder what the talent is like in Portland.” I found out later that not only was Janrain’s culture exactly what I was interested in, but that the Portland tech talent pool itself was less prone to chasing “shiny objects” (i.e., less likely to job hop) and much more loyal than those in Silicon Valley. I learned that the people made up the company’s competitive advantage.

My story for John was far less interesting. It was my third year at DXC Technology, created from the merger of Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) and the Enterprise Services business of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). I had just finished pulling together several disparate lines of business into one organization called Digital Applications ($1 billion in the Americas, and $2 billion worldwide). I was finishing up a big milestone for me in the DXC business, and what would later become my final chapter there.

As John and I finished our quarterly hike, I said “Happy New Year, John! Let me know how things go.” “See you next year, Jim!” That was the last thing John said until I received a phone call from him two weeks later.

“Jim, remember that company I was telling you about? Janrain? Well, we made a significant investment in them, and the founder, Larry Drebes, is really excited to meet you. Can you come into the partnership so we can talk about you coming onboard as Janrain’s CEO?”

The rest is history.


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