Interview: Seth Levine from Foundry Group
Seth Levine from Foundry Group has been part of the JumpCloud family since the very beginning. As the first institutional investor, Seth offers a rich perspective on JumpCloud’s mission and the people working to carry out that mission. Below, Seth shares this perspective along with his thoughts on what it’s like living in the Boulder community.
First, tell us about Foundry Group. What do you guys do?
Seth: Foundry Group is a venture capital firm, and we’re based in Boulder, Colorado, the home of JumpCloud. We manage about $2.5 billion, having started about 10 years ago. I am one of the four founders of Foundry and we now have six partners.
What’s interesting about Foundry and has been important to JumpCloud is that we actually support companies throughout their entire life cycle. We often invest in companies early when it’s just a couple of people and an idea. We also make growth investments so we’re able to support companies as they grow, too. In the case of JumpCloud, they’ve now graduated (as we refer to it internally) to our growth fund.
Can you tell us more about your investing history with JumpCloud?
Seth: Yeah, so for a long time Foundry was the sole investor in JumpCloud, and before we even started working with JumpCloud, we had worked with Raj (JumpCloud’s CEO) on eight or nine businesses over the last 20 years. When I first joined the predecessor to Foundry, one of the first companies that I worked on was a company that Raj founded and was serving as chairman. In fact, that company was one of my very first board seats. So, Raj and I have have a long personal and business relationship that goes back 20 years.
After a few rounds as the only institutional backer of JumpCloud, last fall, we co-led a large growth round for the company with OpenView Venture Partners.
So how did OpenView get involved?
Seth: When JumpCloud was accelerating its growth, we met with the team from OpenView. They had gotten really excited about the market we were going after and some of the underlying metrics that are unique to JumpCloud. In general, there are certain attributes in a SaaS business that you look for like whether or not it’s playing in an interesting market, if it has strong growth potential. And OpenView got really excited about JumpCloud’s large overall potential. We weren’t raising money at the time, but Mackey Craven from OpenView came to us and said, “Hey I really like what is happening here, and I’d like to lead a funding round.” That’s what resulted in this $20 million round that they raised, and like I mentioned earlier, we were also able to participate in that round with our growth fund.
Can you explain why JumpCloud is such a unique opportunity?
Seth: So JumpCloud is a special company, and it is special because the market we’re going after is different than other markets that other companies in our portfolio are going after. Many of our companies go after large markets, and certainly, the market for directory services is extremely large. In this case, though, the market is a little funny because it’s essentially owned by one player, which is Active Directory® by Microsoft®, and Active Directory is a 25 year old product that hasn’t really evolved.
While the entire world has moved to the cloud, Active Directory is still a box in the closet for most. A couple companies have tried to adapt directory services to the cloud, and in the case of Microsoft, they’re trying to pitch you can buy Active Directory in the cloud. It doesn’t work very well, however, outside of the Microsoft stack. As most people know, the world is not a homogeneous place. Companies use other products and services than just Microsoft.
In response, JumpCloud pioneered the notion of a broad Directory-as-a-Service®—a directory in the cloud that can support user access across virtually all IT resources. So, all of those businesses that have heterogeneous IT environments should be using directory services like JumpCloud.
So, what’s unique about this market is that it’s so dominated by one company’s product. It’s a product that doesn’t work well for many organizations, and no one has come up with a competing solution until JumpCloud.
What advice do you have for those considering a career at JumpCloud, and what can you tell them about working here?
Seth: I think that it takes a special person to work at a startup in general. I realize everyone reading this has choices—not just what type of business they want to go work for, but also what stage (startup, growth stage, a mid-size company or a larger business). So I think people need to carefully think about what it is they’re looking for. At this point, JumpCloud is really a growth stage company. This means there’s a lot of history behind us, we’ve got a robust product, and we’ve got quite a bit of funding behind us.
Next, we have a fast-paced environment, and we work hard, but we also play hard. There’s certainly balance. It’s one of the reasons the company is headquartered in Boulder. I think we recognize that people work better, smarter, and more efficiently when there’s balance in their life. JumpCloud is also an environment of really smart people who work really hard, and we’re really passionate about what we’re doing.
We’re on a mission because we think that our customers and the market as a whole deserve a better identity provider. That’s what we’re here to build.
I think if you come work for JumpCloud, you should believe that, be excited about that, and want to work with other people who are smart, motivated and also excited about that mission.
For those out of state, what can you tell them about living in Boulder?
Seth: Boulder is a pretty amazing place, and I hope, that as you go through your process with JumpCloud, you’ll come out and really take in all of what Boulder has to offer.
First, it’s one of the most highly educated cities in the country, and it’s the foodiest town in America, according to Bon Appétit.
Obviously, we’re right in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, so there’s ample opportunity to mountain bike, hike, and run. We’re also quite close to world class skiing, snowboarding, and alpining. Basically, whatever your outdoor passion is, you’ll be able to enjoy that here.
You’ll also find a lot of opportunity in Boulder to meet interesting people and to get involved with different groups in the community. For example, we have a very robust Meetup and tech Meetup scene here. Whatever you’re hobbies and interests are outside of work (or even related to work), you’ll find a group of people getting together.
How about the working community, what is that like in Boulder?
Seth: The work environment in Boulder is really interesting, too. Historically, we’ve been a market that’s attracted a lot of life science businesses because of some close affiliations that the community has with CU (University of Colorado). We also have been known as a great tech startup market and tech startup city. The cool part is that there are a lot of start up businesses across different stages. We’ve had a number of companies go from founding themselves to going public, companies like Rally and SendGrid®. Then, there are others that have been bought for a billion dollars or more, like Datalogix, which Oracle® bought a couple years ago.
Any last insight into the Boulder community?
Seth: One last aspect you should know about Boulder is it’s an incredibly collaborative community.
At Techstars and Foundry, we talk a lot about the notion of giving without an expectation of something coming back in return, which we’ve termed #givefirst.
That’s been a part of the Boulder community for almost 20 years, and something that really shapes our culture. People at every level are willing to help each other out because we realize when one company wins, we all win. Many companies that have a successful exit will actually throw a party for the entire community because they recognize that building a business, building a successful business at that, only happens in the context of the community in which that happens.
I think that’s something that makes the Boulder market really special and unique, and for someone thinking about moving to Boulder, it’s important to understand that’s the type of community you’ll be joining.
Do you know someone who could be a great fit for JumpCloud? Consider sending them the video playlist above or visiting our careers page to see our open positions. If you are interested in learning more about the open directory services JumpCloud can provide, sign up for our introductory webinar or drop us a note.