Made up of bold, passionate, visionary, and hard-working people, start-ups are not only the best places to work, but are filled with the most interesting people to talk to. As ForgeRock continues to grow, we thought we’d do a little feature about the people that make ForgeRock’s global operation tick—so you can see who’s living under the rock, so to speak!
We sat down with Jonathan Scudder, ForgeRock’s co-founder, board member, and chief architect of OpenAM to talk ForgeRock’s beginnings and his takeaways.
Let’s start at the beginning. When you founded ForgeRock what was your vision?
We wanted to run a “good company.” Let me explain – while we were at Sun, we believed we were working for the “good guy”—a company that was focused on building quality technology rather than just marketing it. When Sun was acquired by Oracle, we wanted to continue to do the right thing. To us, that meant building on the great work we started at Sun. When we envisioned ForgeRock, we saw a company where people were proud of the work they were doing. The decision to form another company from the open source ashes that Oracle left behind seemed like a natural thing to do.
So was keeping open source alive the ultimate goal?
No, to us, open source was more the means to an end rather than the ultimate goal. Open source allows us to create the collaborative and open environment that we wanted to foster but ForgeRock is at core a viable business building great technology in an innovative working environment.
What’s the hardest part about starting a company? What about the best?
In a lean start-up you need to squeeze as much value as possible out of every single dollar without compromising your business, and that requires incredibly tough prioritization. It’s hard to believe, but we started the company with just $40,000, so we had no cash reserve to fall back on. Sales were crucial from day one and realizing our vision on a shoestring budget meant difficult compromises. Thankfully we ended up on the right side of what was a fine line at times.
To me, one of the best parts of working in a start-up is the power – not in a Dr. Evil sort of way, but having the power to shape your own future and to create something that you are really passionate and proud about, while also making a difference. And it’s not just the founders and management; all our employees play a real role in making ForgeRock what it is today.
ForgeRock was started in Norway and now has offices all over the world – how did you choose all of these locations?
The decision to start out in Norway was practical and personal—the majority of us had close links to the country, coming together there through Sun and working on some of the same projects. We had extensive contacts in the market and good knowledge of company administration legislation, which always helps when you are building a company.
Grenoble and Vancouver (US) grew organically since we had concentrations of early ForgeRockers there, and a presence near Silicon Valley was inevitable as we grew in the US market and started talking to top tier investors.
These days I’m based out of our office in Bristol, which is a vibrant city and strategic IT location in the UK and in keeping with a key principle of the company, work-life balance. Although London is a great city and the first place most people think of for a UK presence, long commutes to work and unreasonable housing costs are not attractive. Bristol is part of “Silicon Gorge” with Europe’s fourth-highest concentration of tech companies.
ForgeRock has been unique from the start – what makes the company so different?
We don’t fit into any of the typical startup patterns. We aren’t a tech company with a new app or something that may be great in the future; we are a very young company with really mature and relevant products based on millions of lines of code that go back over 10 years. Our customers are some of the largest and most demanding companies in the world. We already had a viable business model before we even started looking for funding. Additionally, we have a commercial open source product, providing the support that sometimes holds companies back when they consider open source software.
Part 2 to come: Jonathan shares some of his experiences and has a bit of advice for other budding entrepreneurs