Last time we sat down with our co-founder, board member, and chief architect of OpenAM, Jonathan, we chatted about why and how he started ForgeRock—his goals and vision for the company and what really makes the company tick. This time we wanted to get Jonathan’s insight into the company, a sense of his daily life, and some really great entrepreneurial advice. Here’s part two of the interview:
You’re heavily involved in hiring at ForgeRock. As a founder, what do you look for in an employee?
When we’re hiring, we hire to our culture rather than just a checklist of skills – it’s all about bringing a brilliant group of people together. It’s hard to define what really makes our culture successful, but I think it’s all part of the inner motivation of working at ForgeRock–inspiring each other on a daily basis. We have a “rockstar” theme in our company, which may sound cheesy but there’s a kernel of truth in that. When you get a group of brilliant people together, great things will happen! It’s a challenging but rewarding approach.
Walk us through a typical day
There really aren’t any typical days at ForgeRock, which is great. We have flexible work arrangement with people coming and going at different times. For me, I motorbike to work in the morning to beat traffic, make an effort at beating my inbox into submission and then work with the AM team writing and reviewing code, managing our agile process, and working with key stakeholders to design the best access management product in the world! I’m generally back home by 6 pm for dinner and to spend time with my family before starting the evening shift with the U.S. team once the kids are in bed. There’s always something different going on though so no two days are alike.
As a founder, if you could give any advice to budding entrepreneurs, what would it be?
I think my first piece of advice would be to spend time and effort on picking good advisors and consultants. There is no way a small group of people will have all the skills and experience needed to succeed so help is inevitable, and it can be surprising how much impact good or bad advice can have in the early stages of a company.
For tech companies, sales is also a must-have, and earlier than you think. Good technology doesn’t sell itself, and the sales cycle will take a lot longer than you hope. At ForgeRock, we were lucky to have co-founder Hermann Svoren and his extensive sales experience with us from day one.
Finally – make realistic promises but dream big! Staying honest with yourself and other people builds trust and a solid foundation for growth. When we started out it was all about blood, sweat, and tears – being unrealistic would not have helped, but a high motivation was the belief that our hard work could lead to something truly exceptional.
Now that we’ve covered the ForgeRock foundation and how you helped build it from the ground up, looking back, what’s one of your most memorable moments?
It’s hard to just pick one!
Many of my most memorable moments come from our global company meetings. The stories from these are quite legendary! Whether enacting Monty Python sketches or hammering out innovative solutions in a discussion group, there is so much positive energy that has come out of this bold tradition. I am so proud that despite our phenomenal growth, we can still have these meetings and bring together people from all over the world for some hard work and play.
A memory that really stands out though is when we completed our first round of investment in March of 2012. At the time it was insane, hundreds of pages of legal documentation and coordinating with investors, lawyers, shareholders, etc. When the last signatures were finally completed, we had reached the point that 99.7% of startups never reach – and had external validation of our vision for ForgeRock! We were spread out all over the world but we were all raising our glasses that night.
Thanks so much again to Jonathan for taking time out to talk!
Check out part 1 of the blog post here.