Ep. #1129 - Going From Software Engineer to CEO
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, let’s revel in our guest’s journey from software engineer to CEO. Matt Watson is joined by Jason Rogers, CEO of Invary. They map out the significant adjustments and learnings the latter went through, from writing code to managing a business. And they define the importance of understanding team roles to boost productivity.
Covered In This Episode
Matt and Jason are enjoying a conversation on many things. First, they discuss the guest’s transition from software engineer to CEO. Moreover, they dive into the nitty gritty of offering security solutions.
How does secure trust boot work productivity and profits? What services does Invary offer to clients? What are the ways to resolve long sales cycles?
Get your dose of insights from this Startup Hustle episode now.
- Jason’s technical background (01:57)
- Transitioning from technical to product environment (03:36)
- Discussion on Invary (07:12)
- What does working with NSA look like? (10:03)
- How does Invary work? (11:12)
- Invary’s target market (13:04)
- On partnership opportunities (15:20)
- Invary’s sales cycle (16:33)
- Do people buy based on their fears? (18:46)
- Long sales cycle and the importance of building relationships (20:30)
- About Invary’s team (22:07)
- Raising capital in the Midwest (22:43)
- Building a remote team (24:58)
- Writing code as the CEO (26:16)
- Balancing coding and management tasks (28:31)
- Understanding the different roles of different people (33:18)
- You have to be willing to learn and expand your horizons (36:29)
- Jason’s advice for everyone (38:49)
Existing threat detection tools can tell you something from their perspective. So companies that run that, there’s a lot of looking around for suspicious activity, which becomes time and cost-intensive.– Jason Rogers
This is a good lesson for anybody that’s listening. If you can sell something that deals with fear and risk, those are always good points that people will buy based on that. They buy based on fear and risk.– Matt Watson
More people are more interested in helping you than trying to prevent you from succeeding at the end of the day. If you take advantage of that, you might help shorten those sales cycles and continue to develop those relationships.– Jason Rogers
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt Watson 00:00
And we’re back for another episode of Startup Hustle. This is your host today, Matt Watson. Excited to be joined today by Jason Rogers, the CEO of Invary. We’re going to talk today about his startup journey, what his company does in the security space, and a lot more. Before we get started, I do wanna remind everybody that today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by FullScale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult. Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably and has the platform to help you manage that team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. Well, Jason, welcome to the show, man.
Jason Rogers 00:31
Thanks, Matt. Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.
Matt Watson 00:34
So, I think I saw in the notes here you’re from Lawrence, Kansas, home of the Rock Chalk, Jayhawk. KU basketball, world-famous KIU basketball. And I’ve been there a few times. So you’re just like, I don’t know, 45 minutes from where I live. So it’s always good to have people on the show from Kansas. So welcome to the show.
Jason Rogers 00:55
Thank you. Glad to be here. Yeah, we’re actually working from the key innovation park, which is here on West Campus. Great to be sort of at the university as well and have that energy around you.
Matt Watson 01:07
Yeah, I bet. So, I guess to start out, you know, you’re the CEO of Invary, but you’re technical. Right? You’re a software engineer.
Jason Rogers 01:17
Right? Yep. I came out of school with a CS degree. I did a lot of work at Cerner and perceptive software in my early career across the spectrum of languages. I found my way to a company in Lawrence; they got acquired by Motorola, and I got a chance to do lots of things. And that’s sort of where product sales, marketing, the rest of it sort of started to come into my life and to get some experience on all those things. And then kind of continued on and led large technical organizations, but also managed a lot of the business aspects and an IoT solution that we created for Lowes. And then again in Matterport. Before, I did very, so, yeah, I’m one of those folks that made that transition from pure engineer to management, so to speak.
Matt Watson 02:06
So as you progress in your career in engineering, did you work as a director of software development CTO, VP of engineering, or? Or did you work more on the product side? Or where did that career path go for you? I’m kind of curious.
Jason Rogers 02:19
For sure, yeah, I grew up in the engineering ranks. So yeah, I went up through the director of software engineering and CTO of a group that created an IoT solution for those that I mentioned. And then a VP of engineering again, and Matterport. But again, in those solutions, I was sort of being allowed to be a marketer via salesperson. All those things, I get a chance to sort of experience running a business unit on top of being an engineer in those roles. And you’ve been in those roles before, too, you know, they’re not just pure technical all the time; you’re speaking with customers. Yeah. Etc.
Matt Watson 02:56
If you’re good, if you’re good at those roles, you know, and it depends on the company and their industry, and, and all that sort of stuff as well. So, would you say that, from your perspective, a lot of developers want to make that transition and go through that? And I think, for a lot of developers, we start out, and we want to write a lot of code, and it feels like the way we get better at our job is by making the code more complicated. We think we’re architecting more and more beautifully complicated things. But at some point in time, the light bulb goes off in that kind of change, right? You know, you’re like, you know what, the code doesn’t even matter as much anymore. I’m more focused on building a product and the best product possible. And I kind of come to the conclusion that all the code is dispensable. And the code doesn’t even matter that much anymore. Like, but I feel like it takes a transition somewhere in your career.
Jason Rogers 03:49
Yeah, it’s a blend; it is about outcomes. And I think for me, it was interacting with the customers. I remember the first time I got a thank you note from a customer; I worked at Cerner. And really, you know, that journey and understanding what they’re doing and what they’re going through, which I think made me a better engineer. And so it’s not about showing off to my engineer friends how sophisticated I can be. It was about making sure I achieve those outcomes and those goals, you know, for those customers. And I think there’s a blend, though, so I don’t like the sort of binaries that are here. It’s either pure art or it’s just a result, right? There’s always a blending context that matters a lot. But yeah, if you keep your eyes focused on, you know, what are you trying to accomplish? And that’s both in the now and in some parts of the future. I remember seeing a blog post that you put out not too long ago, which is no over engineers for the future, for sure, especially as a startup, and we can get into that. But I do think that in some of my roles, you know, at the IoT service, we had more IoT events in a day than Twitter. Those tweets you have to prepare for. We had 11 months to build a team abroad. You So, you know, we can’t just say, Oh, well, we’re only gonna have, you know, a few at the start, and then we’ll ramp up. So it depends on the situation. So, the best engineers I’ve ever seen really understand the business and what they’re trying to do, along with the technicalities. Yeah.
Matt Watson 05:13
And that’s why I’m pointing right. It takes both, like, it’s not all about just the code. And yeah, I think, especially now, you have your own company. And I think you also eventually come to appreciate that learning how to sell the product, talking to customers, the go-to-market strategy and all of that is also a lot more important than building the product itself, right? You can build a product, but if you have no idea how to sell it or who’s gonna buy it, it’s like solving the go-to-market part of it is also just as hard or harder from my perspective than building the, you know, the app itself?
Jason Rogers 05:46
Absolutely, absolutely. I remember the first time I tried to sell software; we created a new home networking solution and Motorola. And I flew over to Europe to sell it to telecoms over there. And I had no idea about those things that you just mentioned. Right. And so, you know, the feedback I got from the executives at Telecom was, it’s a great technical solution, unique, better marketing. And they said it very gently. But I was just telling them sort of what it did, as opposed to how it’s going to help them. I think those kinds of journeys sort of help a lot. And yeah, you can bring that understanding, you bring both the tactics and the strategy, understanding back into your technical organization, or your own code makes it so much better.
Matt Watson 06:27
Well, so tell us more about it and what you’re doing there these days, for sure.
Jason Rogers 06:32
Now, we have zero trust in operating systems. So we allow our customers to determine the runtime integrity of their operating system. And we detect threats to the operating system that other threat detection solutions emit can’t find. So it turns out malware like rootkits not only hide themselves, but they hide other activity from the rest of the security ecosystem. So if I’m managing a large server fleet at Matterport, or one of my other jobs, or anywhere else, I usually have Kazim solution or seen as sim one of these security acronyms, which just means aggregating a bunch of information from the systems into a single place to make decisions about. But that information is only as good as what the systems are telling you. So if the systems are compromised, they’re lying to you. You can’t trust anything in your security stack. So we find that malware, and we restore confidence in our customers’ stack. And we kind of see ourselves as a foundation of security for any organization. The origins are very interesting. And can I speak to how you meet and interact with people over time? And how do things kind of come to fruition for you?
Matt Watson 07:43
Yeah, so how did it start? I read here to note that it came, you know, it’s based on some intellectual property that you didn’t create. Right? Did you license some other intellectual property, like, interested in that part of the story, too?
Jason Rogers 07:54
Yeah, for sure. I mean, how it got started is one of our founders, Dr. Perry, Alexandra here at the University of Kansas, has been doing research and Trustee computing for a couple of decades now. And he works with the NSA and DARPA folks like that in this space. And the NSA had commissioned him to do some research, which they turned into intellectual property, which was the foundation of our company. So the NSA has this IP that they came back and said, Would you all like to form a company around this? We feel like it’s for the betterment of society to get that technology out there to the world. And they also have a mission in economic development and encouraging startups. So Dr. Alexandra, who I’ve known for a long time, his wife, has worked for me. And several of those companies that I mentioned earlier approached me and asked me if I was interested, and our CTO, Dr. Westpac, has also worked for me for a long time, but it is a dissertation under Dr. Alexander in this space. So it’s a nice sort of synergy of knowing people for a long time. But having that knowledge base in both operational experiences of these large platforms with these problems, and sort of the research behind it, with the backing and the knowledge that comes from our folks like the NSA. Super interesting.
Matt Watson 09:11
So the deal you worked out with them, how does it not benefit them? Do they get a percentage of the company or a percentage of revenue? Or how do you like the license from KU?
Jason Rogers 09:23
Sure, it’s actually licensed by the NSA, and so they have a tech transfer office like universities usually do. And it works pretty similarly. Actually, encourage folks that have a bunch of techs to license. It’s super interesting. So we started out with a non-exclusive license. And so it’s just a simple fee; essentially, we just paid them a yearly fee, a fairly small sum. And as we got going, we decided we wanted an exclusive license, and so there’s a royalty attached to it. Now, our sales and a fee in exchange for any exit might have a small fee, but they’re not really in it to make money on the NSA side. They’re in it to really help foster this technology for the betterment of all at the end of the day. So it’s a great relationship, I think, because they’re not trying to fleece you, I guess you could say, you know, they obviously might benefit from what they’ve invented, but they’re more interested in your success.
Matt Watson 10:17
So tell me a little more about how it works. So I know you’re talking about securing the operating system, but is that done by, you know, how the operating system is installed, or like, tell me a little more about how it actually works?
Jason Rogers 10:32
Sure, in its simplest form, you know, about the secure, trusted boot. So when a system comes up, we can validate that the files, the binaries are, what they were, what they were supposed to be, when they were put on that machine. We do that, plus a bunch of extra stuff at runtime. So essentially, what we do is look at the built code for operating systems. And we understand the data structures and the interactions, that what it should look like when it runs, it’s a huge graph of millions of nodes, essentially, of behavior. And then, at runtime, we sample all that information, collect another graph of about a million nodes, and compare them. And so we’re able to find alterations to the operating system that essentially the developers of the operating system didn’t intend. So a simple example, I might have a rootkit that intercepts a call to list files in a directory. And I might decide, hey, I don’t want to go to my function first. And I’m not going to tell you about five files in the directory; I will pick up the fact that now that call is going someplace else, the structure of that call has changed, and the size of it’s changed. Lots of interactions like that, but it’s about understanding behavior. Another way we usually talk about it is the nice guy is huge and complex, but it has invariance, right? So I know what the Big Dipper looks like; I know where it should be. And if I look up at the night sky, and it’s not there or looks different, I know something’s gone horribly wrong. It’s the same principle. You know, this software at runtime has a complex set of relationships, data functions, and things. If you understand them, you can determine that this behavior is outside of the norm and something bad is happening, which allows you to sort of track the threat at that point.
Matt Watson 12:17
So for your guys’ business, who is your target customer that you’re trying to sell to?
Jason Rogers 12:24
So out of the gate, we’re selling to large technology, SAS companies, they have a large number of servers, they have aggregated data, they’re a constant attack vector for attackers because of that data. Okay. So that’s one, we get a lot of interest from universities, health systems. You can imagine why as well, they have very important information. And they’re also under attack a lot. We spoke at a conference with the FBI a couple months ago. And the FBI was talking about the nature and prevalence of these threats and showed a map. They’re everywhere. And people would assume that you know, some sort of complex attack may only hit certain people. But it hits everybody, whether it’s a state actor, an organized crime group, or an individual. They’re using these tools, and they’re everywhere. So while that’s our target market, you know, working within the federal government market as well, we want to make sure this gets out to anybody who needs it at the end of the day.
Matt Watson 13:26
So for your guys’ solution, does it work with somebody that’s using AWS and Azure and stuff like that? Or how does that impact what you’re doing?
Jason Rogers 13:35
For sure, yeah, it works in both physical and virtual environments. So Amazon, Google Azure, and Linux focus right now. So Debian, Ubuntu ADMS, Linux, Red Hat, and Sint OS, we’re adding new distributions every day, all the most recent kernel versions and releases of those distributions. And we are automating that. So every night, we’re picking up new distributions and new kernels and making sure that they work. And for our customers, when they use the solution, it just works. They just have to run our agent. And they get an immediate result, essentially. So there’s no warming time.
Matt Watson 14:09
So as your software deployed as a monitoring agent, it is yes. Okay. Okay, cool. Well, so my last, I don’t know if you know, this, for the last company, I started server monitoring. So we are very familiar with a lot of server monitoring kind of stuff but for sure. You know, so do you think do you see an opportunity to eventually partner with, you know, one of the cloud companies to make this like, sort of another sort of virus scanning, you know, security sort of component that goes into the base of what they do?
Jason Rogers 14:40
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, there’s a spectrum of those two, so it will take, you know, your company before or something like data dog who offer, you know, maybe solutions at the higher level, what operating systems are you running sort of inventory along with the nature of the SIM that they have an integration with them, partnership with them makes a lot of sense because we’re augmenting you know what they’re doing. We’re not an SDR system, you know; we’re not doing what CrowdStrike and Defender are doing; we’re making sure what they’re doing is right at the end of the day. So I think that that allows for a lot of partnership opportunities for sure.
Matt Watson 15:16
So how were the sales of this very long, complicated enterprise sale? Or how is that part of it?
Jason Rogers 15:23
Yeah, so we’re super new. First, we’re just getting ready to finish a previous round. We released our initial service, which is a free service that folks can try and verify.com called Rise. And then our paid service launches this summer. But, you know, early conversations with customers obviously depend on the customer. But, you know, if I’m selling into a large enterprise, like Home Depot, I think that’s a fairly long sales cycle. And they have their budgets and their processes and their tools. But, you know, for certain people in certain states, the sales cycle can be quite small. So, for instance, if I’m somebody who’s just had a ransomware attack, we just had this conversation the other day with somebody. And so I’m through that, as I want to get better. So I would like your software, and I’m actually not sure if the attacker has gone. And that’s what we specialize in. Are your operating systems running on their integrity? And that’s sort of immediate right now. So in that sense, so.
Matt Watson 16:25
So how, how else do people solve that problem today? Of the like, I don’t know if you know, there’s a virus or malware or any kind of issues on my system. How do they do that today? Do they just burn it to the ground and rebuild it? And that’s how they hope to solve it? Or what do they do?
Jason Rogers 16:40
So, you know, I think it’s all over the place. Certainly, if you can, a lot of people will burn it and reconstitute nature; like in my past jobs, we’re running our SaaS platforms. If it was just an instance, it’s really easy to nuke it and bring up a new one in the cluster. It would hurt if you had to do that with everything; what we could have if we had such a breach, which, thankfully, we didn’t. So there is some of that for sure, you know, their existing threat detection tools that can tell you something, you know, from their perspective. So companies run that there’s a lot of looking around for suspicious activity, which then becomes time and cost-intensive. And then I think last is hope, to be honest with you, until we come around, which is kind of why we’re here. Let’s, let’s remove that sort of assumption and hope, and let’s give you the evidence.
Matt Watson 17:28
Yeah, I mean, I can see a lot of value in that. Because it’s, you know, it’s like if somebody breaks into your house, right, and you show up, and you’re like, Are they still here? Right, right. Like, in the US, like living in fear, not knowing, you know, they leave the camera? On what happened? Yeah, yeah. It’d be like staying in a hotel. Right? And you’re trying to figure out if there are hidden cameras in here? How do I, how do I, how do I know for sure? There are no hidden cameras?
Jason Rogers 17:55
Integrity? Yep, that’s a good analogy, probably for what you do.
Matt Watson 17:56
It’s like, you know, we guarantee there are no hidden cameras in the room.
Jason Rogers 18:01
That’s good; I’m gonna write that down. I’m gonna borrow that if that’s okay. There you go.
Matt Watson 18:06
That’s the nugget from the show today. I do want to take a minute to remind everybody that finding expert software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit FullScale.io, where you can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use the Full Scale platform to find what developers are available today to join your team. Visit FullScale.io To learn more about what Full Scale does. So it’d be interesting to see how this progresses for you. I think it sounds like a great, great problem you’re trying to solve, and you know, the hard part about this kind of problem is the big enterprise sales nature of it, right? Like, especially if you go, you want to go to Amazon and like get this on every server in the world. It’s like, it may take you years to get them to finally come around to that, right? So. But it sounds like to you. And this is a good lesson for anybody that’s listening. If you can sell something that deals with fear and risk, you know, those are always good points that people will buy based on that. Right, they buy based on fear and risk.
Jason Rogers 19:10
I don’t think we want to introduce fear. I think you’re right. I do think that, obviously, like in the example I talked about before, there’s fear involved, and I look at it as providing comfort or serving those customers. Yeah.
Matt Watson 19:23
Right. It’s their fear, like the problem they have, like you talked about, like, you know, back to your earlier comment about oh, when I’m learning to sell something, I’m talking about its features, but the benefit to them, the benefit to the customer is they have fear, they have fear, that’s what they have. Right? And you’re trying to solve that fear. And that is a great thing to sell against is speaking to their fears, understanding their fears, and that you can comfort them right, but ultimately, what they have is fear.
Jason Rogers 19:50
Yep, absolutely. And then persona, you know, that we take on is sort of parental, and it’s something some folks in this industry would take it on as sort of like a cop mentality or like a soldier or protector, which is sometimes overbearing, and you know, we’re there to help them to serve them. Yeah, to provide that comfort, remove that fear. But you’re right. And you know, on the comment about like the long sales cycle, you know, in terms of startups, for me, I sort of stay focused on sort of the short-term goals and the market that we can sell into quickly and walk our financial model, but that doesn’t stop me from having those conversations with Amazon and others, because I know they take forever. Yeah, I have the benefit of having done that before a few times. And so I understand that process. That’s good. But I do think that you know, you need to walk it, you know, as you can you, it shouldn’t just be a wait and pick it up later. And hope you can do it fast, then you definitely need to create those relationships, those touch points, those understandings, and to be honest, and we guess we can say, you know, we, we were in the Google startup program, they gave us a bunch of credits for GCP, we’ve had a lot of great help from the BD folks and Amazon over time. So they’re actually interested in helping you too, and that helps you with, you know, the reverse relationship; as you get done, I found that. Actually, more people are interested in helping you than, you know, trying to prevent you from succeeding at the end of the day. So if you take advantage of that, you might help shorten, shorten those sales cycles and continue to develop those relationships.
Matt Watson 21:21
So what does your guys’ team look like? Now? Were you the only founder, or you said you had a co-founder that was a doctor or something?
Jason Rogers 21:27
Yeah, so there are five team members, myself and Dr. Back. And then three engineers on the team, four out of five of us, have worked together for over 15 years. Now. Those journeys, so bring a lot of experience to the table, which I think is good for us. We’re at a stage in our career where we can operate the business in a way to make it successful; we have a lot of experience and can go really fast. Which has been super helpful.
Matt Watson 21:53
So you mentioned earlier about potentially raising capital and stuff. How has that journey gone so far here in the Midwest? Or have you not gotten far enough into it yet?
Jason Rogers 22:03
Yeah, well, I mentioned where I won’t name names at this point because we’re not done. But we’re nearly done with our pre-seed round, led by a regional investor. Okay, um, you know, I do think that before this at Matterport, Matterport went from series D, or so, in the four years that there was a bank IPO. So I got to see that investment environment. And then this investment environment, you know, both in terms of the macroeconomic nature, things are definitely a little different now. Maybe there’s a bit more oversight, due diligence that happens, but the interest is still there. And so, we’ve been fortunate with our partners, and, and being able to, you know, work the system to a point where, you know, a lot of folks are having trouble raising capital. Right now, I think it’s easier for early-stage funds as well or companies. But it’s been great in the Midwest. You know, we talked to investors across the spectrum, you know, west, east coast Midwest; I’d say the Midwest ecosystem is super healthy at the moment. Okay, a lot of interest, a lot of different VCs out there are very supportive of the nations of the environment of the people in these areas. I don’t think that, you know, the 510 years ago of location matters, is that big of a deal anymore. Other than the fact that you know, they’re very optimistic about what can happen in Kansas City, and Lawrence, Kansas, and places like that.
Matt Watson 23:32
So were you able to actually find an investor that’s based in Kansas City? Yes, awesome. Well, very good. Well, that’s awesome. I asked this because, you know, it’s always part of the perspective; it’s harder to raise money here. So glad that you were able to, hopefully, find the funds and get the deal closed. Maybe by the time this airs, we’ll all know, and I’ve heard about it. But yeah, hopefully, congrats on that. So do you see yourself staying in Lawrence? Or do you guys at some point? I mean, in working remotely, or how do you see that going forward? Because I mean, in Lawrence, where you’re at, there’s not a huge amount of talent there, right? Like, that’s one of the harder things about where you’re at because you’re not even in Kansas City; you’re like an hour outside of Kansas City?
Jason Rogers 24:18
Sure, you would think that, but I actually built my career on being able to build teams here in Lawrence at Motorola; we had 50 to 60 engineers working for us in town, and I built a team of 25 in that 11-month period to build the IoT solution here in Lawrence, built the team for Matterport here in Lawrence of about 2025. So I do think we want to stay in the region and, you know, grow our business here and our footprint here. That being said, we all know that it’s a different world. You know, Matterport, everything was remote after COVID. And the state is going to stay that way. I think they’re pretty open to our fifth team members in New Hampshire. I’m so while the bulk of our folks here have an office at the game Innovation Park, which sits on our board and is really a great organization that helps local startups here in Lawrence. But, you know, we’re here a couple of days a week when we need to meet, and then we’re at home. And I think that’s key for whatever size organization, whatever your needs are, finding what your employees need, right? Not a mandate to be in one place or have to relocate or move; I think those days are over, right? The talent, the mission, and alignment matter, and then you figure the rest out and make it so your people can be as effective as possible.
Matt Watson 25:36
So going back to your journey earlier, from being a software engineer to now a CEO. So now, as the CEO of the company, do you spend any time writing code,
Jason Rogers 25:48
I do. Not a lot. But with a team of five, it allows me to, which is great; I don’t think that’ll last much longer. For sure, I always have the mantra of reading a lot of code. So even in the last maybe four or five years, I didn’t have a lot of time to write code, with all the other job responsibilities, but I always made sure I could read code and see what the teams are doing and be able to interact with them on it. You know, it doesn’t do you any good to run a group where you don’t understand what’s going on. So I always involve myself in the most difficult, most important problems and time-sensitive issues. And to do that, you kind of have to stay up to speed. So that’s sort of how I roll. I do try to write code when I can; it takes a lot of concentration and time, as you know, which is hard when you’re jumping in and out.
Matt Watson 26:36
Well, so I’ve had the same struggle for the last 10 years, right? So I’ve been a startup CEO basically for the last 10 years, but also a struggling software engineer at the same time. So I guess that’s my question for you, do you see when you do write code? Are you trying to prototype new things or build a new proof of concepts of different things? Like what kind of work do you usually find yourself engaging in?
Jason Rogers 27:01
You know, I feel like my role here, as well as you know, maybe VP of engineering or Matterport, was to fill the gaps, if they’re needed, you hire people to do those roles, or hopefully better engineers than you, your guidance, you know, helps them what to do, and when to do it. And in some cases, how, so here, I do the same thing. So, for instance, we wrote our own route kit for education and demonstration purposes. And we had to extend that. So I worked on that when you helped with our UI. So I’ll jump in and do that. I think it’s key, maybe, to be versatile to us. Like, I’m not just an iOS developer, you know, I can sort of jump into rust code to Kotlin code on our platform. You know, whatever it is, I can jump in and help out. But I stay away from sort of the long, more sophisticated problems just because I don’t have the time to focus, right? Yeah.
Matt Watson 27:51
Well, and I’ve always felt that, when I’m really deep into a project, I struggle to do any kind of management tasks, you know, I want to stay heads down trying to solve the problem like, a dog on a bone, right, and then everything else gets neglected. Like, you know, I’m not managing the team, I’m not, you know, involved in any kind of planning, even if it’s just as like, I’m a CTO, and I’m a CEO, but just like a manager, or an engineering leader, like, if I’m trying to be that involved in something. In my career, I always struggled big time with writing the code and then being able to step away from it and still do the management tasks. And I felt like that’s a really difficult balance. And is that something you struggled with in your career as well?
Jason Rogers 28:32
Yeah, it is; I think maybe when you start that journey to where you start to take on a responsibility, where you can’t just write code all day, which takes that focus and time and energy. First of all, I think you feel bad. I don’t know. Did you feel bad? Like when you first started, and you couldn’t write as much code? Did you feel like an imposter or something? I don’t know what the right word is. But you felt like, well, I’m not doing what I used to do; it doesn’t feel right to me, right? Give yourself that you have to tell yourself things; you’re doing it for the betterment of your team, for the company, for the product for your customers. And so you’re doing the right thing. And it’s okay that you’re not coding all the time. So I went through that, for sure. And then also you miss it, I think most of you do. So you have to find ways to sort of feed that appetite at the same time, and then over time, for me, it just made sense, I get enough of that. When you know, something arises that needs my help, or whatever, I get the jump in; I like being able to go look at everything, too. And so you know, one of the privileges of CTO or VP of Engineering is, you know, you can kind of be everywhere. And so I understand what’s happening on the platform side and on the agent side and on the front end side, that maybe an individual developer doesn’t yet, and so that drives me as well. So even though I’m not writing code, I’m at least getting a chance to understand and learn as well, you know, new technology all the time. So my teams are helping me stay up on it by showing me what they’re doing in those places.
Matt Watson 29:59
Well, I feel like I got to a point, you know, a few years ago, where I kept telling myself, it’s like, the most valuable thing that I can do is to make everybody else more productive. You know, it’s not just about my individual contribution, which is always frustrating because I feel like I could do things a lot faster than other people. But what I really need to do is figure out how to make everybody else more productive, right? And so I think that was the thing I tried to focus on was, was that and then, you know, then making that shift to being a CEO, it became more about making the whole company productive, right? And realizing that there was a lot more to do around here than just writing code. Like, we gotta go sell something. And we’ve got customers to deal with, we’ve got, you know, problems to solve all over the company that are not just product related, right?
Jason Rogers 30:47
And learning makes you a better CEO because you are able to then go back to your development and your engineers, and you know where they’re coming from. But now you have this new perspective, and you can kind of help them understand what else is going on in the business or not; maybe they didn’t pick that up?
Matt Watson 31:04
I think it was, so I hired a Chief Operating Officer, his name was Craig, and he was amazing. And really, it’s like Craig and I kind of divided up the overall company, right? Like him, he oversaw sales and support, and I was more involved in engineering and marketing. And, you know, so, you know, I was still more involved in engineering on a day-to-day basis and was the CEO, and definitely had the company vision, the product vision, and all that. But then I relied on Craig to run kind of the day-to-day of some of the other teams. So I was more involved in engineering and marketing. And so I think, you know, every company is different, right? Especially when you’re a small startup just trying to figure out where you provide the most value. And what do you have somebody else focus on and have somebody you trust to run it? Right? What’s the other part of it?
Jason Rogers 31:53
Yep, absolutely. Yeah, it’s great. I mean, for us, there’s, there’s high trust, I think environment, and very, just again, the length of time we’ve all spent together. But you know, just in and my expanded role as CEO, I feel like going back to them and saying, Hey, I just talked to this MSSP, they have these problems. And then we then have a conversation about what to do or not to do or how to do it; it makes it so much easier. Because they understand, you know, the outcome, and you can reproduce that and then the environment, right? It doesn’t have to be a startup. But I feel like if you can bring that experience and that knowledge, that insight back to the team, everybody just wants to help at the end of the day, I think, and serve those customers.
Matt Watson 32:38
So I think, you know, being able to have the product vision, and understanding all the engineering and all the technical bits, but then be able to spend a lot of time with the customers right, then be able to go back and forth between the engineering team is really viable. It’s like, you have people skills. Yeah, that’s the old office space movie.
Jason Rogers 33:01
talked, I talked to the customer, for sure. You know, it also, like, there might be engineers out there. And they might feel like, I don’t think I can do that, or I don’t think I have those skills. And some people just love being in code. And that’s great. But I don’t like those labels, right? Where, oh, you’re an engineer, you can’t do that, or you, you don’t have those skills, whatever, you know, put yourself in those environments and learn, you know, be uncomfortable for a while. I think a lot of people can stretch themselves. 15 years ago, I never imagined I would be a CEO of a company with what I was doing. But, you know, by putting myself in sort of uncomfortable situation after uncomfortable situation, here I am, after a bunch of learning and growing as a person too.
Matt Watson 33:47
I think it’s also important; you just learn that you don’t know what you don’t know. And the more you’re involved in all these things, you also understand how things are supposed to be done. It’s like even though you’re not an expert at everything like you’re not an expert salesperson, you’re not an expert at running an operations team, or a sales engineering team, or all these different things. You’ve worked at different places like Matterport and others where you see how that’s supposed to be done. Like, you know what good looks like, right? You’re like, even though I’m not an expert, all these things, like, I understand how they should work. And, you know, I understand that we need to do them and that, that they need attention. And then I appreciate the efforts that other people put into these things, even if I’m not an expert at them, right? And I think that’s part of it, too, is just understanding how all the different roles of all the different people work and appreciating what everybody else does. It’s like we do our little part, and we’re engineers, but there are all these other pieces. And over time, you start to at least understand and appreciate how all the rest of the pieces come together, I think.
Jason Rogers 34:44
Matt Watson 34:47
I think for me for my very first job as an engineer, I was talking to customers every day. And it’s like I was the lead developer and lead support person. I flew all over the country and installed the software. I was like front and center, you know, with the customers. And I think that really changed the whole dynamic; I think of my career, and some perspective is it made me get out of my shell, and I traveled all over the United States, like installing our software, doing all this stuff. And talking to customers, I got the customer feedback directly, and then I decided that we were going to do it, and I just built it. And at the time, I was doing that stuff while I was flying around on an airplane between customer installs. So it’s like, for me, I think that experience talking to the customers and understanding their problems, and being able to architect, you know, solutions to them, really is what helped, you know, turned me into more of a product-oriented person from just being an engineer, you know, focused on the code and the engineering part of it.
Jason Rogers 35:49
Yeah, that’s awesome. It sounds like you were, you know, super fortunate to be in that position that you know, so if you’re out there, and you’re in a position where you’re not getting that defined a way, right, yeah, you know, I, I was asked to, to go travel Europe and sell, you know, these products. Have never been to Europe, right? So you get those experiences, and it might seem scary, or maybe I can’t do it, but go try; you get to learn. And you know, there are always ways wherever you’re at ways to sort of expand your horizons. And I think that overall makes you better, a better employee, a better servant to your customers, all those things.
Matt Watson 36:24
So did you say you started your career at Cerner? I did. Yes. So I imagined that it would probably be a lot different. We’re there. You probably hid in a cubicle all day and never talked to anybody.
Jason Rogers 36:34
You know, so this was a long time ago; I thought, sir, it was great. I was there for about four years. Now they have a reputation, maybe earned, of working people kind of hard. I was probably doing things that maybe a person with that much experience age shouldn’t have been doing, but it gave me a lot of experience. But in that, you know, serious problems that they would have me deal with, it would force me, like you, to interact with the customers. Yeah. So you know, this is a serious health-related issue, and you have to fix it. But I also have to understand what’s going on with the users. And so and then plus, if you know at Cerner, it’s great, because you’re, you know, you’re impacting people’s health. And so there’s a lot of value in the mission that they have that you can attach yourself to, and I think it gives you the extra incentive to grow and make sure that the folks that are using the product are happy and are doing what they need to be doing with the software, what problems they have with it, those types of things.
Matt Watson 37:32
So well, if you need to hire software engineers, testers, or leaders, Full Scale can help. We have the people on the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit FullScale.io. All you need to do is answer a few questions, and our platform will not show up; we’ll match you up with our developers that are available at Full Scale. We specialize in building long-term teams that work only for you to learn more when you visit FullScale.io. Well, thank you so much for doing this today. And as we wrap up the show, I’m curious if you have any other wisdom to share out there with maybe other entrepreneurs or other software developers that want to become entrepreneurs. Sure.
Jason Rogers 38:09
Again, thanks for having me and giving us a chance to talk about and vary our products and our upcoming launch. I appreciate that. You know, advice, the best advice I can give as a silly story, I tell lots of folks that I mentor. There are lots of people out there that give you lots of opinions. And as a, let’s say, an entrepreneur and startup, you go, and you pitch, and you get feedback about what you should or shouldn’t do for your business. And the story I like to tell people is about an old man, a young boy, and a horse who traveled through four towns. And they start off with the young boy riding the horse, and in the first town, everybody gets mad because the old man’s walking and not the young boy. So they switch. And then the next town, they’re mad because the old man’s riding and the young boys are walking, so they both get on the horse. And then the next town, they’re mad because they’re making the horse tired, something they both get off the horse. And then the next town, they’re made fun of because nobody’s using the horse. And so have a mission, have a passion, understand what you’re doing, and drive towards that. And just understand that you’re gonna get all this feedback; you should learn from it, take it in. But if you stay focused on your mission and your passion, you’ll find a way to go. And here’s the thing, my experience in doing that.
Matt Watson 39:23
Awesome. I love it. I love that. That story. I’ve heard that before. A couple of times. I like that a lot.
Jason Rogers 39:29
Awesome. Well, thanks, man. Again, I appreciate it.
Matt Watson 39:33
Yeah, so everybody, this was Jason Rogers. And again, that’s invary.com. And Jason, thank you so much for being on the show today.
Jason Rogers 39:42
Awesome. Thanks, Matt.