James has built an identity management software company from Houston and now wants to go upmarket.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of circumstances?
James Litton: I am a native Houstonian. I’m a rare breed. I was born and raised in Houston. In terms of circumstances, I think I’m your quintessential American middle-class family.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do for schooling?
James Litton: Of course, once I got through my primary and secondary education, I took a number of college courses, but I’m a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks. I entered into the workforce fairly early when I was about 19. I was working on, what ultimately ended up being my path, information technology. I took on a significant interest in information technology from the very early days.
Right after high school, my first job was as a printer operator. Then by taking advantage of some opportunities in networking technologies, I entered into my first managerial role probably two years after I entered in to the workforce.
Sramana Mitra: Can you put this in the context of chronology? What year are we talking that you were in the workforce?
James Litton: That would have been 1988 or 1989.
Sramana Mitra: This is pre-Internet.
James Litton: Exactly.
Sramana Mitra: What happens next?
James Litton: What started me on the trajectory that I, ultimately, leveraged to go down the entrepreneurial path was networking. It all started with Novell NetWare. This is going back to the very early days of Novell NetWare. The company that I was working for, which was a mortgage company, didn’t have anybody in-house to manage that network system for them, so they used external contractors. I saw the opportunity there to take that over.
Having some degree of familiarity with computers from my childhood, I jumped right on and took it upon myself to learn everything there was to learn around administering this Novell system. We go way back. This was pre-ethernet and the token ring networks. I started to manage all of that. That’s what my role evolved into – taking ownership of all of that technology – and eventually building a team of people that supported that back office.
Sramana Mitra: What year does that bring us up to?
James Litton: If you don’t mind, I’m going to pull up my resume here. I haven’t looked at that for a long time.
Sramana Mitra: Essentially, we’re just trying to get a feel for your background, and how that leads up to the entrepreneurial story. We don’t have to be ultra-precise.
James Litton: That would have been about 1990.