Steven has built a lean company with 37 people and has scaled it to $7 million. Read on to learn how.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background did you have?
Steven Job: I was born in Buffalo, New York in 1976. I stayed there during my undergraduate studies. I studied computer science. Throughout that time, my parents always had a business. When you become an entrepreneur, you have to figure out the reasons to become one. Most people do it because their parents had a business or there was something in their life that motivated them.
Sramana Mitra: Like you, I am also an entrepreneur’s daughter. It is a big category.
Steven Job: Talking to other entrepreneurs, I realized that based upon how successful their parents are, you can see their struggle. As adults, we are constantly re-creating and putting ourselves in the same situation that you might have experienced as a kid, but your parents might also have experienced it. It’s an interesting journey about how they got there.
My father was a school teacher and my mom worked full-time. They did business on the side. It wasn’t something that he considered to be a full-time thing.
I graduated with a computer science degree in January 1999. At that time, there was a big demand for computer science programmers. I had to decide to stay in Buffalo, go to Seattle, Silicon Valley, or Washington DC. Those were the top four choices. You also had Boston and New York.
At that time, DC had the largest customs development in the world. You are not making commercial products, but you are making specifically for the United States government so everything has to be specialized. With all the different job offers and for me to be close to home, I decided that DC was the place to go. I moved out to DC.
I don’t know if you worked for other companies, but my thought was when you do work for other companies, then you probably put an unbelievable amount of work ethic and hours into it. You probably cared about those companies just as if it was your parents’ company.
A lot of entrepreneurs, when they do become older adults, find themselves in that exact scenario. They are now working for someone else and they are treating it almost as if they are working for their parents. It depends on how big your parents’ business is.
I’m talking about some of the smaller size businesses and not major corporations. You look at restaurant owners or people that have a small store in the mall. There is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that the whole family endures.
I found myself in that exact scenario working massive hours. No one was demanding it, but you just feel obligated to. You see yourself work long periods of hours for these other employers. In the three years that I worked for others, I was averaging 80 to 120 hours a week.
When you are a salaried developer, you are not getting paid overtime. It was just a lot of personal sacrifices, but then I got married. It was one of those decisions where it’s like, “Am I going to work my life away or should I try to start this business that I always wanted to do?”
Something that my father never did is quit his job and focus on the business. That was one thing that I wanted to take a chance in. I also had a career where I knew that I’d always get a job the next day.
If you have a pulse and you know how to program, then you are going to have a job in the DC area, Silicon Valley, or New York. It can’t find well-qualified engineers and good senior-level developers fast enough. I figured that now was the time to take that chance. I started the business.