[quote style=”boxed”]If I ever make a pile of cash, my goal is to start a tech school for kids here in Portland.[/quote]
Jason Lander is the CEO and co-founder of Hively, a Portland-based tech startup delivering the simplest way for businesses to measure customer feedback and reward employees for providing exceptional customer service.
Jason spent the last decade at his first Portland-based tech start up, ShiftWise, designing and developing software applications for the healthcare staffing industry. Jason and his business partner, Ross Barbieri, helped grow this company to more than 1200 clients nationwide and $8M in annual revenue. Jason and Ross exited ShiftWise in 2010 to start Hively.
Happily married and the father of three children, Jason can be found building Lego castles, rocking his baby to sleep or looking for five minutes to talk with his wife in peace—when he’s not working on a computer.
What are you working on right now?
Our next upgrade of Hively. We’re giving our customers the ability to share their customer testimonials through social channels. We’re also providing them with a public page they can use to show off their customer happiness scores and responses. I’m really excited about this release because it will give companies the ability to easily add transparency to the quality of the customer service they deliver.
Where did the idea for Hively come from?
We worked with companies for years that were incredibly focused on customer service. However, most of them weren’t measuring their customer satisfaction levels, and if they were, the were trying to do so with surveys. Surveys don’t work; they’re time consuming, the data is hard to aggregate, and they have a very low engagement rate. So, we created Hively around the idea of giving businesses the ability to measure customer service online in the simplest way possible. We furthered it by creating a means for managers to immediately reward employees for delivering exceptional customer service.
What does your typical day look like?
It starts early. I get into the office before 7:00 a.m. every day. I look at what we’re trying to accomplish as a team that day and then do my best to make sure everyone has what they need to get their tasks done. I spend most of my time these days on marketing, sales and strategic efforts, so I’m constantly looking for new opportunities and figuring out how we can add the most value for our customers.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Idea inspiration comes from customers, other tech products and random people who influence me. I typically need to find some time on my own to start sketching out ideas when I’m free from distraction. I sketch them out on my iPad or a whiteboard and then try to create a bulleted list of rules around how the concept works and what its purpose is. When I’m done, if it still holds together, I’ll bring it to my team and let them try to tear it apart. Usually, about 90% of my ideas die here. But the ones that survive get more attention until we have a working concept. From there, I typically start running these concepts by customers and other people whose opinions I trust, in an effort to make the idea better and to discover aspects of it we haven’t yet thought of. We continue this way until the concept gets life. However, once something is born, it’s never done; it’s always just in a current state of iteration.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Gamification. I really like the idea of adding gaming components to mundane or simple, everyday actions. It makes things more interesting and encourages participation. I really like the idea of changing people’s attitudes or behaviors through gaming mechanics.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I don’t know if it was the worst, but certainly the hardest job I’ve ever had is the time I spent as a heavy machine gunner in the U.S.M.C. I learned a lot from that time. After you’re a Marine, nothing you ever do again is really that hard. Also, I learned a ton about leadership. It’s one thing to get people to follow you. It’s another thing entirely to get men armed with machine guns and explosives to follow you.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Since this is my second startup, this is my chance to start again and do things differently. This time around, the two things we are doing differently are: 1) realizing nothing is ever done and that it doesn’t have to be done (or perfect) before you make it public (it’s okay to try things and iterate from concepts) and 2) Money (in terms of outside investments) doesn’t buy you time; it puts you on a clock. Once that clock stops, you better hope all your grand plans have come true. If not, the company you started becomes the company your investors own.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Iterate. You can’t ever look at anything as being done. It can always be better. It can always be improved. If you convince yourself something is done, then you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities. It also helps you to not freak out about mistakes things that go wrong. Things can always be fixed or changed.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In our last company, we found ourselves constantly building features to satisfy our customers. We had a hard time saying “no” and thought the goal was to build whatever the customers requested. We took a very simple product and overcomplicated it to the point where it required significant support and training just to get people using it. This time around, we’re not going the path of customization and we’re keeping things as simple as possible.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Short blast radius EMP. I’m convinced that the next must-have safety device will enable you to instantly disable electronic devices within a small radius around you. The device needs to be as small as a can of mase or even a key chain. Celebrities will love it.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I’d like to see technology introduced to children at a younger age, and I would like it to be a more accessible part of their lives. If I ever make a pile of cash, my goal is to start a tech school for kids here in Portland.
Tell us a secret.
My whole life I wanted to be a cop. When I got out of the Marine Corps, I was offered a full college scholarship and a four-year contract as a police officer through a program I entered and won. I turned it down. After four years in the military, I didn’t want to be a cop anymore.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
- Chirpify. It lets you buy, sell and pay for things via Twitter. I can send friends money for dinner or sell things from my house.
- Rapportive. It’s an incredibly valuable app that plugs into Gmail. It lets you immediately know who you’re talking to via email.
- Instagram. I love taking pictures, and this is a simple way to do that, while make shots look awesome. It also lets you share them.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Gamification by Design by Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham. It’s a great intro on how to add gaming mechanics to all the things you create.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
- @christeso. He’s helping to mobilize payments and is smart as all hell. There’s no bullshit with him, and he’s heck of a nice guy.
- @turoczy is chief evangelist of all things tech (especially Portland tech).
- @caseorganic bills herself as a “cyborg anthropologist.” She’s one of the most brilliant and interesting people you’ll ever meet.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Watching Return of the Jedi with my three-year-old son, Liam. His commentary on what he thinks is happening is hilarious. For example, when the Emporer was zapping Darth Vader with the force and laughing maniacally, Liam asked, “Dad, is the Emporer good now?” I said, “No” and Liam replied, “Then why is he laughing?”
Who is your hero?
My wife, Caryn. She does amazing things all day, including taking care of our children, and found time to earn a law degree and to start her own practice. She puts up with me, pushes me to be better, and reminds me what matters most.
Hively’s website: http://www.teamhively.com
Hively on Facebook: www.facebook.com/hively
Hively on Twitter: @teamhively
Jason Lander on Twitter: @jwlander
Jason Lander on Vizify: http://www.vizify.com/jason-lander