Jesse Dundon – CEO of Hathway Mobile Agency

Make sure you laugh, and try to get the people around you to laugh, too. This is equally important when things are tough as when they’re great. I once heard a quote that you can’t let success fuck up your fun. So be serious, but realize that most people want to have a good time while working hard.

Jesse Dundon is the CEO of Hathway Mobile Agency. He co-founded the company in 2009, and since then, Hathway has been recognized nationally for helping brands develop mobile applications, responsive websites, and campaigns.

The agency has nearly 50 employees and serves global clients from its home base in San Luis Obispo, California. Clients include Behr Process Corporation, Applied Materials, Inc., and Transamerica Corporation. Hathway ranked No. 601 on the 2014 Inc. 5000 list in recognition of its 791 percent revenue growth over a three-year period.

Jesse was recently selected for Forbes’ 30 Under 30 2015 list. The lifelong entrepreneur got an early start by walking dogs and mowing lawns in elementary school; in college, he ran his own screen printing business between summer jobs in construction, electrical contracting, and pizza delivery.

Jesse’s first “real” business was a carpet cleaning company, but he quickly moved on to the Internet after he completed his undergraduate degree. He started two websites while earning his master’s degree: a social network for rugby players and a recruiting website for college graduates. In the process, he learned how to develop websites and took that expertise to Hathway. Jesse is always interested in providing advice on technology and entrepreneurial ventures and being a part of what’s next.

Jesse is a member of the Cal Poly Industrial Technology Advisory Board. He currently lives in San Luis Obispo, California, with his lovely wife, Kayla.

Where did the idea for Hathway come from?

Hathway wasn’t so much an idea as it was a natural evolution of what it took to make ends meet. We were working on a web startup at the time and had a bit of seed money. When that ran out, we had to freelance on the side to pay the bills. Over time, we realized that our startup didn’t have legs. We’d gotten pretty good at building websites for other people, however, so we pulled the plug on the startup and began scaling up the web development company that eventually became Hathway.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

I wake up, read the news, try to exercise, check my calendar, and commute about half a mile to work. Work usually starts with a scrum meeting with my management team to gather updates and remove blockers.

I try to make the rest of my day productive by grooming my backlog of tasks in Asana and prioritizing only the most important items. However, in the office, I’m really at the service of my team, so things have a habit of straying from the original plan. My time in the office consists mostly of meetings, calls, and conversations. I head home in the evening, spend a few hours with my wife, and devote a few hours to getting my own tasks done.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I naturally get excited about ideas and problems that need to be solved. One of the best ways to describe it is that I “prove my passion” to the team — an insight I heard from Afrojack at the 2014 Forbes Under 30 Summit. If I want people to get on board, then they have to see that I’m excited, too.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Telepathy is a very intriguing field. At their base, words are a means of expressing emotion, and modern communication technologies are — for the most part — just a means of expressing words. On the other hand, telepathy and brain-to-brain communication will allow people to directly and covertly share their most intimate emotions, which will fundamentally change how we communicate.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I like to stay up late and get work done when there are no distractions.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

Honestly, I’ve really liked most of my jobs. The only thing that makes me restless is boredom. I’ve had a few jobs that had significant downtime, which really sucked.

At one summer office job, there just wasn’t enough work to do, and I eventually got laid off. I slept in the next morning, and one of my buddies knocked on my door and invited me to work on a construction project. For the rest of the summer, I worked one of the most exciting jobs I’ve ever had. Sometimes the lame leads right to the great.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would start earlier. I’m only six years out of college, but I already see the younger generation starting amazing businesses that are changing the world. Otherwise, I’m pretty happy with where I am. Although I certainly wish I could’ve avoided certain mistakes, they ultimately impacted who I am — at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

As an entrepreneur, what’s the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Make sure you laugh, and try to get the people around you to laugh, too. This is equally important when things are tough as when they’re great. I once heard a quote that you can’t let success fuck up your fun. So be serious, but realize that most people want to have a good time while working hard.

What is one strategy that’s helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Having an aggressive appetite for growth and not being satisfied with the status quo has always helped me excel. We’ve gotten big opportunities that were a little outside our comfort zone, and while some companies might have passed, we went after them and figured out how to get the job done.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I fail constantly! However, I try harder than most people, so the good eventually shines through. In the agency world, you lose clients from time to time, and the last time we lost a big client, my team pulled through and brought us back stronger than ever.

What’s one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Somebody needs to start a for-profit high school for aspiring software engineers that provides an excellent computer science education for a share of the student’s earnings for the first 10 years after graduation.

What’s the best $100 you recently spent, and why?

I just bought some Keen hybrid sandals for a trip to Southeast Asia a few weeks ago. They definitely aren’t the sexiest shoes you can buy, but wow, they sure are comfortable, and they’re the perfect shoes for a trip like that.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I’m addicted to Asana for task management, and I use Google Apps almost exclusively for email, calendar, Word documents, spreadsheets, and file sharing. I really couldn’t imagine life without these tools! They’re always accessible, they’re super simple, and they give me the flexibility to get work done in my own way.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“Good to Great” by Jim Collins is an inspiring book for any business leader. It’s fairly easy to be good in the business world, but it’s far harder to do something truly amazing. I’m lucky enough to be in that “good” category, but I’m really inspired to become great.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

It’s funny, but I have, on limited occasions, been sucked into watching “Oprah’s Master Class” with my wife. Oprah interviews successful people, and they always have inspiring life lessons. In the real world, I’ve been very inspired by speakers at some of the recent conferences I’ve attended. Monica Lewinsky did a speech at the Forbes Under 30 Summit that really opened my eyes and made me think differently.


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