Santiago Jaramillo – CEO of Bluebridge

Batching keeps me productive. The habit of arranging my schedule to tackle large tasks for long intervals like meetings, brainstorm time, design sessions keeps me focused.

Headquartered in Indianapolis, Bluebridge is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that allows organizations to easily design and maintain a mobile app with the support of a team of highly knowledgeable developers and designers. Launched in 2011, Bluebridge is built on a revolutionary platform that provides organizations straightforward, affordable tools to connect them with their customers and prospects in a direct, engaging way. Learn more about Bluebridge by visiting their website, and connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

When Santiago was seven years old, he launched a fresh water delivery business in his South American neighborhood. He has been an entrepreneur ever since.

Santiago’s family immigrated to the United States in 2002. After starting several successful businesses in high school and college, Santiago founded Bluebridge in his dorm room at Indiana Wesleyan University. His vision was to create a company that allowed virtually any organization to harness the power of mobile apps in an easy-to-use and engaging way.

Santiago is energized by delivering mobile success to Bluebridge clients and building an amazing place to work for kind, talented people. He has a passion for helping the underprivileged, particularly breaking cyclical poverty in children through education.

Since founding Bluebridge, Santiago has been included on Inc Magazine’s 30 Under 30, has been invited to the White House, and has become a nationally recognized speaker on mobile technology. His free time is currently limited, but cherishes any opportunity to travel to new destinations or relax with a good book.

Where did the idea for Bluebridge come from?

The idea for Bluebridge was born from a single statistic. In 2011, smartphones outsold PCs for the first time, and that idea captivated my imagination. Consumers were accessing the internet through apps within their mobile devices more so than any other platform, yet most brands and organizations had virtually no mobile presence whatsoever to interact with their customers. Without that compelling mobile presence, brands were missing out on opportunities to speak to their audiences using the technologies they carry around in their pockets every day.

At the time I first heard the statistic that would ultimately become Bluebridge, I was backpacking through New Zealand after spending time working at the Sydney, Austrailia branch of ExactTarget. I derived the name from the Bluebridge ferry that shuttled people between the north and south islands of New Zealand.

What does your typical day look like?

My typical day is usually packed with meetings. I like to give my team as much of my time as possible to align on direction and remove obstacles preventing them from making progress. I typically work on admin and email either first thing in the morning or in the evening to keep my day open for collaboration.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Often, some of my best ideas don’t come when I’m specifically in brainstorm mode. I’ll think of ideas in the shower, while working out or driving, making it imperative to get them out of my mind and onto paper. Later, I’ll keep thinking and processing through them, until I’m ready to share with someone. I’m a verbal processor, so I love talking through ideas with the leadership team and allowing them to “poke holes,” so to speak. Those meetings are the test to whether or not the idea is viable. If I can articulate it well and it’s compelling enough to get others excited, than it’s a good enough idea to keep polishing and building upon.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Personalization. Consumers love things that are personalized to them, especially in mobile technology. Apps allow for massive amounts of customization as they can remember your frequented locations and choices without even having internet connectivity. Personalization allows us to tailor experiences to match our specific use case. We’ve seen personalization reaching into many industries, and this idea of customization and personalization will only continue to expand. Imagine your prescriptions fitting your exact specifications, including height, weight, allergies, activity level and geographic region. Personalization allows for maximum effectiveness and minimal waste.

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

Batching keeps me productive. The habit of arranging my schedule to tackle large tasks for long intervals like meetings, brainstorm time, design sessions keeps me focused. Instead of having a handful of half hour spots throughout the week to work through one project, I will schedule a two to three hour meeting to completely align with the team on direction. Batching makes me more productive because it allows me to “switch gears” less and be in “flow mode” for the greatest amount of time possible.

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

Great question. I lived in South Florida in high school, and I would put up shutters on houses in my neighborhood during hurricane season. The heat and the long hours I would spend on a ladder were grueling. However, to get business, I had to go door to door and ask people if they needed help putting up shutters. That experience removed a lot of fear of doing sales and cold calling. I learned how to be approachable in going up to people I didn’t know and offering my time and services. In the end, my neighbors thought it was a good value, and I was able to build a client base over time.

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

I’m a big fan of having no regrets and understanding that everything we’ve done to this point has happened for a reason. Even the bad decisions led to lessons and have made me into the person I am today. But, if I had to do something differently, I would’ve started more entrepreneurial ventures earlier, just with the idea of “failing fast and failing often” in mind.

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

I prioritize constantly and force myself to tackle the hardest tasks and most complex problems first. When you’ve accomplished your toughest challenge first thing in the morning, the rest of the day is yours. Facing the “big stuff” head on increases your momentum to tackle the rest of your “to-do” list. The more problems you can solve quickly rather than ignoring and letting them fester, the faster the business grows.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Being cognizant of specific niche markets and learning to effectively communicate solutions to each markets’ needs have been paramount in growing Bluebridge. We’ve repeatedly narrowed niches to understand exactly who we’re serving to deeply understand their challenges and business goals. The next step is building that knowledge into the product and service, so that we’re not just talking about great-sounding solutions, but also providing something that will meet or exceed the value of the solution promised.

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

I think every entrepreneur has a story of a wrong hire. As CEO, it’s hard not to blame yourself since your most important role is to attract and retain the right people in the right roles. Once it becomes obvious that a team member is not the right fit for the organization, it is best to let them go. The longer they stay, the more of a disservice it is to the team, and the worse it is for the person who is unable to move on to a place where they can truly thrive. After that type of situation happens once, it re-energizes a focus to have excellence in the hiring process so that you can catch those earlier and more often.

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

Avocados as a service. I could eat avocados with every meal, but it’s hard to find ripe, ready-to-eat avocados at the grocery store. I think there is a market for a fresh, ripe avocado delivery service. Have I mentioned how much I love avocados?

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I love gardening. I started growing gardens in 5th grade in my backyard in Florida and still maintain one during the spring and summer in Indiana. Working on the garden is a de-stressor and seeing the plants grow up from bare soil is fun to experience, somewhat analogous – in a much simpler way – to growing a company from the ground up.

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

I have several web-based services I use daily to keep me productive. I use TextExpander as a way to automate phrases or addresses I repeatedly have to type out manually. TextExpander allows you to type in a short phrase or code and it autofills the rest. For example, I’ll type “;address” and it will automatically fill in our office address, including directions. I set up meetings at the office every single week and the shortcut saves a ton of time. Another service that is key to our business is Google Drive. We use Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets to collaborate on information in real-time and eliminate sending unending versions of attachments in emails. 1Password is also awesome, as it remembers encrypted passwords for every application and allows you to sign in once to keep your online identity safe. Finally, I use Pocket to save links while I’m on Twitter that I’d like to read later with one click. That way, when I have downtime, I can access all the articles I’ve saved in one place.

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

Rework by the founders of 37signals helped me define the type of business I wanted to create and accept a “contrarian” attitude to business building. The book helped me feel good about doing business differently than the status quo. I tend to be a contrarian, and Rework assured me to trust my instincts and challenged me to carefully select those from whom I seek advice. There’s huge value in advice from those who have “been there and done that,” but filtering what advice to listen to and which to ignore as noise is one of the biggest challenges as an entrepreneur. The world of blogging and social media has given everyone a platform to broadcast their opinions, so failing to choose sources that speak to your specific stage in business or situation could be dangerous.

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

I’ve attempted to curate my Twitter feed to be full of people I respect and want to learn from, yet there are still many I could mention. Jason Lemkin has amazing thoughts and informs much of the framework of how I think about running a Software-as-a-Service company. I enjoy posts from Tom Tunguz, as well as the OpenView Ventures’ blog on how to run a high growth tech business. Jon Acuff is an inspirational guy who thinks about life/work challenges in a creative way and encourages people to both pursue their dreams and perfect their craft.


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