John Jahnke, CEO of Tackle.io, discussed the mission of his new software startup, his work with technology, and more!
This past week I met up with John Jahnke, CEO at Tackle.io. John has been the CEO for 3 months now and before that spent the last 18 years working for high tech global business to business companies including Cognizant, Pivotal, Inc, Greenplum and EMC Corporation. I sat down with John to discuss Tackle.io, his work, and his passion for technology.
How did you get started in technology?
“I started as a help desk engineer and web developer in 1997 at Azerty Incorporated. While computers were always a big part of my life growing up, I never actually thought I would go into technology. While the internet was booming in the late 90’s it was not clear what career paths would be available in technology. I fell into my first job via a family friend and fell in love with the industry, how businesses were changing rapidly with technology, and how tech offers you an opportunity to learn new things every day. I was very fortunate to get an opportunity like this early in my career. I was part of a great team that really fostered the learning journey that I’ve been on for the last 20+ years.”
Can you talk a little bit about your company and how you got involved?
“I was one of the angel investors in Tackle.io. The co-founders, Dillon Woods, Brian Denker and I worked together at Greenplum (now Pivotal, Inc) and have always stayed in touch. They pitched me their vision to start a new software company focusing on the enterprise cloud marketplaces, specifically the Amazon Web Services marketplace. I was actively looking for angel investing opportunities and felt confident in the team and the general market direction to invest. The company was founded at the end of 2016 and the initial investment closed early in 2017. I originally acted as an adviser on product strategy, product market fit and sales strategy and as the company picked up momentum the team and I started talking about me joining full time to lead the team through hyper growth.”
Biggest challenge as an investor and adviser to the company?
“One of the biggest hurdles an early stage company has to leap over is going from initial idea to a minimum viable product, to identifying and selling to your first group of customers to determining a repeatable sales model around your product. This unfortunately is the phase where most startups fail. I spent most of my time with the tackle team working through experiments to determine our product market fit, defining and refining the value of the product and identifying the right target customers to test with. We were fortunate to attract some early initial customers that helped drive our product strategy. We help remove the friction between software companies and the AWS Marketplace making it easy for software companies to sell to enterprises. While this phase of a startup can be extremely challenging, if you are persistent and focus on the value you are bringing to your customers, experimentation will lead to great outcomes.”
Are there any mistakes that you have made along your career that have helped you to get to where you are now?
“I’m a big believer in constant learning and experimentation. When you take this kind of approach, there really are no failures, only opportunities to learn. That being said, here are a few simple things I’ve always tried to do that have really worked well for me.
- Try to surround yourself with people you can learn from. This requires constantly expanding your network and asking for feedback. I’ve always been amazed at how many people are willing to stop and offer their perspective if you are curious and open to hearing what they have to say.
- Listen more than you speak. Ask open ended questions, always be curious.
- Think about the value you are bringing to others. Your customers, your employees, your business partners. If you bring value to others you will build great business relationships.
- Take notes, define actions and do the work. Too many people fail to do what they say they are going to do.
- Have fun. We spend too much time at work to not enjoy the people you work with or the work you are doing. Work can be stressful, but if you find a way to have fun along the way it always makes the journey more enjoyable.
Best book/blog/podcast that has helped you along your career?
“I’m a huge Tim Ferris fan so The Four Hour Work Week is a big one for me. I also really like his blogs and podcasts too. He is tremendous at prioritizing time for value. I am also a big fan of The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It is all about build, measure, learn and applying that to business practices.”
Any advice for someone starting out in technology?
“I was extremely fortunate to always get put in a position where I was forced to learn new things on a daily basis. Early in my career it was because I was the most junior member of teams and had to do many of the things that no one wanted to do or knew how to do. The muscle that built for me over time, unknowingly, is one of the most valuable skills I’ve built to date. To put it simply for others, just do the work. Even if you don’t have work to do go find something to read, people to meet, things to dive deeper into. The good news in Tech is there is always more to learn. If you are getting to the point where you have a mastered a skill or you are surrounded by people who don’t want to challenge themselves any longer, look for a new group. There are endless opportunities to engage in the community if you just take some time to look for them.
Any thoughts on the Buffalo tech scene?
“I have not focused on doing business in Buffalo since 2006 and my customers have always been big banks, big insurance companies outside of here. Coming back to Buffalo has been great but at the same time the Buffalo tech community is very disconnected. It is great to see things like the Innovation Center and 43 North bring the entrepreneurial community together, but I think we need to micro-segment the entrepreneurial community into sector focus. One thing I have been talking to some other technology startups about about is pulling together a tech focused entrepreneurs group where we can all share ideas and try to help one another. I look forward to either starting a group like this or finding one to join up with.”
A big thank you to John for taking the time to speak with us and share his passion for tech!