Wise Words with Jason Johnson

Springwise has seen a slew of new products that aim to make the Internet of Things a reality over the past few years, many of which have understandably focused on the home. The August smart lock is one of those, hoping to make the physical key a thing of the past and provide management of home access through smartphones. The idea is one that clearly resonates with consumers, with the device gaining 10,000 email signups in the first 24 hours following its announcement and the company since gathering a sizeable reservation list. Working with renowned designer Yves Béhar on the August, Jason Johnson is the co-founder and CEO of the company and we caught up with him to find out how getting together a great team is key to the success – and maintained sanity – of entrepreneurs.

Jason is no stranger to the tech industry, having co-founded the ISP InterQuest – now known as Ygnition – as well as publishing software company Rethink Books and PC efficiency solutions firm BlueSprig. He now divides his time between his role as a Managing Partner at startup community FoundersDen and his work with August.

1. Where did the idea for August come from?

Yves and I have both held an interest in technology solutions for the home, for many years. For our first product, we chose to focus on solving a real problem that we have both experienced on a weekly basis – giving guests and service providers access to our homes.

2. Can you describe a typical working day?

August is currently located at Founders Den in San Francisco. We start the day with a ‘stand up’ meeting that many technology companies using Agile development use to identify priorities and address blocking items. Throughout the day the software teams interact with the hardware team to move the product development forward.

3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on August?

I’ve got a 4 year-old boy at home, so my end of day often includes wrestling, building forts from blankets, and reading bedtime stories about firefighters and dinosaurs.

4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?

Balance. It’s easy to pour 100% of yourself into your startup, but if you don’t balance your health, mind, and relationships, you won’t have anything valuable to pour into making a lasting company.

5. What drove you crazy when building your business?

I’m not a particularly patient person. I generally feel that everything could be happening faster. However, as the talented and experienced people I work with have taught me – nine women can’t make a baby in one month. The same analogy applies to product development.

6. What motivates you to keep going?

I am sincerely passionate about technology and how it can improve our lives. A lot of products, especially home technology, have failed to deliver at improving our lives. I believe August has the right plan and the right team to genuinely deliver amazing products that will fulfill our motivation to make people’s lives a little better.

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

That’s hard to answer, almost everything has gone very well for us. We’ve been very blessed.

8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?

Yves and I have some amazing plans for August and we look forward to unveiling those plans over the next five years. It will take an amazing team of people to fulfill our vision. Recruiting will be critical to our success. Know any good people?

9. If you weren’t working on August right now, what would you be doing?

This is my dream project, since working for Apple in the beginning of my career, I’ve wanted to make products that combine cutting edge design with cutting edge technology. There is nothing else I’d rather be doing.

10. Tell Springwise a secret…

We’ve just crossed 30,000 reservations for the August Smart Lock.

11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Wherever you’re working today, take advantage of your relationships with your coworkers to learn things from them that you don’t know. If you’re a tech person, take one of the marketing folks to lunch – or vice versa. When you start your own company, you’ll benefit from having a wide range of knowledge of how the different parts of a business operate.

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