Career Notes 5.2.21
Ep 47 | 5.2.21

Jim Zuffoletti: Building your experience portfolio. [Entrepreneur]


Jim Zuffoletti: Hello. My name is Jim Zufoletti and I am a serial entrepreneur.

Jim Zuffoletti: As an entrepreneur who has gone back and talked to a lot of business school students about the experience, one of the things that I often like to point out is I was not a lemonade stand entrepreneur. I saw what it was like to be an intrepreneur and I saw that it had some benefits. You got all kinds of resources, but you didn't have the same kind of experience that you had as an independent individual. And so I saw that aspect. So the downsides of staying and being an intrepreneur, and then I started to, you know, look around, this is the, at this point, this is the mid-90s. And. You know, seeing the kind of entrepreneurial culture start to show up I began to identify a lot more with that than I did with being inside a big company.

Jim Zuffoletti: I got my founding co-founding experience as a junior member of a early business-to-business startup called FreeMarkets. We were a B2B e-commerce company. There were four of us at the founding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is back in 1995 and it was a tremendous time. This was, you know, a classic internet startup experience where we were four and then by the time I left in 2003, we had gone public. We had, you know, over a thousand people worldwide. It was, it was a great run.

Jim Zuffoletti: And my arc there was really sales and general management. Then in 2003, I went to business school at Darden at the University of Virginia, which was a great chance to kind of step away. I actually said, "Hey, I'm going to stop working for two years," and had the fortune or misfortune of running into my future co-founder Otavio Freire and so the two of us started up a business that was based on an idea that he had conceived during our first year. And we did all those things like business plan, competition, and all of that, and then launched a business while we were in business school that was called OpenQ and then he and I have done two other businesses successive to OpenQ, Social Safeguard, which was the immediate progenitor of SafeGuard Cyber, which is the business that we've been building for the last couple of years.

Jim Zuffoletti: We come from disbelief that there's been a tremendous transformation with how employees and companies work in the current environment. And this has been like exacerbated with work from home. So we talk about helping to protect the humans in this new digital world that we're in and in the current work from home environment, it's not just kind of a broad mission, it's like a life or death mission, because if he didn't have these new digital channels, you wouldn't have any way to work at this point. I was really lucky when I was at Darden to cross paths with an incredible professor named Saras Sarasvathy who espouses a particular approach to entrepreneurship, which is called effectuation. And effectuation is really built around the idea that an entrepreneur needs to think, not about kind of a really fixed goal that they're driving to but a recognition of what are the talents, capabilities that they and their team bring to the table and what can they achieve with those capabilities? And so if I'm talking to a new entrepreneur or somebody who is thinking about it, you know, what's going through my head is, are, have they built some degree of an experience portfolio? And then secondly, do they have that effectual mindset? If they come to me and they say, I'm going to build a unicorn by building this business in this specific way, that's really probably something that they're going to find that they're going to have to make adjustments. And quite frankly, it's the ability to make adjustments that is, you know, kind of part and parcel of the entrepreneurial experience.

Jim Zuffoletti: I feel really lucky to be in a moment right now where I am doing something that is arguably the best thing that I would be able to do, which is the act of creating and starting businesses. And it would be great to continue to be viewed as somebody who loves and enjoys and likes to share the joy associated with being an entrepreneur. I would tell you the current business because again, we focus on that kind of protecting the human and the digital world becomes a really powerful mission, which is, you know, think about the future of humanity. Our digital identities become more and more important to us. Our company's mission is about that. It's about recognizing that evolution that's taking place and protecting those individuals associated with that. So I guess it would also be valuable to be remembered for that. But at the end of the route, I'm, I'm a, I'm an entrepreneur, I'm a family man and father of four. And, uh, you know, that's, that's, I guess what motivates me and how I'd like to be remembered.