You’ll need luck to make it

Do What You Love is a series that showcases the entrepreneurs behind emerging companies. In this edition, we sat with Jonathan Tushman, technologist at ZEFR and co-founder of Pipewave.

He shares how he got started, the virtues of working with a co-founder, and why he loves the Boston tech scene:

I grew up in Westchester, New York and studied to be an electrical engineer at the University of Rochester. After graduation, I moved to Boston and worked at a company called Sapient, a dot-com darling technology consulting agency. I was there for five years before I attended Harvard Business School, where I met my original business partner Paul Boruta. We founded Pipewave together in 2011.

I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Before starting Pipewave, I had a strategy consulting firm that I started with my wife and my brother-in-law. It was great, but I wanted to build something. One time, Paul and I were out in Las Vegas and he saw a market opportunity that no one was really focusing on: video advertising. Both of us took a bet that this was going to become a big deal. We wanted to build technology around this growing trend of eyeballs leaving televisions and moving to computer screens and mobile devices.

Pipewave was one of the early YouTube certified video ad servers. If you watched a video on YouTube and were accosted by a commercial, that was us. In two years, we became experts and worked with different brands. ZEFR took it from the other side when they acquired us in 2013, and we’re now serving both brand and content owners with video advertising. Some of our clients include Warner Bros, Sony Music, Universal Pictures, and Saturday Night Live.

Working outside of ZEFR headquarters has been great. Of all the places where we could have landed, ZEFR matched the Pipewave culture so well. In the beginning, I was very hesitant to sell Pipewave, but Paul told me that I had to meet them. Once I walked into their doors in L.A., I knew they had an amazing vibe and they cared a lot about their employees. It felt like a natural fit. We are a smaller part of the office, and we can’t offer surfboards and bicycles, but we’ve been pretty creative on bringing a special culture to our Boston team.

Jonathan Zefr Portraits-6

As an entrepreneur, I feel like all the work I do on any given day has a huge impact. Sure, it sounds very glamorous, but there’s also a lot of risk and stress. One benefit of being an entrepreneur is controlling your own schedule. At ZEFR there are no core hours. You can come in at noon or at 6 a.m. as long as you get your work done. It’s nice to have that freedom.

I think the biggest misconception about becoming a successful entrepreneur is that it’s all hard work. There’s also a huge amount of luck involved. You can be the smartest person in the world with a great idea and execute it well, but you’ll still need an element of luck to really make it. Successful entrepreneurs know how to maximize good luck when it comes around and jump on it.

I’m 100% pro-founder because I love working with a partner. It’s great to have someone who’s excited with you when good things happen and who’s there to hash things out with when bad things are going on. They are also there to challenge you on every decision.

There are a lot of things I’ve done that are not standard startup dictum. People say don’t start a business with your family, but I started my first company with my wife and my brother-in-law. I also heard that you shouldn’t work with your best friend, but I started Pipewave with Paul on separate coasts – I was in Boston and he was in Los Angeles. Entrepreneurship is all about taking risks. If you follow the “rules of entrepreneurship,” it’s not going to happen.

I love Boston. When ZEFR acquired us, I made a strong push to keep an office here. Yes, Venice Beach is awesome, but I love Boston technologists. There’s also a really good talent pool here with schools like Harvard, MIT, BU, and other universities nearby. We’ve been very lucky with the hiring process.

Figuring out hard, challenging problems gets me out of bed every morning. I enjoy working with friendly people, and I need to be excited when I wake up to meet with my team so we can solve these challenging problems together. We all love Ad Tech because we’re getting a ton of requests per minute, and we need to make quick decisions. It feels like the grown-up version of playing video games.

Interested in workspace? Get in touch.