We’ve covered several stories of tech startups in Utah. Convirza is yet another interesting company from the mini tech hub.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Jason Wells: I was born and raised in Fresno, California. You may be familiar with it.
Sramana Mitra: I do know, yes.
Jason Wells: It’s interesting. I sure like change and new adventures but as a kid, I lived in the same home. I was the sixth of seven kids. Life was pretty simple for me as a kid. We had five acres. We had a little farm on our property. We had a couple of cows, horses, and chickens. It was an easy life. My entrepreneurial journey started when I was 11 years old. I talked my mom into buying 12 chickens for me. I don’t know how I talked her into buying. She bought them. I took care of them and I sold the eggs back to her. I sold them to all the neighbors.
Sramana Mitra: You didn’t have to give her equity.
Jason Wells: I know. If I can have that kind of a deal now, that would be great. Although at the end, she did get the equity because when we decided to fold the operation and liquidate, we did eat all the chickens!
Sramana Mitra: What about college? What did you do for education?
Jason Wells: I went to Brigham Young University (BYU) as a pre-med major. My father was in Medicine and I had planned to follow. As a Mormon, I served the two-year mission in Peru. I was 19 years old then. During my mission, I was working in a small fishing village. There was a man there. I met his family, but he was not around. His wife said, “He won’t be here for 30 days because he’s on a fishing ship.” He came back after 30 days. The fishing had dried up and he didn’t have any business. He was going to start a little business selling artisan goods.
It was there that I got my first interest to be an entrepreneur and learn what it takes to run a business. I thought about these people who work so hard. I felt entrepreneurship is the way for them to have those opportunities. I became interested in that. I’ve since been interested in micro-financing and social entrepreneurship. That was my genesis.
I finished at BYU. I intended to do an MBA and had wanted to go to one of the top 10 schools. I got an application for that and figured out what I needed to do. I needed to work for four years. While working, I got another Master’s degree. I got my Master’s and my Bachelor’s in Economics. Then I did my MBA at Wharton. My entrepreneurship professor at Wharton said, “If you really want to be an entrepreneur, you should just quit school right now and go do it. This is the best time to do it: right now. You’re going to learn great things.”
There’s a problem when you go out and work. You’re going to go out and make really big salaries from investment banking or from the consulting world. It’s that much harder to give up that salary. Your opportunity cost is greater. The things you learn here are going to be great but it won’t compensate for the things that you’re going to have to learn on the street. That’s really where you’ll learn it.
I didn’t quit. I’m not your archetypal entrepreneur who quits his Harvard MBA and starts Microsoft. I love learning. I love school. I went into management consulting after that. I loved the experience. I loved working with multiple companies. Because I was the Finance geek, I worked my way into all the internal entrepreneurial projects. All of them were starting businesses. This is during the telecom deregulation era. When I talk to most entrepreneurs, I think they’re more gutsy than I am. They went out and they just did it. I love the learning part of it. I wanted to learn.
Sramana Mitra: How long did you continue with management consulting?
Jason Wells: I stayed at A.T. Kearney for three years.
Sramana Mitra: What year does that bring us up to?
Jason Wells: That brings us up to the year 2000.