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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Jive looks to expand Utah operation

By Art Raymond  |  Posted Mar 10th, 2017 @ 10:30pm


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LINDON — Don't expect to see ping pong tables, unicycle obstacle courses or pyramids of free junk food at the Lindon offices of Jive Communications.

This is a company that's made a name for itself by defying most conventions (and stereotypes) typically associated with innovative, successful and growing high-tech companies.

So, what is a visitor greeted with at the Jive headquarters? People working.

And that's a scene that both suits and reflects the priorities of the company's founders, who find themselves on the cusp of a major expansion, with plans in place to add 200 employees to their current workforce of 500 as well as building a new headquarters in Utah County.

"We've been very lucky in attracting people who want to work here because they've learned about, and share, what we value and strive for," said Jive CEO and co-founder John Pope. "Fiscal responsibility, problem-solving, individual drive and wanting to build a real business."

That business-building exercise began in 2006 when a poorly functioning phone system at a Utah County software firm needed replacing. The options for upgrading were, according to co-founder and Chief Product Officer Mike Sharp, really expensive, overly complicated and not well-suited to the company's needs.

"So, being the over-confident software guys that we were, we decided we could just build one ourselves," said Sharp.

Only, the solution that Sharp and his co-founders came up with eliminated the analog, site-based phone system that wasn't working for them and replaced it with a digital, cloud-based system that worked better, cost less money and piqued the interest of their consulting clients who were also underwhelmed with their phone systems.

Jive Communications co-founders John Pope, left, Mike Sharp, and Matthew Peterson, pose for a photo in the lobby of the company's headquarters in Lindon on Friday, March 10, 2017. Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

"That was our light bulb moment," Sharp said. "We realized that communication systems for businesses, historically, were just painful, overpriced and involved dealing with too many people.

"So we started Jive Communications and started building cloud-based business telephony systems."

Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer Matt Peterson said Jive's growth has been an organic process that has flaunted the typical tech start-up path of first seeking funding through angel investors or venture capitalists, then developing the product.

Instead, the six original founders worked for three years, for free, to get their new business off the ground. Then they were able to hire a few employees. Six years in they had 100 people working for them. Eight years in they had a few hundred.

In 2013, they brought in a minority investor to help fund the continued growth, but they've essentially done it on their own and a step at a time.

Now, the company is the largest privately owned unified communication company in the country and earning in excess of $100 million in revenues a year. The business communication realm is a $30 billion a year industry and, the co-founders say, only about 15 percent of their potential business customer pool has made the switch to cloud-based communications systems.

Their new facility and 40 percent workforce expansion will be accomplished and funded, as they've done pretty much everything else — on their own. And, they will continue to make Utah County their home.

"We see our company having been 'born and raised' in Utah County as a definite advantage," said Pope. "While we haven't nailed down a location for our new facility, I can tell you it will be here in central Utah County."

Jive's ongoing growth and grounded, bootstrap mentality is a noted contributor to the Beehive State's burgeoning technology business sector.

"Utah's Silicon Slopes is built on homegrown success stories like Jive Communications, and I applaud them for their innovation," said Val Hale, director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development. "It's exciting to see a Utah company experience such growth and success, both in our state and in ever-expanding markets."

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