“Don’t Miss Birthdays”, 5 Wisdom Nuggets from Chris Wiegand, CEO of Jibestream
“When we first started, the spreadsheets told me that I would be rich and retired within 2 years… but building a company takes a long time and a lot of hard work. It’s so important to give all the special people in your life time along the way as well. That leads me to think that in hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have planned my honeymoon to coincide with a tradeshow in Las Vegas. I’m pretty sure my wife, Annette, would have a story around that one too!”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Wiegand, CEO and co-founder of Jibestream. With hundreds of high-profile venues deployed globally, including the Pentagon, NATO headquarters, World Trade Center, Mall of the Emirates, various Department of Defense hospitals and hundreds of other buildings in both the private and public sector, Jibestream is the go-to leader in the indoor mapping and navigation space.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. I think it might be a form of self-punishment, but since I keep doing it and love it in so many ways, we can call it rewarding overall.
I started my first real business just after high-school in Muskoka (basically what you would call cottage country for Torontonians) ‘barging’ goods and garbage for the people that had cottages on islands. Before selling the business, we had built up the second largest waste management business in the area, something like a ‘Got Junk’ but on the water. It was pretty awesome to be on the water in one of the most beautiful places in the world working. Had it not been for being hit by a car on the side of the road fixing a trailer, I would very likely still be in that business today. Unfortunately the accident left me with a permanent injury to my foot. Having only 8 toes instead of 10 didn’t go well with the heavy labor of the business. It also wasn’t great for my winter career at the time, which was working in the snowboard industry at Park City, Utah.
After selling that business, I did the most natural segue… starting a tech company building indoor maps!
The actual transition involved working at a print shop that was transitioning from traditional lithographic to digital web to press and involved a lot of one-to-one marketing tech. A hunch about where the digital market was going along with a healthy dose of serendipity led me to promptly quit my job and start Jibestream. I have to say, while serendipity played a big part, I am certainly happy that reinventing myself has led me to a career and life that I love.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
One that stands out for me is a story I like to call ‘The Epic Fail’. Back in the early days before mobile was big, we used to use large touch-screens to demo our software. Doing a demo was a huge production that involved a 42” monitor, multiple PCs, and dozens of cables and needed at least an hour or two to set up. This particular demo was at an army hospital and the further we traveled into the depths of the basement to get to the meeting room, the more I doubted that the wireless Internet I was promised was going to work. Within 15 minutes of getting to the room, about 10 people in full uniform started piling in to see the demo. You guessed it, absolutely nothing worked. As soon as you hear yourself saying the words ‘if the demo had worked, you would have seen…” you know that you have had an epic fail! As it turns out, we still managed to get the project, but that moment was pretty embarrassing for me.
Yitzi: So what exactly does your company do?
We want to change indoor experiences by enabling business to leverage the power of location and the IoT to access real-time indoor visual intelligence.
SImply put, we put indoor maps into apps. We do this to help our customers solve really complex issues when it comes to processing information about their indoor spaces. Jibestream is an embeddable mapping platform driven by data layers and the IoT, that can power all sorts of use cases from wayfinding and asset tracking to data visualization and beyond.
The planet is so completely mapped that even the most remote corners of the globe can be seen from a mobile phone. But indoor spaces, in which we spend most of our daily lives, don’t benefit from the same spatial awareness. We believe that can change.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My personal passion is animal welfare and promoting a plant-based diet. I do this, as a member of the board of directors for an amazing animal sanctuary called Wishing Well Sanctuary that is located just outside of Toronto. I like to think that all my experiences with building Jibestream is helping make a positive contribution in helping raise awareness for the sanctuary and further inspire the movement towards a vegan lifestyle. As side note, my favorite restaurant while in the Bay Area is “Shizen Vegan Sushi” at 14th in the Mission District.
Yitzi: What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
#1 — Read the Hard Things about the Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.
I thought running a business would be hard because you have to work all the time (and you do), but the really hard thing about running a business is how complex it can be when it comes to co-founders, investors, staff, customers, and just overall managing the business. There are so many awesome stories in this book that will give you good insights into what goes on in a high-growth startup.
#2 — Join a Peer Group
There is nothing more valuable to a CEO than to join a roundtable where you can meet with other CEO’s in similar growth stages to share some war stories, learn from each other, and at times just take comfort in commiserating!
#3 — Self-Care
When you start a business the last thing you think you have time for is going to the gym and preparing a healthy meal, but the reality is that these are the things you need the most. Growing a business usually requires lots of travel and tradeshows. Instead of hanging out having too many drinks, I try to seek out a local crossfit gym, or at least do a bit of both.
#4 — Don’t Miss Birthdays
When we first started, the spreadsheets told me that I would be rich and retired within 2 years… but building a company takes a long time and a lot of hard work. It’s so important to give all the special people in your life time along the way as well. That leads me to think that in hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have planned my honeymoon to coincide with a tradeshow in Las Vegas. I’m pretty sure my wife, Annette, would have a story around that one too!
#5 — Diversity
You always hear that you need great people to have great culture, but I wish someone had told me the value of also having a diverse team from day one. It’s much harder in year 3, when 95% of your organization are men, to build gender diversity than it would have been if we had started with the intention of diversity. It’s taken a while, and we still have some ways to go, but we are finally balancing this at Jibestream and the impact is incredible to both our culture and our success.
Yitzi: I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, or I might be able to introduce you.
I would have to say that I would love to meet Richard Branson. His success in both life and business is undeniable and he has always been a person I would like to emulate. He has an amazing way of being uber successful while living life to the fullest. Most importantly, it doesn’t appear that his success has come at the cost of others with his approach of always giving back.
The perfect day for me would be to go kite boarding with him on his private island and then pick his brain about his life over a beer…that’s what I would call a pipe dream!