Jager McConnell is the CEO of Crunchbase, the leading platform used by millions of entrepreneurs and investors looking to discover innovative companies and the people behind them. Jager joined Crunchbase after it spun out from AOL, a move that was announced at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2015.
Prior to joining Crunchbase, Jager spent 11 years at Salesforce in various roles across sales, marketing, and product development. In his last role at Salesforce, Jager was VP of Product in the Sales Cloud, where he oversaw the core salesforce automation product line.
Crunchbase is the leading destination for millions of users to discover industry trends, investments, and news about global companies—from startups to the Fortune 1000. Crunchbase is about more than just data – it’s about community.
Crunchbase was founded to be the master record of data on the world’s most innovative companies. It was built with a unique and scalable approach to data collection leveraging a strong community of contributors, the largest venture partner network, and in-house data teams armed with powerful machine learning.
What first got you interested in tech and startups?
I had had an interest in tech ever since I was 4 years old. Initially it was the wonder of creating stories and my own games but it evolved to a fascination of the emerging internet and the ability to connect with people all over the world. I found myself involved in local tech startups while I was in high school and I’ve been addicted ever since.
What led you to working at Salesforce?
I had been at a startup prior to salesforce that went through the internet bust in the early 2000s. We went from 15 people up to a few hundred employees and, through 7 layoffs, ended back down to 15 people. While I was flattering I survived all the layoffs, I needed something more stable on the more exciting side of the growth curve. At this failing startup, we had been one of Salesforce’s first customers and always were enamored with how they built SaaS products (even before they coined the phrase term “SaaS”) and we did our best to emulate them. When it became clear the startup was on its last legs, I decided to make the jump to Salesforce in 2004.
With new companies starting every day, what made you stay at Salesforce for so long?
That’s a great question – when I first joined I was sure I would only stay for 1-2 years maximum. Salesforce was the largest company I had worked at and I knew I enjoyed smaller companies where I could make a bigger impact. I just didn’t feel like I could learn too much from a large company – and I was really wrong. As Salesforce was rapidly expanding, that created a ton of growth opportunities within the company – and, to their credit, they let me move around and try different things every few years. I really had a good solid 4-5 careers at Salesforce over my 11 year tenure and that sense of always learning new things and pushing myself in new directions kept me at Salesforce much, much longer than I ever would have expected.
What role did the company’s leadership and team play in this decision?
The company’s leadership – in particular Marc Benioff’s – had a massive impact on that decision to stay. I was extremely fortunate to work closely with him – often being the youngest in the room – and found him both inspirational but also a person who genuinely wanted to make the world a better place. That focus on philanthropy while simultaneously changing an entire industry helped keep me at Salesforce because I wanted to learn everything I could from him and the people he trusted most.
How have you carried this on to your role at Crunchbase?
Pretty much every aspect of how we’re growing Crunchbase has been informed by something I learned at Salesforce. Thinks like encouraging employees to think like entrepreneurs and find the role within our organization that fits their interest bests – as well as tackle problems that may be very outside of their job description. Another key influence of Salesforce on Crunchbase is in our culture. We are taking a page from their playbook and are taking an early focus on diversity pushing to ensure we have a positive and welcoming environment for underrepresented people.
What role does data have to play in helping build startup ecosystems?
It’s incredibly important – from helping investors find the companies that are the best fit for their investing thesis to companies understanding their competitive landscape to entrepreneurs even deciding if their product idea is worth building. In fact, without data and a common place for companies, people, and investors to connect with one another it’d be impossible for a startup ecosystem to emerge.
Where have you seen this done particularly well?
I think there are a ton of exciting and emerging startup ecosystems popping up all over the world. Singapore, Dubai, Lagos, Moscow to name a few – it’s an exciting time for these new startup hotspots as we start to see the globalization of VC around the world.
What do you think are the benefits/opportunities to starting and building a startup outside the US?
I’m extremely bullish on starting companies outside of the US for a number of different reasons. First, I think entrepreneurs in the US struggle really understanding international markets. A founder of a company in a specific geo that serves that specific particularly well is at a distinct advantage compared to anyone else in the world.
Second, I think investors in the surrounding geo tend to prefer investing in local companies – and typically there’s much less competition to raise dollars which again gives an advantage to those non-US companies.
Third, typically the cost structure of running a company that’s not in the US (and, in particular, Silicon Valley) can be dramatically less. If you can run a business for half the cost (or less) than that same business in Silicon Valley, that’s an advantage that can’t be understated.
Finally, I think being outside of the US can actually lead to greater innovation. Whether it be from greater diversity, or different experiences, or different cultural norms – differences in background leads to divergence in innovative approaches to problems.
What particular opportunities do you think Australian startups have being in APAC?
I think there are huge opportunities and advantages for startups in Australia. I’ve always been impressed with the engineering talent I’ve seen in Australia – and recruiting talent is one of the biggest challenges for startups across the globe. But the combination of talent with language, timezone, emerging investment community, and direct access to the exploding economies within APAC – it’s definitely a key place to be starting a company today.
What do you know of the Sydney startup ecosystem?
At Crunchbase, we actively track about 9,000 funded startups in Australia and about 1,000 investors based in Australia – so we know a fair bit! Entrepreneurs use our service to find investors who may be interested in their company and investors use us to find companies to invest in so it’s important that we (and the over half million contributors who help add data into Crunchbase) keep a close eye on hot ecosystems like what’s happening in Australia.
What are you looking forward to during your trip?
I’m looking forward to meeting with founders and investors and hear about what’s the most exciting emerging trends happening in Australia. Every ecosystem I see is different and understanding better what’s happening in Australia is incredibly interesting to me.
What knowledge do you hope to share and on the flip side what do you think you can learn from the Sydney tech landscape?
Certainly, perhaps for biased reasons, I’m hoping to ensure people are getting the most value they can out of what Crunchbase offers. Sometimes people don’t realize how important Crunchbase can be in helping your company get noticed – and I do like spreading the word about that. On the Sydney side, I always hope to learn about an exciting new startup I had never heard of doing something revolutionary that just hasn’t been discovered yet.