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Startup JAMF Software Helps IT Pros Manage Everything Apple

Back in 2002, Microsoft ruled the PC world. The iPad and iPhone were not even a gleam in Steve Jobs' eye, voice was the dominant cellular application, and mobility or "death of the PC" was nowhere close to entering the IT lexicon. While Apple was doing well as a popular niche option in the PC world in markets such as education and design, Macs had practically no market share within the world of enterprise IT.

Back in 2002, Microsoft ruled the PC world. The iPad and iPhone were not even a gleam in Steve Jobs' eye, voice was the dominant cellular application, and mobility or "death of the PC" was nowhere close to entering the IT lexicon. While Apple was doing well as a popular niche option in the PC world in markets such as education and design, Macs had practically no marketshare within the world of enterprise IT.

One startup, however, recognized the long-term potential for Apple to make inroads with enterprise IT specialists, and a small but visionary team of Mac lovers decided to start a company focused like a laser beam on helping IT pros manage Apple product, and so JAMF Software was born. Joing us today is Zach Halmstead, the Co-CEO of JAMF Software, to share with us what is a very interesting story.

IT Specialist: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions Zach. To start with, can you provide some brief background on who the founders of JAMF are and what are your backgrounds?

Zach: I founded JAMF Software in 2002. At the time, I was a student at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, and was working full time managing the Macs on campus. In my spare time, I had started working on the first version of the Casper Suite. I was introduced to Chip Pearson, who was running an Apple-focused, value added reseller and services company in Minneapolis. Chip had previously worked at a large corporation deploying and remotely managing thousands of Macs. 

When we met, we recognized an opportunity to combine our experiences and help enterprise customers with the Apple platform. A few monthslater, Chip joined JAMF Software.

 

IT Specialist: What was your team’s inspiration for founding JAMF?

Zach: I have always been a Mac person, primarily because I used it so much for creating music. We recognized the creativity that Apple has always enabled on their platform, and we thought that we could help bring this opportunity to a world that was traditionally more conservative with technology. We recognized the potential impact the Mac could have in the business world, and believed that widespread adoption could enable employees to be more efficient and productive, while enjoying their work.

We wanted to create tools to help IT organizations provide a great support experience for their Mac users, at least equal to the IT support experience for Windows users.

IT Specialist: Back in 2002, Apple was still a niche player in the PC market, and if you’d said ‘BYOD’ people would have thought you’d made a typo on the last letter. What made you decide to focus on Apple computers back then – did you have any idea that Apple might become the company it is today?

Zach: In the days before the iPhone and iPad, the Mac was widely used in education but it was still fairly rare in the corporate world. 

At the time, there was not a good solution for Mac management on a large scale. Although Apple technologies had not yet taken hold in the business world, we believed that helping IT organizations to easily manage Macs would enable wider usage.

To do this, we set out to create a solution that fulfilled the needs of IT departments while preserving the Apple user experience. Many said it could not be done, but we saw that as a fun challenge.

 

IT Specialist: From a broader perspective, what is JAMF’s view of how enterprises are handling the trend towards BYOD and mobility across the enterprise? From your conversations with IT departments, what are their greatest concerns when it comes to handling the enterprise mobility trend? 

Zach: We see a few big themes that are influencing enterprise IT strategy. One is the shift towards offering users a choice of computer platform. For a lot of our customers, it makes more sense to give their employees the tools they prefer, rather than dictating a platform for the sake of IT convenience. Today's workforce is tech-savvy and they're going to be more productive with the tools they're most familiar with. This relates to software as well. Anyone who uses an Apple computer is familiar with the App Store concept, so our customers are using the Casper Suite's Self Service tools to offer an internal "app store" for their employees.

This employee choice theme dovetails with another big theme: cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) services. More businesses are choosing SaaS and cloud services that work equally well on Mac, Windows, iPad, iPhone, or other devices. More importantly, they work equally well regardless of location. For the modern mobile workforce, this means they can get work done away from the office and really get the most out of their mobile devices.

The key for enterprise IT is to invest in tools and processes so they can embrace these trends and provide users with the tools to get work done in a way that's secure and in compliance with security and corporate policies.

IT Specialist: Turning now to your technology, as I understand your core solution is your Casper Suite software? Can you explain a bit more about how the Casper Suite is designed and operated, and what features make it stand out from other remote endpoint management solutions in the enterprise market today?

Zach: The Casper Suite is an IT management toolkit built to manage the end-to-end lifecycle of Apple devices. For an IT administrator, the Casper Suite is used to automate common system management tasks and simplify complex operations. IT managers use the web console to build dynamic dashboards and reports. For end users, the Casper Suite includes a powerful Self Service app for on-demand software deployment.

Our focus on Apple makes the Casper Suite unique in the marketplace and it gives us the opportunity to go deep with integration into OS X and iOS operating systems. FileVault disk encryption with key escrow is a great example: Our customers can use native FileVault disk encryption (part of OS X) and avoid the cost and complexity of a third-party encryption solution.

IT Specialist: Your technology focuses on the four main Apple products—PCs, iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV, is that correct? Are there variations in your technology for each of core Apple products, or is it pretty much one software suite and interface that handles all of them?

Zach: We designed the Casper Suite to support all Apple products . We think this makes sense, as our customers can avoid duplicated efforts and duplicated services. Another way to think about this is from the perspective of the user: many people are using multiple Apple devices for their jobs and with the Casper Suite they get a consistent experience regardless of which device they pick up.

IT Specialist: From the perspective of an enterprise IT professional, what is the complexity level for them to implement, operate and manage the Casper Suite across their enterprise?

Zach: From the early days of JAMF, we wanted to make it easy to get started with our products. All Casper Suite customers start with an onsite service engagement we call the JumpStart. This really simplifies the deployment phase and ensures that the software is ready for use and the IT admins are familiar with the tools. Our customers are making an investment in the Casper Suite and we want them to get real value from that investment right from the start, regardless of previous experience.

For IT professionals looking to expand their skill set, we also offer a range of training and certification courses for all levels of expertise.

IT Specialist: Since I gather your prime focus is on working with enterprise IT departments, what would you summarize as the core value proposition of JAMF’s solution for enterprise IT?

Zach: JAMF Software was founded by IT admins. Our goal was to be the type of vendor that we would want to work with, create software that we would want to use, and simplify the complex. We have always built our software with the end user in mind—with a desire to make life easier for them, even if that means making things more challenging from our perspective. 

Because of our expertise in the Apple space and the fact that we have fully immersed ourselves in this platform, our core value is to provide a best-of-breed solution that covers Apple management from the ground up. We want to offer enterprise IT an easy and efficient way to manage and make Mac, iPad, and iPhone devices first-class citizens in the enterprise. Even though many believed—and some still do—that it could not be done, we’re witnessing every day that it’s very possible.

 

IT Specialist: Although we’ve been focusing on enterprise IT, JAMF does have a large customer base in the education market, is that correct? Can you highlight the applications that JAMF supports in the education market and what challenges you help teachers and IT specialists in the education space to solve?

Zach: Yes, education has always been a huge focus for us. But one thing to keep in mind is even though educational institutions may not be considered part of the “enterprise world”, their IT departments still need to think and act on an enterprise level. Our education customers are managing hundreds to thousands of Apple devices, in the same way many commercial organizations would. While a lot of business needs may be different than those of education, the backbone management principles of the Casper Suite can still apply to both realms.

However, one solution we recently built specifically for teachers is the Casper Focus app. Casper Focus grants teachers a level of classroom management that allows them to minimize distractions that iPad can sometimes bring to the classroom. It allows teachers to focus students in on a specific app and keep them there for as long as they need to, prohibiting students from surfing the web or playing games during valuable classroom time. Teachers are also able to perform some tasks that would otherwise involve IT, allowing them to regain instructional time. Additionally, the Casper Suite allows IT admins to support demanding educational initiatives such as one-to-one or flipped classroom programs, which have been quickly making their way into schools over the past few years. These programs are hugely beneficial for enhancing the learning experience, but require a lot of prep work and maintenance from those implementing them. If the Casper Suite can help simplify this process, everyone involved—including students, teachers, and administrators—will reap the benefits.

IT Specialist: Turning now to JAMF at the corporate level, how has the response in the market been to your technology? Given that you’ve been around since 2002 and are profitable and growing, I would imagine that your reception has been pretty positive? Are there any particular competitors you frequently come up against?

Zach: The market response has been tremendously positive. Over the past 12 years, we’ve grown our customer base to over 4,000 customers around the world who use our software to manage 3 million Apple devices. Beyond market statistics, we’re really fortunate to be serving a group of extremely positive and passionate customers. I’m always delighted when a new Casper Suite user posts a question on the JAMF Nation community and receives a helpful reply from a fellow user within minutes. The Apple IT market is growing rapidly and it’s great to see new practitioners receive encouragement and assistance from their peers.

We see a few common competitors in the marketplace, but no one is offering the same focus on Apple or the combination of software, services, education, and community that we’ve built over the years here at JAMF. I’m confident that we’ll continue to grow and serve more customers in the years to come.

IT Specialist: Would you be able to highlight one or two of your enterprise customers, and explain what made them choose to work with JAMF and what challenges are you solving for them?

Zach: We have many large, successful enterprise customers who use our software, including Genentech and Facebook. We help them with challenges that range from device deployment, to content distribution, to security, to inventory, to any type of automation they might need to perform. The solutions that make customers want to work with us really go beyond the features of our product, though. There is a combination of characteristics that make up this company that, we believe, are the reason 98% of our customers renew with us year after year. First, our customers understand the value an Apple-only solution brings to their organization. They know they can count on us to be on top of updates and provide them with the resources they need because we’re able to keep pace with Apple’s rapid developments.

Secondly, we facilitate continued education and community—whether that’s through our certification courses or the JAMF Nation community. The JAMF Nation community is super tight-knit. Our customers are all about helping one another, and it’s a beautiful thing. Lastly, we offer a wide range of additional services directly from JAMF Software employees, and our Support model provides every customer with a dedicated technical account manager that knows their environment. We want to go beyond just providing our customers with good software, we want to provide them with an entire experience where we’ll be by their side, if need be, from beginning to end. I think that’s what differentiates us from other management vendors.

IT Specialist: How much capital have you raised in total and who are your core investors?

Zach: On December 10, 2013, we announced the closing of a $30 million investment led by growth equity firm Summit Partners. GSV Capital Corporation also invested in the round.

IT Specialist: Finally, for customers who may be interested in working with JAMF and/or learning more and/or want to do a trial within their organization, what is the best way to interface with you?

Zach: To learn more or start a trial of the Casper Suite software, head to our website http://www.jamfsoftware.com. On the website, you’ll find contact information to get in touch with our global sales teams or request a trial. We would welcome your call.

IT Specialist: Thanks for joining us today Zach, JAMF is a great story and best of luck going forward.

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