Diving Deep With JAMF CEO Dean Hager On The Vista Equity Partners Acquisition




On October 11, 2017 it was announced that Vista Equity Partners had purchased an nondisclosed majority stake in Minneapolis-based JAMF Software. This is a verbatim follow-up interview with CEO Dean Hager surrounding the development, underwritten by our M&A sponsor Franklin Partners:

Let’s jump off from 28 months ago, when Dean Hager joined JAMF; what’s happened since then?

It has been largely the same JAMF, but just with accelerating growth. I recall you asked about my goals at the time and what I intended to do.  it was JAMF’s 13th birthday, and at that time, I felt that it was my job to grow JAMF through its teenage years without losing the spirit and heart that was created by founders Chip Pearson and Zach Halmstad. Which is difficult, the larger you get as an organization and being spread all over the world. You have to really work hard for it and want it.

I did that, and you’d have to ask the team members how I’ve done. We’ve roughly doubled in size with 13,000 customers now around the world and about eight million devices we’re managing with over 700 employees.  We’re not quite an adult, yet but we’re still on the way.

Do you plan to see the company through adulthood over the next few years?

My intention is to stay forward and continue working with JAMF. I have grown to love the people and the customers that we work with. Most of all, I actually love what it is that we do. Our mission is to help organizations succeed with Apple, and what gets me excited is to empower people with technology. The people that are using these devices that are powered by our technology, in part, applied to so many aspects of their daily lives. From students, to professionals, to patients — these people have been given technology in a way that is meaningful and useful to them and that is really rewarding for me to see.

With respect to that growth you reference, what have you done that’s been successful for JAMF?

There are two markets that we have historically served…and while I was told by many people when I joined, maybe we shouldn’t be in those markets, I stuck with it; those two were Mac in business and Apple for education. A lot of analysts and expects so to speak were questioning that decision.

In the face of that, we resisted the temptation to broaden our scope, and instead, deepened our focus into the markets we already served well. As a result, our share within them is solidified as the leader. 20 of the top 25 global brands now use JAMF to manage their Mac, eight of the top ten technology companies and every single one of the top 10 US banks use JAMF.

And in schools, to put devices in the hands of teachers and students is an area of strength for us. This year alone, three quarters of the way into this year, we’ve added additional 1,000 schools to our install base.

The one area that we did expand more into, is the iOS devices outside of education, but we took a different approach. Our competitors have more-or-less have been trying to win the management of all devices they possibly can, but we consider that to be commodity management. Our desire is to transform the organizations that are using iOS devices, whether iPhone or iPad. We’re focusing that on use cases in specific industry verticals, such as healthcare, an area that we are naturally passionate about.

Because of what we can automate, we are having hospitals coming to us in droves. Many of the top hospitals have come to us for this solution, in addition to say, hospitality. This is our verticalized strategy.

How do you intend to grow JAMF going forward?

I believe that we are going to increasingly transform industries, starting with healthcare, as mentioned above.  Second, we are going to become more global, from 25% to 50/50.  Our mobile partnerships such as with IBM and with Microsoft will accelerate. JAMF now (formerly Bushel) will grow significantly.

What are you on pace for revenue by end of this year?

We haven’t disclose that…

Why the decision to sell a majority of the company?

We’re large enough that investors do expect some type of return on their investment…and to be honest, over the past two years I was leading the company towards an IPO. When Vista came to us with a proposition: access to capital as we would if public, but we can also stay both private and standalone. Also, they offered access to their network, the family of Vista companies was attractive.

Is Summit Partners still part of the company?

Yes, they will continue as a shareholder.

Did you reach out to Vista or did they initiate with you?

They reached out to us through a mutual connection

Were there other offers on the table or ?


What sealed the deal with them?

First off, I believe they are the most successful software private equity company, true experts.

It came down to three things that they brought to the table: Vista investment — the arm that knows how to find companies and get deals done, with access to capital. So another growth trajectory may very well involve acquisitions. The second are is the Vista portfolio — almost 50 platform companies owned by them…the CEO job can be lonely sometimes, and I’m already connecting with them, sharing, learning and supporting. The third is Vista consulting — a set of consultants employed by them and available to us at a low cost to help improve the business via improving process.

Has JAMF made any prior acquisitions?

They have been previously considered but never done.

How much did they invest into JAMF?

I’m not under the illusion that it won’t come out but not from me, not now.

What will change at JAMF going forward?

I feel like we’ve been exercising on our own for many years and done well with that, but now have a personal trainer there to take us to the next level. There will be no changes in our mission, our passion, our people, and our service to customers.

With a new set of best practices to implement, there will inevitably be change that may not feel awesome right away, because it’s change and can be hard and painful at times, back to the personal trainer analogy.

What will your hiring over the next year look like?

Nothing will change as far as our Minneapolis headquarters location and our headcount will absolutely increase.

What’s your take on hiring right now locally in Minnesota tech?

Minneapolis has a tech boom going on right now and there has been a rapid demand for tech jobs.

When you start to get a critical mass of tech companies, then things can get competitive, so there’s certainly many career opportunities out there for people as the market seems very rich.

The rate at which we are growing, it’s always hard to find all the people with the skills we want, though I think our atmosphere and culture is really amazing. People are coming into the office to hang out on their time off, having fun, and I can count on my two hands how many people have left this year…our voluntary retention rate is 97%+

You seem very optimistic and certainly have momentum right now, but what is the uncertainty of your future?

Competitive forces always keep me up at night. We have certainly hitched on to Apple in the enterprise and education, and believe that awesome products will always win out, but if for whatever reason that doesn’t continue it could affect us.

What else would you like to add?

Next week is our annual user conference JNUC 2017, which is very well timed with this new development for us to be able to communicate and share with many of our customers and users directly.