"I knew what I was looking for on day one, and I knew what it would look like"
The fast-growing San Francisco startup, launched in 2015, covers home maintenance services for its subscribers, aiming to make homeowning hassle-free and enjoyable.
Ramer's prior project was Jumptap, a mobile ad network acquired in 2013 by Millennial Media. And he is a man of many talents, with a career that kicked off in high school and a name found among inventors on more than 100 patents.
Here, Ramer tells VatorNews where it all started for him, what led him to launch Super, and his vision for the future of the home warranty sector. Read on for some insight into entrepreneurship.
Why I became an entrepreneur:
Jorey Ramer: I started my first business with a friend in high school. It was a non-profit focused on increasing volunteerism rates. I raised my first seed funding for the business as a sophomore in college from the then-CEO of Merrill Lynch (which is now an investor in Super - VN).
We did good work, eventually organizing events with over 150,000 volunteers nationwide. We were awarded the Points of Light Foundation “Connect America Partner of the Year Award” along with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and The Salvation Army. The organization operated for about a decade before hitting a funding shortfall, but it was a formative experience.
The year of our seed funding, Curt Carlson, founder of Carlson Companies (a $35 billion travel company), originally rejected my requests for help but encouraged me to pursue my entrepreneurial passion. Regardless of whether we succeeded or failed, he said I would take the experience with me throughout the rest of my career.
Ever since I’ve spent my career starting new businesses or new units inside of businesses.
Companies I founded or co-founded:
JR: I started my for-profit career after college at Trilogy Software – one of the world’s largest privately-held software companies based in Austin – helping start two business units and a spin-off company acquired by Marsh & McLennan.
A few years after returning to Boston, I worked with two partners at a venture capital firm there to start Jumptap, which was later acquired by Millennial Media for over $200 million.
My favorite startups:
JR: Jumptap was at the center of everything emerging in mobile for almost a decade because app developers either needed to advertise with us or receive advertising from us.
The businesses that I always envied the most were the subscription businesses because they, more than any other businesses, knew their lifetime customer value and their cost of customer acquisition. They had seemingly unlimited budgets to spend as long as you could achieve a particular customer acquisition cost. I was always fascinated by them.
This was an ingredient in my “aha moment” with Super.
I was experiencing the pains of homeownership. I had nostalgia for my days of renting. And it occurred to me that there needed to be a subscription business that could recapture that renter-like experience.
What's most frustrating and rewarding about entrepreneurship/innovation?
JR: The most rewarding aspect of entrepreneurship is seeing what started as a vague idea become a very specific reality. I knew what I was looking for on day one, and I knew what it would look like.
It took me time to figure out how to articulate it, how to get there, and who to work with to get there. But what we are doing today is exactly what I originally envisioned.
The frustration is that I know where I want us to be in the future, and it will take time to get there. But once we get through those challenges and investments, the business will be that much more fulfilling.
What are the top three lessons you learned as an entrepreneur?
JR: First, back to your previous question about what makes entrepreneurship fulfilling and frustrating. Everything takes longer than you expected: there are always more details to be covered than what was anticipated when you first envisioned the idea.
Second, every day I feel like entrepreneurship is about having the patience to endure taking two steps forward and one step back; folks might find me to be surprisingly calm with both good news and bad news because I know something different is likely coming next.
Third, don’t get discouraged by having to kiss many frogs to find your investors; the investors that do invest are usually the ones who are surprisingly the most logical in hindsight.
Describe your recent achievement on a personal or business level.
JR: I am proud of the funding that we have received, the team we have assembled, the technology we have developed, the market traction we have built, and the knowledge we have accumulated. But I am perhaps most proud of having seen the organization step up to face the challenges that we face to get this business from where we are today to where we want to be a year from now.
We have worked to build a culture where everyone walks in the door feeling like they are a respected owner in the business, to speak out for change when it’s needed – regardless of whether or not those problems are within their responsibility – and to suggest solutions, even if those solutions are different than what has been prescribed by management.
What’s a major setback in the home warranty industry right now?
JR: Home warranty has been the most complained about home service category for over a decade.
There are many structural problems that make it very difficult for decades-old incumbents to bring about change in the quality of their service networks, the structure of their business relationships with those servicers, the business processes that support those structures, and the systems that support those processes.
That’s why there is a great opportunity for our business.
How do you see this sector evolving in the near future?
JR: The home warranty industry will eventually no longer exist because we are creating an entirely new category: subscription care for homes. Breakdown coverage is simply an ingredient of a broader solution that saves homeowners time, money, and stress, all while increasing the value of their home.
Subscription care will eventually include 100 percent of all the repair and maintenance needed for your home.
What excites you the most about your role at Super?
JR: The best part of my job is picking the people I want to spend my days with.
I chose to spend my time with people who are talented, passionate, diligent, empathetic, humble, and honest. As a result, those people attract other similar people. And it is my hope that we build a business where everyone shares this feeling.
We may not be perfect, but that’s what I work towards every day.
What are the most important qualities for an entrepreneur?
JR: Whenever people ask me for advice related to entrepreneurship, I always make the analogy to Bill Murray in Groundhog Day (or Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow). You’ll face challenges and setbacks, as you would expect, but you must continue to put yourself in a position where you continue to face the possibility of failure and diligently learn from each of those events to improve your process. If you do, you will have already encountered virtually every obstacle and attempted every way of handling such issues.
After that, you know you have the right approach moving forward.
What are your goals as an entrepreneur?
JR: I want to build a very large company that benefits everyone who touches the business: our employees, our customers, our distribution partners, our service providers, and our investors – and I want Super to be a catalyst for change.
We constantly and optimistically pursue opportunities for differentiation, improvement, and technology innovation. As a result, we will inspire the entire industry to evolve.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
JR: There’s only one thing I want to be doing professionally in five years, and that is being the CEO of Super, obviously, in a form that is quite larger than it is today.
Who is your principal supporter in your work?
JR: Other than my patient wife, there is no singular supporter of my work. It’s really the entire team here at Super that moves the business forward towards our desired future.