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May 26, 2020

Behind the Scenes: How One Meeting at the Dog Park Led to the Founding of BlueJeans Network


Private: Josh Goldman

Eleven years ago, I was walking my labradoodles at my neighborhood dog park and bumped into a past colleague, Krish Ramakrishnan, who was there with his dogs. It’s amazing how you can have such unexpectedly deep conversations when the common denominator is a dog.

I knew Krish from my time at Cisco, where my business unit bought Krish’s first company. As our dogs sniffed and carried on in the park, Krish and I had one of those great conversations where a re-connection was made. Soon after, I asked Krish if he would consider joining Norwest’s EIR program where he could come up with his next startup idea. At the time he joined, Alagu Periyannan was already an EIR at our firm.  And when the two met it was a match made in heaven – they both knew they wanted to start something around video technology. Alagu brought his outstanding expertise and knowledge central to all things related to video, networking and CDN’s, benefiting from early work on QuickTime at Apple and other very relevant companies. Krish brought his exceptional leadership skills, go-to-market and domain expertise from his work in virtualization, protocols and switching at Cisco and his own prior startups.

Over the course of the next several months, these two visionary EIRs developed a big idea for a startup that would solve the complex challenge of transforming video services into interoperable and highly reliable essential services. It would take video into the modern era with the same kind of reliability and interoperability as the telephone system’s dial tone.

Evolving video conferencing services into a trusted, reliable communication network like dial-tone was —let’s say, was an ambitious goal. The idea and company were hatched in 2009 as BlueJeans with Krish and Alagu as co-founders and Norwest as its co-founding investor, alongside Wing. The timing was perfect because most of the required infrastructure was in place—from cloud computing to high-definition compression algorithms to webcams, and naturally, the Internet. Nevertheless, it was a daunting and complex task to bring all of those pieces together into a seamless and interoperable service.  To this moment, the computer science still takes my breath away.  I can fully appreciate BlueJeans from a technical perspective as Norwest had early roots in the areas of video conferencing and video encoding from our investments in companies including Polycom, Lifesize, Accord, Elemental, Skystream and Omneon.

Of course, successful startups require time, great leadership, and technical genius to mature into great companies. But the first steps set into motion trust and a melding of two talented entrepreneurs into the success of BlueJeans videoconferencing solution, with customers like Facebook, Intuit and Ilumina.

BlueJeans became one of the most trusted enterprise-grade video conferencing and event platforms in the world, which I’m very proud of. It has been an exhilarating journey to get here, from tenuous infancy to spirited adolescence to mature adulthood. I always felt like a part of the family at BlueJeans. To be a part of this amazing company is something I will always cherish. From the outset working with Krish and Alagu to realize its full potential as a company that even surpassed our expectations.

As BlueJeans grew stronger, it soared higher. Recently, it was acquired by Verizon to become part of the $30 billion Verizon Business team, which is a near-perfect match for BlueJeans and its aspirations. Verizon is one of the most trusted brands and known for delivering essential and innovative communications and technology solutions. It’s incredible to look back on its humble beginnings at the Norwest offices and the hard work that went into building a company with a rich history that is deeply connected to its customers and dedicated to providing essential communication services.

You’ve no doubt heard investors talk about their companies as if they are their own children. It sometimes sounds a little saccharine. But, trust me, there are times when it absolutely feels that way, when you do feel like an adopted parent. You pass on your knowledge and you learn from them as well. You experience great joy and you weather disappointments.

And when you see your investment transform before your eyes, it’s an extremely gratifying experience.  It’s also bittersweet. It was hard for me to watch BlueJeans “graduate” and join Verizon. But I’ll always recall fondly my days with the company and I’ll always be thankful for the caring leaders and employees who innovated, built, and nurtured videoconferencing into a highly reliable, essential service that is loved by loyal customers.

It’s a gem of a company that I’ll miss being part of. But I’m happy to know that the great match with Verizon will help BlueJeans grow beyond those wild dreams that started at a dog park.