From walking dogs and mowing lawns in grade school to starting screen printing and carpet cleaning businesses in college and beyond, Jesse Dundon has been an entrepreneur his whole life.
But the internet is where he’s found his stride. Together with co-founder Kevin Rice, he’s taken Hathway, the company the pair started 10 years ago (where else, in a garage), to one of the country’s fastest-growing, with brand-name clients across the map. As CEO, he’s been named to Forbes Top 30 under 30 for marketing and advertising, among other accolades.
But Dundon is far from all business. He’s as passionate about enjoying the SLO life as he is shaping it through lending his perspective to various boards and organizations.
We caught up with Dundon between board meetings, business trips and SUP sessions to talk tri tip, Games of Thrones and impending parenthood.
Early riser or night owl?
Depends on the night, or the morning! Late nights if I’m working or reading, and early mornings if the waves are good.
How do you relax/blow off steam?
SUP in Avila, surfing in Pismo, or a nice glass of wine or scotch.
When people don’t cut tri-tip across the grain.
Something people are surprised to learn about you?
I have eight siblings!
Favorite fictional hero (book/TV/movie)?
Tyrion Lannister from GoT.
What superpower would you like to have?
How did you envision the future of Hathway when you started it 10 years ago? What’s stayed true to that vision and what has gone in unexpected directions?
We started the company somewhat by accident as we were working on a previous web software startup and started doing freelance web development consulting to make ends meet. Over time the consulting work was bringing in enough revenue that we formalized it as the company we now call Hathway. We originally wanted to get back into developing a software product of our own, which distracted us a few times from our core consulting services but resulted in some fun spinoffs like Welkio, the product that was acquired by WeWork. Ten years later, we’ve finally been able to put the two together with an enterprise software product that powers many of our consulting projects for big national brands, so you could say we’ve come full circle.
You’re about to become a father – congratulations. Has that changed your perspective on work/business at all?
Getting ready for a baby has given me a deeper understanding of the challenges that parents go through when they are trying to focus on their career while keeping family first. I’m certainly not going to be able to travel as frequently (or on as short notice) as I did before kids, nor put in as long of hours. However, from what I’ve seen with a lot of new parents, having a baby can amplify your drive to be successful and I’m confident I’ll be able to do more with less time. I’m also looking forward to expanding the benefits we can offer to new parents as a good portion of our workforce enters that phase of life. I’d say that parenthood is happening at a good time for both me and the company.
Hathway works with major brands located all over the country. What insight or advice do you have for other smaller companies in SLO aiming to do the same?
As much as we rely on real-time communication through video chat, phone, email and text, there is no replacement for face-to-face conversations. In a high-touch B2B consulting environment, this is true both when winning business and when servicing your clients, though it might not apply as much to a pure enterprise software company or B2C. Either way, if you want to live in SLO and run a company that has customers, suppliers or partners across the country, be prepared to travel. Day trips to LA and SF have always been easy by car, but the expanding airport has been a huge boon to us. We have an office in Dallas and key clients in Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, SF, and LA (all direct flights from SLO). And from Denver and Dallas, it’s just a quick hop to visit our clients in Chicago and NY. You may be traveling a lot, but at least when you come home, you’re coming home to paradise.
What can the region do better to foster businesses like yours?
Continued support for growth of the airport. Focus on finding solutions to the growing traffic problem for commuters. Promotion of Cal Poly, Cuesta and Hancock and ongoing integration into the business community. Housing, school and childcare services for young professionals. More food, art and entertainment. Support for startups and businesses of all sizes across key industries like tech, ag, specialty manufacturing and tourism. Anything that we can do to encourage college grads to stay here, experienced professionals to move back here, and companies to grow here will be awesome for Hathway and great for business and the community at large.
All these things are wrapped up in the Chamber’s Economic Vision, Imagine SLO, and represent why I signed on early as an endorser.