Born and raised in Maryland, Jim Brennan has spent most of his life in Atlanta. His career path to this point has been non-linear, to say the least, and had you told him in college that he would one day be a chief product officer (CPO), he probably wouldn’t have believed you. However, Jim’s vast range of experiences in security, product management, and team building is what makes BetterCloud so excited to welcome him as our CPO.
Jim sat down with us to discuss why he moved from an enterprise company to a startup, his passion for music, and what the future of BetterCloud looks like.
Jim has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech and an MBA from Emory University.
Why a startup and why BetterCloud?
I was with a large company before. For me, moving to a startup was a chance to get back to a more singular purpose, a singular product, and also a new market—to help make a market. I also liked the idea of being more local with my team. Before, I was working with a team that was spread out all over the world, so the idea of being in the office where we can get together, roll our sleeves up, and work things out was appealing.
Why BetterCloud? We are at a point where we are making a new market, but we’re doing so with clear momentum behind us. We have a good fit with the market in terms of our solutions and product. I saw a definite collection of people that I could see myself working with and a team of people that believes in the opportunity in front of us. It’s hard to hear Bart, BetterCloud’s CFO, talk about a once-in-a-career opportunity and not want to be part of it.
Tell us about your role as CPO.
I have responsibility for the product strategy and vision in addition to leading the product management team, who is tasked with carrying out that vision and making sure we’re delivering the right things to the market. And I make sure that not only are we building the right things, but that we as an organization understand why we’re building those things. That’s a big part of it as well.
We’re working closely with everybody to make sure that we’re all aligned strategically on why we’re focused on the things that we’re focused on. We work with engineering to deliver the product, with sales and marketing to understand the market and customer needs, and with customer success managers to understand how customers are using the product.
How have your past experiences prepared you to be CPO of BetterCloud?
I’m an engineer by background so that has definitely given me a good perspective on technology, but I’ve now spent the majority of my career in more business-oriented product management and product marketing roles. Those different perspectives are important in this type of role in order to not only understand the technology but also empathize with the teams delivering it and the challenges they face.
What did you do prior coming to BetterCloud?
Prior to BetterCloud, I was a VP of product management for IBM Security. IBM Security is a seven-year-old business unit within IBM that was stood up to focus on security and is made up of many different product lines and service lines. I was part of the early team that helped build that business into what it is today. We’re pretty proud of that. I led a global team of product managers across five different product categories. We had five different markets with five different sets of buyers and pain points. It was very much a global operation. So that’s where I was for the last seven years.
How will your security background help BetterCloud amplify our new security focus?
I would like to think that I can bring some perspective in terms of what customers are actually dealing with and where their priorities are. Security is not just about stopping the bad guys. Most customers are dealing with a market that has tons of different types of security tools. You never have enough people to make use of those tools, and you’re never really quite sure where to focus.
So as we think about getting a bit more focused on security, we need to be cognizant of those challenges and figure out where we’re going to fit. We can’t just be yet another security tool that shows up with another dashboard because that’s the last thing that customers want. I would like to think I would bring some of that perspective after having worked with some of the biggest security clients in the world, all over the world, for the last 18 years.
What makes you excited about BetterCloud’s product?
It’s the potential! We have a lot of tremendous capability in this platform. I think that there’s lots more that we can do in terms of focusing on that capability and making it easier for our customers to consume it more quickly, and that’s a good place to be. We’ve got strong capability, and we’ve got customers with real problems. And now we have the opportunity to get really focused on how we help them solve those problems. We are doing so at the beginning of a new market, which is really exciting. We’ve got good momentum behind us. So that’s a really exciting place for any business to be.
What’s next for BetterCloud?
It’s great to be a platform, but you can’t be everything to everybody. So getting laser focused on the markets in which we’re going to compete is important moving forward. As we enter this next phase, I think it’s really going to be about focus and who we’re going to be, and then focusing on being better than anybody else.
Additionally, clients look to us to understand what’s happening with these SaaS applications and how they should do certain things. We can be that advisor, we can be those experts, and we can be thought leaders in the market. Then we deliver all that through the platform, but we do so in a really targeted way.
Are there any new features or upcoming upgrades that you’re excited about for BetterCloud? And if there are, do you want to give us a sneak peek?
We’ve got some exciting new capabilities in the area of data protection that are going to address some serious problems that our customers are facing. SaaS has empowered end users in ways never before imagined, but that empowerment has also created new liabilities in terms of data exposure. We’re able to solve that issue in a very unique way because of where we sit within the digital workplace.
Another thing is getting serious about our community, and giving our users the tools to share workflows and knowledge, and collaborate amongst each other. We’ve got a lot of work to do. But I’m really excited to see it happen this year.
What do you do in your free time?
My wife and I have four beautiful kids, so we’re pretty busy. I spend as much time with them as possible, because I know I won’t always be able to do that.
As a hobby, I’m really into music. I’ve played guitar since I was 14 and played in various bands over the years. I enjoy everything about music—playing it, listening to it, and discovering new (and old) bands. It’s a great creative outlet.