Venture Partner & Market Strategist
John is a venture partner of ATA Ventures and an active member of ATA’s New Investment team. Along with maintaining a leadership role in the firm’s market strategy efforts, he serves in Board consulting roles at Modern Video and Givit, and presides over Jolata as the company’s interim CEO.
John joined ATA after a highly successful career as an executive in the Silicon Valley high-tech industry, including former roles as Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Sun Microsystems, and Senior Vice President and General Manager of Adobe Systems’ Digital Media and Creative Solutions businesses. Compiling extensive experience in product marketing, product management, sales and business development for a broad range of technologies in and around systems and software development, John has a breadth of experience and knowledge in the areas of digital media, mobile applications and services, and the enterprise.
John has seen all sides of the M&A process, not just driving a number of acquisitions and investments, but also integrating acquired entities with an appropriate methodology to ensure continued growth and profitability. He has developed a reputation as an expert in his ability to manage growing enterprises, to be customer-focused, to build “and” market a product or service, and to build and energize a team. John has incubated several small, independent teams that later materialized into strong business opportunities, and has helped restructure challenged businesses that emerged with better financial and/or product positions.
A valuable aspect of his leadership skills, John has mentored and developed a number of talented individuals that have gone on to excel in prominent technology companies. Over the past ten years, John has served as a board consultant to several early stage start-ups, and sat on boards in both the business sector as well as for local philanthropies.
From the late 1980’s until 2006, John had a storied career at Sun Microsystems, including presiding over a variety of the company’s functions including serving as EVP of Sun’s Software, and as Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. He oversaw Sun’s software portfolio, which ranged from the Java runtime and tools suite, to Sun’s UNIX operating system (Solaris), to enterprise middleware and OpenOffice, the company’s open source productivity suite. Across John’s tenure at Sun, the company grew to more than 40,000 employees and peaked at $18 billion.
John has been involved in all aspects of the business, from ideation and incubation, to rapid development and distribution, and from growing and scaling multi-million dollar portfolios, to shrinking/focusing/re-inventing a business for success. He has held a number of executive positions within large, publicly traded companies in areas ranging from product line and divisional general management to marketing and branding. His groups have spanned 5,000 person organizations, to small incubation teams of 2-3 people pioneering a new technology concept. John’s diverse background enables him to aid senior executives and young entrepreneurs in formulating strategy, attacking new markets and forging new relationships with key partners.
In 2007, Adobe Systems announced the successful recruiting of John as the head of the Creative Solutions Business Unit, a newly formed division following the acquisition of Macromedia. As Senior Vice President and General Manager, John’s organization included such mainstream creative products as Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Dreamweaver and Flash Authoring. Once at Adobe, John’s visionary impact was immediate — he was instrumental in guiding the company into its first SaaS offerings, as well as leading the efforts of the company’s first set of touch-based, creative mobile applications for mobile tablets and smartphones. His organization drove the implementation of the company’s first wide-scale subscription pricing for the multi-billion dollar creative product portfolio.
John was named by MacLife Magazine as one of the Top 10 Apple Influencers of 2009. He was instrumental in leading Adobe’s Premiere Pro video products to catch and surpass Apple as the world’s leading professional video editing solution. In all, nearly a billion dollars of revenue was added to the product portfolio during his tenure at Adobe. Along with operational responsibilities, John served on the Adobe Foundation, and on Adobe’s Design Ignites Change. In 2009, Fresno State University named John their distinguished alumnus of the year.
“If you build it, they will come.” According to John, rarely, if ever, is this situation the case. Some of the best products simply never get noticed. And, as he points out, some of the most mediocre products seem to gain attention and market traction. Often, it’s the sizzle, not the steak. More than half of John’s career was spent in marketing roles, the last as Sun’s Chief Marketing Officer. His background spans product marketing, management, advertising, public relations, speech writing, channel marketing and brand management. John launched every new Sun product for nearly 10 years, from its flagship workstations, to its entry into enterprise-class servers to the unveiling of Java. He has sponsored, written and helped direct worldwide ad campaigns for online, television and print. He’s initiated sponsorships with MLB, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, the PGA, America’s Cup yacht racing, Formula One Racing, the Sundance Film Festival and the World Economic Forum. He has written and given keynote addresses.
In technology marketing, there is always a great deal of noise to compete with. John has a proven track record of finding a way to stand out among a crowded backdrop. He has used everything from large-scale, multi-thousand person events to online virtual events with more than 100,000 viewers to viral humorous video to make a splash. Sun was one of the first companies to leverage social computing (before it was even a term) with the early success of Java as an open source technology more than 15 years ago. He once put Steve Jobs in a hockey shirt, and Scott McNealy in Steve’s jeans and black crew-neck shirt for a joint press conference.
Much of a company’s success is driven by its most senior executive staff. From John’s perspective, it’s good to have the experience of being responsible for starting an idea, for growing a good idea, for shutting down a bad idea, and for having maniacal focus on successful objectives. He believes it’s good to have been hired and to have been fired, to have a quota, to launch an idea on a big stage, and with no stage. John has incubated ideas with minimal support, while creating great successes, and he has shut down, or cost-reduced investments that had run their course.
John’s frank, open style of communication, including a pretty significant sense of humor, allows him to engage with entrepreneurs at all levels in a way that overcomes the typical barriers between a Board member and an entrepreneur, and when you add his highly respected operating experience, his mentorship capability is a powerful strategic asset to any start-up. A number of his former employees are now in top senior management roles at companies such as Google, Apple, NYSE, Lucas Films, Juniper, Informatica, Huawei, RIM, One Kings Road and Philips Healthcare.
Committed to his passion of empowering individuals at all levels, John is a founder and board member of the Justin Perkins Foundation aimed at recognizing and investing in “under the radar” young individuals who reach outside their world to positively impact the lives of those in need.
With his background in enterprise systems and software, as well as rich media solutions, John is most interested in software platforms that can automate, and/or replace existing large-scale processes, especially those that provide enterprise-class data analytics. He gravitates to opportunities that are large in scale and offer the ability to disrupt current legacy players. He believes that the most important attribute a company has to offer is its people. A great idea is critical. A great leader for that idea is mandatory.