A Slice on Jase Wilson, Founder and CEO of Ready
Self-described “founder by heart” Jase Wilson has been building companies for the last 25 years (some that worked, some that didn’t). He initially studied engineering, before city planning piqued his interest; the ability to “view the world through a lens of interactions and interlocking systems.” It wasn’t long before this led him down the entrepreneurship path. He built a company called Luminopolis to help local governments “connect people through the web”, then he spent seven years building Neighborly and helping communities finance their infrastructure. This venture opened his eyes to another problem: access to the internet. When Neighborly went under, Wilson decided to start a company to address this issue. Ready was incepted in 2019 and has since grown to a team of 18, with $6 million in funding.
Wilson studied in Kansas City and initially had no desire to live in the Bay Area. His first time there was in 2005 for a friend’s Stanford graduation. This may seem mundane, however, it became a life-changing experience for Wilson. It was the year Steve Jobs gave his famous “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” speech. Still, he wouldn’t make it back out there until 2011, when Google Fiber launched a new search for cities. Wilson filled out an application, won and was put on a team by the Kansas City mayor to figure out what to do with it. Google ended up reaching out to Wilson to do a commercial for Google Fiber since he’s also a gamer (their target demographic). This commercial happened to be filmed in San Francisco. Then two more reasons to travel to the Bay came up and Wilson began to take notice of this pull. “It’s not immediately obvious that there’s magic happening inside the walls [of San Francisco], but if you give it a little bit of time, it’ll speak to you.”
When thinking about fundraising for Ready, Wilson utilized his existing network and put most of his focus on recurring revenue. “Our Northstar metric is recurring revenue. I’ve built a profitable, bootstrapped business, and I also built a venture-backed company. This one [Ready] I’m trying to make as independent from needing money as possible. That said, you still need to get going and move fast because life is short. We’ve raised $6 million total, an angel round with some amazing folks we’ve worked with in the past, and then a seed round. It was much harder the very first time I tried to fundraise in 2008. There’s a hell of a lot more money in the system now, it’s the best time in history to start something new.”
Wilson took this same “leverage your existing network” approach to recruiting his team. He went through the Y Combinator program in 2020, giving him access to their network, along with his alumni network from MIT. Now, they have a dispersed, fully remote team of 18. When asked if he ever sees them having a physical office, Wilson doubted they would. “Our desire is to stay this way [remote] forever if we can pull it off. So far, the folks at Ready value freedom, and they know that it comes with responsibility. It means we have to work in a certain way, and sometimes we have to do meetings at times that we wouldn’t normally meet if we were in an office, but so far it’s working.”
Though starting Ready just a month after Neighborly fell through (leaving him in “financial ruin”), was a huge risk for Wilson, he sees it paying off. This might seem like a crazy thing to do for a typical person, but Wilson recognizes it as a distinct characteristic of entrepreneurs. “If there’s a choice, they’re [entrepreneurs] going to bet on themselves.”
This “go for it” attitude has led him to where he is today, and provided many learnings along the way. Wilson is an avid reader and urges other founders to “read the greats” before they jump into anything (he name-dropped Paul Graham here). He also emphasizes the importance of starting a company for the right reasons. “Something needs to speak to you. You need to have an idea about the way the world should work but it doesn’t, and why’s that? What’s somebody doing about it? If you’re doing it to get rich, it’s more than likely that you’re not going to have that big outcome. If you’re doing it to be your own boss, guess what, the opposite is true. Now you have a bunch of bosses: every person on your team, every investor and the ultimate boss is your customer.”
Wilson is excited for the future of Ready, even if that means someone else will eventually take the reigns. “Ready exists to help internet providers connect more people to better broadband. I believe with every fiber of my being that everybody needs strong access to the internet, and only great, local internet providers with the right tools can make that happen… We want to be something that can meaningfully impact 10’s of millions of internet connections over time. It may grow up to a point where it doesn’t need me anymore and that’s okay. I think it has legs and it’s actually going to do some really big things. I’ll probably stay involved in some capacity, forever. I do hope someday to be an investor and philanthropist. Every morning in my affirmations, I say I want to be the best dad, husband, son, CEO and friend I can be.”
Jase Wilson received his Bachelor’s in Urban Planning & Design from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and his MCP in Cities & Technology from MIT. He is a serial entrepreneur, having founded Luminopolis, Neighborly and his current venture, Ready. Connect with Wilson on LinkedIn.