Value Added: Wayne Jackson's climb to success

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 20, 2011; 5:53 PM

Wayne Jackson's secrets to business success are to work hard and be lucky.

It seems to have worked for him.

Jackson, 49, has done pretty well for himself. He sold one startup, Riverbed Technologies, for $1 billion and took another, Sourcefire, public for $450 million. He now runs a third startup, Silver Spring-based software maker Sonatype, which is funded by Accel, one of the most successful venture capital firms in Silicon Valley.

That's not all.

Jackson has scaled Mount Kilimanjaro and 21 of Colorado's 54 mountains that reach over 14,000 feet. He even climbed the highest peak in Antarctica.

There's more.

He drove racecars with the late actor Paul Newman, and he runs a profitable side business refurbishing and reselling Porsches.

It hasn't always been a smooth ride. It never is. The thing I like best about writing Value Added is hearing the stories of people like Jackson: successful businesspeople who struggled, failed, failed again and risked everything before the hard work paid off.

Careers, like stocks, fluctuate. Mine started with a sputter when I was fired from my first job out of college. Broke and sleeping a floor in the Bronx, I went home to Syracuse, buckled down and found a $145-a-week job at the local newspaper, for which I was thankful. Never again, I said to myself.

Jackson hit bottom around 1991, when the James Madison University finance graduate lost his job as assistant comptroller at a Virginia resort company.

His wife left him and took their child with her. He was unemployed and living in Florida.

"For me, it was eviscerating," Jackson said. "I was in a pretty bad place and said, 'I have to get . . . out of here and get serious about building a career and get in a place where this can never happen again.' "


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