Tony Zingale is part Italian, part Armenian and part working-class Midwest. He skis in the winter and golfs in the spring, splits his baseball loyalties between the San Francisco Giants and Cleveland Indians. He spends his days as chairman and chief executive of Jive, a Palo Alto company that provides social software to businesses, and some evenings dining on antelope at Plumed Horse, the Michelin star restaurant he co-owns in Saratoga. He’s a man of many passions, and at 57, more than enough energy to do them all.
Jive is one of the leading social enterprise services in Silicon Valley with about 850 customers, including Goldman Sachs, Kaiser, Intel (INTC) and McAfee. The Palo Alto-based company made its initial public offering in 2011, pricing shares about $4 higher than expected and raising more than $160 million. Last quarter it made about $35 million in revenue.
But to Zingale, who remembers his hot summers as a teenager working as a garbage collector in suburban Ohio, the valley’s glitz and glamour take a back seat to the Midwestern values he grew up with. His own world is supported by a trifecta of family, food and sports.
He recently talked with this newspaper. His comments were edited for length and clarity.
Q What was the neighborhood like where you grew up?
A My first neighborhood was inner-city Cleveland in the 1950s and early ’60s. I was the youngest in the family. My parents were both born in the United States but my father’s parents came over from Sicily and my mother’s parents were from Armenia.
The neighborhoods in Cleveland were segregated not just along racial lines but along ethnic lines, so you had the Italian community, the Irish community, the Armenian community. As I got older it got a lot more
Tony Zingale,chairman and chief executive of Jive,relaxes at the Plumed Horse, a restaurant he co-owns in Saratoga, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group) ( LiPo Ching )
dangerous. That was right around the time when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and a couple of years after that we moved out to the suburbs. That was the height of civil rights.
Q What did you father do?
A My father was a bartender for 50 years. My mother was a homemaker. Back in the day, moms stayed at home and took care of the family, and dads went out and made money. And that’s what my father did — he worked continuously.
Family in that culture is everything, and particularly in the Midwest where I grew up, and how tough it was, family is everything. You rely on your family and that’s the first priority.
Q Did you work growing up?
A Yes, everyone did. As soon as I was able — age 16 — I got a job with the city of Bedford Heights, Ohio. The entry-level position was being a garbage man and picking up garbage for eight hours a day throughout the neighborhoods. Summer in Cleveland — it’s 90 degrees and 120 percent humidity and it’s garbage and it’s not very glamorous. My mother used to make me strip down naked before I walked in the house and go shower.
Working those summers in Bedford Heights taught me a lot of lessons. It taught me hard work. I was scared to death that if I didn’t make it in college that I’d be right back there picking up garbage.
Q Another well-known social networking platform for businesses is Yammer, which Microsoft recently bought. How is Jive different from Yammer?
A Jive is all about changing the way work gets done and ultimately making individuals in the workplace more productive. It’s not just communicating or updating status — posting “I had a great dinner last night” and hitting the “like” button, which is kind of what Yammer does. Jive is about using the social networking technology that was pioneered in the consumer world and bringing that to the workplace.
Social software in the workplace is a new way to communicate and ultimately is replacing email — the bane of existence. Here we are in Silicon Valley and what do we give people to get their jobs done? Email. It’s 35 years old. Email was never designed to be the collaboration tool for a 100-megabyte PowerPoint sent to 20 people to comment on.
Q Jive has been pretty aggressive getting into mobile. Have you had to wait for companies to catch up and become more comfortable with their own workforce transitioning from desktop computers to mobile devices?
A A lot of enterprises are ancient, built on 10- and 15-year-old stacks of software. But you see the evidence of a new wave of companies — cloud computing companies and companies that deliver their software as services out of the cloud, which was pioneered by Salesforce. Companies like Jive, Box, Workday and Splunk are taking advantage of cloud computing to embrace the fact that the workforce today is mobile. Not only is the workforce mobile, but in fact brings their own device to the workplace.
Q How did you end up in the restaurant business?
A The Plumed Horse has been around for almost 60 years now. It was owned by one proprietor’s family for the first 50 years or so. My colleague was going to buy it and had this vision of making it into a fine dining restaurant. He said he needed investors, and I said, “I am so in.”
When I decided to do this in 2006, the first person I called, of course, was my father. I said, “Hey, Dad, guess what, I’m thinking about buying and co-owning a restaurant.” There was this pause on the end of the phone and he says to me, “Well, don’t expect to make any money.” He said, “Go into this with your eyes wide open that this will be a labor of love.” And he’s right. Even though we’ve made some money, we’ve put it back into the restaurant. I don’t take home a paycheck.
Contact Heather Somerville at 510-208-6413. Follow her at Twitter.com/heathersomervil.
Positions: Chairman and CEO of Jive Software; co-owner of Plumed Horse restaurant
Previous jobs: Product marketing engineer at Intel; president and CEO of Mercury Interactive, a software service now owned by Hewlett-Packard; president and CEO of software company Clarify
Education: Bachelor’s degree in engineering and business administration, University of Cincinnati
Family: Wife, Teri; children Remy, 17; Sam, 22; Vinny, 25
FIVE THINGS ABOUT TONY ZINGALE
1. He is a single-digit handicap golf player.
2. He skis in Utah, where his family has a cabin; his favorite resort is Deer Valley.
3. His drink of choice is Macallan on the rocks.
4. Although his father had a 50-year bartending career, Zingale and his siblings were forbidden to work in restaurants or bars (although Zingale went on to buy a restaurant, Plumed Horse).
5. He was the second person in his family to graduate from college.