Building success by being different

Self-described techie Joel Bomgar remembers the day the light turned on, a bright one that eventually led to the founding of his multi-million dollar computer software company.

“I was driving an old 1979 Buick LeSabre all over Jackson to fix five-minute computer problems when I thought, ‘Hey, what if I could come up with equipment that would let me log into their computers and do repairs from home?'” the lanky 34-year-old told a crowd of note-takers (me included) last Friday at Lee Hall on the campus of Mississippi State. That Bomgar succeeded, putting all those afternoons spent taking apart and rebuilding his family’s PC as a teenager to good use, is enough to make anyone who ever entertained an entrepreneurial idea take notice.

In his “Building Success by Being Different” lecture, Bomgar detailed how he developed his remote support software, eventually placing it on the market just shy of his graduation (top of his class) from Belhaven. Two months later Bomgar had $24,000 in the bank – and building his own business on the brain. Fortunately for Mississippi, he based it on home turf in Ridgeland.

That was 11 years ago, and today the Bomgar success story reads like a feature in Forbes magazine. Posting a cool $52 million in sales last year, the corporation currently serves more than 8,000 clients, including eBay, Rosetta Stone, Williams-Sonoma, Yahoo, United Airlines, and Murphy USA. Success has also benefited the company’s 200 employees here and in their Atlanta, Washington, D.C, Paris, London, and Singapore offices. All (along with their families) were recently invited to Disneyworld as a work bonus, part of what Bomgar calls a “unique corporate culture”.

“In 2006, we documented what we wanted the company’s core values to be. They’re based on biblical principles, absolute truth,” he told Friday’s audience, crossing the stage to take a sip of water. A glance at their website reveals a list of the 14 ideals – principles like good stewardship, teamwork, truth-telling, and acting with integrity.

Bomgar went on to his credit his parents for much of his achievements. “They gave me the freedom to pursue my own interests once my homeschooling hours were over each day. We didn’t get a computer until I was 15, though,” he says. “There were six of us in a two-bedroom, 800-square-foot house, but those hours of forced family time in the evenings with my mother reading aloud to us – they were very rich.”

As his speech concluded, Bomgar fielded a question regarding a personal disappointment – last year’s blocked appointment to the State Board of Education; it was a Senate Education Committee decision political commentator Forest Thigpen went so far as to call a travesty. “Maybe the education establishment is afraid that Bomgar might try to apply the same innovation to the education system that he has to the technology sector,” Thigpen wrote in a blog.

That board’s loss may be another’s gain, however. On Friday Bomgar mentioned politics more than once, an arena the board appointment would have kept him from for at least nine years. “Being voted down 8-7 bummed me out for about 24 hours, then I decided to study for whatever God has for me next,” he shared. That’s good, because that’s the same posture Bomgar took years ago when he surrounded himself with computer certification books, right before his light bulb moment.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at