Dead Sea Scrolls to Successful Startups

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Scott C. Johnson has been a Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology founder since 2011. Johnson grew up in Ogden, Utah, and despite receiving two scholarships to Brigham Young University, he attended Weber State. It wasn’t until Johnson served a mission in Brazil that he had a self-described “change of heart.” Johnson’s desire to teach at the MTC led him to transfer to BYU post-mission. He didn’t get the MTC job he was hoping for, but he met his wife, Kristen, and graduated from BYU with a degree in near eastern studies and a minor in business in 1994.

Despite initial failures, Johnson found success as an entrepreneur. He’s the chairman and founder of AtTask, now Work Front, a SaaS company that was valued at $825 million in 2014. Johnson is currently building another software company called Motivosity. He and Kristen reside in Highland, Utah, with  three of their five children. Their oldest is serving a mission in Taiwan and the second oldest is attending BYU.

MAM: When you’re not working on your business, what are you doing for fun?

Scott Johnson: I love the outdoors, wakeboarding, snowboarding, rockhounding, and golf. I really enjoy spending time with my kids. I’m also a scoutmaster so that takes up a lot of my time. I love knots. They’re my favorite.

MAM: What did you see yourself doing while you were a BYU undergrad?

SJ: I had no idea what I was going to do after I graduated. For one of my finals, I was translating sections of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I didn’t understand how my major was going to help me. I tried to be a seminary teacher, but it wasn’t for me.

MAM: You had two businesses that didn’t work out after graduating from BYU but succeeded with AtTask. What’s your mindset when facing obstacles?

SJ: For AtTask, I had to take out a second mortgage and used credit cards to pay my employees. I didn’t take my first paycheck from AtTask until a year and a half later but it worked out.

I don’t look at failure as failure. I look back at it as education. If you lose money, it’s just tuition money at school. You pay tuition to learn. The same thing goes for life, but, hopefully, the lessons you learn aren’t as expensive.

MAM: What motivates you to be a Rollins Center Founder?

SJ: I’m really enthused about the startup community and about teaching students so they can actually own their future. I think that the days of a really exciting career of working for somebody else are probably numbered.  If you really want to make a difference in the world, you have to work for yourself. I enjoy motivating and teaching people how they can do that.