BSBA MIS ’95
President and Founder, Back Up My Info
By Eller College
Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, Jennifer Walzer had a sales mentality — as a child, she made and marketed everything from pet rocks to handmade bracelets. She arrived at the UA with energy, ambition, and a license plate that read “CEO 2 BE.”
Over the course of her career, she says, “I realized that it wasn’t the ‘selling’ part that I loved; it was taking care of people that really energized me. It’s been a theme in my life.”
Walzer grew up in Orlando, Florida, the youngest of three sisters. Her middle sister surprised her by applying to and attending Arizona State University. “I was like, where are you going?!” Walzer says. “Are you going to ride a donkey to school?” But, she discovered, there were no donkeys; and, in fact, she preferred the University of Arizona when she came out to Arizona to visit.
“I always imagined myself going to Cornell, and I got accepted,” she says. “But I had a long talk with my dad, and he told me that wherever I went, I’d be successful, that I’d get a great education at the UA, and I wouldn’t freeze my tail off doing it.”
It didn’t take her long to launch a business. “I was in a sorority,” she says, “and a lot of my sisters were struggling with MIS 101. I started doing some tutoring.” The business took off, and Walzer began hosting group study sessions for a modest fee in her sorority house cafeteria. MIS professor Jim LaSalle even let her advertise her services in his class.
Right out of school, Walzer joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as an analyst in Washington, D.C. “I was there for a year and hated it,” she says with a laugh. “For me, a company with 90,000 employees was too big. I didn’t want to just be a number.”
She joined IT consulting company Sapient in New York. “My whole family was living there,” she says, “but just a month into the job, they relocated me to Atlanta.” Walzer spent a couple of years doing project management and people strategy work. “I was getting sick of programming, and the HR team was bringing on a lot of people who didn’t fit the culture,” she says, “so I got involved and took over hiring efforts.”
Shortly thereafter, Walzer realized that she was at a critical juncture. “I said, this is it, I have to be an entrepreneur.” She started her first company, which developed interactive voice systems for labor unions. “I’d sell by day and program by night,” she says, “But as much as I loved being an entrepreneur, I realized that you have to be passionate about the business, and I wasn’t.”
She sold the company in 1998 and went on to work for a string of “dot-com bombs,” which gave her the opportunity to play a lot of different roles in companies.
Then one of her labor union contacts lost all his data. “My dad and I started talking about the concept of backing up data over the internet in a secure way,” she says. “People were starting to get comfortable using Amazon, bandwidth was expanding. There were a few companies out there doing it, but they were focusing on the enterprise side as opposed to a fully-supported service.”
No one, she points out, thinks about backing up data until it’s too late. “I realized there was a hole in the market that I could fill. I could provide online data backup as a way to make business owners’ lives easier and give them peace of mind. Here was my opportunity to do what I was truly passionate about — take care of people.”
Walzer launched Backup My Info in 2002. The company focuses on high-touch backup support for small and mid-size clients. “Clients need to be taken care of and protected. We set everything up, so, for example, you don’t even have to think about compliance strategy if you’re a law firm.”
She’s learned a lot since the company’s early days, and has been chronicling the ups and downs of running a small business on a blog for The New York Times. Her best advice? “For anyone who’s frustrated in a job, try to find something that makes you happy,” she says. “For me, it’s helping people. Life is too short to do something you don’t love.”