Jesse Robbins of Opscode. Photo: John Keatley

Former firefighter Jesse Robbins is comfortable under pressure. In fact, he thrives on it.

Channeling positive energy and optimism into his growing organization, Robbins and his team at Seattle cloud computing startup Opscode have been changing the game in enterprise software. And Robbins, who once held the title of “Master of Disaster” at Amazon.com, says they are just getting started.

“We want to be a stand-alone giant,” said Robbins, whose company raised $19.5 million from Ignition Partners and others earlier this year. Something tells us Robbins’ motto — “don’t fight stupid, make more awesome” — might just be their battle cry.

Here’s more from his Nextcast interview:

    • Though he grew up as a computer kid, Jesse’s interests weren’t just technological – in the past he’s studied theater and worked as a firefighter. In fact, his history as a firefighter helped him develop his past role at Amazon and his future philosophies: “On 9/11, I realized my training and skills really could have a profound impact on a technology organization that would depend on me if things got worse. I decided ‘I’m going to figure out a way to mix these two worlds together.’”
    • Relentless positivity and optimism are the secrets behind Jesse’s success. “I’m a dreamer, I believe in the incredible potential of people,” he says. It’s this attitude that led him to create a company culture founded on “making more awesome” in the world. His priorities always lie with what can be done next, and exploring all possibilities.
    • Despite his positive outlook, when he and Opscode were first starting out, they faced their fair share of lows; he explains, “When you’re trying to change the way big organizations work, a lot of people say no a lot. Rather than try to fight them, you’ve got to find a way to make them say yes…Being a force for awesome in the world is finding ways to say yes.
    • Culture is incredibly important to Jesse and his Opscode team. “Early on we made a lot of decisions about how to respect and interact with our community,” he explains. “We exist as peers with a community bigger than us.” This is why he believes in “the golden rule of email” – send unto others only the emails you’d want to receive yourself.
    • Despite bumps in the road along the way, the future looks bright for Jesse and Opscode. What’s his advice for the next generation of startups? Get used to challenges. “If you’re struggling, recognize it’s going to be this way forever.” And that might be a good thing.

Nextcast founder Jeff Dickey is passionate about technology, business and philosophy. He works as the chief cloud architect at Redapt, a Redmond-based cloud and big data infrastructure company. Additional reporting by Kate Stull. [Editor's note: GeekWire is proud to partner with Jeff Dickey who produces the Nextcast entrepreneur interview series].

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