How Josh James landed $125 million in funding from his hospital bed

February 5, 2014: 12:00 PM ET

Domo's founder survived a near-death experience and signed a deal led by TPG in the same week.

Entrepreneur Josh James at his house

Josh James next to a Smokey and the Bandit mural at Domo's headquarters in American Fork, Utah

FORTUNE -- Today, enterprise software company Domo announced that it had closed $125 million in funding. TPG led the round, which includes Fidelity Investments, T. Rowe Price (TROW), and Salesforce (CRM), among others. TPG principal Nehal Raj will join the board. Here's the story explaining the tenuous situation surrounding the deal. 

This is an edited excerpt from a feature from the February 24 feature "The Wildest, Craziest, Most Death-Defying (Mormon) Mogul on the Planet. Click on that URL to read the entire article. 

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Josh James didn't have time to be sick. In December, 2013, only a few years after selling his software company Omniture to Adobe (ADBE) for $1.8 billion, he was about to close a $125 million round of financing for Domo, his young enterprise-software company. This wasn't the moment to take a day off.

So James, 40, tried to ignore the sore throat that had been building since a brief trip to Thailand the month before. Still, it was worrisome. The soreness wasn't anything he had ever experienced. James was in constant pain, as if a golf ball had lodged itself in his trachea. It was becoming hard to breathe. He had a fever, too, with his temperature occasionally spiking to a dangerous 104 degrees. Antibiotics lowered the temperature briefly, but then it returned with even more savagery.

James kept working, traveling from his Utah home to San Francisco and New York in early December for meetings. But his breathing was so shallow that he had to go to emergency rooms in Utah and San Francisco. The doctors helped ease his symptoms but couldn't figure out the cause; his Utah physician sent his throat-culture samples for tests.

At the end of a cross-country flight to New York on Dec. 11, James finally got a diagnosis. He was seated in first class next to Domo's president, Chris Harrington. The two spent the flight strategizing, leaning close over the armrest to keep others from overhearing. James was so exhausted he could barely concentrate. Just before the Wi-Fi signal shut off for landing, an email arrived from his doctor: James's body was harboring Neisseria meningitidis -- a bacterium that causes meningitis. The disease is highly contagious and can be fatal.

The doctor ordered him not to come within six feet of other people and to report to an emergency room immediately. James abruptly slid away from Harrington, forwarded the doctor's email, and texted, "Don't talk to me. Read your email. I'm sorry." Once the plane landed, James told his driver to take him to Lenox Hill Hospital on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

There the receiving doctor delivered a stark message: James had 48 hours to live. Medics rushed him to an isolation room, where they coated the inside of the windows with plastic. A nurse wearing a protective full-body suit ran an IV into an artery to push a massive dose of antibiotics directly into his heart. Then she quickly departed.

For hours, James was left alone, his body wracked with chills. Every few minutes the IV bag would slip from its holder and its monitor would begin bleating, but nobody came to adjust it. After three or four hours, he says, he was finally able to get the attention of the nurses, followed by that of the hospital's head of infectious diseases.

Despite his isolation, his fever, and the doctor's statement that his death was imminent, James felt strangely calm. He didn't believe he was about to die, though he did reflect on his life. As James puts it, "I remember thinking, I know I've been honest in all my relationships and tried my hardest to be a great friend and brother and dad and husband. I wish I'd been a little nicer to my wife."

Then, almost as fast as it began, the crisis abated. James's body began responding to the antibiotics, and his fever dropped. Sometime around 2 a.m. -- about eight hours after he entered the hospital -- a doctor arrived with good news. The bacteria had been sealed in an abscess, a protective coating his body had made, and trapped in his throat. The disease had not spread to the rest of his body. He was likely to survive.

Within days, James was working from his hospital bed. He called Nehal Raj, a principal at TPG, which was on the point of agreeing to lead a new round of funding for Domo. "Hey, it's Josh James. Where are we at?" On Dec. 17 -- less than a week after being told he had 48 hours to live -- James joined Raj and TPG partner Bryan Taylor in a private dining room at Spice Market, a trendy Asian restaurant in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, to toast their imminent deal, which would value Domo at more than $800 million. James updated his TPG partners on his near-death experience, pulling the sleeve of his sweater up to reveal an IV still taped to his arm. "Look, before we sign," said Raj, "is there anything else we should know about your condition and recovery?"

"No," said James. "I'm going to be just fine."

***

This is an edited excerpt from a feature from the February 24 feature The Wildest, Craziest, Most Death-Defying (Mormon) Mogul on the Planet. Click on that URL to read the entire article. 

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Jessi Hempel
Jessi Hempel
Senior Writer, Fortune

Jessi Hempel is a New York-based technology writer for Fortune. She has written extensively about digital media, online advertising and social networking. Before joining Fortune in July 2007, Hempel worked at BusinessWeek and most recently served as their innovation department editor. Hempel is a graduate of Brown University and received a Masters in Journalism from The University of California at Berkeley.

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