EIR Success Story: Rebecca Ward
With an education in engineering and business management and professional experience in engineering, product management and sales at companies such as Xerox, Digex and BBN (acquired by GTE), Rebecca Ward had laid a foundation for a career as a successful executive. As her worlds collided, Ward leveraged both skill sets to become a strong general manager, rising to a position as group president of engineering, marketing and product management at Digex, a publicly traded company.
Upon meeting Bill Elmore, general partner and founder of Foundation Capital, Ward became interested in venture capital and took a position as Entrepreneur-in-Residence there. “What interested me about coming to Foundation Capital was the possibility of starting something from the beginning and developing it from infancy to publicly traded company,” Rebecca said. “I had experience with the public markets, and believed that as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence, I would have the opportunity to apply this and other experience to venture capital.”
In her new role, Ward witnessed the thought process behind funding decisions, which would later be advantageous when she had to raise her own round of funding. She spent a majority of her time working with Elmore on Tealeaf, a company in its early stages that promised to deliver smarter customer analytics for its clients. As it happened, Tealeaf, founded in 1999, needed a CEO, and Ward was the company’s top choice for the job.
Ward took Tealeaf from startup to stardom, growing the company even through the economic downturn to provide analytics for clients needing real-time insights into online customer buying experiences across online and mobile devices. The technology allowed its customers to tailor marketing campaigns, site usability and more to increase conversion rates.
Ward credits the talented employees and management team of Tealeaf and her working relationship with Founder and CTO Robert Wenig for much of the company’s success.
“I also believe that Foundation Capital’s operational experience and hands-on attitude was an advantage for me as a CEO. All companies have ups and downs; Foundation Capital is very collaborative and knows how to take advantage of the ‘ups’ and identify and manage the ‘downs.’ I was able to leverage different partners with diverse areas of expertise. Bill Elmore, for example, was great at listening and strategizing in addition to working with the board. Skip Glass, another partner, was instrumental in getting some key mechanics in place - such as recruiting – that were absolutely critical to the business. If I picked up the phone and called him, I always knew he would jump in, no questions asked.”
Ward presided over IBM’s acquisition of the company in June of 2012 – an event she would consider one of Tealeaf’s biggest successes. Tealeaf is now in the process of being incorporated into IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiative, providing the technology behind the platform. At the time of the acquisition, Tealeaf had approximately 450 customers worldwide including 30 of the Fortune 100 companies, including Dell, Wells Fargo, Air Canada, GEICO, Orbitz, Crate & Barrel, Neiman Marcus, Expedia, Zappos, ING Direct, Best Buy, DirecTV, McKesson and StubHub.