I’ll spoil the ending for you—it’s a happy one—Nasdaq has completed its acquisition of Boardvantage, a company of long standing in the Foundation Capital family. And the theme of this story is perseverance.
Boardvantage wasn’t an overnight success. The company, which now leads the market in delivering paperless process for boards and leadership communication, took a while to find its stride. It turns out that boards of directors are an eclectic bunch, and it’s harder to sell them on collaboration tools than engineering or sales departments. Add to that the fact that, in the early days, they tended to skew older and disinclined to accept technology in the boardroom, and you can see the mountain that Boardvantage had to scale.
Fortunately, the company had a superb leader in Joe Ruck, its CEO through all these years. Joe was a friend of Foundation before taking the reins of Boardvantage. So we knew the company would be in steady hands. But even we couldn’t have foreseen just how steady, sure, and savvy of a leader he would be.
One of the pivotal things he did as CEO was to get Boardvantage cash positive, fast. Avoiding the time-consuming process of fundraising made a world of difference. It meant the company could fully focus its attention on the product, the market, sales—and not on raising more money.
Joe used that breathing room to iterate and to figure out what works. At heart, Joe’s a product guy. He built a rigorous development environment inside the company. He made sure the value proposition was dialed in, and the user experience first rate. And he continually looked at new products.
The company’s breakthrough came with the arrival of the iPad. Suddenly, here was a piece of technology that was intuitive to use for everyone. Joe’s team quickly launched a native iOS implementation for iPad, to take advantage of its superior graphics and animation. And that’s when customer acquisition took off.
Today, Boardvantage’s customers include half of the Fortune 500. Companies that range from Facebook, Singapore Airlines, and UPS to Unilever, Russell Investments, and LinkedIn. It sets the bar in technology leadership for executive communication and collaboration.
That’s the most impressive example of what Boardvantage did so right: it adapted, it evolved. With all early stage companies, you never really know what will work. But what often sets durable companies apart from flashes in the pan is having a management team with the persistence and strength of conviction to keep trying to figure out what will work, and the discipline to stop doing the things that don’t.
The team experimented with a half dozen products that failed until they locked onto products that became mainstays. They experimented with the sales processes, figuring out the best approach and how not to waste money. They chased some customers for what seemed like years until they closed. The result of this perseverance is a profitable outcome for Boardvantage employees and investors.
In a way, the moral of the story is nothing new. The lesson is the oldest one in business: everything pales in comparison to execution.
Congratulations to Boardvantage. Foundation Capital is proud to have supported you on your journey. And we couldn’t be more gratified at the happy shores you’ve reached.