Can you explain exactly what your company does?
At its core, Mavenlink organizes human capital to get work done in the professional services industry. Our technology offers a single place in the cloud for clients, contractors, and sub-contractors to interact, share and conduct business in real-time, anywhere in the world resulting in improved productivity, efficiency and profitability. Mavenlink delivers world-class customer service and support to more than half a million customers around the world. Partners include companies such as Google, Microsoft, Intuit and NetSuite.
How did Mavenlink get started?
I’ve been thinking of the future of the workforce since 1992. When I worked for Accenture a client with 4,000 employees spread across the country in nine offices asked me to envision and design a system that would allow them to collaborate on client projects. At a time when the only email was intra-office and the web browser had not yet been invented, the proto-type we developed was ahead-of-its-time and cost prohibitive to deliver. So I sat on this concept believing that one day we would all work this way, and with every step in our technological evolution (email, the social web, SaaS), I became more and more convinced.
Today, companies are increasingly breaking up into smaller collaborative networks and relying on people outside their organizations to get work done (30% of the workforce works outside of the companies they are contracted with). This fragmentation of the workforce, combined with the rise of social web, the adoption of cloud technology and SaaS as a business model, and the need for businesses to scale and compete globally, have created the perfect opportunity and a huge demand for an organization like Mavenlink.
What are some of the specific challenges you’ve faced as the company has grown and how have you successfully addressed them?
One of the biggest challenges is determining how much to invest to prove your ideas. As an entrepreneur I’m tempted to achieve my entire vision all at once, but as the CEO, I must constantly prioritize and evaluate how to best deploy capital. Private equity money helps to fuel more opportunity, but requires more governance, rigor and accountability. By partnering with a private equity firm like Carrick, Mavenlink is able to leverage their experience. They are instrumental in helping us think through the right balance of growth and optimal capital deployment. Carrick not only provides capital, but they also help us build plans that work so that we can manage our aspirations and ambitions in a way that generates good economic outcomes.
Tell us about your decision to bring in an equity partner.
Before any company can determine their private equity needs, they must know their objectives and goals. In the case of Mavenlink, there is an extraordinarily large market. Because we see massive global transformations in the workforce, we need to infuse significant capital to help us capture market share. Mavenlink was boot strapped for the first three years by founders, friends and family. We were successful in tapping our own internal networks so that we could get to the point where we could prove what we were doing and attract outside equity investors. Once it was time to scale, we brought in a private equity partner with the confidence of knowing we were ready for accelerated growth and knew how to effectively deploy the capital.
With are the benefits of working with a group like Carrick Capital Partners?
When you select an equity partner it is critical to have aligned goals and trust. It will not always be smooth sailing. Problems are inevitable. Having a partner that trusts you and will jump in to help you solve problems is a must. I know that if something goes wrong, Carrick will help me fix it. They have a large network we can leverage for hires, board members, and industry expertise. These people advise us, help us to solve problems and, when necessary, reset expectations. They are business builders who have taken companies public and have already encountered similar problems. When they give advice they are speaking from the experience of having encountered similar situations. Having the support of their network and the insight from their extensive entrepreneurial experience is incredibly beneficial.
In what areas of the business did you feel you could use help or counsel?
We frequently leverage Carrick’s business operations thought leadership. Their understanding of business services and software has helped us shape and reshape our business. I have also found the peer counsel they provide to be incredibly valuable. It can be lonely as the CEO and having a partner to run ideas past can be very helpful. Without that, self-doubt can creep in. When it comes to Private Equity firms, Carrick’s value as a supportive, CEO-coach, is indispensable.
What’s your advice for other growing businesses considering private equity?
Have a very clear idea of the capital you need, not just to get to the next stage but to achieve the outcome you want. You have to be thoughtful about the kind of equity partner you select. There is an investor for every stage of risk. Make sure you understand what stage you are in. Then, you can focus on selecting the right partner who shares your vision and can help you achieve the desired outcome, whether it is continued growth, IPO or acquisition.
What’s next for Mavenlink?
Our organization has always been operated rigorously with a possible future IPO in mind. We are confident that we have built such a well-run company that it will withstand the public markets. To do that we will have to be the leader in our space, and effectively reinvent the way the world conducts business, which we believe we will.