Greg Avery | October 3, 2017
A surge in interest in corporate ethics — and not just complying with rules and regulations — is helping Denver tech company Convercent attract big international clients and rebound from business setbacks a few years ago.
The five-year-old company makes cloud-based software that client businesses use to track whether they are following rules and to give their employees ways to help the businesses live up to their own ethical standards.
Against the backdrop of recent scandals at Wells Fargo & Co., Uber Technologies Inc. and others, businesses increasingly are concerned not just with the bottom line or fines from regulators but also in the long-term damage of being judged in public opinion to be unethical, said Convercent CEO Patrick Quinlan.
“Being a big company is not enough — it’s how you become a big company,” he said.
Quinlan is a veteran entrepreneur whom I profiled in a Denver Business Journal cover story in December 2013.
Convercent attracted 350 executives to a two-day conference in Denver this week on business ethics and compliance efforts because the issue has become top priority, Quinlan said.
Its software ties into clients’ other business-reporting systems to help flag potential problems early. It also runs online ethical compliance training, and operates a help line that client employees and vendors use to report problems.
Convercent has grown to 120 employees locally at its headquarters at 929 Broadway south of downtown Denver and 50 percent more than what the company employed a year ago.
Its revenue has grown even faster, with its third-quarter revenue doubling year-over-year, Quinlan said. The private company doesn’t disclose figures, but Quinlan said it has surpassed in $10 million in annual revenue.
The company counts Microsoft Corp., Philip Morris International Inc. and Under Armour Inc. as clients and today is used by dozens of other big companies.
It recently added food service and facilities giant Sodexo — one of the world’s biggest employers — as well as Douglas County-based satellite TV company Dish Network Corp. and ride-hailing giant Uber.
In addition to its Denver headquarters, Convercent has offices in London and Amsterdam.
Its software is used in 200 countries and available in more than 60 languages.
The help line it provides to clients has taken in reports of human trafficking, child slavery and payoffs to customs officials in other countries, Quinlan said.
It’s difficult for big companies, especially ones operating internationally, to know how all its employees, suppliers and vendors are behaving. But the reputation damage of a video that goes viral on social media is big enough that companies are searching hard for ways to guard against missteps and unethical behavior.
Convercent found out within a couple years of its 2012 launch that it expected too many medium-sized companies to want compliance software. It laid off a significant number of its employees to retool its business, then grew again, focusing more on businesses with more than $1 billion annual revenue.
“What we learned is that the mid-market wasn’t quite as mature as we thought,” Quinlan said.