Our interview today is with Patrick Quinlan, the CEO of Denver-based Convercent (www.convercent.com), a fast growing, enterprise software company. Quinlan—a veteran of the industry, who previously co-founded Rivet Software—tells us about his new company, and why it is growing (and hiring) so fast.
For those not familiar with Convercent, what is your software used for?
Patrick Quinlan: Our software is used by Chief Compliance Officer, at upper mi-market and global companies around the world. Our customers are companies like Under Armour, Petco, LinkedIn, and other use our software to manage their government mandated, effectiveness and compliance programs. The areas we are focused on, are anti-bribery and anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, and import-export for large, global companies with complex, regulatory environments. We are the first, purpose built software to help Chief Compliance Officers manage their job.
That seems like a fairly unusual, specialized area which everyone might not know about—how did you end up focusing on that market?
Patrick Quinlan: Previously, a good number of our executives spent time at Rivet Software, which is also broadly in the compliance area, focused on financial compliance and XBRL. What I really love, is creating software solutions to a regulatory, because it really addresses a need. If you look at if software is a “nice to have”, a “want to have” or “have to have”, you find that managing regulatory issues and changes often becomes a “have to have” piece of software. That gives you a large opportunity to engage a marketplace. We looked at compliance, and saw that this specific area of regulatory compliance did not have any purpose-built software.
So are there typical industries you serve?
Patrick Quinlan: It’s really any vertical. We have customers in manufacturing, technology, food services, and there is really no industry we can’t touch. That’s because they all have to meet anti-bribery, anti-corruption because of the Managing Corrupt Practices Act. As an example, Under Armour uses us when they open up a new office located in Asia, or if you are Kraft Hines in Europe, these are things that everyone has to think about.
As a serial entrepreneur, with your success at Rivet – what did you learn there that you are applying here?
Patrick Quinlan: There are a couple of things that are true when you are an entrepreneur, which are true here. One, is you have to focus on the customer. You have to build and design beautiful software. You have to create a culture so extraordinary that you can manage all of the ups and downs of building an enterprise software company. Things are never in a straight line, anything is possible, even things you think are impossible. You have only do that if you build a culture of an organization that can go through that roller coaster ride.
What’s the biggest challenge with building enterprise software like this?
Patrick Quinlan: Our first large, global customer was Philip Morris. Phillip Morris is in 200 plus countries around the world, pretty much every country except North Korea, Cuba, and, ironically, the United States. They operate in 80-plus languages, and they have to meet EU data requirements. They were our first, major customer. Building a product for Philip Morris with a group of 15 engineers in Denver, with 18 in total, was a very daunting task. When you build enterprise software, it’s not like building something with a small client and constantly iterating your software. You have to be able to think big, and dream big, and have the confidence you can go head to head and compete against the large, software companies who are trying to sell a part of their software to solve the same problem. That can be daunting, but with the right people it’s possible.
What are your big next steps?
Patrick Quinlan: Our primary focus right now is expanding our engineering. We’ve doubled our size since the beginning of the year, and we think we’ll increase it again by 50 percent by the end of the year. We have ten open engineering positions, and that’s our number one focus, which is to fill those positions as quickly as possible. We also are making sure we’re continuing to innovate, and developing world class software for our customers. We’re also growing sales and marketing, and customer success alongside engineering. When I wake up in the morning, it’s all about building that engineering team.