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The Montana Mogul: RightNow CEO Greg Gianforte (Part 2)

Posted on Friday, Aug 1st 2008

SM: What were your revenues at Brightwork?

GG: Ultimately it grew to $10 million a year in revenues.

SM: What are some nuggets of knowledge you took away from Brightwork?

GG: Brightwork was my first entrepreneurial endeavor and I had a steep learning curve. I remember very early on I was looking for mentors to help me understand business. I think every family has somebody who is the ‘business expert’, and mine was no different. Uncle Pete was the one in our family everybody said I had to talk to. He gave me a bunch of advice which I went off and used. About a month later I came back for more advice because I thought what he had given me had been really useful. This time he said “Greg, you are pouring your heart and soul into this thing, I hope they are taking care of you.” I did not realize that he had always been in big business. He had a completely different frame of reference and it was not appropriate for entrepreneurial startups. That is my big lesson from Brightwork: find an entrepreneurial mentor, and if you are going to bootstrap then find a mentor who has already bootstrapped a business.

SM: What was your exit from Brightwork?

GG: McAfee acquired Brightwork. At the time we were 50% bigger than they were.

SM: Why were they interested in purchasing Brightwork if they were in the security market and you were in the network market?

GG: At the time, McAfee owned about 67% of the anti-virus market compared with Symantec, which had 14%. They were interested in leveraging our sales channel since we had good relationships with network managers and a strong telesales process. McAfee had been selling to very large customers like Ford Motor Corp and the government. They realized that they were going to need to start expanding their sales channels in order to maintain their market lead and continue growth. They also needed to change their sales approach, and we had a proven telesales approach that worked.

SM: Your sales methodology at Brightwork was telesales?

GG: Initially, yes. We had a very viable model financially. We hired telesales people and they would be profitable in 30 days. By that I mean we hired them, trained them, and within 30 days they were covering their costs. We hired sales individuals in classes of five every month until we had 75 people selling, and we sold over the phone.

SM: How long did it take to hire those 75 people?

GG: That occurred over an eight-month period. We also did it organically; we did not use external financing to fund it.

SM: How did that transition to McAfee?

GG: At McAfee we had 300,000 people a month downloading our software. At the time we were the most profitable software company in the world on a
percentage basis. The year I started there, it was 72% pre-tax profit. Our job in sales was to get the pirates to pay us. It was really profitable, largely due to our strategy of giving it away and then tracking down the big violators of our licensing agreements.

SM: Can you quantify the results in terms of revenue?

GG: When McAfee bought us they had $25 million in revenues. A year later they had $60 million. It was a combination of telesales and web sales, but it was largely based on what we did at Brightwork. We were even selected by Fortune magazine as one of the “10 Coolest Companies in America” because of our sales approach.

This segment is part 2 in the series : The Montana Mogul: RightNow CEO Greg Gianforte
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