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Successful Pivot to a High Growth Business: Ray Grainger, CEO of Mavenlink (Part 3)

Posted on Sunday, Apr 17th 2016

Sramana Mitra: You joined InQuira as CEO?

Ray Grainger: No, as Executive Vice President. They had already been around for five years. I was an investor and joined them as Executive Vice President. I was in charge of all professional services channels and helped them grow from $6 million to about $40 million.

Sramana Mitra: By the time Oracle acquired them, they were at $40 million?

Ray Grainger: That’s correct.

Sramana Mitra: Did you go to work for Oracle?

Ray Grainger: No. My co-founders and I met there. We had got the Oracle deal going but we actually left just prior to the acquisition to start Mavenlink.

Sramana Mitra: How long did you stay at InQuira?

Ray Grainger: I was there for about three years. I had invested in them in 2000, helped them scale through Accenture till about 2005. I left Accenture in 2005. I was there for about three years.

Sramana Mitra: What was the concept of Mavenlink?

Ray Grainger: The broad concept has its foundation in being able to connect the myriad talented people around the world to deliver, essentially, projects or services-related work. The understanding that there were a lot of talented people spread out on the entire planet was made using Accenture as an analog. Mavenlink was this venue in which people could find, discover, and then conduct business with one another all over the world.

Sramana Mitra: This was going to be a B2C offering?

Ray Grainger: B2B. Principally, you’re looking at all of these small service providers – people who were specialists who were either individuals or were part of small to medium firms – and how to enable them with technology to be high performers and automate their own businesses, and facilitate connections amongst them so they could band together to perform work for clients.

Sramana Mitra: I sense that there are elements of Elance or oDesk in here but there is something different. Can you highlight the differentiation?

Ray Grainger: I’ll use the term human cloud. This is all a big aspirational journey for Mavenlink. This is how we’ve layered the pieces on. The end game was to extend this idea of the human cloud for dealing with the risk versus trust trade-off when people make decisions about whom they engage to help them get work done. Things that are low-risk like 10,000 emails to go to an email campaign. That’s not a risky project and I can use an anonymous workforce to help me with that. I don’t even need to know their names. It’s transactional.

Then you look at the next level of risk. Let’s say I want a new web page. I might use something like Elance or oDesk where I do want to know who delivers it. It’s a little bit risky. It’s my brand. It’s not a detailed transaction or process-oriented. I want to go to a marketplace where I might be price conscious. That’s the next level of risk trade-off.

What we sought to do was take the next layer and more complex type of service where I need a new brand strategy or I help implementing this system both in the US and Ireland. These are things that are more complex where the typical way of finding talent is through a trusted referral. Most of those are through referrals. How do I take that concept and do it more broadly in a network around the world so I can find the absolute best talent that is best-suited for me. That was the concept. Getting there is a whole journey for us. It starts with this platform of broad business enablement.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Successful Pivot to a High Growth Business: Ray Grainger, CEO of Mavenlink
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