Sramana Mitra: In 2001, you’re done with Siebel Systems. What happens next?
Rob Douglas: My ultimate goal was to become a successful entrepreneur and CEO. It was now time to learn more general management skills. I joined a company called Pivotal, which was a mid-market CRM company based out of Vancouver. I was the EVP of Sales for North America. While I was doing that, I had now taken my first Board position in a company called MKS, based in Waterloo.
I was now learning what it was like to be an executive and ultimately govern the growth of tech companies. This was post the dot-com bust. Both these companies were significantly under the water, financially. It was about how to turn these entities around, which many tech companies were dealing with at that time.
Sramana Mitra: With Pivotal, how did you get out of that situation?
Rob Douglas: We did a modest recovery. Up until this, I spent all my time on hyper-growth and now I was in a period of contraction and learning what it takes to resize a business when it’s contracting. Both Pivotal and MKS were companies that did make it.
The most important learning is, whenever your business is upside down, don’t take incremental steps down. Take very significant massive cuts in expense to the point where it actually hurts. Then you might have a chance of succeeding. Many times, the common thing to do is to take incremental cost and then six months later, you’re forced to do it again. You’re much better off to cut down to the bone right away and resize your business quickly and rebuild from there.
Sramana Mitra: What happens after Pivotal?
Rob Douglas: I was sitting on the Board, at that time, of a company called BioScript. They were the market leader in fingerprint recognition systems. Not long after being a Board member, I was asked if I would assume the role of CEO. I led a biometrics fingerprint recognition system company. It was my first experience living in the public market. I led the growth of that company and ultimately to its sale to O1 Identity Solutions around 2007.
Sramana Mitra: What happens after that?
Rob Douglas: I happened to be at the world-leading annual security event in Las Vegas. I was walking through the halls and looking at my industry. All I kept thinking was the industry doesn’t understand identity and it’s never going to get it. It systematically cannot seem to break its paradigm of handing out credentials. We’ll never get to a world of one person with one identity.
It was at that moment that I knew that now was my entrepreneurial moment. It has always been my life’s dream to build a tech company from the ground up. I was in my mid-40’s where I had sold everything and took my family burn rate down as low as I could and decided to do a startup. We started it in our basement. We incorporated in late 2009 and I started on January 4th of 2010.
Sramana Mitra: Where was this happening?
Rob Douglas: It was based in Oakville, which is west of Toronto.