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From Zero to a Market Cap Bigger than General Motors: Keith Krach, Founder of Ariba (Part 6)

Posted on Saturday, Jan 19th 2019

Sramana Mitra: You left in 2003. Did you hand the reins over to somebody else?

Keith Krach: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: That was not the point when SAP acquired Ariba right?

Keith Krach: Yes, 15 years ago.

Sramana Mitra: Why did you let go of the CEO job?

Keith Krach: I was absolutely exhausted. I had a great COO. I was training him to be the CEO. We made that move. Then the next quarter later in a Board meeting, there were a lot of rumblings from the executive team that they weren’t liking this new CEO. He was a great number two guy but not a great number one guy.

We brought in some of the executives and it was clear that we needed to make a change. John Mumford from Crosspoint said, “I think you’ve got the wrong shoes on today.” I said, “What do you mean?” He goes, “You should be wearing your cowboy boots. I think you’re getting back on this horse.” I just pushed myself away from the Board table, stood up, and went pacing around. I knew I had to go back and I was so tired.

Sramana Mitra: What year was that?

Keith Krach: A quarter of separation.

Sramana Mitra: 2003 still?

Keith Krach: It was earlier. There was a quarter in there where I wasn’t the CEO.

Sramana Mitra: Did you take it through to the SAP acquisition or did you step down before that?

Keith Krach: I stepped down before the acquisition.

Sramana Mitra: You handed it over to somebody else – an external candidate.

Keith Krach: No, he was our CFO.

Sramana Mitra: We’ll fast forward from the Ariba story. Was there anything else significant that you did that you would like to talk about between 2003 and 2010? What did you do after you stepped down from the Ariba CEO job?

Keith Krach: I was Chairman in the Board of Trustees at Purdue. That was a great experience. It’s such a great university. I hired the sitting Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels. Our big objective was to reform higher education. We had frozen tuition at Purdue for the last eight years. Nobody has done that. That was a great experience. That overlapped a little bit when I joined DocuSign in 2009. I stepped down from being the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Purdue. That was a great chance to give back.

Sramana Mitra: How did you get connected with DocuSign? What were the circumstances that got you involved with DocuSign?

Keith Krach: The Chairman of Board of Trustees was maybe half time. I was sitting on a few Boards. I went back to Benchmark and was CEO-in-residence. That’s when I ran into the early DocuSign guys. Actually, I got a call from one of the VC who is on the DocuSign Board. He was the CIO at Cisco. I hadn’t talked to the guy in five years. He said, “Can I have a coffee with you?” I said, “I’m not doing the CEO thing again.” He goes, “No, no, no. I just got something to show to you.”

He showed it to me and I go, “Oh man! This reminds me of Ariba. It’s so simple.” At Ariba, we created GXML. At DocuSign, we did the XCTM standard. We brought the partners in with a lot of equity. We just ran the Ariba play at DocuSign. When I went there, it was around 30 to 50 people. It really took off. One of the things that we said was at Ariba, we were really careful about selecting the company name in case we changed our course. At DocuSign, it was very specific. What we said is, “We’re going to create a category. We’re going to turn the DocuSign name into a verb.”

This segment is part 6 in the series : From Zero to a Market Cap Bigger than General Motors: Keith Krach, Founder of Ariba
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