Since 1986, EY has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women who have followed and achieved their dreams, changing the lives of countless others by building their businesses and giving back to their communities.
Their passion, vision and persistence stand as a testament to their dedication. Twenty-eight years ago, we founded the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Program to recognize these dynamic leaders and to build an influential community of innovative entrepreneurs.
Each June, we host celebrations in 25 U.S. cities to celebrate the men and women who are regional finalists and to toast their vision, tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit. Their energy and self-confidence have turned their dreams into reality. We applaud them all for taking the road less traveled to launch new companies, open new markets and fuel job growth.
Join us in celebrating their passion, innovation and unwavering commitment to win in the marketplace. Congratulations to all!
CEO and co-founder
president and co-founder
Rocket Fuel co-founders George John and Richard Frankel met while working at Yahoo. John has a background in computer science, artificial intelligence and adaptive learning, while Frankel’s is in engineering, English and digital advertising.
Yahoo was looking to acquire companies that built upon what it was doing in digital advertising and couldn’t find any that matched what it wanted. That signaled to John and Frankel that there was an opportunity to create an innovation technology company to serve the needs of advertising clientele.
Many advertising agencies provide analysis based on key data points such as a user’s behavior, contextual data or geographical area. Rocket Fuel goes beyond to connect digital advertising with artificial intelligence, analyzing millions of data points covering information such as location, time of day, weather and past user actions.
Most money in corporate advertising goes through large agency holding companies, which control the market. Rocket Fuel appealed to these agencies to work with it to better serve clients.
When hiring, Rocket Fuel seeks people with openness, kindness, honesty, genuineness and the ability to accept feedback.
When recruiting Mark Torrance for the critical role of chief technology officer, John wrote a press release with the quote, “As CEO, your goal is to hire so well that you become the dumbest person in the room, and our hiring of Mark indicates a bittersweet success in this regard.”
Rocket Fuel’s culture has been that anyone who sees something that needs to get done has permission to do it. That extends to the company’s philanthropy program, Rocket Fuel Gives Back, which started when former administrative assistant Kiwoba Allaire began organizing employees to visit a homeless shelter near company headquarters with food from the office refrigerator. The program has since grown into a global initiative led full time by Allaire.
CEO and co-founder
TubeMogul co-founder and CEO Brett Wilson has a vision not just to enhance brand advertising, but to transform digital branding to be simpler and more accountable.
Wilson was securing a master’s degree in business administration from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley when he won the Berkeley Business Plan Competition in 2007 for starting TubeMogul with co-founder John Hughes.
The company was created as a video analytics business helping content owners understand the exposure of their online videos. Technology TubeMogul created enabled it to become a leader in video analytics, but Wilson sought a larger goal.
He thought the business model could not be scaled economically and sold the video content analytics business in order to focus on video advertising. Wilson’s goal was to make brand advertising as simple as Google made searches.
Innovation is part of the culture at TubeMogul, from launching the first self-serve platform for branding to open sourcing its technology and providing transparency for every dimension of an advertiser’s campaign.
The campaign has strategically grown worldwide, and one-third of revenue comes from international locations. TubeMogul hires young professionals from local universities, trains them and gives them opportunities to travel overseas. TubeMogul academy also was established to provide online classes for employees.
Mistakes are OK at TubeMogul; it’s considered a natural byproduct when defining the cutting edge at a fast pace. The company values hard work and rewards employees who do what they say and make things happen. That value is reflected in the “say to do” ratio used in the performance review process.
More than 30 percent of employees are from UC Berkeley, and Wilson is actively involved in entrepreneurship programs at the university, including business competitions and mentoring.
TubeMogul also looks for other volunteer opportunities and a team recently helped renovate an East Bay area school.
CEO and co-founder
The path to AdRoll for CEO and co-founder Aaron Bell started when he was developing video game software at age 12. At 16, he was one of Microsoft’s youngest software engineers.
Bell graduated from Stanford and worked as a programmer at NASA before getting the entrepreneurial itch and leaving in 2007 to start AdRoll. Once the recession hit, the company had to stretch out its Series A funding and used that time to better understand customers’ needs. Bell was thrust into the role of CEO mid-recession when AdRoll went through a change of leadership, and he worked to reshape the initial vision that investors liked in order to find a solution that worked for customers.
AdRoll’s co-founders anticipated the trend toward programmatic advertising and real-time bidding. The company created a software as a service-based dashboard to create, execute and monitor advertising campaigns. AdRoll offered free trials to secure a foothold and has been leading the retargeting wave ever since.
As the first company to offer marketers a single platform to retarget customers and prospects on their mobile phone, AdRoll become an early alpha partner with the Facebook Exchange ad network and Twitter’s tailored-audience products.
Bell believes “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and is critical to attracting and retaining talent. AdRoll has a 96 percent retention rate, and 100 percent of employee postings on GlassDoor approve of Bell as CEO.
AdRoll assists in the growth of its employees by hosting hundreds of employee-taught classes as part of a learning program. Bell promotes transparency through a weekly all-hands meeting where employees submit anonymous questions that are answered by management. The company also places importance on giving back to the community, encouraging employees to donate time and resources in San Francisco’s Mid-Market area, where AdRoll is located.
Marcin Kleczynski’s passion to rid cyberspace of malicious malware goes back to a Trojan virus that infected his computer when he was 14. He posted the problem to an online forum and discovered a solution within three days.
That experience led him to wonder if harmful software removal could be automated. He bought a basic programming book, which is where the innovation behind Malwarebytes began. Kleczynski started by writing free software to help solve computer problems.
The domain name and other assets of Malwarebytes were virtually all crowdsourced. Bruce Harrison, another malware expert, joined Kleczynski in 2008 on his mission to rid the Internet of malware. Six years later, Malwarebytes has fixed more than 250 million computers, averaging six computers per second, for businesses ranging from small companies to large corporations.
The company differentiates itself from competitors by providing specialized service instead of trying to address as many anti-virus fields as possible. Malwarebytes addresses zero-day threats or potentially unwanted programs instead of trying to do everything on a less detailed level.
Kleczynski hires only the most passionate and focused individuals to join the Malwarebytes team, looking for specialized skills that add value to the company and its culture. Despite a lack of initial compensation for team members, individuals remained on-board due to their passion for the project. There are people working for Malwarebytes in the Americas, Estonia, Finland and France.
Malwarebytes operates under Kleczynski’s motto to share information with the team to the point that “they are blinded by nothing and excited by everything.”
He believes that providing free malware protection is one of his greatest charitable contributions and has made it a life-long commitment. In addition, Malwarebytes has undertaken community initiatives such as donating to the Electronic Frontier Foundation to fight censorship.
founder and CEO
Drawbridge, Inc. CEO and founder Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan leads and inspires by example. A self-made entrepreneur, she earned a doctorate degree in information theory at Stanford University and saw an opportunity in the mobile advertising industry.
Sivaramakrishnan started at AdMob, taking ownership of ad-scoring algorithms and designing traffic estimation techniques to determine run rates and performance metrics. After AdMob was acquired by Google in 2009, she remained at Google for six months before setting out to found Drawbridge.
Her vision was to create an algorithm that would bridge multiple devices to identify common users. Drawbridge developed the first machine learning ad technology that leverages insights from device IDs to enable advertisers and marketers to reach targeted audiences across screens.
The statistical algorithm matches a desktop cookie to a mobile device, and has been used to pair more than 1 billion devices globally. Drawbridge’s success depends on its ability to effectively target customers to maximize clicks on the impressions it buys.
Sivaramakrishnan is president emeritus of the Stanford University Women in Electrical Engineering group, a nonprofit professional community for female graduate students. The group seeks to improve retention of women in the electrical engineering community through mentorships, seminars and outreach events.
She also is active with ASHA for Education, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving literacy rates in India through fundraising for schools in rural areas.
Sivaramakrishnan believes that the strength of a company lies in its people. She has built an internal culture at Drawbridge based on transparency and technology. Each department presents an update at a weekly Brown Bag Lunch. The engineering team has “Tech Talks,” during which team leads give presentations on their work and gather input from other team members.
She is inspired by PayPal, where ex-employees became entrepreneurs, and wants to build that at Drawbridge.
founder and CEO
Thomas Siebel has a long track record of success in the software industry, building Siebel Systems as its chairman and CEO before becoming the founder and CEO of C3 Energy.
Research for his latest venture included thought leadership conferences from 2007 to 2010 at the University of California-Berkeley, Northwestern University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the topics of energy efficiency and climate change. The purpose was to explore how information technology could be harnessed to generate and deliver energy in more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly ways.
Siebel saw that another transformational technology wave was starting and wanted to leverage technologies to affect the value chain of power generation.
C3 Energy is a rapidly growing software as a service company that applies big data, analytics, machine learning and cloud computing to power generation and delivery, improving the safety and reliability of energy production while reducing cost and environmental impact.
Siebel focused company resources on developing and commercializing an analytics engine that handles exceptionally large data volumes at high rates and employs algorithms to unlock key insights that provide economic, social and environmental benefits to grid operators.
With the advent of smart meters and grid monitoring tools, utilities have access to data that can be used to better manage customers’ efficient use of electricity.
As a nationally recognized philanthropist, Siebel established the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation in 1996 to improve quality of life, environment, research and education. The foundation has given more than $236 million to various charitable causes.
Major foundation programs include Siebel Scholars, which provides scholarships at 17 leading schools of business, computer science and bioengineering; the Meth Project, a program aimed at reducing methamphetamine use; and the Siebel Stem Cell Institute, which funds research in the application of advancements in cellular biology and synthetic biology to achieve efficacious stem cell therapies.
CEO and founder
Pete Flint embodies the definition of a modern Silicon Valley entrepreneur. In his college days, he witnessed the Internet grow from a novelty to mainstream use and saw that it could provide a meaningful solution to business problems. To him, there were endless possibilities to innovate existing business models.
After graduation, he worked at British travel company LastMinute.com and saw the type of workplace he wanted to create. Flint moved to the Bay Area to attend Stanford business school and discover the potential of Silicon Valley.
Based on his house hunting search, he developed an interactive research tool that provided relevant data and connected homebuyers with real estate professionals. He saw the potential in providing a service to consumers and creating a market for real estate professionals. In 2005, Flint and Sami Inkinen founded Trulia.
Flint marketed Trulia as a complement to the house-buying process and gained traction by building a consumer base and attracting real estate professionals for subscription revenue.
As CEO, Flint led Trulia through turbulent economic times to a successful initial public offering in 2013. Only six months after the IPO, Trulia acquired a public real estate software company to expand its technology and tools.
Trulia continues to innovate, as Flint realized early that users were gravitating toward mobile uses and developed a comprehensive visual app that was released in 2013. He also created an innovation week during which developers have free reign to work on any product that could add value to the company.
One of Flint’s corporate objectives for success is building a culture of IMPACT — innovative, make a difference, people matter, act with integrity, customer obsessed and trust. He frequently has lunch with new employees to get feedback, and has all-hands meetings to provide information about Trulia’s direction and to get input.
NerdWallet’s CEO Tim Chen launched the company at the height of the recession in 2009, realizing that more than ever consumers needed transparent support to make important financial decisions.
The idea for NerdWallet came to Chen after his sister asked for advice in choosing a credit card. Chen, who had been head of a large investment fund, was questioning his future in banking. After analyzing more than 400 credit cards, he built a database of financial information and the foundation for his startup.
The fundamental purpose of NerdWallet is to provide consumers with trusted and objective financial information, or “answers from that nerdy friend that you trust to always have the right answer.”
NerdWallet has pioneered an industry of objective comparative financial information and offers products that address many of life’s major financial decisions, including bank accounts, mortgages, education, shopping and health care. The importance of workplace culture was reflected in a company “reset” in 2013, when 20 percent of the team was let go because employees didn’t represent the values and people-focused philosophy. Chen considers the experience to have been the hardest of his career, but necessary because NerdWallet’s success is dependent on maintaining a culture focused on the success of its people.
Subsequently, in 2012, NerdWallet exposed a credit card scam that led to that company’s dissolution less than five months later.
Chen recruited a management team for NerdWallet by reaching out to successful business leaders via LinkedIn for advice. He didn’t just want to attract talent; he wanted people with the right personality fit. He personally meets with every job candidate before hiring decisions are made.
Chen knows every employee by name and participates in the company’s weekly boot camp classes. Employees are allowed freedom to innovate in an environment of collaboration and respect.
president and CEO
A first-time CEO, Greg Schott joined MuleSoft in 2009 with a goal to turn the company into an undisputed leader in its category. Under his leadership, MuleSoft has become the world’s most widely used integration platform and serves one-third of the Fortune Global 500.
Prior to MuleSoft, Schott worked at other startup companies and was involved in all aspects of the business, including sales, marketing, engineering and finance. The first-time CEO has brought an entrepreneurial spirit to MuleSoft.
MuleSoft delivers the most widely used integration platform for connecting data, devices and applications in the cloud and on premise. Users have the opportunity to try MuleSoft products for free under an open source code option. There also is a subscription model with value-added features. Even with slightly competing offerings, the company has continued to grow.
Schott personally interviews each of MuleSoft’s employees and works closely with the talent team responsible for recruiting and hiring top professionals. Although the company has been behind on hiring targets, he feels it is important that MuleSoft not settle for less than the best. Schott wants to add the right people — “bringing smart people into a great industry.”
He is building a culture of people who want to manage their careers and, given space, motivate others. He believes in a company of peers, with minimal hierarchy and organizational charts. MuleSoft is a company of equals; no one has an office and everyone is free to innovate. Schott sits alongside employees, considering them intellectual peers.
Schott sees technology integration as being the biggest issue in information technology. With more than 150,000 developers worldwide using MuleSoft products, the company is poised for fast growth driven by an industry caught in transition from enterprise resource planning to software as a service and cloud with an ever-growing focus on mobile.
Amir Dan Rubin
president and CEO
Stanford Hospital & Clinics
Amir Dan Rubin’s parents raised him to understand the importance of giving back to the community. Those values are what motivated him to pursue a career in health care.
He started working for a health care consulting firm, then became CFO of a teaching hospital and eventually was named COO at UCLA health system.
When Rubin became president and CEO of Stanford Hospital & Clinics in January 2011, the economy was slow and the health care industry experienced a decline in volume. He worked on rearticulating the hospital’s vision, with a message of “healing humanity through science and compassion one patient at a time.” Stanford patient experience scores rose from the 46th percentile nationally to the 95th percentile in patient satisfaction.
Recognizing that the hospital system was playing not to lose, he saw a need to adapt to change and take risks. Those included building a new hospital, adding regional cancer centers and a new neuroscience center that will have 27 specialties.
Rubin also sought improvements in network of care, covering accessibility, wait times, quality and access; population care, taking a proactive approach to prevent sickness; and virtual care — Stanford was an early adopter of electronic medical records.
He wants Stanford to be the leading academic health system with a goal of healing humanity. The system is doing more on a global level through training, sending CT scans and MRI machines to impoverished countries.
Stanford is involved in a number of medical missions and has one of the leading response teams for global disasters, which responded to crises in Haiti and the Philippines. Stanford opened an office in Beijing and is exploring opportunities in India and the Middle East.
Rubin believes, “Stanford’s role is to innovate, to pioneer, to try the new models and to create those next levels of innovations.”
director, president and CEO
When he took over as Plantronics CEO in 1999, Ken Kannappan walked into a company that made good products — the company provided headsets for astronauts who landed on the moon.
Plantronics designs, manufactures and markets lightweight communications headsets, telephone headset systems and accessories for a wide range of markets. Founded in 1961, the company has won several awards for its originality, innovative technology, style of management and environmental stewardship.
Through Kannappan’s leadership, the company has continued to innovate and has received the recognition it deserves. Plantronics was chosen as an Innovation and Design Award honoree by Envisioneering for the new Voyager Edge headset, a high-performance Bluetooth earpiece.
Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry honored Plantronics with an Award for Corporate Excellence for corporate citizenship, exemplary employment practices, environmental stewardship and innovative business practices.
Kannappan personifies the business theme “noiseless communication,” silently providing leadership and being well-liked by all. He transformed the company’s culture and work environment — more than 90 percent of employees consistently report high levels of satisfaction. He believes that bad managers monitor employees all the time while good managers communicate a clear and exciting goal, point the way and let them run.
Plantronics takes an “outside-in” approach where customer pain points are identified and researched, with solutions focused on solving problems.
Under his leadership, Plantronics has been early to market, with industry-leading products with capabilities such as Bluetooth technology or unified communications.
Kannappan is passionate about giving back to the community, and is an active supporter of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County. His concern about the environment is manifested across the company, with more than 70 percent of the energy used by Plantronics worldwide coming from solar installations.
president and CEO
Genesys CEO Paul Segre recognized that the company was at a crossroads and was losing its edge in the contact center market after being acquired by Alcatel-Lucent in 2002. It had virtually no cloud presence, and was unable to fund its development.
Segre realized that Genesys would either continue as a niche player or would need to take a new, disruptive course. In 2012, he led a leveraged buyout and set about an aggressive growth strategy that included seven acquisitions.
Genesys now has more than 3,500 customers in 80 countries and orchestrates more than 100 million customer interactions every day. The company has also moved from on-premises solutions to generating revenue from the cloud.
The Genesys management team is comprised of veterans with 15 or more years of experience and newly hand-picked members who were hired as part of the company’s transformation. The company has a coach for its management team who helps with communications, collaboration and management. He also leads a two-day staff meeting each month where key decisions are discussed and formalized.
Segre believes that when businesses fail, it is most often because people were unable to work as a team. Genesys looks for employees who want to learn and grow, and molds them into teams through a management system centered on coaching employees for success.
The company also has more than tripled its education budget.
Segre has never liked to get into a comfort zone, preferring to reinvent his roles and responsibilities. That transitioned him from being a systems engineer to becoming a successful CEO.
He places high value in process benchmarking, quality and data driven decision-making. His leadership is evidenced in the company values of “living customer experience every day,” “creating customer success,” “innovating in all we do” and “having fun.” ?
David Hung, M.D.
founder, president and CEO
Founder, president and CEO David Hung runs Medivation with a sense of urgency in recognition that critically ill people are counting on the company to help extend their lives.
A Harvard undergrad and University of California, San Francisco medical school graduate, Hung was profoundly affected during the third year of his fellowship by the death of a patient to breast cancer at the age of 28. He felt no child should outlive his or her parents. That led him to leave academic medicine for industry in the hopes of impacting more lives.
With Medivation, he utilizes his skills as a board-certified physician, experience as a basic science researcher and deep grasp of economics.
Medivation has chosen to focus on the worst and hardest diseases to cure, including Alzheimer’s disease, and breast and prostate cancer.
Understanding the importance of time, Medivation has not only created novel treatments, but has sought ways to shorten development time. Xtandi, a pill for treating prostate cancer, was developed in seven years — establishing a new benchmark for expedited development and commercialization. That success came on the heels of a failed drug trial that almost forced the company into bankruptcy.
The company has expanded globally, employing more than 80 chemists in India and 20 biologists in Chile in addition to hundreds of development employees in San Francisco.
Hung understands that everything starts at the top, and welcomes each employee during orientation. He believes in the importance of leading by example and emphasizes the point by sending a monthly note to employees that reads: “Don’t accept no, always challenge the existing and think about if your life depended on it, would the answer still be no?”
Medivation’s core values of innovation, urgency, passion and quality recognize the connection between excellence and commitment that characterize Hung’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Emil Kakkis, M.D., Ph.D.
CEO and president
Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical, Inc.
The son of a physician, Emil Kakkis took a natural path and entered the medical field. While at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center for medical school, he worked on enzyme replacement therapy for the rare metabolic disorder mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS I).
After successful treatment of his first patient, Kakkis realized his passion was not in research, but in working directly with patients and developing treatments to save the lives of individuals with diseases frequently overlooked by companies because they are too rare. Kakkis feels strongly that we did not intend as a society to discover lifesaving treatments but not pursue them because a large market does not exist.
There are more than 7,000 rare diseases, only 5 percent of which have treatments. The science exists to develop treatments, but there is a lack of investment and a challenging regulatory environment.
Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical, Inc. was founded in 2010 as a biotechnology company committed to bringing to market products for treatment of ultra rare diseases, with a focus on debilitating metabolic genetic diseases suffered by children.
Kakkis built the company’s infrastructure in a way that creates large efficiencies to allow it to invest in and develop multiple products simultaneously. To date, Ultragenyx has five products in clinical development.
Kakkis has worked for a change in U.S. policy to allow small biotech companies to develop products in a short period of time, receive approval and generate revenue. Through his EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases, he has organized rare disease groups through workshops and lobby days, and advocated to improve development of drugs for all rare diseases.
Kakkis also endowed the National MPS Society with a donation to help ensure the organization could survive and support MPS patients. He organized, funded and supported the formation of the North American Metabolic Academy to train physicians on diagnosing and managing biochemical genetic disorders.
Sarvajna Dwivedi, Ph.D.
co-founder and chief scientific officer
Pearl Therapeutics, Inc.
It’s all about the team for Sarvajna Dwivedi, co-founder and chief scientific officer at Pearl Therapeutics. He believes that every member of the team brings unique values that have helped shape the company.
Pearl Therapeutics was founded after Dwivedi was rejected repeatedly for products he proposed while working at Nektar Therapeutics, which was in a highly specialized industry and did not want to diverge into another sector.
Dwivedi and co-founder Adrian Smith envisioned a company that would develop remedies for respiratory disease conditions. The Pearl Therapeutics business model is driven by a belief that relieving symptoms is the best way to help patients, rather than the prevailing wisdom that patients need more convenient therapies.
They faced several challenges, including the collapse of the core technology being relied on when particles of medicines unexpectedly crystallized. Dwivedi emphasized reliance and faith in the team that had been created. Engineers not only fixed the problem, they also developed a better product.
Dwivedi believes in hiring people for expertise rather than experience. He initiated a people-centered plan called a distributed resource utilization model, which involves hiring the best professionals and assimilating them into one plan. It was paramount to develop high-speed teams with an urgency to deliver results.
The organization has a single goal of generating more value than capital burnt on a daily basis. A delay in one area means the rest of the company must find a solution to make up for that time.
Pearl Therapeutics has progressed three products to Phase 3 clinical trials, which helped lead to acquisition by AstraZeneca — validating the company’s vision, plan, products and team. Although acquired by a large company, Pearl Therapeutics continues to operate as an independent organization, with free reign to develop and grow.
Real Estate and Finance
Waypoint Homes co-founders Doug Brien and Colin Wiel started their business as a result of the decline in the economy, brought on by the 2008-09 housing market crash. The idea was to purchase homes and allow people to stay in them as tenants, rather than owners.
The co-founders were introduced at an angel investor meeting when Brien was looking for someone interested in the single-family home rental business and Wiel was the only one who shared the vision to “change the world through renting.”
For each home purchased, Waypoint Homes puts in an average of $20,000 in immediate improvements to meet needs of potential renters. The company also has started building new homes for rent, working with builders to create homes catered specifically to the single-family renter. That way the best possible homes can be provided for clients.
Recognizing that lack of financial understanding and knowledge is a big issue, Waypoint Homes partnered with the financial fitness program Operation HOPE to teach financial literacy to elementary students. The company also works with BUILD, which goes into high schools in underprivileged areas to educate students about how to start a business.
Although other contenders have entered the single-family home renter market, Waypoint Homes has maintained a competitive advantage through its operating infrastructure and customer service model. Brien and Wiel developed an innovative “lease plus rewards” program for tenants. Through the program, “Waypoints” are earned by paying rent on time, renewing leases and maintaining properties. They feel the loyalty program is key to making tenants see the benefits of renting.
Innovation also is part of Waypoint Homes’ strategy in new asset acquisition. The company created a technology that utilizes sources of predictive analytics and mapping with GPS systems to process a large volume of market data and make investment decisions based on appropriate metrics.
founder and CEO
Ellie Mae, Inc.
Serial entrepreneur Sig Anderman saw the Internet’s potential to make the mortgage process more efficient. In 1997, he founded Ellie Mae, Inc., which became a leading provider of on-demand software for the residential mortgage industry.
Anderman thought the mortgage process, which involves extensive documentation, could be automated. While competitors focused on data entry and printing documents, Ellie Mae created Encompass software to enable the mortgage process to be automated through the cloud, with compliance controls woven into the software at all phases.
The company survived both the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s and the housing and financial crisis of 2008. Although industry regulation continues to increase, Anderman sees it as an opportunity to continue to streamline the mortgage process and deliver greater value to customers.
Ellie Mae is his fourth successful business venture in the past three decades and was the largest gainer on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012. Anderman’s vision is to make the business the automation backbone of the residential mortgage industry for the next 50 years.
His entrepreneurial vision has been shaped by his people philosophy, which he views as the key to Ellie Mae’s success. He believes you can be nice and still succeed, and hires smart people who share his vision in an atmosphere of honesty, openness and kindness.
He describes his company culture as old fashioned, built around listening to the customer, developing high quality products, providing superior customer service, and hiring employees who are passionate yet balanced in their work, home and community life.
Anderman believes companies and employees should give back to their communities and leave them in better shape than they found them. So he established EllieCares, an employee-run volunteer program. Employees are given time off with pay for these volunteer activities and the company matches employee-raised contributions.
CEO and president
Clean Power Finance
Nat Kreamer, CEO of Clean Power Finance, became attracted to renewable energy and clean tech while serving with the special forces in Afghanistan. He realized that the way to win was to cut off supply lines, which would require developing a reliable source of domestic energy.
He sold his first residential solar finance product in 2007 with SunRun, but saw an opportunity to be even more innovative with renewable energy financing. He recognized that exploring the residential aspect of the business could be lucrative if he could bring in more liquidity and investors.
In 2010, Kreamer joined with Kleiner Perkins and Google Ventures to invest in a solar software company, Clean Power Finance. When he took the reins, the company provided software infrastructure to connect solar companies to residential consumers.
Kreamer thought the key to the solar market was expanding finance opportunities. He had a vision that the company could become an online marketplace for solar financing, serving the 40 million U.S. homeowners who could save money with solar if they could get financing.
Using the platform created by Clean Power Finance, solar company sales representatives can pitch products, present customized proposals within minutes, offer financing options, perform a credit check and close sales. With Clean Power Finance’s help, more than 150,000 homeowners went solar in 2013.
Unlike competitors, which have business models based on tax-advantaged solar financing products, Clean Power Finance’s market is finance product agnostic and can offer new products as the market evolves.
Kreamer is passionate about the solar industry and lectures at the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern University to encourage a new generation of renewable energy leaders.
He envisions the same platform created for the solar market to eventually include other utilities and broaden in scale, scope and geography.
co-founder and CEO
Bon Appétit Management Co.
As CEO of Bon Appétit Management Co., Fedele Bauccio is the visionary behind a contract food service company that serves more than 150 million meals a year to employees at Google, Intel, LinkedIn, Twitter and many other businesses.
Bon Appétit serves museums, sports venues, universities and corporations at more than 500 on-site restaurants in 32 states. Bauccio co-founded the company in 1987 with a plan to reinvent the food service industry by replacing food servers with professional chefs who would control menus and sourcing of ingredients.
Bauccio has made sustainability a focus and Bon Appétit was the first food service company to commit to sustainable seafood (2002), eliminate hormones and non-therapeutic antibiotic use in animals (2003), cook with cage-free eggs (2005) and reduce its carbon footprint and waste, which is down 30 percent since 2007.
To address the challenge of sourcing enough sustainable produce, meat and dairy products, Bon Appétit works directly with small farmers. The company has used leverage over suppliers to require more sustainable farming practices. In 2009, the company did not serve tomatoes for six months until suppliers agreed to minimum requirements for worker rights and safety.
Since the beginning, the company has had a flat organizational structure, with three levels of separation between the CEO and the kitchen. Each location is operated by a chef and general manager, district managers run eight to 10 restaurants and report to six regional vice presidents.
There is no sales team — the company grows by client referrals and word of mouth from customers.
Bon Appétit supports and invests in local farmers, and partnered with the San Francisco Giants to create an organic garden behind AT&T Park’s center field. It also has launched the BAMCO Foundation, which works to change the way chefs and consumers think about food through educational efforts.
Progreso Financiero CEO Raul Vazquez inspires and leads by example.
The financial technology company serves the needs of the Hispanic community in the United States by providing affordable and responsibly structured unsecured installment loans.
Vazquez grew up in El Paso, Texas. His parents were from small mining towns in Mexico and sacrificed to provide a more promising future for their children. As a result, he is extremely aware of challenges the Hispanic community faces, including low incomes, limited opportunities for advancement and inadequate understanding of how things work in the U.S.
When the opportunity presented itself in 2012, Vazquez knew he had to accept the position of CEO at Progreso Financiero to make a difference in the lives of hardworking people. He also knew the company created an affordable product, had no direct competitors and had great opportunities for growth.
Vazquez understands that the company’s strength lies in its employees. He has created an environment that allows employees to be successful, provides meaningful work and recognizes employees for their hard work.
Although he was not a founder of Progreso Financiero, Vazquez had what he calls a “founding moment” in early 2012 when the company halted its growth in customers and retail locations — the monthly financial burn rate was between $1 million and $2 million. Additional debt and equity capital was needed to survive.
Vazquez kept the company alive by drawing on his experience to articulate a vision of the future, modify strategy and improve operational and financial processes. The company has since expanded its customer base and geographic footprint, is better capitalized and has achieved sustained cash flow profitability.
His future vision for Progreso Financiero includes expanded loan options, mobile access and instantaneous results instead of a 24-hour wait period for customers.
As president of Blackhawk Network, Inc., Talbott Roche has established herself as a visionary, innovative and empowering leader within her company and the prepaid payment industry.
Under her leadership, Blackhawk Network grew from being a Safeway, Inc. subsidiary with five employees to an independent company with more than 1,000 employees. Although the parent company was viewed as a tremendous asset, Roche recognized that in order to build the business it needed to engage brand partners that were in direct competition to Safeway. Blackhawk Network now includes more than 500 brands and 180,000 locations in 21 countries.
Blackhawk Network researches what consumers want, resulting in innovations such as prepaid open-loop cards in third party locations, e-gift capabilities for online and mobile channels, and online card management services. Proprietary technology allows the company to bring these innovations to market faster than relying on third parties to create systems to enable them.
Roche’s role as a leader in her industry was evidenced by her appearance before Congress in relation to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009. The legislation included provisions that threatened to harm segments of the prepaid card industry. Roche served as the chief industry spokesperson, educating Congress about the prepaid market and the legislation’s potential impact.
Blackhawk Network maintains a culture of innovation. Roche has seven patents issued in her name, including package design, an automatic in-store registration process, an e-gifting process and a proxy card designed to prevent fraud.
Roche believes “your company is only as good as its people.” She empowers employees to believe they can accomplish whatever they put their minds to and rewards innovation and hard work through incentives such as an internal equity program and the “Blackhawk Belief Award,” which acknowledges and rewards accomplishments of employees.
CEO and founder
RingCentral founder and CEO Vladimir Shmunis draws upon his experience as an engineer and CEO to lead the company, connecting with engineers while keeping an eye on the balance sheet.
Shmunis co-founded the company with his own funds in 2003 and guided it to an initial public offering in September 2013. RingCentral offers a cloud-based enterprise phone system.
RingCentral solves a fundamental challenge for businesses — legacy phone systems do not support the needs of modern mobile and distributed workforces. RingCentral offers a cost-effective, integrated solution that works across office locations and has mobile app support for smartphones and tablets.
To differentiate itself from competitors, RingCentral has not only been innovating with technology, but also in its go-to-market strategy. The company tracks what customers are asking for and has attracted them with a reasonable cost.
RingCentral also does not see itself as a VoIP company, but as a communications company. It took a “mobile first” approach before other service as a software or technology companies. The company reimagines services not in terms of devices but in how to connect the business community, a change in mindset from other software as a service providers.
When hiring, Shmunis strives to find people who can be part of the team, are upwardly mobile and motivated to be successful. For his executive team and board of directors, he sought people smarter than him that are able to function in the fast-paced Silicon Valley environment.
Shmunis believes that giving back is an important part of being a responsible corporate citizen. RingCentral is involved with local charitable organizations, including the NFTE Bay Area 2013 Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and the annual San Francisco AIDS Walk. The company has a large presence in Manila and had a program to match employee donations when Typhoon Haiyan hit last year.
founder and CEO
Tien Tzuo founded Zuora with a desire to use technology to fundamentally change the world and a goal to enable customers to succeed in a subscription-based software industry.
Tzuo trademarked the term “subscription economy,” and started Zuora to address what he predicted would be a dramatic shift in consumer goods and services from ownership to a membership mentality. He saw an evolving need for services that help companies manage different aspects of business processes more efficiently and effectively.
Zuora set out to provide a simple, modular and scalable offering to enable on-demand subscription billing that would overcome limitations of enterprise resource planning solutions. It created a comprehensive platform for subscription businesses, effectively creating the subscription commerce market.
The company’s mission statement outlines nine keys to success — price, acquire, bill, collect, nurture, account, measure, iterate and scale.
In building the team at Zuora, Tzuo wanted to expand his mission-based culture strategy and created the concept of ZEO — the idea that every team member is his or her own CEO and empowered to go outside of day-to-day responsibilities to produce outstanding results.
An example of this is the Seed Edition. After a small team built a solution designed specifically for energetic startups, Tzuo encouraged them to operate independently and build off the startup mentality to which they were appealing. The strategy was intended to infuse the Zuora culture with the entrepreneurial ethos at a time when the organization was becoming a larger and more mature software company.
Corporate philanthropy has been a key tenant of Tzuo’s career. He sought to infuse that into Zuora’s culture and launched what is believed to be the first corporate giving campaign run completely on Twitter.
In partnership with Network for Good, customers, employees, friends and family gave financially to the charity of their choice by promoting it with the #ZuoraForGood hashtag.
Chet Kapoor left a senior leadership position at IBM in 2007 to become CEO at service-oriented architecture company Sonoa Systems, but by 2010, he shifted the business into application program interface technology and the name was changed to Apigee.
Management saw that APIs and data were key in the new digital world and Apigee became a leading provider of API technology and services for enterprises and developers. Walgreens, Bechtel, eBay, Pearson and Gilt Groupe are among companies that use Apigee to simplify delivery, management and analysis of APIs and apps.
Along the way, Kapoor transitioned the company from a hardware-driven infrastructure to software and then to a cloud-based software as a service entity.
Kapoor adopted the Apigee Way of management, comprised of the mission, values and type of people at the company. The mission is to help customers expand into the digital world, and allow Apigee to make the world’s apps, data and APIs better.
The company sets itself apart from the competition by the breadth of its offerings. Apigee Edge is a complete platform for enterprise digital transformation; API Exchange powers app ecosystems across multiple industries; and Apigee Insights integrates big data analytics with app and API digital infrastructure.
Most Apigee employees do not have impressive titles because Kapoor wants them to feel free to collaborate. New hires undergo the “Apigee experience” through an on-boarding system called Apigee University that instills the core values of action, passion and respect.
Those values are reinforced at each all-hands meeting when Kapoor chooses three employees who are doing an exceptional job of embodying them. Employees also attend Apigee University boot camp every six months, with an emphasis on collaboration and feedback.
Money has never been a significant motivator for David Gorodyansky, who instead has sought to do something meaningful. Inspired by his grandfather’s stories of fighting for freedom in World War II, he wanted to impact the world.
He saw the opportunity when he and a friend recognized the security risk people faced when connected to free Wi-Fi. AnchorFree was started to provide free, secure Wi-Fi worldwide. Gorodyansky’s goal is to help a billion people, and he is willing to sacrifice some revenue in order to assist others.
More than 200 million users in 190 countries have downloaded the company’s flagship product, Hotspot Shield. It is a virtual private network that keeps Web-surfing data anonymous to hackers and snoopers — making it impossible to track users’ activities online.
Hotspot Shield also unblocks restricted or censored online content from sites and apps such as Facebook, YouTube, Google, Skype, WhatsApp and Gmail, disrupting censorship efforts.
Examples of the role Hotspot Shield plays in circumventing government restrictions include 70,000 daily downloads in Venezuela since conflicts started in February, and more than 1.6 million users in China.
Success did not come easy, however. AnchorFree struggled to find funding during the recession. Although Gorodyansky was able to secure funding, the experience convinced him that he needed to become profitable to avoid relying on outside funds.
Gorodyansky also invests in businesses and donates to causes making an impact in the world, including GlobeIn.com, a marketplace connecting artisans in developing countries with buyers in the developed world.
He also invested in and co-produced a documentary, “#ChicagoGirl,” the true story of a 19-year-old girl from Syria who played a significant role in the Syrian revolution from her Chicago home. Using Hotspot Shield she was able to share information with protestors in Syria.
When Suresh Vasudevan joined Nimble Storage as CEO in 2011, he decided to delay a product release that would have crippled future growth. Instead, the company launched a parallel investment in a complementary, faster-to-market product that has become a key driver of revenue growth.
Nimble Storage provides the industry’s most efficient data storage platform — flash-optimized hybrid storage architecture that improves application performance while simultaneously simplifying business operations and reducing costs.
One of the most innovative software programs released by Nimble Storage is InfoSight, which allows the company to review customer-deployed systems from the cloud in real time, meaning Nimble Storage can predict customer support calls even before the phone rings.
The culture at Nimble Storage has been built around innovation, looking to change how the storage market operates.
Vasudevan believes in hiring highly motivated people and that the most significant factors for employee happiness are competitive pay, great managers, a rewarding work environment and a sense of trust and belief in the company’s future. The management team includes “a set of bookends,” meaning that it contains an entire spectrum of thinkers from risk takers to more conservative mindsets.
Referrals are critical to the hiring process — 95 percent of salespeople and 70 percent of engineers hired in the past year came from referrals. The employee referral program has been an important investment and reflects the culture of respecting and rewarding employees. Employees are surveyed on a quarterly basis, allowing Vasudevan to regularly track their level of satisfaction.
The Bay Area News Group ranked nimble Storage ninth among information technology companies in a list of top workplaces in the Bay Area.
Vasudevan is known for “walk and talks,” and open communication and information sharing are at the core of his leadership principles. He also favors a collaborative, problem-solving leadership style.
founder and CEO
As CEO of a fast-growing software company, Jyoti Bansal of AppDynamics, Inc. has demonstrated his leadership and entrepreneurial skills.
He moved to Silicon Valley at age 22 with $200 he borrowed from his father. While working as a software engineer he achieved 11 patents and envisioned technology that would help businesses effectively monitor operations. Bansal quit his job to start AppDynamics, making pitches to venture capitalists during the day and building the technology at night.
Bansal anticipated that businesses would migrate to online transactions and software systems and developed a platform that enables them to “watch” each line of software code and use that to gain real-time insights into user experience, operational performance and business impact of software applications. He called this new technology “application intelligence.”
AppDynamics created a “customer-first” business model, Enterprise Customer Success 2.0, which used incentives to have support engineers focused on customer success rather than utilization rates.
Bansal credits talent recruitment and retention as a key factor in the company’s success. He was recognized by Forbes in 2013 as a top cloud computing CEO to work for, and AppDynamics was voted one of the top 50-midsized companies to work for in America in 2014. The company recently received a rating of 100 percent from employees in a Glassdoor survey of overall satisfaction.
AppDynamics also works with organizations such as Girls Who Code to promote women in science in engineering.
Bansal is involved with Asha For Education, an organization dedicated to change in India through a focus on basic education as a critical requisite for socio-economic change. All AppDynamics employees are encouraged to give back to the community, and the company offers two weeks of paid vacation for volunteer work.
Performant Financial Corporation
2012 Award Recipient