NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Financial Services

Finalist

 

Hayes Barnard

CEO and founder

Paramount Equity Mortgage

 

“What did we do to help families save money today?” is a question Hayes Barnard asks every day. It’s the foundation that he’s built his business upon and what drives his enthusiastic leadership as CEO and founder of Paramount Equity Mortgage.

Barnard had grown disenchanted with his corporate sales job and wanted to do something meaningful. He grew up the son of a single mother who worked three jobs to stay afloat, so he knew the importance of budgeting and finding ways to save money. It was with these principles that he opened Paramount in 2003.

After convincing two friends to move from the Midwest to help, the company initially experienced tremendous growth — going from three to 300 employees in three years. However, with the economic downturn, even though they did not make risky loans, the lack of demand for mortgage products meant downsizing.

Bernard decided to go in a bold, new direction, helping people save money on residential solar systems.

While the mortgage side of the business has rebounded significantly over the last year; the growth of the solar business has been phenomenal. To date, the company has helped nearly 5,000 families go solar and has an aggressive plan grow by more than 100 percent this year, selling 6,000 systems.

Barnard has now set his sights on national expansion and an eventual IPO.

He believes in going to great lengths for his employees, so they in turn do what is best for customers. The company has onsite car washes three times a week, gourmet food trucks daily, quarterly bonus programs for individuals and departments, trips for top performers and an annual holiday party with a special celebrity guest.

Paramount employs 550 people who are preparing to move in to a new call center building that operates 24/7. This fits Barnard’s idea that keeping all functions in-house provides the best customer service.

How to reach: Paramount Equity Mortgage, www.paramountequity.com

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Software

Finalist

 

Lewis Cirne

founder and CEO

New Relic

 

As the founder and CEO of application performance management company New Relic, Lewis Cirne demonstrates the core characteristics of leadership: intelligence, conviction, trustworthiness, flexibility, enthusiasm and the ability to lead without micromanaging.

He founded his first company that focused on Application Performance Management, Wiley Technologies, and sold it in 2006. After the sale, Cirne knew he could build something new for the cloud-computing era that would rely on the Web’s dynamic computer programming languages. This led to his founding of New Relic in 2007.

Cirne took a recently established market, application performance management, which he basically created at Wiley, and combined it with a new distribution model with additional features that add value to the customer. The idea is to be the app developer’s best friend.

He hopes to maintain the innovation and creativity that he has established even when New Relic goes public and has outside shareholders. The goal is to continue to innovate and create new markets that establish the “second act” of a company. The biggest — and welcomed — challenge will be meeting the huge demand for a tool that provides visibility into software applications no matter where they run.

Cirne has great confidence in his staff, trusting them to do their jobs. He hires strong, intelligent people and gives them the necessary autonomy and resources to be successful.

It also is important to Cirne that everyone who joins the firm enjoys their time at the company. He strives to maintain a good work-life balance and rarely do employees work more than 40 hours per week — a rare statistic for a high-growth pre-IPO company.

New Relic has managed to scale and grow to having the most applications under management running in the cloud than all other competitors combined. It is the only cloud-based APM company on the market today.

How to reach: New Relic, www.newrelic.com

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Retail and Consumer Products

Finalist

 

Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry

co-founders

Method Products, Inc.

 

Co-founders Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry are not only leaders of their company, Method Products, Inc., but also leaders in a historically stagnant industry. They have led from a core set of values, even when facing the recession and much larger competitors.

Ryan and Lowry began with a goal of creating cleaning products that consumers wanted to buy and weren’t toxic to the cleaner or the environment.

In 2002, they started with hand soap, differentiating themselves with highly effective, safe, green products with an aesthetically pleasing design and smell.

Method went from zero to $100 million in revenues in six years, but it hasn’t always been easy. One of the biggest mistakes was going into to many categories too fast, while retailers did not want to pay for a premium product during a recession. Now, a new product is only introduced after it is fully developed.

Method’s triple-concentrated laundry detergent has forced their cleaning giant competitors to offer similar products. This has resulted in far less packaging across the industry.

Today, Ryan and Lowry are taking Method to a new level with a larger global footprint. In August 2012, Ecover, a large, Belgian-based green cleaning products business with one of the world’s best-known green cleaning product lines, acquired Method.

Ryan and Lowry admit that one of the biggest challenges is to maintain their cultural values during a period of unprecedented growth and change.

They have a hands-on role when it comes to running the company, and expect others to as well. There is a saying at Method: “The bigger we get, the smaller we act.” The company no longer has a receptionist and instead each employee rotates as receptionist every six weeks. They also still have the Monday all-hands meetings, only now remote locations videoconference in.

For the future, the co-founders maintain an ownership stake and are looking to build a 100 percent sustainable plant in the U.S.

How to reach: Method Products, Inc., www.methodhome.com

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Financial Services

Award recipient

 

Renaud Laplanche

founder and CEO

Lending Club

 

Renaud Laplanche has twice built successful ventures despite nearly inconceivable obstacles.

One night while working late, he became frustrated when he could not find the information online he was looking for. This was the birth of TripleHop Technologies and eventually Matchpoint.

TripleHop’s offices in the World Trade Center were demolished on 9/11. While the entire team survived, the work was lost. Work soon began again after a replacement office was acquired, allowing the company to rebuild. His perseverance proved successful when TripleHop’s keynote software was sold to Oracle in 2005.

After the sale, Laplanche got an idea for another venture when he noticed the gap in interest rates between the percent you pay to borrow money and the percent you earn by having your money in the bank. So, he created a platform for investors to lend money directly to borrowers, thus began Lending Club.

As founder and CEO, Laplanche has seen his share of difficulties at Lending Club, too. The SEC started investigating, believing that the borrowers were the issuers of notes. Laplanche and his team came up with a different solution: Lending Club would issue the notes, and money would be transferred to the borrower on the condition that the lender pays the company. Lending Club is now one of the largest SEC filers in the U.S.

Every new product and service at Lending Club must follow two guiding principles: to deliver value to its customers and only make loans to people who have the capacity to pay back in full.

Laplanche and his management team encourage every employee to question what they see, and look for ways to improve operations, products and services. Lending Club allows employees to test new ideas in a controlled way, and every employee has stock options.

The company has more than doubled its business each year since it was founded.

How to reach: Lending Club, www.lendingclub.com

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Life Sciences

Award recipient

 

Mark D. Fischer-Colbrie

president and CEO

Labcyte, Inc.

 

Richard Ellson

co-founder and CTO

Labcyte, Inc.

 

Like many other Silicon Valley success stories, Labcyte, Inc.’s story begins in a garage. The original laboratory seemed an unlikely launching point for a company, which would produce a device with potentially unlimited applications that is helping to transform the way research work is done throughout the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries.

Small-volume liquid handling, a crucial aspect of laboratory work in a number of scientific fields, including pharmacology and life sciences, has always been complicated.

The solution discovered by Labcyte co-founder Richard Ellson was to use acoustic waves to move liquids, which has become an industry-transforming product.

Labcyte’s touch-less liquid handling eliminates user error and cross contamination, works precisely with quantities far too small to be handled with other methods and dramatically reduces equipment costs.

President and CEO Mark D. Fischer-Colbrie joined in 2008 after a career centered on fast-growing start-up companies and helping bring novel products requiring significant R&D and “missionary” sales to market. His focused, strategic leadership was crucial in guiding Labcyte through difficult economic times with limited resources.

His challenge was to find a way to set the company up for survival despite low cash levels, expand the market beyond its initial customer set in the pharmaceutical industry, and chart a course that would enable them to increase sales and continue to grow the business.

By creating an all-purpose instrument, adding automation and developing software to make it easy to use, Labcyte’s customer base expanded. The technology is now being used to study the best combination of drugs to treat leukemia patients, how drugs bind to proteins and to discover biomarkers, leading to new diagnostics.

With more than 100 employees, Labcyte has been the recipient of multiple awards, holds 62 patents, and is poised for a future of continued growth, expansion and innovation.

How to reach: Labcyte, Inc., www.labcyte.com

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Financial Services

Finalist

 

Harpal Sandhu

President, founder and CEO

Integral Development Corp.

 

Integral Development Corp. President and CEO Harpal Sandhu always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur with a focus in technology.

In the 1980s at Stanford as a 17-year-old, he ran the IBM computer fund that totaled more than $100 million, co-authored the textbook on computer fundamentals, and was one of the pioneers who found a way for students to communicate through the university servers.

After he learned the fundamentals of finance and trading, Sandhu started two IPO-successful companies by the time he was 25.

Integral, founded by Sandhu in 1993, came from his dream to democratize the largest market in the world. He led Integral in the development of a global data grid to electronically connect the world’s major financial institutions into the first integrated trading network for foreign exchange and interest-rate derivative products.

It took about 20 years to finally feel the full success of his dream after weathering the dot-com and financial crises.

When Integral started, HTML did not have a rich enough vocabulary to allow computers to communicate with each other as Sandhu envisioned. He created FinXML, the first XML vocabulary for the negotiation and trading of financial products to allow for automated computer-to-computer conversations.

Integral has launched and now operates more than 200 unique FX marketplaces. It also has more than 200 employees and has increased its headcount 40 percent in the past year.

Sandhu has no secretary, and the company has no administrative assistants. He believes there should be direct communication between employees, and therefore all the management and employees sit together in one big open space.

To help other entrepreneurs follow their dreams, Sandhu has been a founding member and leader in a mentorship program for young South Asian CEOs. In closed-door sessions, start-up CEOs share their most difficult challenges in a safe, peer-oriented environment soliciting review and advice.

How to reach: Integral Development Corp., www.integral.com

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Technology Infrastructure

Award recipient

 

Ashar Aziz

founder

FireEye, Inc.

 

Ashar Aziz, founder of FireEye, Inc., started the company in 2004 when he went looking to identify the next big problem in technology. He read through more than 1,000 research papers and studies regarding the evolution of malware because it was clear that theft of information was going to be prevalent in the future.

Aziz believes malware will become the primary tool for crime, espionage and technological warfare. A small, rogue band could bring down entire governments by obtaining control of banks, power grids, emergency services and other necessary institutions.

Once he’d defined the problem, Aziz spent more than a year working from his home, living on his savings, trying to build the core set of technologies that has become the groundbreaking FireEye Malware Protection System. His work has led to the filing of more than 18 patents.

Aziz recognizes that engineers rarely make good CEOs, so he has put together a management team with the top talent in the IT security business. Aziz himself fills the roles of vice chairman of the board, CTO and chief strategy officer.

But Aziz’s story as an entrepreneur begins as a young boy in Pakistan. He was determined to study at MIT, which led him to a school in Turkey to finally transfer to MIT. From the beginning, he has pursued groundbreaking opportunities regardless of the obstacles.

Until about 2009, the market had serious doubts about the viability of FireEye. The technology was being developed, and few businesses recognized the cyber threat. But after moving from an enterprise to government contract focus, the quality became apparent.

FireEye’s system now protects more than 1,000 organizations, including almost 30 percent of Fortune 100 companies and more than 60 critical federal agencies.

However, the company is always striving to improve — its protection needs to be twice as good as the offensive capabilities of hackers and thieves.

How to reach: FireEye, Inc., www.fireeye.com

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Technology Infrastructure

Finalist

 

Steve Smith

president and CEO

Equinix

 

As the president, CEO and chief visionary of Equinix, the world’s largest data storage infrastructure and co-hosting provider, Steve Smith is leading by example and guiding his company into a promising future.

A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., Smith was shaped by his eight years in structured and disciplined military service. Then, his years in management at Electronic Data Systems, Lucent Technologies and Hewlett-Packard helped refine his leadership style and prepared him to take the helm at Equinix in 2007 on the cusp of an imploding global economy.

Not only did Smith help Equinix withstand the economic crisis, it has posted 41 consecutive quarters of growth and positive earnings. The company has found success because the data storage services and co-hosting technology are literally “mission critical.”

Equinix differentiates itself with ever-expanding network infrastructure and Smith’s development and advancement of data business ecosystems. By developing facilities in the most expensive markets, clients can use an Equinix facility rather than making their own sizeable investment. The ecosystems allow similar businesses to consolidate and interconnect for previously unimaginable efficiencies and speeds.

The company also continues its expansion into new emerging markets, such as China, Indonesia, Brazil, India and Russia, managing the risk of varying regulatory environments and cultural philosophies.

By some estimates more than 50 percent of Internet traffic flows through Equinix data centers.

One of the things that originally impressed Smith about the company was the strength and character of the existing leadership team, so he has been careful to preserve that.

Smith quotes the behavioral scientist Jim Collins when describing his role in building the Equinix management team, “My job is to get the right people on the bus, get them seated in the right places, decide which direction the bus needs to go and then drive.”

How to reach: Equinix, www.equinix.com

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Platform Technology

Finalist

 

Fabio Rosati

president and CEO

Elance

 

As the president and CEO of one of the fastest growing and most dynamic staffing businesses, Fabio Rosati is showing what it truly means to work differently.

A native of Italy, Rosati emigrated to the U.S. to attend Georgetown University with the intent to return and eventually run his family-owned business. However, when the business failed, Rosati decided to stay in the U.S. and launched a successful career in management consulting.

He joined Elance in 2001 after being recruited to help stabilize, nurture and grow the struggling start-up enterprise software business.

As a result of his dedication and drive, Rosati revived the fledgling software business, sold it and in 2007 used the proceeds to launch a new and revolutionary Elance platform that propelled the traditional hiring and staffing process for contract talent into the digital realm.

Online staffing enables businesses to hire and connect with contingent staff just in time and fractionally. Rosati’s Elance pioneered the online staffing model and leads in its promotion.

More than 500,000 businesses, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to startups, use Elance to hire a single individual for a few hours or entire teams on an ongoing basis.

A tireless researcher of behavioral science, Rosati also seeks to understand what works for employees in a traditional work environment, and then translates/codes that into the Elance platform.

Every new user starts at Level 0 and is promoted to higher levels based upon points earned each week that come from 20 metrics specific to the work the employee performs. Employees at a higher level earn a higher wage and have more work made available to them.

Rosati also recently hired an independent consultant to analyze Elance’s global social impact. Notably, the report found the company is making its mark on individuals and communities worldwide by providing access to work that otherwise would be unavailable.

How to reach: Elance, www.elance.com

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Platform Technology

Finalist

 

Chris Friedland

president and founder

Build.com

 

In 2000, Christian Friedland had the idea of bringing the home improvement business into the 21st century with a specialty e-commerce website selling faucets and fixtures — faucetdirect.com.

With only $2,000 in start-up capital and the help of a partner, the website produced approximately $1 million in revenue in the first year of business. Friedland has continued to launch new specialty e-commerce sites, reinventing and improving with each.

Today, the company is an international network of more than 12 specialty home improvement websites under the umbrella of Build.com. Friedland, the company’s president and founder, has gone from being an upstart entrepreneur operating out of a garage to building a company with more than 350 employees and more than $324 million in sales.

Friedland has also worked to develop a culture of empowerment for his employees, which enables his people to provide the best support to the company’s customers.

Build.com’s new facility is outfitted with adjustable stand-up desks to improve posture, workout facilities including daily yoga classes, table tennis tables and even an industrial grade kitchen. The goal is to continue to cultivate long-term relationships with employees who can grow with the business.

Most of the management has been promoted from within, often starting in the call center and working up.

The company has developed strong infrastructure by keeping virtually all functions in-house. Friedland is a firm believer in not giving verbal rewards for achieving goals, but rather monetarily rewarding employees.

He also embraces what the company calls the “Darkside,” which is an obsession with not being good enough. That attitude pushes Friedland to take risks like leveraging Build.com in Europe — a move that was met with some skepticism — but now expansion plans are in the works.

The company is planning to hit $800 million in revenues in the next five years, although Friedland has set a personal growth goal of $1 billion.

How to reach: Build.com, www.build.com

Published in Northern California