It’s no secret that one of the companies here in Portland that motivated me to start Silicon Florist was Jive Software. Back in 2007, it was on the cusp of something big—but still a bit rough around the edges. But as we watched, it grew and matured and focused and changed. Growing, shrinking, and then growing again. Adding new funding and new executive talent. And transitioning.
Today, it has transitioned once again. Taking another step away from scrappy startup toward well-established entity. How? By appointing seasoned executive and Jive board member Tony Zingale as interim CEO and moving current CEO Dave Hersh to the role of Chairman of the Board.
With the move, Jive gains an interim leader with a wealth of experience—including the experience of crating Mercury Interactive up for an acquisition of more than $4.5 billion (yes, billion) by HP in 2006 during his tenure as CEO.
Are similar acquisition talks already in the works with Jive? Hard to say. They have momentum. They’re closely held. And they’ve got the potential to be a very lucrative business as more and more companies grasp the power of social. But would an acquisition garner the kind of return that lead investor Sequoia would be seeking? Possibly.
But given Jive’s current momentum, it’s entirely possible that another type of return on investment might be on the horizon, instead. What would that be? Well, Mike Rogoway hinted at it in his post on the transition:
Jive said its board has begun a search for his long-term replacement as it prepares for a possible public stock offering sometime next year.
Interesting times, indeed.
But all the possible unicorns and rainbows aside, TechCrunch offers that Jive’s maneuvering may be slightly more mercenary as the company prepares to defend its turf against larger more established companies like Salesforce.com:
But Jive may be also facing the heat from Saleforce’s venture into the social enterprise space with Chatter. While Chatter is still in private beta, Salesforce’s application is eliciting a lot of buzz in the enterprise world. Unfortunately, Salesforce is limiting its beta users so its unclear how much of a threat it will be to the existing social offerings in the marketplace, but its potential threat to Jive’s marketshare is sure to be on the company’s mind at the moment.
In any case, it’s a big change for the company. Perhaps as big as their decision to relocate to Portland from New York early on. And to be honest, it’s a move that many people—either expressly or quietly—have been predicting since the company started taking on more and more executive talent from outside the Portland area.
Whatever the case, it’s an important step forward for the company. And one which will have ripples throughout the organization. And the levity of that situation is not lost on the co-founders of one of Portland’s most successful startup stories in recent history.
“After a chance to consider what’s best for Jive, I’ve decided that it’s time to step down,” said Dave Hersh, chairman of the board, Jive Software, in a blog post. “The opportunity is massive and the growth is fast and furious. While I know I could reinvent myself for this next phase and continue to act as the CEO, it would be like trying to change a tire on a car going 120 mph. I would rather support someone else who has ‘seen the movie’ and can ensure that we’re doing everything we can to be a great company. We have a lot of big investments to make across the board and it’s incredibly important that we find someone who can crank up the volume and lead us through this period.”
And how does the rest of the Jive team feel about the news? Matt Tucker had this to say in his post on Dave’s transition.
Jive’s history has included many big decisions and transition points. Dave stepping down as our CEO and becoming Chairman definitely qualifies. One thing Jive’s co-founder Bill Lynch and I want to recognize Dave for is his consistent leadership at these critical moments. Looking back through our history, there are many company-defining examples — taking on more office space to prepare for growth, hiring an executive for a role we’d never had before, seeking venture capital and making acquisitons. In each of those cases and many others, Dave was the voice in the room pushing us to think bigger and to go faster. Dave leading the search for a new CEO to take Jive to the next level is absolutely part of that pattern.
There are always interesting things that begin happening when companies transition from their founding leadership to seasoned business leadership. I’ve no doubt that Jive’s story will continue to be one worth watching as it continues to unfold. And no doubt one that is destined to put this Portland story in the same realm as some of its successful local predecessors.