Ping Identity, MobileDay CEOs Teach Students About Building Companies

1/27/14Follow @MichaelXBD

It’s not often two of Colorado’s most successful tech executives share what they’ve learned over the course of their careers, but it happened Thursday, when Ping Identity CEO Andre Durand and MobileDay CEO Howard Diamond talked about building businesses.

Durand and Diamond were in Boulder to help kick off the University of Colorado at Boulder’s New Venture Challenge. The event is the school’s campus-wide business plan competition.

The crowd was primarily students interested in the challenge, along with a healthy number of non-student entrepreneurs hoping to learn lessons to apply to their companies.

Durand is founder and CEO of Ping Identity, a network security company based in Denver. The company has raised several rounds of venture capital and is on the shortlist of Colorado software companies that have the potential to go public in the next few years.

Diamond is a Techstars mentor and has a decades-long track record of leading companies that sell software to enterprise customers. He’s trying to repeat that success with MobileDay, which has developed an app that simplifies dialing into conference calls and that helps large companies identify the cheapest ways to make calls.

Here are my takeaways from their remarks:

—Building products is not the same as building a company. Diamond is well known around Boulder for his sales acumen and his ability to sell to enterprise-size companies. He views himself less as a serial entrepreneur than “a business guy,” and he joked that he gets more excited by purchase orders than ideas for products.

What he’s passionate about might not be alluring to new entrepreneurs, but it is crucial for a startup’s success, he said.

“The thing I talk about all the time is how do you take great ideas and turn them into businesses. That’s what I care about,” he said. “I’m not a tech guy, I’m a business guy.”

He would elaborate on that later. “Anyone who is only focused on making a product, but isn’t focused on making a business—that’s a mistake. When you’re creating a business, there’s a whole breadth of things that need to be wrapped around the product,” Diamond said. That includes setting a price point and developing a go-to-market strategy.

Diamond believes history’s on his side, and he’s probably right.

“How many times have we seen mediocre technology beat better technology because the better technology didn’t have strong sales and marketing?” Diamond asked.

—It’s about what the customer thinks. You know the saying, “the customer is always right?” Startups should pay heed to that.

“The only reality is your customer’s reality. If your customer thinks it’s a great product, it’s a great product. If the customer doesn’t think … Next Page »

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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