Amid Worsening Economy, Software Startups Look to San Diego’s DaggerBoard Advisors for Different Kinds of Help

4/14/09Follow @bvbigelow

Dennis Clerke says the kernel of the idea behind DaggerBoard Advisors formed in his mind years ago, while he was still the CEO of Cardiff Software, a business in Vista, CA, he co-founded to automate business forms processing.

“When I was CEO, I’d just get parts of my board members’ time and attention,” Clerke told me. “I remember thinking, ‘I wish I could get more of that time and competency in a more sustained fashion.” After Clerke sold Cardiff Software in 2004 for a reported $50 million, he stepped into another software CEO job. But when that company was sold in 2007, Clerke founded DaggerBoard Advisors to provide the sort of executive advisory services he had once yearned for himself.

Several other former San Diego area software CEOs joined Clerke to found DaggerBoard: Emmanuel de Boucaud, who was a senior sales executive at Cardiff and the CEO of Chatstat Technologies, a Web 2.0 startup; Marc Friedmann, the former CEO of Syntricity and founding CEO of Prisa Networks; and Pamela Coker, who co-founded Acucorp, a software company founded to help customers modernize their COBOL-language computer programs, and which sold two years ago for $50 million.

As you might expect, DaggerBoard specializes in providing its services to software companies. When I met with the firm yesterday, Clerke told me all four members of the team have been through the process of starting, funding, growing, and selling a software company. So they have the range of experience sought by software startups, as well as more mature companies with annual sales of $5 million to $20 million. But Clerke says the key to understanding their business is in the firm’s name, which sailing enthusiasts instinctively understand. “A daggerboard is what keeps you on course,” Clerke says. “It’s the whole idea of an insertable keel,” a metaphor that explains the type of drop-in executive services the firm provides.

What was most interesting to me, however, was when DaggerBoard’s principals explained how their work has changed in the two years since they founded the business.

Clerke says roughly 60 percent of the startup software companies that initially came to DaggerBoard were looking for help in getting venture funding, or in sprucing up … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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