497: Rites of Passage Along the Commercialization Path | Tim Adams, CFO, ObsEva

Listen to the Episode Below (00:28:58)

Three years ago, Tim Adams probably never imagined that today he would be taking spin classes in Geneva, Switzerland. At the time, the seasoned finance leader could be found queuing up at Logan Airport to board yet another flight to San Francisco.

Of course, one could argue that a certain Logan departure gate ultimately helped to put Geneva spin classes on the horizon, since it played no small role in transporting the CFO to a round of talks that helped to seal the sale of the finance leader’s earlier company, Demandware, of Woburn, MA, to Salesforce of San Francisco back in 2016.

As Demandware’s CFO, Adams says, he was involved when an unsolicited offer arrived from Salesforce after the e-commerce platform had achieved consecutive years of 30% growth.

“It’s sometimes hard to sell a company when you enjoy what you are doing and there’s a personal aspect, but you have to put that aside to do what is right for the company’s shareholders,” explains Adams, who today is CFO of ObsEva, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company based in Geneva, Switzerland.

“When I joined ObsEva in January 2017, mission number one was a successful IPO to raise the money that we needed to develop our compounds,” explains Adams, who operates from the company’s Boston office. While ObsEva achieved “mission number one” shortly after his arrival, financing stills remains top-of-mind for ObsEva’s finance chief, who–regardless of travel–likes to make exercise a part of his daily routine. Asked if he’s opened a gym membership in Geneva, Adams tells us that his next spin class is one departure gate away.


  • Guest: Tim Adams, CFO
  • Company: ObsEva OBSV (NASDAQ)
  • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland
  • Connect: www.obseva.com

CFOTL: Tell us about a finance strategic moment . . .

Adams: The one that I’ll share with you–and this is, of course, in the public domain–happened when I was the CFO at Demandware, which was a terrific e-commerce high-tech company. The company was doing very well. We were growing at 30%-plus per year, and we received an unsolicited offer from someone to come in and buy the company. After many deliberations with the CEO, the executive team, and the board of directors, and working with Goldman Sachs to help us to evaluate the opportunity, we eventually decided that it was in the best interest of our shareholders to sell the company. And the company was sold to Salesforce back in 2016.

That means a lot of change for a lot of the executives. Most of us don’t stay–we end up leaving. But when you think about it from a shareholder perspective, I think that we made the right decision, and it was a great deal, a nice premium, for shareholders. And the company ended up in a great place with Salesforce, which I think is a terrific company. It’s now the e-commerce cloud within Salesforce and doing very well, as I understand.

But it’s hard to sell a company when you’re an executive and it’s doing very well and you enjoy what you’re doing. There’s a personal aspect that you have to put aside because, at the end of the day, you represent the shareholders, and you have to do what is in their best interest. It’s bittersweet when that happens. jb