It was in the late 1990s when public accountant, savvy networker and future CFO April Downing decided that it was time to leave Dallas.
“I had cultivated my network there really early—there was a group of friends from PwC whom I regularly attended a book club with, and later we would all go on to different tech firms,” remembers Downing.
However, unlike those of some of her tech-minded colleagues, Downing’s future plans did not include Dallas or Silicon Valley.Read More
“It used to be that I had to say Austin, Texas—but everyone knows where Austin is now,” reports Downing, who accepted an assistant controller role at Motive Communications, an Austin tech firm—only to lose it upon her return from maternity leave.
“I thought that my life was going to be as an accountant, but they said: ‘You can be the finance person,’” recalls Downing, who credits the early job pivot with opening the door to a succession of senior finance roles that included the position of acting CFO.
In many ways, Downing’s Motive chapter exposes the historic connection between Austin’s high tech pioneers and its wide-body tech hub future, for it was at Motive that Downing first crossed paths with notable Austin investor and former Dell CFO Tom Meredith, who for a time served as chairman of Motive’s audit committee. It was also at Motive where she first connected with Kip McClanahan, whose firm Silverton Partners is credited with having helped to lead the next wave of Austin technology investment. Years later, McClanahan would help to recruit Downing to fill the CFO role at WP Engine.
Comments Downing: “One of things that I’ve been trying to do lately is to foster connections with some of the people who are new to Austin in order to share our heritage that says, ‘We’re all here to do better together!’” –Jack Sweeney
Made Possible By
CFOTL: Tell us about Khoros … what does this company do, and what are its offerings?
Downing: We’re a software and services company that provides what we call a digital first customer engagement platform. We have over 2,000 brands—worldwide brands—and about a third or more of the Fortune 100—so, really large enterprises. Our mission is to empower brands to truly connect with their consumers, no matter the channel, to create customers for life, whether it’s us powering the largest B2B community for Microsoft or helping Southwest Airlines respond to over a million tweets per week. We manage over 500 million daily interactions around the globe on our platform. We have this enterprise solution to ensure that brands can maximize every interaction with their customers.Read More
We have been recognized by Forrester, IDC, and Gartner in their top awards, but equally exciting for me is that we are also consistently recognized as a top place to work. I’m very proud that half of our executive leadership team—actually, over half—is female. A third of our executive team is underrepresented groups. Within my team, we are literally almost a 50/50 gender split. We have a large footprint outside the U.S., too.
A little bit more about what we do: These days, brands have a really strong digital presence. They’re active on various channels, whether it’s Web, chat, mobile, messaging, branded microsites, text, social, email, phone. All of these different channels are out there.
When I’m in the buying process myself, I may ask questions on a chat function on the brand’s website or visit their branded community to learn more from other customers. After I become a customer, I may get a text from the brand about my shipment, or I may get an email with a link to shipping information. If things aren’t going right with a brand, I may actually get onto Twitter or Facebook and be like, “Hey, I’m not happy with this.” So, there are all these digital channels out there, and no other company is set up to aggregate all of this data and use it not just to provide a greater customer experience for a brand but also to enable the brand to learn from the data.
I have an AI background, so one of the things that I enjoy about Khoros is that we have this platform to listen to and engage with consumers, no matter the channel. Then we take all of this data and use AI and machine learning with it to then provide data back to the brand on how can they better engage with their consumers. So, for example, when I as a customer reach out to a brand, why can’t they already know who I am, know if I’ve already purchased something, know what questions I may have already asked? With Khoros, we can actually make this happen with our platform. Our effort is really all about helping brands to create customers for life in a very unique way.
“Don’t be a CF’NO’—be a CF’YES.’ This doesn’t mean agreeing to everything, but it does require being involved early and asking lots of questions to ensure that you have the right context before providing your input or making a decision. Also appreciate that someone’s perception is their reality, so take the time to ensure that everyone has the same understanding of what success looks like and why.” –April Downing, CFO, Khoros
Khoros | www.khoros.com | Austin, TX