Among the recruitment milestones that populate Bryan Morris’s CFO resume, few can match the 6-month talent acquisition binge that he launched during the first quarter of 2015.
“In terms of key hires, I never hired faster than I did then,” comments Morris, as he begins to lay out the circumstances that led to his need to speedily attract and hire talent.Read More
At the time, Morris was the newly appointed CFO of Xamarin, a creator of software tools used for mobile apps development.
This firm, then led by cofounder and CEO Nat Freidman, had doubled its revenue annually for the previous few years yet had theretofore focused its talent recruitment efforts mainly on nabbing software engineers and intrepid salespeople.
“When it came to people, sales, marketing, and R&D were way out ahead of G&A, so I knew that my first few months would be dedicated to recruiting,” recalls Morris, who notes that until his arrival, the developer had outsourced its accounting function while relying on fractional CFO services to patch any management voids.
“I made five key hires—head of HR, head of technical recruiting, controller, head of FP&A, and our first corporate counsel—all within the first 6 months,” remarks Morris, who believes that hiring can at times benefit from its own momentum.
He explains: “Sometimes, when you’re in a great situation and your company is growing, the press is great and the buzz is good—and what happens is that one great hire begets another. So, I kind of had this spinwheel going.”
Still, what happened next made Morris’s energetic hiring spree all the more consequential. During the second half of 2015, as Xamarin was preparing for another capital raise, Microsoft—one of the developer’s strategic partners—acknowledged that not only would it be willing to serve as a reference on behalf of Xamarin for the venture investor community but also it might be interested in partnering with Xamarin to pursue something more strategic.
Subsequently, 12 months into Morris’s CFO tenure at Xamarin, company management signed a letter of intent (LOI) to sell the business to Microsoft. Looking back, Morris doesn’t hesitate to expose some of the drama that preceded Microsoft’s signed LOI.
“Here were my team and I—with only some 3 to 6 months of working together—and suddenly we were up against one of the most capable technology buyers in the world,” remembers Morris, who today believes that the timing of Xamarin’s key hires and the timing of the deal were not unrelated events.
“I couldn’t have done it by myself,” observes Morris, who points out that there were a number of 20-hour days during the period leading up to the finalization of the deal.
Morris notes that the merger provided mostly great outcomes for both investors and Xamarin employees—not excluding CEO Nat Friedman, who until late 2021 served as CEO of GitHub, which Microsoft had acquired in 2018.
Looking back on the CEO who hired him and the subsequent “pinwheel effect” that within 6 months transformed Xamarin’s lines of functional management, Morris highlights a shared mission: “Luckily, Nat was completely on board—he knew what I was inheriting, so he gave me the green light to go ahead and hire.” –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Demandbase … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Morris: We’re a private software company that’s focused on the intersection of B2B marketing and customer acquisition and success. If you believe the bankers, we’re one of the largest B2B private marketing tech companies out there—if not the largest. We’re at about 800 employees today, with over a thousand customers, and we’re based in the Bay Area. We provide a software solution that allows businesses to attract, retain, and grow the accounts that matter most.Read More
We’re considered one of the pioneers of a category called account-based marketing, which is really aligned with the premise that marketers are best served by focusing on systematically engaging with accounts, as opposed to personas or leads, and using technology to drive this engagement. Our software helps go-to-market teams organize and orchestrate their full funnel pipeline of activities.
We are a subscription business, but we do have a strong consumption-based stream for companies that utilize our native B2B advertising solution. We have a wonderful team, which is based primarily in the U.S., and we also have some key operations in India and the UK as well.
As I look ahead, I always start with people because I don’t get things done by myself. It really takes a great team to get things done. Their happiness and career development opportunities are always front-and-center for me, particularly in these turbulent economic times. Recruiting great talent and retaining them, especially, is something that I’m really passionate about. I’d say that figuring out the right career opportunities and how to keep people motivated while the markets are a little choppy is really something that’s interesting. I think that we’ve done a great job of recruiting a great team, so now it’s more about developing some of these team members in different ways and creating new opportunities for them. We talk about this a lot—it’s a big theme.
The other thing for us right now is just getting the most out of our systems. Like a lot of companies out there, we use a variety of SaaS tools across the business. I’m super familiar with the ones on the back office side and the utilization and value that we get from them. In some cases, we could do more with integrations and workflows. As I look broadly within the business, I’m really interested in making sure that we have the right level of utilization and value. There is the potential for sprawl if you decentralize the decision-making too much and don’t check in on the health of these tools. I’d say that this is a big theme as well—just making sure that we are getting the most out of our tools and indeed that we are really getting set up for our next stage of scale.
“Don’t be insular. Spend as much time in relationships outside of your team, as you do with your team. As CFO, your grasp of the business does not rest solely on understanding ‘the numbers’ – that is table stakes. Get to know the technology, the business motions, the key leaders.” – Bryan Morris, CFO, Demandbase
Demandbase | www.demandbase.com | San Francisco, CA