Over the past decades, the paperwork required to set up a new company has been dramatically reduced and simplified. Today, more companies get created daily, which also leads to an increase in failures. According to a Harvard study, 90% of failing startups have “declared a projection and fell short of meeting it”: Setting unrealistic goals seems to be the most common mistake of failing entrepreneurs.
Most entrepreneurs would agree that launching and growing a company is no easy job: finances, taxes, payroll, legal matters, etc. Everything gets more complicated as the business expands. To secure their development, companies usually set up a Board of Directors – a council of sages if you will – to advise on global operations.
Advisors of software companies
For a software company, composing a Board of Directors holds the following challenges:
- The industry is young and fast-paced, “seasoned” executives may already be out-of-fashion;
- The software startup scene is overcrowded, the best-rated advisers are already fully-booked;
- The software world is the new frontier, advisers need to be mavericks and understand novelty.
The trick when selecting a Board of Directors is to identify the company’s core DNA and find potential matches across markets. The software industry develops solutions for all the other industries. Therefore, for a software company, a good advisor will not necessarily be a techie, it could be someone who understands the markets prospected by the company and advises accordingly.
Latin American software companies have their own DNA. Let’s look at some of the most noticeable software companies in Latin America to see who’s advising them, to understand who’s behind the terrific growth of the Latam software development industry, and hint Latam entrepreneurs on how to compose their own Board of Directors.
Launched in 2003 in Argentina, Globant became a symbol of the rise of software in Latin America. To drive the explosive growth of the company, Globant has set up an all-star Board of independent Directors. Among them, Marcos Galperin, founder of Mercadolibre and star of the Latin American VC scene. He is an investor in Bluesmart, Workana, Onapsis, Tinybytes Games, … Aside from Globant, Marcos Galperin is a director of the Board of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and of Endeavor, the non-profit that tracks high-impact entrepreneurs around the world.
Closely connected to Marcos Galperin is Mario Eduardo Vázquez, Director of Globant, Board Chairman of Telefónica de Argentina S.A., and President of Vodafone Portugal which recently made the headlines for demoing 5G hologram calls. A former employee of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, Mario Eduardo Vázquez is also the treasurer and director of the Argentine Council for International Relations. Other heavyweights on Globant’s Board of directors include Richard Haythornthwaite, Chairman of Mastercard, and Philip Odeen, the national defense adviser who sits on the Board of the major weapon manufacturer Northrop Grumman.
The Board of Directors at Globant reflects the company’s imprint in the Latin America software economy, in the defense, and in the telecommunications industry. As the first Latin American software company to launch a public offering on the New York Stock Exchange (2014), Globant can afford la crème de la crème.
Blue Trail Software
Another usual suspect in the Latin American software industry is Blue Trail Software. Created in 2012 in San Francisco, Blue Trail rapidly expanded in Mexico and throughout Latin America. Blue Trail Software’s Board of Directors include David Ziegler, former President and CEO of ACE Hardware (2008-2014). Ziegler’s approach to business is unique: when he was head of Ace Hardware, he would personally write a thank-you letter to every customer that spent $200 or more in his stores the previous day. In 2013, he was upraised Fellow of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), an exemplary award in corporate governance. Ziegler is also a Board member of EMC Insurance Companies.
Connected to David Ziegler and also on Blue Trail Software’s Board of Directors is Kathy Hannan, former national Managing Partner and Vice-Chairman at KPMG. During her tenure at KPMG, she contributed to the launch of the company’s Network of Women in 2003, and was named National Managing Partner, Diversity and Corporate Responsibility in 2009. She is the Chairman and National President of the Girls Scouts of the USA since 2014. Marc Verstaen, CEO of Anaxi since 2017, is also a Director of the Board, and is a serial Board advisor: ForePaaS, ThinkingNode, the Holberton School (edtech), Lorienne, etc. As a serial entrepreneur, he founded three companies, and worked various managing positions at Apple and Oracle.
The Board of Directors at Blue Trail Software reflects the company’s transition towards accelerated growth, its commitment to diversity, and its imprint in the software industry of the Silicon Valley.
Headquartered in Atlanta with offices in Mexico, Nearshore Technology recently made the tech press headlines with the opening of an AI lab at Georgia Campus and a #1674 ranking on Inc. Magazine’s 5000 list. Nearshore Technology is armed with a solid Board of Directors. It is presided by Rory A. Brown, a pioneer in online banking (VirtualBank, launched in the late 1990s). His company catering Lydian Trust Company was awarded Best Financial Services in Florida by Ernst & Young in 2002. Brown is a Managing Partner of the technology-focused investment firm Nicklaus Brown & Co., along with Gary T. Nicklaus, who also sits on the Board of Nearshore Technology. Gary T. Nicklaus is the Co-Chairman of the Children’s Healthcare Charity (organizer of the Honda Classic) and was appointed Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner in 2017. Nicklaus is famous for his pro golfing career, and the numerous golf courses he designed.
The financier John R. Purcell, Chairman and CEO of Grenadier Associates (venture banking firm) since 1989 and an Omnicom Director since 1986, also sits on the Board of Nearshore Technology. Purcell was a member of many Fortune 500 companies, including SFN, CBS, Gannett, Playboy, Mindscape, Donnelley Marketing… David W. Willoughby, Vice-President of the data storage technology company Pure Storage since 2016, is the third director of Nearshore Technology. David W. Willoughby spent 20 years of his career doing audits at PricewaterhouseCoopers before pivoting as Senior Director of Risk Management at Visa in 2015.
The Board of Directors of Nearshore Technology is deeply anchored in the traditional “Corporate America” landscape, with an obvious edge in finances and asset management. Its members are fairly prestigious too, giving a hint at the type of interesting projects Nearshore Technology probably works on.
Launched in Colombia in 2001, Fluid Attacks is specialized in stress-testing hack attacks on its clients’ resources (fun!). The company claims $1.5 million in annual revenue and 50 employees, and is headquartered in San Francisco, USA with offices in Colombia (Medellín and Bogotá).
One advisor of the company is Elkin Echeverri, also planning and propsection director at Ruta N, Medellín’s center of innovation and Colombia’s main catalyzer of innovation. Aside Before evangelizing innovation in Colombia, Elkin Echeverri led the life of the serial entrepreneur, founding and running many software companies such as e-Global, CompuRedes, Virtual SA, Radar SA, … Another advisor of the company – and another Echeverri – is Juan Echeverri, financial auditor, who previously worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Codere, EY, … before joining Intercolombia in 2013, the company specialized in the transport of high-voltage electricity. A more discreet person also advises Fluid Attacks, John Gómez. Gómez has a proven-track experience in corporate and infrastructure security with local market leaders (Suramericana de Seguros, Orbitel, Bancolombia, Choucair) and advises small software companies in their growth through his venture After 50.
The Board of Fluid Attacks reflects the company’s early development stage, but compared to the companies scrutinized above, this Board dares to be more regional (100% Colombian). While this Board may lack some insight in some strategic foreign markets (USA), its regional DNA is an asset in a world where we need the new centers of growth to be more autonomous.