Stevens Institute of Technology: Conversations - Greg Gianforte '83





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Published on May 25, 2012

We got a chance to sit down and speak with Stevens alum and the 2012 commencement undergraduate keynote speaker, Greg Gianforte.

Greg Gianforte is a serial entrepreneur in the computer networking and software industries, and an innovator in the customer experience market. Mr. Gianforte founded RightNow Technologies, a cloud-based customer service and support solutions company, in 1997. Under his leadership as chairman and CEO, RightNow enjoyed continuous growth, with nearly 2,000 consumer-focused companies around the world using its products, including British Airways, Cisco and Sprint. Headquartered in Bozeman, Montana, the company employed more than 1,100 employees worldwide and generated more than $225 million in annual revenue.

He took RightNow public in 2004 with one of that year's most successful initial public offerings. Seven years later, in 2011, he sold RightNow to Oracle for $1.5 billion. Prior to founding RightNow, Mr. Gianforte co-founded Brightwork Development Inc., a developer of network management applications. He served as president and built the company to 75 employees with software installed on 150,000 Novell network systems worldwide.

In 1994, he sold Brightwork to McAfee Associates, a provider of network security and tools, for more than $10 million, staying on as North American vice president and growing McAfee's North American sales operation from $25 million to more than $60 million in revenues within one year. During his tenure, the firm was selected by Fortune magazine as one of the "10 Coolest Companies in America" largely on the basis of the Internet selling approach Mr. Gianforte fostered. Mr. Gianforte began his career at AT&T Bell Laboratories.

Mr. Gianforte has received many honors throughout his career. In 2003, he received the Stevens Honor Award in recognition of his outstanding record of achievement as a noted entrepreneur. He was named Pacific Northwest Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, which recognizes outstanding achievement and innovation in business. He also received the Influential Leader Award from CRM Magazine for his successful leadership of RightNow to 18 consecutive quarters of revenue growth during a period when most customer relationship management (CRM) vendors were struggling.

In 2007, Mr. Gianforte was inducted into the CRM Hall of Fame, recognizing his consistent influence over employees, customers, partners and competitors in the field. In 2011, he was named to TechAmerica Foundation's CLOUD2 Commission, where he and other experts from industry and academia provided President Obama with recommendations for both government deployment of cloud technologies and public policies to enable U.S. innovation in cloud-based technologies.

Mr. Gianforte has also authored several books. One of them, "Bootstrapping Your Business: Start and Grow a Successful Company With Almost No Money," has been Mr. Gianforte's lecture topic at Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, Harvard, Marquette, London School of Business and, of course, Stevens. In "Eight to Great: Eight Steps to Delivering an Exceptional Customer Experience," he outlines ways in which companies may deliver better customer experiences while also reducing operating costs.

Mr. Gianforte is involved in a number of philanthropic endeavors through the Gianforte Family Foundation he and his wife founded, including Bootstrap Montana, a micro-loan program designed to assist rural entrepreneurs with zero-interest loans in Montana.

Mr. Gianforte earned his B.E. degree in Electrical Engineering and M.S. degree in Computer Science from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1983.

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