Hi, my name is Michael Liebow.
Let’s start off by stating the obvious. I’m not 20-something. I’ve been around the block a few times. I’ve run many large consumer and high tech businesses, and can easily say, “been there, done that” in many kinds of situations.
Early in my career, I cut my teeth in the consumer packaged goods industry; great preparation for a business career. It teaches you the discipline of listening to your customers, a skill many techies lack. An advertising great, David Ogilvy once said, “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.” David once borrowed spare change from me for a taxi. I was just starting out.
I was recruited into IBM when it was envogue to hire what the lifers referred to as “Big M” marketing people. Every business unit wanted their own pet marketer after Gerstner hired Abby Kohnstamm. I was fortunate to land in the PC Server business, an oxymoron of a unit if there ever was one, and a bastion of early retirement. I drove the strategy and execution to trash the existing brand and re-launch the business as IBM Netfinity in September ’97 with Sam Palmisano and Andy Grove on stage in NYC. Grove called the announcement “an inflection point akin to when IBM launched the PC.” That business went from sub $1 billion in revenue to $3 billion in revenue in three years. Key to our success was helping the market to perceive value for differentiated higher-end server technologies in our roadmap. I learned then how to package tech for broad consumption. To that end, I created something called “X-architecture” and take pleasure in seeing the concept endure some 14 years later.
That was my first tour of duty at IBM, I left during the first Internet bubble to start a consumer venture with a top engineer from EMC. It was a great learning experience. I ended up back at IBM in late 2002 when by happenstance I ran into my old boss at a restaurant in Westport, CT. Now in the IBM Services business, I was asked to look at something called “SOA” (Service-oriented Architecture) and Web Services — and whether or not it would impact the Services business (answer = yes).
I fathered the SOA initiative into a $4 billion a year services business within 4 years and crafted the beginnings of an asset-based approach to the services lifecycle of design, build, manage.
I got the startup bug again in 2008 when asked to take the helm of a struggling enterprise mobility venture funded by the likes of NEA, Canaan, Sigma, Motorola and Intel. I was looking for a vehicle to expand upon my work at IBM. One where I could test out the assumptions of dynamic business over composite applications and a cloud infrastructure. Integrated workflow on a hand-held device seemed like a natural fit. Unfortunately, Dexterra was not to be that vehicle. With the recession and a fatigued syndicate, the best outcome was a quick sale which once I had the go-ahead was completed in a record 90 days without the assistance of a banker.
From there, Scott Sandell asked me to be an EIR for NEA. This was a real treat for me. I got to see the venture business from the inside, out, warts and all. NEA asked me to join the board of a portCo that I repositioned firmly in the private cloud space. While I think I would have enjoyed running the company as the investors wanted, I advised the investors that the company needed to be sold and quickly — having nothing to do with the product, installed base or team, quite the contrary, the asset was that strategic to a broad range of large vendors, but that the window for a sale was miserably short. The point being that any of the buyers we would want to target could decide to make rather than buy and if that happened, there would be no opportunity for an exit. Engineering teams are stubbornly proprietary once they get going, so its key to understand where in the product dev cycle they are if you ever hope for a reasonable outcome. I predicted correctly. We secured a major strategic in less than a year, and sold the company to Cisco in March.
While at NEA, I sat through many a pipeline pitch and reviewed many a portCo. Given NEA’s size, there was a lot to look at. What I didn’t see was the vehicle I was looking for — a dynamic set of business services over a composable application layer with a robust cloud infrastructure. After one particular pitch last April, one of NEA’s fast-rising stars said to me, “you ought to do it yourself.” Ever attentive, I said “do what?”
So I fleshed out the concept and an NEA GP encouraged me to go run it by Marc Benioff. Never the shy one, I found out he was speaking at a Cloudforce event in San Jose last June. I went straight up to Marc after the event (something most VCs advise never to do), introduced myself as an NEA EIR and asked him what he thought of a behavioral analytics play on top of Salesforce. He paused for a moment and said, “no one’s doing that, we’re not doing that, you should do that.” Well, that’s all I needed.
So I formed a team, built a demo and went back to Marc in September. Marc had me show the demo to his product lead at One Market. His product guy said he thought what we wanted to do was hard but that we had a clear lane as they weren’t doing it nor was any existing partner. The product lead educated me on the short-comings of crm apps.
We then got our alpha program started, built a prototype, refined our gtm and financial model, created a brand (with vowels and a dotcom address that actually means something: foresight + intuition) and then went back to Marc on the eve of Dreamforce in December.
Marc got back to me within hours and asked for a demo video which we produced and sent him on Christmas Eve. Amazingly, he got right back to us again and assigned his ISV lead as a sponsor. We promised to launch on the AppExchange in the Spring — and have kept our promise. I marvel at the progress we’ve made in a relatively short time.
We live in a remarkable time. I’ve been able to boot-strap Foretuit into existence and I gotta tell you, while nerve-racking at times, there is nothing more exhilarating. Assembling a team from scratch, vetting an idea with investors, prospects and partners, and then getting a new business launched, all on your own — well, it’s more professionally satisfying than anything you can ever imagine.
I’m real fortunate to have had the experiences I have had, met the people I have met, and do the things I have done.
I’m excited about the potential in front of us and hope you’ll join us on this journey, either as investor, customer, employee or partner. We believe we have the vision and where-with-all to create a real disruptive game-changer while at the same time, enjoying ourselves and the challenge before us. Oh, and sorry to be cliché but “you know what’s cool” — fully leveraged, this is a $1+ billion opportunity.
Watch this space! And please, follow us on twitter, @foretuit.