The best startup I found. IBM?!


Blogs from business

I woke up this morning to this text from a friend and business leader in the Commerce space: IBM?  My response was simple: “It’s the best startup I found!

I started my career at Procter & Gamble, ultimately leaving because it was a big company. Since that day almost 20 years ago, I’ve spent my career building companies from the ground up. I founded and ran Crown, eventually selling it to Razorfish in June 2014. Over the next two years, I stayed at the helm and we organically tripled the business while also integrating with Razorfish to create the highest ranking Global Digital Marketing and Commerce company in both Vision and Execution as determined by Gartner. And the time has come for me to make a transition.

First of all, let me get this out of the way, “Yes, I am going to IBM”.  So, that begs some questions: Why go lead global sales at a tech giant in the Commerce space now? Why after spending 20 years as an entrepreneur did I decide to go back to the future?  Why not start over and do it again?  Why not find some lean startup that could benefit from my experience?  The answer is actually very simple. And it comes down to leadership, opportunity and possibility.

Leadership: After 20 years in consulting, I find many companies say they want to change, but don’t make the necessary tough decisions that allow any significant change to happen. My response is usually the Marshall Goldsmith quote: “What got you here won’t get you there." I see in IBM not only a commitment to change, but a resolve to put leaders in key roles to affect it. It is in fact acting like a start-up, it is at a pivotal point, and it has transformation agents like Harriet Green and Bob Lord, both new to IBM, spur change — and in short order (if you don’t know them, just Google them). I’m drawn to leaders like Bob and Harriet, and others IBM has recently attracted, and I am excited to join them and help lead IBM’s next transformation.  To be sure, any transformation takes years and is initially more evident internally than externally. I am excited to be a part of this leadership team as we shape the next game changing shift for Big Blue.

Opportunity: IBM’s Commerce business is a company-wide transformation initiative, but it’s broader than just commerce. It centers on customer engagement, and infuses Cognitive technologies, analytics, cloud, mobile, security and social strategy into the overall Commerce portfolio.  IBM has been working tirelessly internally on buying, building and integrating their solutions set to meet customer’s needs in the future, and just recently was ranked highest by Gartner in digital Commerce.  The exciting part is most of the world is just starting to realize what the experts at Gartner know already -- IBM is addressing the most critical Commerce needs of businesses today. This is where my new team fits. We will connect the dots for our partners, customers, and the overall marketplace to bring the best solution set to run their externally facing businesses. What is required now is focus and a start-up pace to further penetrate the market. I can’t tell you how fired up I am to take part in this transformation!   

Possibility:  I’ve been in the customer engagement and Commerce space for a long time now. I know most all of the product and solution sets out there. I know where the weaknesses are and the strengths people sell on. After looking into what IBM is and has, I am convinced we will dramatically change the customer engagement and Commerce space in the next two years as everyone shifts more to the cloud and leverages data/insights between platforms. IBM is laser focused on building its solution set to enable whatever end-customer journey their customers want. Many companies have a half-focus on the end customer. They will wake up in a few years wondering how they got left so far behind. IBM has invested heavily in this transition.  Not only will IBM lead the pack, but they have the building blocks and talented engineers already aligned and focused to this end with commitment from the top and a desire to win that rivals that of any start-up I’ve seen. As I said, “It’s the best startup I found!”

There will be more to come, this is just the beginning. For now, I wanted to answer the question everyone is thinking, and many have actually asked -- "why IBM?"

To quote one of my inspirations Walt Disney: “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths…” And my own personal add “… and may our paths cross soon."

You can also see what Harriet Green is saying about this new role on her post at