Reinventing Progress Software—Boston’s Next Billion-Dollar Company? Part 2

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we’re looking for the same characteristics in the companies we acquire. This could be a three-hour discussion, but culture is important. can’t think of a case where we acquired a company that was absolutely a bad fit.

One thing we learned is that whenever there are redundancies, you take the best person, and that person could be from the acquired company, not from the acquiring company. The cream floats to the top and stays with the combination. Over time, you build up a whole company that attracts really smart people. We have done a pretty good job of that, versus just acquiring a product and a few developers and firing everyone else. When we acquired eXcelon, a database company, we took the vice president of development and made him vice president of development for all of Progress, because we just thought he was a really talented guy.

Ultimately, people get the most jazzed when they think their product and their team now has the ability to own the market. If you have a more compelling strategy as the result of being acquired, that is a success. Of the 14 acquisitions, I wouldn’t say we’re batting a thousand, but we’re doing better over time.

JB: Having come to Progress through an acquisition [of Apama], I can say that it’s a good environment to come to if you are an entrepreneur. You don’t tend to find many entrepreneurs in larger companies. But creating that culture of entrepreneuring in large companies is something that Progress has done quite well. Being an entrepreneur myself, and still being here after five years, that speaks volumes. You have many big companies that are just huge bureaucracies that bog you down, and you just want to go and drown yourself after a while. Then you’ve got small companies that don’t want to take risks. You’ve got a wonderful middle ground at Progress. We’re not an oil tanker that needs years to turn. I was able to work with Rick and the team to take Apama global, but also join it with the other things where there were synergies.

X: You went through a big round of layoffs in December. When you acquire a new company, do you always look for big opportunities for staff reductions?

RR: Obviously, you don’t need two general counsels and two chief financial officers, so right away you are talking about some overhead being eliminated. Typically you keep most of the product folks and the marketing folks and the good salespeople—they are always hard to find. If we think they’re better than ours, we keep them. Savvion’s sales people are great, for example. But you do tend to trim a little bit.

But at the same time, the company is growing overall, with hiring going on throughout the company. We did have a major restructuring in December and let go 250 people. That was a result of the “One Progress” strategy. When you have seven companies, all with their own infrastructure and sales teams and marketing, there is a lot of overhead that you can put together.

X: You talk about wanting to double your revenue and become a billion-dollar company. The larger Progress becomes, the more you may be seen as one of the local anchor technology companies, and I think that brings a certain amount of responsibility to give back to the community and help to make sure that talented people have local career paths open to them. Are you ready for that role?

RR: Nothing would make me personally happier than having more of a high-tech ecosystem for enterprise software in the Boston area. To the extent that we can help drive that and contribute to that, that would be great. But we ought to keep in mind that … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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