Tod Nielsen, a respected tech exec who has held top positions at Oracle, VMware, and Borland, is now chief executive officer of FinancialForce, a provider of cloud-based business software.
Most recently, Nielsen was executive vice president of platforms for Salesforce. Since leaving last spring, he’s been looking for the right fit. “I didn’t want a startup but a company with $50 million or so in sales that is also in the cloud. I was surprised at how few companies were in that category,” Nielsen told Fortune.
Generally speaking, in the cloud model, customers do not run the software in their own data centers but stream it from their software providers over the Internet. Top cloud vendors in this world include Salesforce, which pioneered this type of delivery, Workday (WDAY), Zendesk, and Box (BOX). And, virtually every legacy software company from Microsoft to Oracle is rushing to adopt this type of software since it is what customers demand.
One big benefit to those customers: They no longer have to buy, update and patch the software—or the hardware running it—since they’re now using their provider’s data centers.
FinancialForce is approaching $100 million in annual revenue with a 40% growth rate, and is fully in the cloud since it piggybacks on Salesforce infrastructure. Salesforce (CRM) was also an early investor, along with FinancialForce’s parent company Unit4.
In an interview, Nielsen, whose first software company gig was as a product manager at Microsoft (MSFT), says cloud computing has reached a tipping point.
“In a weird way, the cloud now kind of feels like it did when Windows 95 came out,” He said, referring to a hugely successful version of Microsoft’s PC operating system.
When Windows 95 debuted in 1995, people finally realized that everyone had to have a Windows app, he said. In the same way, both users and builders of technology now recognize that cloud is the premier deployment method, he said.
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The company specializes in what techies call enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that companies use to manage their manufacturing processes, track inventory, and manage accounting. German software giant SAP (SAP) is the market leader in this category for large Fortune 500 companies, but overall ERP is now a competitive market with players including NetSuite (now part of Oracle (ORCL)), Intacct, Infor, which recently netted a $2.5 billion investment from Koch Industries’ investment arm, and Microsoft.
Nielsen says his goal is to take San Francisco-based FinancialForce, which employs about 600 people, to the next level, building out sales, marketing, and customer service.
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FinancialForce’s current chief executive took Jeremy Roche took the company from zero to $100 million since its founding in 2009. Now, Roche will be working with Unit4 so “he’ll still be my phone friend,” Nielsen says.