Monday, September 11, 2006
Interview with Jim Franklin, Decisioneering and Rockies Venture Club
Jim Franklin is CEO of Denver-based Decisioneering (www.crystalball.com) and President of the Rockies Venture Club (www.rockiesventureclub.org). In our ongoing series of interviews with local executives, venture capitalists, and others in the area, we thought it would be interesting to talk to Jim about his firm as well as his perspective on Colorado's venture capital environment.
Techrockies: Thanks for the interview. Tell us a bit about what Decisioneering does, and what your risk management software is used for?
Jim Franklin: To put it simply, Decisioneering helps business professionals, academics and government personnel make better decisions. Decisioneering is the maker of the industry leading risk analysis software package, Crystal Ball(r). Crystal Ball transforms spreadsheets into dynamic models that solve almost any problem involving uncertainty, variability and risk. Crystal Ball can quickly be applied to new or existing spreadsheet models, letting users make the most of the technology they already own and use everyday. In addition to our software, we also provide training and consulting services.
Crystal Ball software is used by 85% of the Fortune 1000 and taught in the top 50 MBA programs in the U.S. and more than 500 universities around the world. Crystal Ball is used in almost all industries from telecom to pharmaceutical. The tool is used for a variety of tasks such as financial analysis, engineering and project management. Crystal Ball's use is limited only by the imagination of its users. Essentially, any business problem that can be modeled in Microsoft(r) Excel can incorporate Crystal Ball to understand the complete range of outcomes, learn what is driving the variability and search for the best solution or project mix.
Techrockies: Where is Decisioneering today--where is your firm headed now?
Jim Franklin: Decisioneering is a 20-year-old Colorado based company. In addition to our global headquarters in Denver, we have offices in London, England and Frankfurt, Germany and resellers around the world. Our customers represent many of the largest and most successful companies in the world, but our tool is also used frequently by small and mid sized companies. Our software can be found in over 75 textbooks and each year over 75,000 students start "thinking in ranges" using Crystal Ball software. We are also proud, that we have been named as one of the fastest 50 growing technology companies in Colorado for the last eight straight years by the Deloitte & Touche.
The market we address is enormous. It's the hundreds of millions of Excel users that do data-driven decisions. It's the MBA and financial analysts in global 2000 companies and it's the engineers doing tolerance and systems work in those same companies. One of our markets, the Six Sigma and process improvement market, has over a million potential users of our software in the U.S. alone, who are concerned with measuring or reducing variation, which is what our core product is all about.
In the Six Sigma market, our goal is to be a standard tool used by Six Sigma practitioners throughout the world. In regards to other verticals, we want to make sure we are leading those as well. We have already done a good job of penetrating the Oil & Gas industry and several others, and have identified additional markets where we want to have the same type of success over the next couple of years. We think our tool should be used by all companies. Why should companies make million dollar decisions without understanding the complete range of outcomes of their decisions or knowing where the variation and uncertainty are coming from, and having that insight inform the quality of their critical business decisions.
Techrockies: You're pretty involved as president of the Rockies Venture Club. What's your opinion on the current investment and startup climate in Colorado?
Jim Franklin: In a word, I'd say its "Equilibrium". There is a relatively good match between the dollars, ideas and teams necessary for execution. On the dollars front, it's a tale of two worlds. For late stage companies, there is a lot of money chasing a few good deals. For earlier stage companies there is less availability of capital. However, we've heard of at least two venture funds that are raising new money that should help earlier stage companies. As for ideas, Colorado entreprenuers are good at the idea stage. We've seen a lot of growth in the infrastructure that supports idea stage entrepreneurs (CTEK, DaVinci, Denver Software Club, CSIA, TiE Rockies, et al). The rate limiting factor is proven teams that can start and grow viable businesses. As a rule we seem to have quite a bit of talent in the start up to $20M stage, but very little Colorado-based talent that has done the $20M to $200M stage. I'm encouraged that I continue to see that we are net importers of emerging company talent.
Techrockies: Are there areas you think that would help the industry grow here?
Jim Franklin: While I think the basic ingredients are here, there are some areas for improvement. The key is to create more Colorado success stories so that the rest of the entreprenuerial community thinks of Colorado as something other than a ski destination.
So, how to create more success stories? At Rockies, we connect people, money and knowledge. Networking has been key to building teams, finding early customers and partners as well as capital. Better coordination of our Angel activity would also be helpful to those starting companies. At the state level, increasing the support for our universities and the related tech transfer functions would be helpful. Anything we can do to attract proven teams to Colorado (lower taxes, infrastructure initiatives) would help us to be a net importer of engineers and emerging growth talent.
Techrockies: Thanks for the interview!