Brauns Trains For the Finish
by Chris De Benedetti
The arduous pace, long hours and sheer grit it takes to run a startup is a lot like the grueling training needed to finish a triathlon. The stress of either can be exhausting. Imagine doing both at the same time.
You think that's impossible?
Not for Interwoven, Inc. CEO Martin Brauns. At 40, he was training for the 320-mile Ultraman Triathlon race and overseeing the growth of a Silicon Valley startup. What most people would find suicidal, Brauns found invigorating.
"The company was first so I had to ratchet down my goals," says Brauns. "My goal was not to win [the triathlon]. My goal was simply to finish, which I accomplished."
Darting through the Internet business jungle is not as simple, of course. But Brauns has made it look almost as easy.
Interwoven, a maker of content management software, has bet its chips on a strategy of adding several business-to-business companies (i.e. ChipCenter, PaperExchange.com) to its stable of customers — and it has paid huge dividends.
The company's annual revenue has soared as much as 816 percent, and though the 5-year-old company has been public for just over a year, its market cap is more than $5 billion.
Investors "see a clear leader in a huge green field," explains Brauns. He adds that everyone needs content management, so the market is large and growing fast.
You might think that someone as disciplined as Brauns would require executives and employees to be coldly self-demanding. But the triathlete in him knows that sometimes merely finishing can be greater than winning.
"I look for failure well-assimilated. I look for executives who have stumbled — maybe even stumbled badly — and then I ask, 'What did you get out of that? What did you learn?' " The people who express a willingness to grow and learn and change will finish, if not lead the race.
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