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CEO of the Month

July 7, 2016

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Peter Bardwick


Peter is the new CFO of Nitro, a leading technology firm specialising in PDF collaboration software and e-signatures.

Prior to his recent appointment at Nitro, Bardwick was at Rocket Fuel, where as CFO he led the company to one of the most successful IPOs of 2013 and increased revenue from $40 million to $400 million during his three year tenure. Prior to that his career included stints with CBS MarketWatch, Citicorp and Salomon Brothers.

Bardwick believes that there are three factors inherent in making a good technology company, all of which are present at Nitro.

“If you think about what makes for a successful tech company, in my opinion, there’s three ingredients, one is the right people, and the second is the right product and then of course there’s the right timing in the market. I’m bullish on Nitro having all three. I think Nitro has got a great team that is very focused on executing and achieving their goals. A good product in today’s environment is one that people want to use and that makes their work life better.

Today’s employees want to think, not to be dragged down in mundane repetitive tasks that can be done better through technology and software. And we want to be on the forefront of the “consumerization of the enterprise”. If your phone or social media software is fun and intuitive, why shouldn’t your software at work be the same? Thirdly there’s market timing. Right timing is about having the right product when the market is thirsty for it. In 2015 that means having products that people can pick up and use easily. Right timing is also about the migration of software to the cloud, and corporate recognition of the opportunity to make their employee’s lives better and more productive. I like to say “it doesn’t matter how good the surfer is if the waves aren’t up.”

Rocket Fuel is perhaps Bardwick’s biggest success to date, being the fastest growing tech company in the US from 2008- 2013. During his time there the firm went from 120 people to about 1100, expanding from three countries to around 15, with Bardwick responsible for all the corporate infrastructure as well as capital markets activities, highlighting his driven growth focused strategy.

Nitro is in the midst of a growth surge itself, having raised a venture round late in 2014 and recently launching Nitro Pro 10, the latest version of their desktop offering, and Nitro Pro 10, a new SaaS document productivity solution. The new products pave the way for the San Francisco based company to build upon its cloud based products as customers grow increasingly accustomed to buying and using their software online

Having been responsible for two very successful IPOs and having raised almost $11 billion over the course of his career, Bardwick looks set to propel Nitro’s growth strategy forward using his fundraising capabilities and relationships. The company’s customers are looking to grow in parallel to Nitro, with the firm expecting to help their customers in their growth in order to accelerate its own. Nitro is also looking to expand their customer base by penetrating new and larger firms and provide them with products taking care of all their pdf requirements.

Bardwick is also responsible for the company’s internal IT systems, which he is currently integrating in order to reduce the amount of time that staff spend on spreadsheets and increasing the amount of time they have to spend on actionable information. He is a firm believer in clear, concise communication and will enable this throughout the company.

Being a successful investment banker has prepared Bardwick for the role, as it requires a good sense of corporate strategy, for example how the company and its products fit into the competitive ecosystem, and the potential opportunities and risks of certain strategies. Additionally it also gave Bardwick the skill to communicate these strategies and opportunities to potential investors persuasively.
Ultimately, Bardwick believes that his role is no longer limited to working in finance, with a much more business focused approach required to succeed in the role. He believes that in today’s tech environment, with a preponderance of younger and highly mobile employees, good leadership must focus both on achieving corporate goals as well as helping individual employees achieve their own goals.

“The CFO’s role has changed a lot in the past 20 years and I think especially for CFOs of growing tech companies. The focus has moved from simply closing the books and reporting the numbers to being at the table for strategic and resource allocation discussions. This is a much broader and more business focused approach. I think the most important quality in a good leader is to understand who you are. If you set out to try to be Steve Jobs you will surely fail. Many people have a model in their heads of great leadership, but don’t understand that they will fail in emulating a model that is inconsistent with their own core assets. This doesn’t mean they can’t be great leaders, they just have to do it in the context of who they are.”

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