So your startup is growing at 20 percent a year? Great. Can you double that?

The executive board of Black Duck Software recently asked that question. In response, the company, an open source software project management dashboard maker, hired Lou Shipley as CEO. The six-time entrepreneur, who had previously been CEO of VMTurbo--which grew at 100 percent a year--was tasked with doubling Black Duck's annual growth rate from 20 percent to 40 percent.

The company, whose 1,300 customers include Netflix, is soon to launch a new product. Open Source Software Logistics is a method to help track, manage, and profit from a company's OSS development projects. Shipley believes it will help propel Black Duck into the $100 million revenue sphere needed to ramp up its growth and achieve IPO stardom.

These three steps are the core of the company's strategy.

1. Target a big, growing market.

Your odds of getting more than 10 percent of a market are really low. So if you want to grow, go after a bigger market. If your startup has $10 million in sales and 5 percent of a $200 million market, it could be a $50 million company if it could grab the same share of a $1 billion one.

When Shipley took over Black Duck late last year, he saw that its existing market was $12 billion a year. But he sees potential for the market to grow due to the increasing popularity of cloud and mobile computing, big data, and the Semantic Web. The number of open-source projects is also growing rapidly, from less than 100,000 in 2007 to more than a million in 2013. The market is expanding quickly, positioning Black Duck for growth.

2. Keep improving your product.

Gaining market share is simple in concept--understand why customers benefit from your product and make sure your product delivers more of those benefits than competitors' products.

How do you turn that into action? It helps if you know the market and have a better idea about how to satisfy its unmet needs. Black Duck has an advantage here: It essentially created the market for managing a company's use of OSS. It started building a database of OSS projects a dozen years ago and it is now the best thing out there, and Shipley isn't complacent--with this market knowledge, he intends to continue adapting Black Duck's offerings.

3. Trust your CEO to hire the right talent.

Attracting and motivating the best people starts with hiring a great CEO. Such a leader has charisma, a winning track record, deep industry insight, a great industry network, and a magnetic ability to draw talent to a compelling vision.

Shipley believes that Black Duck had great talent when he joined, in disciplines including engineering, sales, marketing, and finance. As he shifts Black Duck's strategy to focus more on financial-services companies and to expand its global footprint, Shipley's ability to bring in new talent will fuel its future.

Do you need to accelerate your startup's growth? Target a bigger market, build an industry-leading product, and hire a great CEO.

Published on: Apr 21, 2014
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