Software from Montana and social enterprise

An interview with Greg Gianforte, head of Montana's largest tech company.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

I'm a big fan of Greg Gianforte, the CEO of RightNow Technologies and I was mortified that I almost missed him the other night when he was in town. Somehow the meeting time didn't sync up with my Treo, fortunately I was downtown and we managed to connect.

Mr Gianforte is a serial entrepreneur; RNOW is his fifth startup and is one of the leading CRM software-as-a-service companies and is going like gangbusters. It recently reported another blowout quarter.

His greatest passion is in starting companies and giving startups advice. He has given me plenty of great advice. One time at a conference, a few people over heard some of the pearls of wisdom he was handing to me, and very soon there was a crowd of entrepreneurs around him, following him around the hallways, asking him questions about the many intricacies of leading teams and building dreams. He loved it, and I didn't hear him mention RightNow once in more than two hours....

It could be said that Mr Gianforte isn't keen on venture capitalists, and that would be a kind way to phrase things. You can find out more by reading his book, published late last year: Bootstrapping Your Business: Start And Grow a Successful Company With Almost No Money.

(And you absolutely *have* to read his advice to startups on avoiding VC money:  Most startups should avoid venture funding, not pursue it)

RightNow is headquartered in Bozeman, Montana; it also has offices in Silicon Valley and overseas locations. And it is growing fast. "We're hiring on average one person per day," Mr Gianforte said.

The other thing I like about Mr Gianforte is that he isn't afraid to challenge his competition in the media, and on the speakers circuit. Not everybody has the cojones to do that, or to challenge him in public(unfortunately.)

The other thing I like about Mr Gianforte is that as he grows more successful he takes on larger social projects. He is a spiritual person and somebody that wants to create a lot of value in his community.

 For example, he estimates that RightNow's payroll in Bozeman has reached more than $300m and each $1 bounces around about five times within a community. That means more than $1.5bn in products and services--a huge amount for a state where average salaries in rural areas are just $11K per year.

Mr Gianforte's latest social project is to retrain people in small Montana towns to become specialists in various HR functions. The idea is to encourage companies to "outsource to Montana" and help revitalize some of the towns in the state.

"Even if only some of the people in these towns find work, that money will make a big difference in those communities," he says.

That's a characteristic of many entrepreneurs, I've noticed. They like being successful, making money--but they love being able able to make a big difference in the world, especially where they live.

Editorial standards