SaaS Vendor Workday Plans To Grow Big, Remain Independent - InformationWeek
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SaaS Vendor Workday Plans To Grow Big, Remain Independent

Workday, an important SaaS company to watch, has hired the former CEO of PolyServe, later acquired by Hewlett-Packard, as its new president. Yet this isn't a case of a startup hiring an experienced exec to shop it around. As Workday's Aneel Bhusri recently told me, "Dave Duffield and I largely control the company, and we did not start Workday to sell it."

Workday, an important SaaS company to watch, has hired the former CEO of PolyServe, later acquired by Hewlett-Packard, as its new president. Yet this isn't a case of a startup hiring an experienced exec to shop it around. As Workday's Aneel Bhusri recently told me, "Dave Duffield and I largely control the company, and we did not start Workday to sell it."Workday was started from scratch by Bhusri and Duffield four years ago to serve up ERP in the cloud to both midsize and large companies, making it one of the most interesting SaaS stories to watch. On Monday, the company said it signed its 100th customer. Still, since Workday is private, and we can't see the balance sheet, it's impossible to analyze its health. A hundred customers, though, apparently like what they've heard during contract discussions.

Workday also said it had hired Mike Stankey as its president and COO. Stankey was a partner at VC company Greylock Partners, and before that, was CEO of PolyServe, which led the storage virtualization company to a "successful exit with an acquisition by Hewlett Packard," according to his Greylock profile. That deal was estimated at $200 million.

Software companies sometimes hire execs with that kind of experience to shop them around. But in this case, the move appears intended to help Bhusri focus on what he does best, while giving Greylock Partners, one of Workday's biggest investors, a bit more day-to-day control over the company.

In three years or so Workday has raised $150 million in venture capital from Greylock, a few other VC firms, and unquestionably its biggest single individual investor, Dave Duffield. So who needs an acquisition? "Given Dave's wealth, we have the luxury to control our own destiny," Bhusri said in a conversation we had at the recent InformationWeek 500 conference. (Forbes estimated Duffield's net worth at $1.3 billion last year.)

And heck, why would Workday want to go to all that trouble to turn the legacy software industry on its head, only to be acquired by a legacy company, like, um, say, Oracle? Yes, who can forget the drama that played out six years ago, as Bhusri, Duffield, and the rest of the PeopleSoft executive team tried to stave off Oracle in its ultimately victorious hostile takeover. Workday+Oracle? When pigs fly.

At Workday, Stankey has been hired to lead services, finance, sales, partnerships and marketing. This will let Bhusri, who was promoted from president to CEO, a title he shares with Duffield, to focus more of his energies on product and technology development. And, as another part of this tangled Web, Bhusri has another job as a partner at Greylock-again, one of Workday's biggest investors.

What does this all mean? Well, for one, it means at least a few people are pouring a heck of a lot of money and sweat into Workday. It means the company is positioning itself for a growth spurt. And it means the next few years should tell us a lot about the scalability and viability of SaaS in the enterprise, as we watch where Workday goes from here.

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