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From CEO to Chief Irritant: Interview with TIBCO founder

Zafirah Salim | Dec. 11, 2014
Following TIBCO's privatisation, Vivek Ranadive, founder of TIBCO has stepped down from his CEO role but said that he will remain as the Chief Irritant of his company.

Vivek Ranadivé, founder of TIBCO Software speaking at the company's annual conference this year

When I attended the TIBCO Now conference in San Francisco in November 2014, the business intelligence software company was in the midst of being acquired by Vista Equity Partners, who will take TIBCO private.

Last week (on Dec 5), the deal officially closed for US$4.3 billion (S$5.6 billion). Following the successful conclusion of the deal, Murray Rode, former Chief Operating Officer of TIBCO Software took over the Chief Executive Officer role from Vivek Ranadivé, who is the founder of the company.

According to TIBCO's media statement, Ranadivé will remain a Board Member of TIBCO and assist the company with strategic projects.  

"We are very pleased to have this transaction completed. We believe this is the right direction for TIBCO's long-term strategy and will better serve our customers and employees," said Rode. "I look forward to working with Vista Equity Partners as TIBCO enters its next chapter of innovation, growth and leadership."

From founder to Chief Irritant

In 1997, Ranadivé founded TIBCO with the mission of bringing real-time computing into the mainstream. Today, his venture has helped more than 4,000 customers thrive by powering everything from the web to airlines, financial services, utilities, communications providers, manufacturers and governments.

When asked how he felt about his 'baby' having a 'stepdad', he seemed quite optimistic about it.

"When you're building a technology company, you have to keep investing for the future. We are trying to do a longer term horizon so I think it is a natural progression for TIBCO to be a private company," said Ranadivé.

"TIBCO is a highly profitable business with lots of customers, and we can overcome some of our biggest challenges by going private again. By going private, we can stay focused on value creation. The focus has gotten very short term here in the US. It's better for a company like ours which can get distracted," he added.

Nonetheless, Ranadivé sees privatisation as an increasing trend. The whole philoshophy is not to think about the short term and focus on having a highly profitable long-term business, he commented.

Adding on about his role in the company, Ranadivé cited the analogy of the formation of a pearl: "If you look at how a pearl is made, it starts with an empty shell and then a grain of sand. An irritant gets into the shell, and then the pearl forms around it. So to make something of value, you need an irritant."

"My job at TIBCO is to be the Chief Irritant. I'm always asking why something can't be done. And I think my colleagues will tell you that I've been doing a good job in being really irritating and really annoying. I think I'll continue [despite the takeover] to challenge my people and irritate them. That's kind of what I do," he said.


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