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Add Him to The List

Posted by Gene Austin at Apr 30, 2012 11:07 AM CDT
Categories: NPtech

Soon Convio will be acquired by Blackbaud and as a result the last few weeks have been filled with reflection. I realized that I have been working for almost three decades in the tech sector, and during that journey I have met many people who have influenced and shaped me as a leader. There was Nancy Anderson and Glenn Osaka at HP, who first gave me insights into the core strengths of being a leader. Nancy told me to keep HR and Finance close by because the lack of good people programs or missing the “numbers” are the fastest way to trouble. Glenn gave me a great lesson in creating win-win situations with teams and people. Then at Dell, Mike Lambert and Joe Marengi schooled me in running giant organizations in a fast growing company. At CareerBuilder, Rob McGovern taught me how to instill confidence and vision in a small team of people trying to make giant changes in the way employers and job seekers engaged.
And now I need to add Vinay Bhagat to my list. With the completion of our sale to Blackbaud Vinay will depart Convio. After 12+ years, not only does he leave an indelible mark on the Convio business, he has truly helped shape the nonprofit tech sector in a manner few others can match. Frankly, many of the practices and strategies being deployed today by leading nonprofits in our sector were first conceptualized by Vinay several years back. He is a true visionary.

In 2003 he had brought Convio to $5M and 50 people in less than an ideal economic environment. At the time, the Convio Board decided to go outside for a CEO and I entered into the interview process. Vinay and I met at least a half dozen times including the time when I begged him to cut the phone interview short so I could go watch my son pitch in a baseball game. For those of you that have not been “interviewed” by Vinay it is quite an experience. I was sitting in my car, trying to figure out how my son was faring by the changes in crowd noise while Vinay was “drilling me” about my skills, leadership background and my decision making abilities.
When I joined Convio, our investors insisted that there was an 80 percent chance he wouldn’t be around in a year. “Founders just can’t step aside and let someone else take over” they told me. We both take a lot of pride that the oddsmakers were wrong and we were able to combine our strengths for our company and our customers. The real winner in Vinay’s years with Convio is the sector because never have I seen an individual that is as passionate about something as Vinay is about helping nonprofits.
We worked because he was a nonstop provider of new ideas and innovation.  We also worked because I taught him that execution was as important as strategy, and never lose sight of how important people are to sound execution. He would overwhelm me with what he thought Convio should do next, and I couldn’t stop listening. Our company has evolved our strategy in many ways: a dramatic expansion of our services, entering the CRM space, and acquiring businesses that provided scale and strategic compliments. While each new strategy required my entire team to pull off, Vinay was in the middle of each (although he didn’t agree with me on selecting Salesforce).
Lastly, we all got to watch Vinay and Deepa start a family over the last few years and yes he is a passionate father. No one loves their children more than he and Deepa, and while his hours may have dropped off a little, I love that he is such a devoted father. I used to get emails from him well after midnight in the early years about all kinds of topics, and thanks to Kishan and Yazzy, bedtime for Vinay appears to be before midnight.
Vinay – congratulations on the success of your baby, and thank you for giving us all the opportunity to be part of it. Convio has changed so many lives and careers, including mine, and it all began with you. As you move on to your next gig (which is not associated with the nonprofit sector), I know I speak for everyone in saying we can’t wait to see what is next. 

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