CFO Thought Leaders
CFO Thought Leader is a podcast on a mission to showcase "personal firsthand accounts of CFOs who are driving change within their organizations." Our own CFO, Larry Begley, was recently a guest on the podcast. In the excerpt below, Larry talks about his journey from CFO and Partner at Boston Consulting Group to his current role at CloudHealth Technologies. His host is Rob Cornog, CFO of Punch Bowl Social.
For more on Larry's professional trajectory, key career learnings and workplace philosophies, check out the full episode over at CFOthoughtleader.com.
Rob Cornog: In this episode, we speak with Larry Begley, CFO of CloudHealth Technologies. Larry has taken a unique path to the role of CFO. Larry, please take us back and retrace some of your steps here for us.
Larry Begley: I started my career in public accounting, securing my CPA and working for one of the Big 8 back at that time. For the next 12 years or so, I worked at both small and large companies. Next, I served as the CFO of Boston Consulting Group, and was the first non-consulting partner in the history of the firm. When I joined BCG, they were bringing in about $100 million in revenue across six countries. When I left, they were bringing in $550 million across 28 countries. I had ownership of all internal IT, as well as finance. It was a phenomenal job. At that point, I realized that my passion was high-growth tech, so I left BCG to join a small startup called iCube based in Cambridge. We grew it fourfold in a couple of years, took it public, and sold it to Razorfish for just over $1.5 billion. I then decided to go into venture capital along with two good friends. We raised $167 million dollars in an early-stage tech fund called 406 Ventures, which is now one of the most prominent and successful V.C. funds on the East Coast. At that time, I invested in CloudHealth. It had all the makings of being the next big successful Massachusetts-based tech company, so I departed 406 Ventures and joined CloudHealth as CFO.
RC: Well, you really boiled that down nicely for us. Was it PwC where you practiced public accounting?
LB: It was still Coopers & Lybrand at that time, but yes.
RC: And you went from Coopers & Lybrand to BCG?
LB: No. Over the next 10 years, I worked at a few startups, as well as a couple of large manufacturing companies. I got a taste of each, and was then recruited by BCG.
RC: You sold iCube to Razorfish before the dot-com implosion, clearly. Your timing must have been remarkable. Can you take us back and tell us exactly what happened?
LB: My timing was 90% luck. We took iCube public in 1998 and merged it with Razorfish in November 1999. I became CFO of that combined company. We were based in New York, but I was still living in Boston. I soon realized that I didn't like commuting back and forth, so I stepped down in early 2000. As you know, the dot-com crash was in April 2000. When I left, the Razorfish stock was at $42, and by August it was at $15. The entire industry evaporated.
RC: Over the years, did you ever and find a point of comparison for how crazy the business world was at the time? Is there anything you can compare to?
LB: For a few years after the dot-com bubble burst, I would tell people that we’d never see anything like it again, but seeing some of the recent unicorn valuations of tech companies feels like déjà vu. I find it a bit frightening, but I don't think that it will lead to anything as bad as the dot-com bubble burst.
RC: You invested in CloudHealth before you arrived as part of the management team, is that correct?
LB: That's correct. I invested in CloudHealth about 4 years ago. At the time, it was just three super smart guys with an idea and two customers. Today, we have over 500 direct customers, and over over 1,000 through our channel partners.
RC: Growing a company at this stage is a big operations job. Lots of scaling, hiring, and processes to put in place. Do you find this as interesting as some of the other work you've done?
LB: Very much so. It reminds me of my tenure at iCube in terms of the rapid growth. I enjoy building businesses at this stage. That's what attracted me to CloudHealth, along with the fact that it’s the leader in a market of great opportunity.
This transcript is an excerpt of the full interview; it has also been edited for brevity and clarity. Click here to listen to the original CFO Thought Leader podcast.