Keith.

EXECUTIVE PROFILE Keith Krach: Chairman/CEO, DocuSign

April 11, 2014
San Francisco Business Times

HQ: San Francisco

Background: Krach was GM’s youngest-ever vice president at the age of 26. Later joined the founding team of Rasna Corp., becoming COO, before a $500 million sale. He co-founded Ariba in 1996 and was chairman and CEO until 2001.

First job: Working in my dad’s steel fabrication shop in Rocky River, Ohio. Maximum employment was five people.

Education: B.S., industrial engineering, Purdue University; M.B.A., Harvard University, paid for by GM.

Residence: San Francisco.

Business strategy

How’s business: This huge category has been created called digital transaction management. If you think about all these organizations large and small, they’re all going through a digital transformation, and DocuSign is really ending up to be the catalyst.

Biggest challenge for your business: To continue to scale the business in this hyper-growth area. All these verticals: real estate, financial services, insurance, healthcare, they are all going through big digital transformations. Procurement, sales operations, legal. It literally can be used in any department. That’s why we just raised $85 million.

What’s going to change at your company in the next year: Virtually everything. There will be major international expansion.

Company goal yet to be achieved: To be a great, long-term, sustaining company for many, many years to come. And to be this catalyst for change in the way business is done. Our enemy is paper. This is an opportunity that comes along once in a lifetime, maybe twice if you’re lucky. We really believe it’s a noble cause. We’re not curing cancer, but we’re helping people cure cancer.

Management philosophy

Guiding principles for good management: Always challenge the status quo. Also hire the absolute best people. And don’t just delegate the responsibility, but also the authority that goes with it.

Best way to keep competitive edge: Always be paranoid about the competition. The other thing is to quantify. Having that scoreboard: What’s the ROI we’re able to achieve for our customers.

Why people like working for you: People love to follow somebody who’s fun to be around. Also painting that crystal-clear vision, giving the playbook, empowering people. I challenge people.

Why people don’t like working for you: If someone wants to punch the clock 8 to 5, they’re definitely not going to like working for me.

Most inspiring entrepreneur: Thomas Alva Edison. He challenged the status quo with everything. He perfected the light bulb, and he created a long-term, sustaining institution, General Electric, one of the greatest companies.

Judgment calls

Best business decision: Coming to Silicon Valley.

Hardest lesson learned and how you learned it: Never take your values for granted. I worked at a company where the CEO didn’t share the same values that I had. That was the most miserable year of my life, and I quit. I was torn, because I’d never really quit anything in my life, but I didn’t want to compromise my values.

Toughest business decision: To step aside as CEO at Ariba. I did that for personal reasons, a family reason.

Biggest missed opportunity: Probably not coming out to Silicon Valley earlier.

True confessions

Like best about job: Clearly the people side. That gives me all my energy.

Like least about job: Email.

Pet peeve: I want bad news immediately.

Most respected competitor: I would say paper, because it’s been around for 3,000 years. It’s tough to get rid of that stuff.

First choice for a new career: Standup comedian. I tried it one night. I totally bombed.

Predilections

Most influential book: “The Little Engine That Could.”

Favorite cause: The microloan issuer Opportunity International.

Favorite restaurant: Epic, right across the street from our headquarters.

Favorite way to spend free time: With my (five) children (who range in age from 2.5 years old to 27).

Favorite music: Nursery rhymes. Musicals. My twin boys love “The Sound of Music.” I’ve probably heard it 100 times in the last 100 days.

Automobile: I do not have a car. (Krach’s wife has a BMW).

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