For Steven Love, the opportunity to become the first CFO at Evolv, a four-year-old Silicon Valley start-up, was something like love at first sight.
Evolv is a data company. It merges information from its clients’ human-resources systems, Evolv’s own database and publicly available sources into a cloud-based platform that identifies job candidates worth hiring. The platform also lets companies assess employee performance and spot the employees who are at the greatest risk of leaving.
Count Love among the growing legions of finance chiefs who view data analysis as the key to getting the job done well, right up there with understanding what you’re selling and whom you’re selling to.
“When I saw this opportunity I thought, wow, what this company is doing totally synchs with how I go about my job,” Love says. “That is, make sure you’ve got great data that you understand and can use to make business decisions. For our customers we’re applying that to the oldest business cycle out there: the work force. Every company has that, so we think we have a very sizable opportunity.”
So far Evolv has targeted companies with 10,000-plus employees but plans over time to drive further and further down the size scale. It will need a lot of customers to grow into a large company; revenue is now at a run rate for “the double digit millions,” says Love.
Love’s eyes were opened wide to the importance of strong data in 1999, when he joined Portal Software (since acquired by Oracle), which had been a client of Love’s at Ernst & Young.
At E&Y Love was a revenue-recognition expert, which Portal, which was going public, needed. He made the move, he says, because he’d tired of giving clients bad news after a quarter’s close. “I dealt with software companies, and software revenue recognition was complex in the late 1990s,” Love says. “Often my clients had different revenue than they thought they did. I wanted to be on the company side and work with a CFO, sales team, customers and contracts so we’d have a consistently accurate view of expected revenue and not have those surprises.”
At Portal, where Love was at first the controller, a key task related to revenue recognition was collecting and analyzing data flowing from the company’s customer contracts. The information was sliced and diced by contract size, product type, customer geography and payment terms.