From a barn in Yorkshire to a $1bn valuation and unicorn status

Having just taken up the CFO role at technology Anaplan, a business which has just banked $90m of venture capital investment, James Budge answers a few of our questions on building a fast-growth company and how being cloud-based is unique.

Enterprise planning cloud company Anaplan has become the latest British firm to be classified as a “unicorn” – a business with a value of over $1bn.

With a mission to “unseat the humble spreadsheet as the financial planning tool of choice”, its roots can be traced back to a barn in Yorkshire.

Joining the business at the same time as a new $90m funding round, backed by Premji Invest, Baillie Gifford, Founders Circle Capital and Harmony Partners, is James Budge – someone with 20 years of Silicon Valley experience.

(1) Where has your career taken you so far?

While I am a Silicon Valley veteran, my career has been very global and functionally vast, which has allowed me to spend a lot of time abroad leading global teams and interacting with customers around the world. 

I love spending time outside the US in other cultural environments learning how business gets done efficiently and effectively, while also discovering how the technology I represent can best help those businesses. Additionally, having been a public company CFO for nine years, I very much enjoy the interactions and learnings from the investing community.

(2) What was it that attracted you to the Anaplan role?

I was drawn to Anaplan because of the huge market opportunity and the company’s best-in-class technology, great leadership, passionate CEO, outstanding financials, excellent investors, and world-class customer base. This combination of characteristics is hard to find, which made this opportunity at Anaplan impossible for me to pass up.

Also, the company just took an exciting step with the closing of its latest founding round in at the start of 2016. Anaplan has achieved a significant amount of momentum and I’m looking forward to working with the team to sustain our continued growth.

(3) What is unique about being part of a venture capital-backed business?

Generally, I find that venture capital investors tend to be more patient with the timing of returns on investment and are more helpful engaging for the success of their portfolio companies. That being said, I don’t find them overly unique since all investors are looking for returns and are interested in success for the companies they back. 

(4) What do you think are the important characteristics of a good finance team?

I think that speed, agility, and the ability to form logical conclusions with imperfect information are not just important characteristics of a good finance team, but an absolute imperative in the era of digital transformation. Luckily, I’m joining a team that embodies these characteristics – I’m just hoping that I can keep up!

Have a look at some of our other Real FD profiles:

(5) How does leading the finance team of a cloud-based company differ from other roles?

Cloud companies have unique key performance indicators that are tracked well beyond the typical financial metrics for on-premise software technologies. Operational metrics, costs to acquire customers, loads of bookings, and revenue metrics are all very helpful in analysing and supporting the speed with which cloud companies need to move.

(6) How will Anaplan go about spending the $90m it has just raised?

Ultimately, we will use the funding to fulfill increased global demand. To achieve this we are planning geographic expansion in Asia and Europe and we will continue scaling our global employee base with a focus on engineering and sales roles. 

Additionally, we will continue to invest heavily in building capability into our technology platform and supporting applications so that we can continue delighting our customers.

(7) How will you go about continuing strong revenue growth?

This latest round of funding will continue fuelling the growth we are already experiencing. Again, scaling our business while also innovating and investing in our cloud infrastructure will position us to meet the increasing demand in the enterprise software market. This includes beefing up both the sales and the marketing engine to make our sales cycles more efficient.

(8) Does the unicorn badge mean anything for you and the business, or is it just a media thing?

We view the unicorn status mostly as media hype, but it is certainly a good thing to be viewed positively by the investing community. While valuations can fluctuate in ways beyond our control, high valuations from the investor community are usually an outcome of strong financial results that result from delighting customers. What we can control – and remain focused on – is the value that we bring to our customers by solving their very fundamental business problems.

(9) What does the Anaplan story say about British technology companies?

I think that Anaplan’s story demonstrates that there are plenty of brilliant minds and technologists in the UK. The country and its regulators should do all it can to foster and develop these minds and ideas. 

(10) What one thing are you most looking forward to about the new job?

I think we have a unique opportunity to see Anaplan become something very special in the enterprise software market. I look forward to being a part of the team that makes it happen.

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About Author

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven is the editor of Real Business. He is also the editor of Business Advice, a title focused solely on a section of the business community currently underserved – micro companies. Alongside this, he is part of the team that hosts the Growing Business Awards, First Women Awards and Future 50 initiative. Prior to his role at Real Business, he was editor at competitor website Growth Business and head reporter at M&A Deals. Throughout his career he has interviewed leading entrepreneurs including Alex Chesterman, Lopo Champalimaud, Sarah Wood, James Averdeick and Alex Saint.


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