OnBoard’s Paroon Chadha on Building a Software Business
When Paroon Chadha co-founded OnBoard, he couldn’t write a single line of code, but that didn’t stop him from following his vision of establishing the global software company.
Find inspiration with Yahoo! While studying for an MBA at Purdue University in the United States in the early 2000s, Chadha and his co-founder began developing a collaboration engine that could be used with any business.
“At the time, Purdue was trying to create a web portal for its 10,000 employees,” Chadha said. CEO magazine. “This was at a time when finding information on Google was much easier than finding the same information within your company behind a firewall – so it was a pretty big opportunity where a gap could be filled. .”
“There’s also a lot of information that was actually available but wasn’t organized.”
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs in India, this CEO’s mindset was ingrained in him from an early age, propelling him to the seed of an idea – a personalized collaborative way to efficiently access to information. The solution he and his co-founder dreamed up was OnSemble, an employee intranet collaboration tool they launched in 2003 through parent company Passageways. Next, OnSemble customers requested a similar collaboration platform specifically for board meetings, which inspired the creation of OnBoard.
“Find your own frame. I couldn’t write a single line of code, but I’m the CEO of a software company. – Paroon Chadha
Launched in 2011, OnBoard serves as a board intelligence platform accessible to more than 2,300 organizations across 12,000 boards and committees in 32 countries. Over the past decade, the company has secured a US$5 million private equity investment from Five Oaks, secured a US$100 million investment from JMI Equity, acquired town hall management software based in Canada called eSCRIBE, and underwent a rebrand in 2021, where Passageways became the silent parent company and OnBoard became the flagship brand.
Offering seamless meeting preparation, unified collaboration, an easy-to-use interface, and platform security, OnBoard takes the C suite to new heights quickly.
“A board meeting is the most precious moment in any organization,” Chadha explains. “The boardroom is where the leaders of organizations come together and make decisions about the future success of that organization.
“If you can make that meeting more informed, more efficient and less complicated, by default you empower the board to be more efficient and informed, which in turn makes the organization more efficient and successful.”
As the premier board intelligence platform, OnBoard has evolved traditional board management to show what visionary leadership can deliver. Digital transformation has remained largely untouched in boardrooms around the world, setting the company on its own course to shape the future of boardroom meetings.
“The conduct of board meetings is very steeped in tradition,” says the CEO. “A lot of councils still use The Rules of the Order of Robert for their parliamentary labors – a book published in the late 1800s.
“Typically, a board is led by the most experienced leaders in the organization who, demographically, tend to be a bit older than the general population, making product design focused on the extremely important ease of use.
“As boards around the world went through the uncomfortable process of adjusting to remote working, virtual meetings and all-digital formats [during the pandemic]they also realized all the benefits they were missing without knowing it.
With executives and board members realizing the potential of OnBoard early on, it was key to sustained overall earnings.
“As a business, we were profitable in year one and we started with an investment of $100,000 – not a lot of capital – so it was really a seed mentality,” Chadha says. “We stayed in our lane initially and remained profitable – we were able to assess adjacent opportunities when the time was right.”
This steady growth has led Passageways to be named one of Inc.’s 500 fastest growing companies. in the United States in 2008. In 2018, the company’s investment was US$5 million, a figure that jumped to US$100 million this year.
“You need to build a strong, disciplined foundation fiscally and continue to adhere to that principle as you grow,” advises Chadha. “A lot of companies that raise big money early do so without having a good foundation of business fundamentals in place.
“That may not be as sustainable as having managed to run and grow a fast-growing business, and do it profitably before taking on capital.”
However, despite OnBoard’s significant success, there has been one major challenge in Chadha’s journey – and it’s one most executives can relate to.
“One of the biggest challenges in my career has been finding the right talent,” he shares. “There are some super talented people I’ve worked with, but sometimes a misalignment pops up that you didn’t anticipate, so it’s always a challenge.”
Add to that the COVID-19 pandemic and it further amplifies the difficulties already encountered.
“The most pronounced challenge of the past two or three years has been having to do all of these large undertakings simultaneously, even as we grow and build our leadership team.
“This is where our collaborative culture – what we call sahyog in Sanskrit meaning “unity” – has really paid off. »
Although Chadha’s professional journey began when the internet was still very new and mysterious, there are still opportunities for budding entrepreneurs, especially as the global software industry is expected to grow by 11.3% between 2021 and 2028.
The CEO and co-founder of OnBoard has some time-tested words of wisdom for innovators and executives looking to try out the industry.
“Find your own frame,” he shares. “I couldn’t write a single line of code, but I’m the CEO of a software company. There’s a quote from George Bernard Shaw that really fits here: “The reasonable man adapts to the world; the unreasonable persists in trying to adapt the world to itself. So all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
“You can be successful in different areas, even if you yourself aren’t experienced or talented in those areas, if you can find a way to collaborate with others.”