Today, we announced our newest board member — Arthur ‘AJ’ Johnson, chief strategy officer of Pure Storage. He brings over 30 years of experience across a wide range of corporate functions – including operations, strategy, alliances, finance and mergers and acquisitions – with a successful track record with hyper-growth companies. With AJ’s breadth of experience, he will be an asset to Quickbase’s growth plan.
We sat down with AJ and talked about the future of the low-code/no-code market, hyper growth companies, and what technology companies need to do to achieve true equity and inclusion.
AJ, welcome to the Quickbase board! Can you tell us a bit about what attracted you to the opportunity?
Thanks, I’m excited to be here. Back when I was working as the vice president of corporate development at Intuit, I became familiar with the Quickbase product. Then, when I joined Twilio, I saw the power of the low-code market firsthand. In addition to developers, we were targeting non-developers and saw the impact that low-code platforms could have with that audience. Based on this, I knew this market was going to continue to grow in a big way. I also wanted to be at a company in growth mode, which is where I could help shape the strategy and help the most.
Finally, being a part of the Vista Equity Partners portfolio was a huge draw for me. Robert Smith gave me my offer to join Goldman Sachs over 20 years ago and being able to work with him and the Vista family is a huge plus.
With all your experience in operations and strategy roles, where do you see platforms like Quickbase adding the most value for enterprises that are trying to become more operationally agile?
I see the greatest opportunity around legacy systems. When you have a large piece of your ERP or CRM, you buy from SAP or SFDC, and you can attempt to customize but there’s this last mile of customization and analytics you don’t have. This results in either needing IT to create custom code or engaging an SI, which takes time and lots of money.
When I was the COO at Cisco WebEx, I ran the big data team. It was an important role because my group had to create metrics for our entire division to understand the health of the business. But it was a painful process because we had to engage with central IT each time we wanted to make a change to the reports. I wish we would have had the Quickbase solution at that time.
A platform like Quickbase can empower non-developers in the business to create these customizations, this is where I see the most value. Also, you have access to the reporting and analytics, you get insights from your data, and you can now automate any processes throughout your business.
The greatest challenge for Quickbase will be focusing on where we can bring the most value with a platform that is so versatile.
The low-code market seems to be at an inflection point with major investments by big technology companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, etc. How do you see Quickbase competing against these household names?
Quickbase can use its ability to be nimble to its advantage. These large companies take their time to make decisions and they are dabbling in low-code/no-code platforms, not fully focused on it. Quickbase can have a best-in-class product and move and ship faster than any of the larger tech giants. Also, Quickbase is close to their customers and can build a product that is truly influenced by what the customers want and need.
In the broader tech industry, do you see progress being made in diversity and inclusion? What should Quickbase and other companies do to promote diversity and get more minority voices into influential positions?
I’m encouraged by the recent round of announcements in tech company leadership, but outcomes are not where they need to be. Prior to George Floyd’s murder, there was a lot of talk, now there’s actual money behind various initiatives. Companies are increasingly hiring people of color into senior level positions and establishing new mandates, like the announcement of Nasdaq requiring diverse board members, are encouraging, but we have a long way to go.
Companies need to establish an aspirational goal and rally the entire company behind it. Quickbase is at a size where we can make a huge impact and change the trajectory of diversity, so we need to do that.
What are you optimistic for in 2021? Whether that be for Quickbase, in the broader tech industry or in the world at large?
I am inspired and optimistic because of our younger generation and the way they have responded to not just the pandemic, but to civil unrest in 2020. My teenage daughters wanted to march in the streets for equality and understand what it takes to make short-term and long-term progress. I have a lot of optimism around what this generation is going to do, and we need to support and encourage them as much as possible.