Entrepreneur Walner’s ‘Align’ Is Hiring For Millions Of Reasons
Doug Walner, the president and CEO of Align, said businesses spend too much time putting out proverbial fires day-to-day instead of concentrating on scaling their business. Harvard Business School research confirms 85 percent of businesses never actually achieve the plans and strategies they develop. That’s where Align steps in – as a cloud-based business operating system that calms the chaos of daily operations by using fundamental principles for effective business development and management, providing a framework for focused execution and communication that drives company priorities daily.
Walner just secured $2.175 million in Series A funding for the New Orleans-based software company and announced he’s looking to hire 20 to 30 people locally in the next 18 to 24 months.
Walner said attendees at this week’s New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW), presented by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and produced by The Idea Village in partnership with Solomon Group, possess the qualities he’s looking for – drive, focus and smarts.
Walner, a New York transplant who graduated from Tulane University in 1991 and served as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence, a mentor and an ongoing supporter at The Idea Village, said he plans to double the growth of his company this year. Ready to undergo the same successful transformation other companies achieve when using Align’s software, Align is ready to put its money where its heart is: New Orleans.
Walner shared his vision with Biz:
Leslie Snadowsky: Congratulations on raising more than $2 million dollars for your New Orleans-based company Align. Why do you think being located in and operating out of New Orleans helped you with investor interest?
Doug Walner: What’s happened in the last five to seven years is that the angel investor market has grown in New Orleans. Prior to that it didn't exist. There was a lack of capital in the city, but today, the market has matured. I think the market is a much better place to raise money now. Local investors showed a lot of interest. One third of our investors are local. That wouldn’t have been possible eight years ago. A lot has changed, and it’s because New Orleans is attracting larger tech companies to the area which is good for companies like Align. It’s bringing in better talent, and New Orleans is a good place to be. This level of investment demonstrates confidence in the company, the product and the market opportunity.
LS: Align is a Software as a Service (SaaS) business with a mission to keep employees focused and goal-oriented managing tasks and priorities with your tested and proven business management habits and methodologies. Why do think businesses struggle so much trying to accomplish the plans and strategies they develop? How does Align help?
DW: Businesses do struggle. When small businesses scale from five to 10 employees to 30 to 35 employees it gets chaotic. Companies are good at coming up with plans and strategies, but they lack focus when developing good business habits and structure. Chaos does not breed focus. Align provides the platform to create the structure and framework around priorities. It also facilitates accountability, when it comes to key performance markers, key tasks and executing priorities, because our framework and structure tracks it visually with red, yellow and green signals. Since the platform is transparent within a company, the CEO can see how employees are tracking priorities. Business is about getting things done. This platform shows you how your company is getting things done in real time and in a visual way and the transparency allows for accountability within an organization.
LS: Align markets 23 software component features. What sets Align apart from other software methodologies in the marketplace?
DW: While bosses and employees are busy working in their business, Align offers them the tools to work on their business. It allows a company to identify what its key priorities are and what success looks like when achieving those priorities. Align puts priorities at the center and builds tools around them, and that allows employees to better communicate and track progress on their tasks. That’s what sets Align apart. And it can take a user only 10 to 15 minutes a day. Our platform facilitates daily exposure to quarterly and annual goals, and we have features called the Daily Huddle and the Weekly Huddle and it’s when you can track the progress of your team. The result is heightened alignment and execution of priorities at all levels.
Currently we have 750 company clients and 8,000 users in more than 64 countries around the globe and more than 330,000 of their priorities have been completed that moved their companies forward.
LS: Align offers free webinars that boast, “Join us for 30 minutes that could change your business life!” What do you teach or demonstrate that is so impactful?
DW: We offer webinars as outreach to prospective customers. They explain what our software does and we offer a free 45-day trial version. You’ll learn how to get the most out of our product, learn about our methodology and see how your business can scale when prioritizing good business habits. We show how to implement basic business concepts and habits and how our software can help form these habits and create your own framework. We also offer one-on-one demonstrations on how to use our software and how to adopt better business habits.
LS: What’s the biggest asset your company has to sell, and how did you communicate that to prospective investors?
DW: At our investment presentations, everyone understood the core of our methodology. Eleven of our own customers invested in our business, and the reality is they really understand the problem – the chaos a company can go through when growing quickly. Our message was easy to deliver because they were all familiar with the problem. Align also has strong elements; a good business revenue model, software that’s now in its second generation, 750 company clients, 8,000 users and a seasoned management team. It wasn’t that hard getting our message across because Align has all the important things an investor is looking for in a business.”
LS: What were the biggest challenges you faced trying to raise millions of dollars in funding, and how will Align grow with the new investments?
DW: The biggest challenge was when investors asked what we’d do with the money we’d raise. And I’d say, ‘I’m going to hire people.’ Align’s business founders Andy Bailey and Amith Nagarajan funded the business through other businesses they had. We really only had two employees. When I was raising capital I would say we’re going to use the money to hire people to execute the business we have and are going after. We have the revenue, but we need people. It’s a unique aspect that I have to hire people for business backfill. We had two people in October, eight people now and we’re hiring between 20 to 30 people in the next 18 to 24 months, and they will be for New Orleans positions so we’re happy about that.
LS: What jobs are you looking to fill and what skills and qualities should a prospective Align employee possess?
DW: People with drive and smarts who are tech-forward and want to be a part of a fun, interesting business in New Orleans. We have a good market for that and for candidates that meet that criteria. We’re looking to fill jobs in all groups of development; software and technology development, project management, infrastructure IT, marketing, customer service and sales. We’re looking for smart people who want to focus on execution. NOEW participants are the kind of people we’re interested in hiring for new positions because lots of people who attend NOEW want to be an entrepreneur or are looking for work opportunities to be a part of a new company and get in early. We know we’ve got to grow our business, and focus on the hard work of executing and getting things done, and we’re looking for talented people to join us.