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Saturday, Jun 3, 2023

Filling a Niche Gives Software Developer a Competitive Edge

It’s been a busy, busy year for BlackLine Systems of Calabasas. They’ve expanded their staff from 13 to 31; moved into new offices; and were ranked 300 on the Inc. List of Fastest Growing Companies. There’s been no gloating over that last one, said CEO Therese Tucker. “When you’re growing that fast, you don’t have a lot of time to react to things like that,” she said. “It’s like, ‘That’s really nice, now let’s get back to doing the 900 things we’re doing today.'” The international economic crisis has not been felt at BlackLine except in a perversely positive way. “I have to say, in this economy we’re getting some really talented people,” Tucker said apologetically. “We’ve had a lot of resumes from (former) Countrywide folks.” She expects to have 40 employees by the end of the first quarter of 2009. Tucker, now 47, said she started the company after retiring from financial software developer SunGard where she was the chief technology officer, first for trading systems and then for treasury systems. “I got bored,” Tucker said about why she started BlackLine in June of 2001. For the first three years, the company focused on developing wealth management software and then they stumbled on what is now their flagship product: software that helps companies accomplish the accounting closing documentation required by Sarbanes-Oxley. “One of our clients (First National Bank of Nebraska) asked us to build this,” said Tucker. “We did and then we realized it was a huge area of need for a lot of companies.” The purchasers of their software are companies of all sizes and shapes. Some are running SAP and Oracle systems where BlackLine provides added functionality; others are just trying to get their spreadsheets to reconcile properly. She’s not worried about competition from the big players in the industry. “They’re actually not motivated to put us out of business just to put us out of business,” said Tucker. “They would be actually more motivated to buy us. We’re on a lot of people’s radar.” But they’re not sitting around waiting to be gobbled up. “We’re always adding other modules and other products around the financial close processing,” said Tucker. “What’s really been surprising to me is how many things accountants still try to manage out of spreadsheets when there’s so much risk in that and it’s just so much of a problem.” One visible sign of their growth is the new office space Blackline moved into across the freeway from their first quarters in Calabasas. Software developers no longer have to share desks and there are lots of windows, adequate parking and even an espresso machine in the break room. In addition to offering full health benefits to just about every employee, Tucker said, BlackLine has also designated every other Friday as a work-from-home day for those who commute. “I very much view our employees as where the real company value is,” said Tucker, “so we try to do everything we can in terms of being appreciative of that.” BLACKLINE SYSTEMS Calabasas NICHE MARKET No. 9 Fastest Growing Company Under $5 Million (63.8%)

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