Jive still move to a popular beat

In a heavily saturated software market it is often difficult to stand out as a smaller player. An exception to this rule is online communities firm Jive Software, which featured in CIO's Twenty Companies to Watch in 2010.

Since then, the firm has continued to expand in both customer and employee numbers, fuelled by newly-installed CEO Tony Zingale.

The company's success is largely down to its unique offering. Jive is unusual among smaller collaboration software players as it targets buyers on the IT side, as well as business leaders, focusing on strong messaging around hosting, integration and security, rather than just on end-user functionality.

Founded in 2001, the firm has seen substantial change in the last two years. Perhaps most significant was then CEO Dave Hersh's decision to step down and take on the role of Chairman of the Board. He was replaced in the interim by Tony Zingale, a board member, who is still CEO today.

In 2011, Jive filed for a $100m IPO as it stated that it was not profitable, despite a growth in users. Its 2011 full year figures showed it had achieved revenues of $77.3m with an overall net loss of $55.8m.

The loss does not worry Jive and in fact, fits the company's roadmap, says CEO Zingale. "We are balancing growth and marketshare with our path to profitability. We continue to expand our gross margin and raise cash," he says.

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The firm has gone from a "fairly run of the mill start up" to "stepping out of the shadows" in the last few years, according to Angela Ashenden, principal analyst at MWD, who has been following Jive since 2007. She attributes Jive's success to an enterprise-focused approach when its peers were looking at the consumer space. "At the time and to some extent today, people look at bypassing the IT department and Jive said, we shouldn't encourage that," Ashenden says.

Jive's success is demonstrated by its rapidly expanding headcount, which is now at about 500 staff, a growth of more than 30 per cent in a year. The firm now has around 800 customers over a wide range of industries, from technology firms such as McAfee to telecoms companies such as Vodafone and T-Mobile, as well as consumer brands including Starbucks and Gap.

"Jive is quite a smart company," Ashenden says. "They are not selling for the sake of selling and they are working with their customers to target the right people."

Zingale is confident that Jive is now well on the way to accomplishing its targets set out in 2010. He points towards analysts including Gartner, which he says credit Jive with having "the most robust, broadest and deepest social technology platform in the business".

"It is the one platform that extends inside and outside the enterprise," he adds. "We are a social platform creating a paradigm from the consumer world into the enterprise."