A year-and-a-half ago, I read a blog post by one of our first investors, Michael Eisenberg, called “Optimism and Resilience”. In short, it tells the story of a company called Gigya, which was eventually acquired by SAP for $350M. Michael looks back at the process, and recalls a key moment being when they appointed an industry expert to their board of directors. That industry expert ended up helping the CEO steer the company in a different direction – one that ultimately made it super successful.
As I read this blog, I started thinking about who, of all the people I knew, could help not only understand our business, but understand the complex maritime ecosystem and its needs, and those of its decision-makers. Who could be a role model and help us – and me – grow personally and professionally, and think bigger, in a more consistent, persistent and sustainable way?
Six months earlier, Tom Glocer, one of our investors and a former CEO of Thomson Reuters, had introduced me to John Browne. I have to admit that the first few times I met The Lord Browne of Madingley (to give the former BP CEO his full title), I didn’t fully comprehend who he was and what he’d achieved. He struck me as being incredibly intelligent, to-the-point and patient, and kind enough to care about Windward and me. He agreed to invest, which meant we had the opportunity to work together, kind of.
So after reading Michael’s blog, I picked up the phone. I called Lord Browne, and I asked him if he would be willing to help me become a better version of myself, and if he would join our board of directors to help us grow the company. Happily, he agreed. In April 2018, he paid us a visit to Tel Aviv for his first Windward board meeting.
Fire the CEO and other roles
The more he worked with us, the more I felt his impact on the company went well beyond the actual time we spent together, helping ensure our vision and plan were crisp and clear, and that we were investing aggressively in repeatable, scalable growth.
Fast forward to this summer, and I asked Lord Browne if we could work together on Windward’s growth strategy. He was kind enough to invite me to his home in Venice. During a lunch overlooking the Ponte dell’Accademia, I asked him what a company chairman does. Without skipping a beat, he replied: “Fire the CEO. Appoint board members. And manage board meetings.” I asked him if he would work even more closely with our board, and agree to be our Chairman – an appointment we’re delighted to announce today.
Lord Browne, in his many and varied roles – as CEO of BP; board member of Goldman Sachs, Intel and GSK; and chairman of multiple institutions – understands the impact innovation can have on the industries in the wider maritime ecosystem. This can be critical to the way we build our approach to partnering with organizations for the long-term.
The maritime ecosystem is at the stage where market leaders will be the first to adopt AI and predictive technologies. Lord Browne has a long and enviable record helping companies in creating and sustaining a competitive edge, and he understands what it takes to ensure they remain at the forefront of innovation, while safeguarding their existing interests.
If we are to build stronger bonds of trust and a common language with partners and decision-makers, having a chairman who can help us steer the ship and make sure we see the bigger picture can be hugely important.
Both Lord Browne and I are passionate about engineering and how it impacts the world. Windward, to a large extent, takes a positive approach to how data, software and analytics can create safer seas and a thriving maritime ecosystem.
We understand that to be successful, a company needs wise, experienced hands on its board. They don’t come much wiser or more experienced than Lord Browne. We’re thrilled to have him on board for the next phase of our journey, as we work on making Windward an indispensable partner for the maritime ecosystem. Go Deeper!