Entrepreneur and Innovator Greg Gianforte

Greg GianforteThe Montana Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs (MADE) and the University of Montana School of Business Administration are pleased to announce the recipient of the 2012 Pioneer in Industry Award, Greg Gianforte.

Greg Gianforte is a serial entrepreneur in the computer networking and software industries, and an innovator in the customer experience market.

Mr. Gianforte founded RightNow Technologies, a cloud-based customer-service and support solutions company, in Bozeman in 1997. Under his leadership as chairman and CEO, RightNow enjoyed continuous growth, with nearly 2,000 consumer-focused companies around the world using its products, including British Airways, Cisco and Sprint. Headquartered in Bozeman, Montana, the company had more than 1,100 employees worldwide and more than $225 million in annual revenue. RightNow was the largest commercial employer in Bozeman and the only publically traded technology company headquartered in the state.

He took RightNow public in 2004 with one of that year's most successful initial public offerings. Seven years later, in 2011, he sold RightNow to Oracle for over $1.5 billion.

Prior to founding RightNow, Mr. Gianforte co-founded Brightwork Development Inc., a developer of network management applications. He served as president and built the company to 75 employees with software installed on 150,000 Novell network systems worldwide.

In 1994, he sold Brightwork to McAfee Associates, a provider of network security and tools, for more than $10 million, staying on as North American vice president and growing McAfee's North American sales operation from $25 million to more than $60 million in revenues within one year. During his tenure, the firm was selected by Fortune magazine as one of the "10 Coolest Companies in America" largely on the basis of the Internet selling approach Mr. Gianforte fostered.

Mr. Gianforte began his career at AT&T Bell Laboratories and has received many honors throughout his career.

In 2003, he received the Stevens Honor Award in recognition of his outstanding record of achievement as a noted entrepreneur. He was named Pacific Northwest Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, which recognizes outstanding achievement and innovation in business.

In 2007, Mr. Gianforte was inducted into the CRM Hall of Fame, recognizing his consistent influence over employees, customers, partners and competitors in the field. In 2011, he was named to TechAmerica Foundation’s CLOUD2 Commission, where he and other experts from industry and academia provided President Obama with recommendations for both government deployments of cloud technologies and public policies to enable U.S. innovation in cloud-based technologies.

Mr. Gianforte has also authored several books. One of them, Bootstrapping Your Business: Start and Grow a Successful Company With Almost No Money, and has lectured on the topic at Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, Harvard, Marquette, London School of Business, Stevens Institute and, of course, The University of Montana. In Eight to Great: Eight Steps to Delivering an Exceptional Customer Experience, he outlines ways in which companies may deliver better customer experiences while also reducing operating costs.

Mr. Gianforte is involved in a number of philanthropic endeavors, through the Gianforte Family Foundation which he and his wife founded, including Bootstrap Montana, a micro-loan program designed to assist rural entrepreneurs with zero-interest loans in Montana and the expansion of ACE Scholarships into Montana which provide $2,000 per year scholarships to low and moderate income families in Montana to send their kids to private schools of their choice.

Mr. Gianforte earned his B.E. degree in Electrical Engineering and M.S. degree in Computer Science from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1983. He also holds multiple honorary doctorate degrees.