John Peinhardt, DirectorPoint

John Peinhardt, DirectorPoint

Entrepreneur by nature or nurture? Both.

John Peinhardt isn’t the kind of guy who lives to impress people — as evidenced by this childhood memory: “I was the only kid at Career Day in second grade who wrote that I wanted to grow up and be a management consultant.”

And where does a kid get those kind of ideas? “My father’s been a management consultant for more than 30 years. I still remember him talking business at the dinner table when I was young.” And yes, he still remembers being genuinely interested. Not only in what Dad (Brent) had to say, but also in the idea of business leadership — and business as a calling.

An Eagle Scout at 18, Peinhardt’s interest in both concepts was thoroughly nurtured at Birmingham Southern — where he majored in, you guessed it, Business Administration. His plan was to ultimately fill a complementary role in business with his father — whose expertise was strategy. So after graduation, he took a position at Blue Cross that demanded a particular focus on execution.

Leadership? Check. Calling? Check.
Peinhardt’s responsibility as project manager was implementation of Blue Cross’s software-development projects, ranging from workflow to claims management. During this time, he also founded Rotaract Birmingham — now the world’s largest local chapter of Rotary’s sister organization, for 30-and-under members. Under his leadership, the chapter launched the “Ready To Read” program — which furnished local second grade classrooms with quality libraries, and later won a Rotary International Service Award.

(Now 37, Peinhardt admits to a less-than-perfect attendance record at Downtown Rotary — often due, in part, to a lack of available coats and ties at the office.)

Inspiration close to home
Peinhardt’s idea for DirectorPoint (a software platform for Boards of Directors) was also inspired by his father’s business, where he’d worked for three years after Blue Cross. “He’s mostly worked for Senior Management teams during his career,” says John, “and naturally took an interest in Board service — since so many of his peers were board members. Which, eventually, got me wondering what a typical Board of Directors has to buy in the normal course of doing business.”

Turns out, there are a number of things boards have to buy — from audits, training and other consulting services to liability insurance What’s more, there are quite a lot of boards out there; literally hundreds of thousands. Another thing, Peinhardt learned, that boards bought a lot of, at the time — 2011 — was paper (more on that shortly). His research also indicated that Fortune 500 company boards were increasingly buying iPads as management tools for their activities.

Finding his niche
At some point, to borrow the old cliché, Peinhardt put two-and-two together and landed on the idea of a paperless management solution for boards. Which is when he started researching his competition — and immediately found a niche he could exploit. “

There were already a couple of good products on the market — so I couldn’t differentiate strictly on quality. Where I saw an opening was in pricing. These companies were charging as much as $1000 per user per year.”

Sensing a genuine opportunity, Peinhardt mapped-out his first portal design in late 2011 — and in classic entrepreneurial fashion, turned over execution of the User Interface to his wife (who has a degree in architectural interior design). Six months later, DirectorPoint was up and running. Now all he needed was customers.

Can you say Roll Tide?
Enter Brent Peinhardt again. “My father, who also holds a percentage in the company, arranged an opportunity for us to present our idea, in the summer of 2012, to the University of Alabama Board of Directors” — who, by the way, were very interested in the product. Turns out the UA system had 150 board members — each of whom were receiving 2000 pages of printed material every  three  months.

“They liked what we showed them, and we struck a deal. They agreed to be our first customer, help us launch the product, and meet all the security requirements — in exchange for 5% of the company. Provided we could have it fully functioning by January, 2013.”

The following six months were, to put it mildly, a bit stressful. That said, Peinhardt will tell you without hesitation, “It’s the best deal we ever made. Our relationship with the University gave us instant credibility in the market.” Credibility which soon led to relationships with Ole Miss and Georgia. The Peinhardt name didn’t hurt either. DirectorPoint’s co-founder Ellen Glasgow spent the majority of her 2013 sales efforts calling on Brent’s connections.

Just the good parts
DirectorPoint — which was built on a total investment of just $43,000 — has generated a positive cash flow almost since Day One. The company reached a million in revenue with just three employees — and has grown at an annual rate of 80% for the past four years.

DirectorPoint now serves hundreds of clients in eight countries — including one particularly high-profile organization: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Revenue has increased with staff size — which now numbers 17. Oh, and by the way: They haven’t had to raise a penny of capital since the initial investment.

A word to aspiring venture capital investors: If you’re searching for the proverbial Next Big Thing, you might want to consider expanding your outreach in the local second-grade management consultant network.


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