“Find those who believe what you believe.” This is what Geoffrey Moore, acclaimed author of Crossing the Chasm, recommended to our company back in January 2021 at Ridgeline’s annual kickoff meeting
Geoff was with us that day to help set the tone for the year ahead. His advice makes a whole lot of sense when you’re attempting to disrupt a market. So we took it very seriously.
For Ridgeline, “those who believe what [we] believe” means customers who share our vision for the investment management industry and teammates who share our passion to build something revolutionary together. People who share the same business values. Collaborators who work together for the greater good. Partners who understand the give-and-take of pursuing radical change.
Did we deliver on Geoff’s challenge? Yes!
Was it easy? This answer is complicated, just like the rest of 2021.
Let’s start with our customers.
We are eternally grateful to the innovators and early adopters who share our vision for modernization and are committed to helping Ridgeline make it a reality. In 2021, we added 10 firms to our customer community, now 16 strong. These asset management firms range from $1B to $100B AUM, operating in a variety of asset classes and currencies, with predominantly institutionally-focused long-only strategies.
How did we find these partners in a pandemic? To one, we mailed a giant pinecone that caught their attention. Others we targeted based on a specific set of market criteria. Still, others came to us through word of mouth and personal connections. A few were able to visit our headquarters in Tahoe and meet our teams in person. But for the most part, we had to earn their support and trust over Zoom.
As our first design partners, these customers spent hundreds of hours with us in 2021, sharing their challenges and needs, testing, and guiding our product roadmap. We launched an alpha testing program designed to give our customers direct access to the Ridgeline platform as soon as certain features and capabilities were ready. Four firms participated in our first round of alpha testing, collectively spending more than 100 hours providing hands-on-keyboard feedback.
Our most pivotal customer achievement this past year was deploying Ridgeline at a $1B AUM asset manager. The firm’s investment and operations teams have been accounting, reporting, generating trades, and managing compliance with Ridgeline (in parallel with their legacy systems) for a few months now, and in early 2022, they will cut over to using Ridgeline exclusively. Additionally, we began loading data and preparing for parallel operations at two additional asset managers slated to go live in 2022. After less than three years in development, Ridgeline’s industry cloud platform is ready for deployment!
Aside from the obvious pandemic-related speed bumps, our most persistent challenge is this: our customers want Ridgeline today. But we are committed to taking the long view and building a technology company that can scale with the industry for decades. We cannot be everything to everyone just yet, and our customers know patience is essential to our collective success. We remain more committed than ever to marrying investment management business challenges with modern, innovative technology solutions.
The Hard Stuff
“Start with the hard stuff.”
This is what Ridgeline CEO Dave Duffield told us in the beginning. He was specifically talking about making investments that prepare a company and its technology to handle enormous scale and mission critical workloads. The reality is that many software companies underinvest in these areas in pursuit of releasing the next feature. Conversely, Ridgeline is taking an integrated platform approach and preparing to serve this industry for decades. A few related areas that picked up momentum for us this past year:
• Workflow Engine - Across all functional application areas, we’ve implemented system-wide alerting, notifications, task management, and job scheduling. Most of our customers use Microsoft Outlook as their primary system to alert their peers of status and to get jobs done.
• Global Search - We hear time and time again that customers loathe searching through menus and sub menus. We’ve implemented global search across our entire system so users can query any data in the system and search for functionality such as running an appraisal report.
• One End Point - We now publish over 900+ APIs and offer them fully documented to our customers. We think of APIs as binding contracts with our customers (and test them accordingly) as they use them to extend our system into their existing IT footprint.
• Continuous Delivery - The number one request we get from investment managers is to get them off the upgrade treadmill. Most firms go through a long, arduous process to upgrade their legacy systems every few years. We invested significantly in our ability to continuously innovate and deliver our SaaS product as rapidly as possible. We are proud to have released Ridgeline 47 times in 2021 – nearly every week. Our customers uptake these releases with no service disruption or downtime.
• Security-First Mindset - This emphasis guides all decisions regarding the data, operations, and property of our company, products, and services. We continue to operate Ridgeline according to the high standards outlined in our SOC II certification that we achieved in 2020. We move fast, but never at the expense of security and privacy.
As you can probably guess, 2021’s Great Resignation created the most hyper-competitive talent market we’ve seen in decades. The resulting impact spurred creative thinking at Ridgeline as we launched new programs to engage our workforce, attract talent, and recognize the amazing individuals who work at Ridgeline. By the numbers, we exited 2021 with 285 employees, adding close to 100 new teammates to our company. We are proud to continue hand picking the brightest minds in industry, cloud software development, and security to work with our customers.
As for back-to-the-office protocols, we remain guarded but are looking forward to the day we can safely collaborate and celebrate as a whole team. At present, our people work where they are most comfortable. If individuals need or want to use one of our offices, we test for COVID upon entry. We firmly believe in the power of human connection and in the innovation that results from being physically together, and we know our customers do too.
Despite having a somewhat distributed workforce, we continue to put our people first and creatively invest in an award-winning and engaging employee experience. This past year, both Glassdoor and Inc. Magazine recognized Ridgeline as a "Best Place to Work."
Opportunity on the Horizon
Every day Ridgeline is closer to becoming the system of record for our current customers, and ultimately, many other leading asset managers. While we are humbled by the audacity of this vision, we are also more bullish than ever about the opportunity to deliver it to a receptive market.
Before Ridgeline, firms required multiple on-premise systems linked together with batch-based relational databases and a lot of Microsoft Excel – legacy technology that is difficult to upgrade and not secure. On the flip side, we’re working with our customers to prove that critical accounting and trading functionality can be integrated into one cloud offering, greatly simplifying a firm’s operations and unlocking data to be refined into rich insights – delivered as a highly reliable, available, and secure service powered by our partner – Amazon Web Services.
As we begin a new year, we are so proud to have seen our team and our customer community rise to the occasion of building and operating a next-generation investment management solution. This mission isn’t for the faint of heart, nor is there an easy button for building a company like Ridgeline. But as our CEO Dave Duffield says “If it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing.”
If you believe what we believe, and if our mission motivates you as it does us, join us in the pursuit of ambitious innovation, in working together to update critical business systems, in serving an earnest and supportive customer community, and in enjoying the journey along the way. Please check out our updated website to learn more about our products, company, and values. Welcome to 2022. Let’s do this!