An Exclusive Interview with Software Industry Leader Therese Tucker

Therese Tucker, Founder and Co-CEO of BlackLine, was named The Top Woman Leader in SaaS of 2023 as well as a Top 50 SaaS CEO. Below is an interview we conducted with her about her journey building BlackLine. We cover some of the challenges she faced along the way, her vision for the company’s future, as well as advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

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This is a two-part series in which we will subsequently publish an interview with BlackLine’s Co-CEO Owen Ryan.

BlackLine was recognized by The Software Report as a Top 100 Software Company of 2023.

You have been building BlackLine for over two decades, reflecting on your journey what are your favorite moments?

“There are so many to choose from.

I am so proud of what we’ve built at BlackLine and the incredible customers we are working alongside all over the world and helping to transform their finance and accounting operations. Winning our first big customer was quite a moment. Also, anytime an end user has that 'Aha!' moment when they realize that BlackLine really can make their lives easier. It’s amazing to think we now have over 4,400 customers globally, and 66% of the Fortune 50 – including nine of the top 10!

It took years of hard work to get across the finish line, but getting our software listed on SAP’s sales sheet was also pretty cool.

But it's also the little things - like seeing the growth in our team members over the years. It fills me with immense pride that so many of our early team members are still with BlackLine today!

When we went public, there was a very sweet moment when all of my employees and board members donned pink wigs. I felt so honored.”

What were your toughest moments?

“There have certainly been challenges - the global financial crash, and the pandemic, of course, which no doubt worried every business leader going through each at the time.

Looking back to the early days, too, as a start-up we faced a lot of tough moments. We were doing something nobody else was, and bringing something completely new to the market. This undoubtedly came with its own challenges - I remember worrying about whether we’d be able to meet payroll at times. I learned that large companies take a really long time to pay! And their payments didn’t always coincide with my payroll needs for my employees!

Learning that people don’t always hold the same values is tough, as well. In a small company, there’s a family-like culture. When someone betrays that, you learn the value of HR and Legal!

At BlackLine, we are incredibly fortunate to have the backing of supportive investors and partners, as well as an exceptional global team. Their unwavering solidarity has been so important throughout our entire journey.”

What is your vision for BlackLine moving forward?

“We have always been the innovators for the Office of the CFO and we will continue that tradition by embedding AI throughout our platform and bringing to market new AI-based products that are game changers for our customers! We will continue to provide integrity in the data and the numbers across all of our solution pillars while automating manual work that no one loves.

Owen and I have been in our roles as co-CEOs for a little more than a year now – and our complementing experiences and skillsets within this new structure are putting us on the path to future growth. We are both committed to delivering more innovative solutions and industry-leading customer service as we continue to empower finance and accounting professionals with achievable transformation to deliver success for their businesses.

While we’ve grown substantially from the time when we were a handful of people in a small office, our focus is still the same—building amazing software that solves business problems for people. At BlackLine we try to hire people that bring that same passion to their jobs. It’s important to us that we continue to focus on our customers while having fun.”

What did you learn about yourself over the course of your entrepreneurial journey?

“Persistence is key. Rarely does a person or a company get it right the first time, or even the tenth time. If you give up, you will never succeed. Fundamental to that approach is the ability to embrace continuous change. When something is not working, it’s critical to pivot, consider the alternatives, and make a change quickly. If you are not growing (and changing) you, your company, and your relationships will die.

I’ve also learned how important it is to listen to employees for valuable perspectives. And listening to customers—they have the best ideas. At BlackLine, our focus is to deliver solutions that work to eliminate the pain points that our customers deal with on a day-to-day basis. It is central to our work that we listen to customers – to their problems, preferences, and needs. Ultimately, this is what creates ideas that make an impact.”

Is there one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring software entrepreneur?

“My first piece of advice is always ‘Don’t do it! It’s too hard!’ And if someone takes that advice, they probably wouldn’t have made it anyway! Entrepreneurs commonly have a level of stupid confidence that makes them believe they can succeed, no matter what they face, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Secondly, find mentors. Find wise people who have seen it before and can advise you. People who have already been on the journey can provide so much help and wisdom and even prevent errors that kill a company.

Mentors can offer invaluable wisdom, perspective, and encouragement, helping navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and accelerate growth. Whether it's seeking advice on product development, fundraising, or leadership, having experienced mentors by your side can significantly increase your chances of success in the competitive software industry. So, seek out mentors who align with your vision, values, and aspirations, and leverage their knowledge to fuel your entrepreneurial journey."