How David Duffield Built Two Multi-Billion Dollar Businesses After Age 45

Most well-known for founding two majorly successful enterprise application software companies after age 45, David Albert Duffield is also one of the pioneers of the alternative corporate work culture now characteristic of Millennial-driven Silicon Valley startups.

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Duffield has always been a chance-taker and a people-person, telling the SF Gate about his business venture in Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J. as kindergartener, where he grew gladiolas flowers in his backyard and sold them for $0.10 each.

After graduating from Cornell, Duffield worked at IBM in Rochester, N.Y. as a marketing representative and systems engineer. He left after four years in 1968 to launch Information Associates, a company which designed customer software for university exams. Duffield then moved on to Silicon Valley where he founded Integral Systems, a company which offered software for administering human resources and payroll applications for the higher education market. After receiving backlash from other board members when pushing to steer the firm towards PC software, Duffield quit, sold his stock, and moved to Walnut Creek where he launched PeopleSoft with co-founder Ken Morris.

The father of ten, who has plans to leave a majority of his fortune to his animal charity named after his beloved miniature schnauzer, mortgaged his home to bootstrap PeopleSoft Inc. in 1987 at age 47. In January of 2005, the human resources management software (HRMS) platform’s number one rival, Oracle, bought out PeopleSoft in a hostile takeover worth $10.7 billion. Duffield, now worth about $7.2 billion, landed a place on Forbe’s billionaire list.

At PeopleSoft, Duffield boldly implemented the company’s motto which landed it on Forbe’s list as one of the 20 best companies to work for. Finding three-piece power suits obsolete, the visionary entrepreneur could be found dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, khaki knee-length shorts and running shoes. Employees have honored Duffield’s unconventional rules and memos, including his requirement for executives to answer their own phones and write their own letters in place of secretaries, along with his “Dave’s Rules of Business Behavior,” which calls for sparkling clean bathrooms and courtesy to bagel delivery people.

PeopleSoft employees even started their own rock band after Duffield, playing at quarterly meetings and high-tech expos. The CEO, who was part of a band while in undergrad at Cornell, would reportedly jam with the group, which named themselves the Raving Daves.

In March of 2005, 65-year-old Duffield co-founded Workday Inc. with former PeopleSoft vice chair and head of product strategy, Aneel Bhusri. The company provides financial management and human capital management software delivered in a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. When the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company filed to go public in 2012, SEC documents revealed that the CEOs’ salaries were just $34,780. Duffield, who is also Workday’s chief customer advocate, has served as Chairman of the company since 2014.

In May of 2015, the serial tech entrepreneur moved back to Lake Tahoe from the Bay Area and donated his estate to Maddie’s Fund. When Duffield and his wife Cheryl where “relatively poor” and living in a condo in Walnut Creek back in the early 80’s, the entrepreneur says the couple fell in love with their dog.

“I told Cheryl that, if we were to get the money some day, we’re going to give it back to animal groups for all the love Maddie gave us,” said Duffield. The Duffields’ 21.5-acre property was listed for $39 million in May of 2016, wherein all proceeds went to the animal rescue organization which has a strict “no-kill” policy. The couple, which has endowed Maddie’s Fund with over $300 million, is active in other philanthropic endeavors and has adopted five children.