Decisions, which was valued at about $13.5 million, has created an add-on app for Microsoft Office that aims to make meetings more effective.
Marketing executive Jennifer Brown has attended her share of unrewarding, unfocused and downright unproductive meetings.
“I know how bad meetings are,” says Brown, a Fairfield County native who, prior to joining the Norwegian tech startup Decisions, had worked in marketing positions for a variety of companies across the U.S., including General Motors and L Brands. “When I worked at an agency in New York, I used to joke that some days, I had 15 hours of meetings because people would double- and triple-book. Meetings are broken.”Stay up to date with the region’s dynamic business scene. Subscribe to Columbus CEO’s weekly newsletter.
Brown counts herself as a true believer in the mission of Decisions, which produces an app, known as an “add-in,” that pulls together Microsoft Office 365 programs including Teams, Outlook and Word to bring about more coherent, concise and creative meetings in companies large and small. “We find that pretty quickly, people see an increase in how attendees prepare for a meeting,” Brown says.
Brown, 40, also is a believer in her home state of Ohio. Since becoming Decisions’ chief marketing officer in 2018, she had been based in Oslo, Norway. When the four-year-old company, which also has a presence in Bengaluru, India, was looking to set down roots in North America—one of its biggest sources of clients and revenue—she didn’t hesitate in nominating Columbus.
“When you start getting into the coastal cities, especially a tech company in Seattle and San Francisco and that area, you’re just a drop in the bucket,” says Brown, who sold her boss, founder and CEO Jorgen Solberg, on the virtues of Ohio’s capital city. Columbus’ lower cost of living enables the company to afford top talent here.
“It’s one of these up-and-coming areas where there is a good talent pool,” says Solberg, who had limited familiarity with Ohio but came to appreciate Columbus’ centralized location. “It’s a good alternative to being in Silicon Valley or New York. It made sense for us.”
Decisions, which was valued at about $13.5 million following a recent private funding round, has become a multi-continental operation. Its app lets employees enter meetings better prepared—one feature flags topics intended for discussion or decision—and leave with clearer goals.
Decisions’ business model is based on selling licenses to use the software as an add-on. The primary client targets are large enterprises who use the Microsoft Office 365 suite of tools—those clients have grown by 10 times in the past 18 months— but smaller companies are customers, too. Revenue has quadrupled in each of the company’s three years since 2018, but it does not share its sales figures, Brown says.
Other companies produce what Brown describes as “one-off” apps—software that helps support, say, meeting minutes—but few offer the comprehensive approach of Decisions. Brown says the company’s biggest competitor is Diligent, which made its name in producing software tailored to board of directors meetings.
Brown moved from Oslo to Columbus in September 2019 to launch Decisions’ U.S. presence. In January, newly hired workers moved into Regus offices in the PNC building Downtown. Then the coronavirus sent those 11 local employees, who are mainly in sales and marketing, home.
Of course, the rest of the global business community by and large went home, too. The result? There was more interest than ever in simplifying and streamlining meetings, many now held via Zoom. “We’ve seen just an exponential growth in the interest, in downloads,” Brown says. Prior to the pandemic, Decisions had not sought to corner the market on virtual meetings, but for the foreseeable future, that’s how the app will be used.
Decisions recently declined to renew its lease Downtown, and when it does return to an office setting, it likely will be at the Idea Foundry co-working space. Brown envisions Columbus staff tripling in size within the next 12 months. “At a time when we need to get rid of inefficiency where we can, meetings are just a really easy place to do that,” Brown says.
For his part, Solberg is pleased with the choice to plant a flag in Columbus—and to have Brown lead the effort. “We’re quite happy with what Jennifer is doing in managing the team over there,” Solberg says.