Borland Eyes Market Comeback

Q&A: CEO Tod Nielsen wants to return the company to a leadership position in the tools space.

Tod Nielsen, CEO at Borland Software, started his role as head of the Cupertino, Calif., company at the Borland Developer Conference in San Francisco in November. Following his keynote address at the event, Nielsen invited eWEEK in for his first press interview as Borlands CEO. Nielsen told eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft that he is the man to bring Borland back to a leadership position in the software development tools space.

Can you think of a job more suited to you than this one?

This is a great job for me. When you look at my career and what Ive done, this is a natural perfect fit, and Im super-excited. When I heard about the opportunity, I was like, "Wow, that could be really, really fun." And the fact it all happened is great. Ive been training my whole career for this job.

What do you think is going to be your greatest challenge?

The one thing thats daunting to me is, when you look at our industry, the number of companies with 10 to 20 years of history ... the number of companies that have been superstars and have kind of faded and then gone back to be superstars again—I cant think of very many. In fact, the only one that comes to mind is Apple [Computer] right now. So, its a task thats not easy to do, but I believe I can do it. Ive been trained for this job.

So, Day One, what are your goals here?

I think everybody still has in our industry a soft place in their heart for Borland. They want Borland to win. When you say "Borland," theres a positive association. But whats been lacking the last number of years is [that] people arent really clear [on] what were doing. And I think one of the things weve got to do very quickly is to clearly articulate, "Heres what were about: Were about the software development process and adding business value there."

We have to make it clear to employees and go on the road to let folks in the industry and our customers and partners know [that] this is what were about and where were taking this going forward.

Then there are always the details of me meeting the employees—all the teams—and figuring out where we are and making assessments.

But its fun to have a company thats got a rich 21-year history and to do the work to take it to the next level.

/zimages/5/28571.gifRead more here about Nielsen.

How do you think your experience in the industry has prepped you for this job?

Well, I think that—depending on who the employee or the customer is—I can probably go back on Borlands history as far as they can. One of the things I said this morning is, "I was at the very first Borland Developer Conference. It was in Monterey, [Calif.,] in 1990." And David Intersimone [Borlands longest-term employee] said, "Well, I was at the first Borland Developer Conference, in San Francisco, in 1991." And I went up and said, "Actually, 1990 was when the first conference was." So, because I have the history and the connection, I can talk with folks about where weve been, what were about, etc.

When you look at our mission, which is about delivering business value through successful software projects, its kind of what the company has been about from the beginning. I mean the Turbo products, the productivity boosts, supporting the different platforms in the heterogeneous environment [and] now all the stuff around Software Delivery Optimization—its what Borlands about. So, we havent really moved, if you will, but weve expanded our focus in this space.

As you assess what youve got in hand, what do you think are your core strengths?

As far as the company goes, we have the core brand; we have an incredible, loyal customer base thats been with us and wants us to win. I think our product line is strong, especially with the acquisitions weve made.

When I look at the employee base and the folks on the team Ive met, weve got people who are willing to change and break out. When you run into some companies that have been around a while, you have people who say, "Dont rock the boat." Everybody here says, "Go, drive, make changes, aspire, expand the portfolio and deliver value." And I think thats a huge asset.

Next Page: What stands out.