$4.4 billion Smartsheet has seen its stock more than double since it went public a year ago. We talked to the CEO about what makes it special, and why employees love working there. (SMAR)


Mark Mader, Smartsheet

  • In the year since Smartsheet went public, its stock has more than doubled.
  • Smartsheet makes spreadsheet software for work management, with customers including Cisco, Netflix, PayPal, and HP.
  • On Thursday, Smartsheet announced it acquired 10,000ft, which helps companies with planning and managing their resources.
  • Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader discusses Smartsheet’s next phase of growth and how each employee at his company is able to make an impact.
  • Although Smartsheet competes with Microsoft and Google, Mader says competition is healthy, and customers often use Smartsheet in addition to Microsoft or Google products.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader recalls the day his company went public — specifically, April 27th of last year — very clearly.

“I was walking onto the floor of the Stock Exchange with my two daughters,” Mader told Business Insider. “I remember exactly what I thought in that moment. I’m walking through this corridor and everything was Smartsheet-branded. What went through my mind was, ‘Things just got real.'”

Smartsheet, which develops spreadsheet-like software for managing work, isn’t as flashy or well-known as other recently-public tech companies like Lyft. But it’s quietly become a hit, scoring customers like Netflix, Cisco, Home Depot, Office Depot, PayPal, and HP.

And just over a year since that fateful IPO, Smartsheet’s stock has more than doubled, making it worth about $4.4 billion on the public markets. 

Business Insider spoke with Mader about what’s next for Smartsheet, including plans to make its product better-suited to specific usages, and hone in on international markets. And just on Thursday, Smartsheet announced it acquired a Seattle-based company called 10,000ft, which helps companies with planning and managing resources, adding those features to its main offering. 

“This feeling of accountability is through the roof,” Mader said. “We have a massive team that we need to make sure is together, unified and marching in the same direction. That’s probably the biggest difference. You can lead a much more fulfilling life if you’re accountable to others.”

The terms of the 10,000ft acquisition were not disclosed. 10,000ft itself was born in 2012 as a spin-off from technology consulting firm Artefact. 

Making an impact

Mader first joined Smartsheet in January 2006, after working for over 10 years at Onyx Software Corporation. He liked the opportunity of joining up with a company making a product that actually made sense to everyday people and that could reach a massive market.

“The thing that intrigued me was, can I represent a company with an offering that was straightforward enough to explain that the median professional will understand,” Mader said. “As opposed to, ‘We work on super advanced algorithms for optimization of supply chain. I love representing a brand that connects to really advanced use cases and everyday needs.”

Now, Smartsheet has over 1,000 employees, and it’s still hiring. Indeed, as Smartsheet grows, building a strong team is the number one challenge, Mader says.

“One of the challenges and things you have to push yourself on is, how do you differentiate on your employee experience so they say ‘I want to work for that company?'” Mader said.

Read more: There’s been an enterprise tech IPO rush in 2018. Here are the 15 key execs driving the new class of startups.

Mader says that Smartsheet’s answer to that question is by empowering every employee to make a real difference at the company — even if they’re only interns. All Smartsheet engineering interns are on the hook to deliver one real-life feature to the app by the end of their summer internship.

“I am very confident that [employees] will personally own something that affects someone else, as opposed to this feeling of I’m part of this large machinery,” Mader said. “When you look at that and you’re hiring people, they want to do something that actually lands.”

He wants his employees to understand the impact their work has on customers, as well. At the company’s annual customer conference, each Smartsheet employee is tasked with writing a thank-you note to one of its customers. He recalls that one engineer was assigned to write a note to a bike manufacturer. This happened to be the manufacturer of the bike that the engineer rode to work every day. 

“He said, ‘This is unbelievable. The people who designed this bike will be there,'” Mader said.

Facing the competition

Going forward, Smartsheet will continue investing in growing its team and improving its product, Mader says. Smartsheet plans to build automation features, whether that comes in the form of freeing up users’ time in doing manual, repetitive tasks, or making recommendations.

Smartsheet competes with Microsoft, Google, and even smaller players like Airtable, all of whom offer their own twists on the spreadsheet. However, Mader says, Smartsheet isn’t afraid of a little healthy competition. 

If you’re really successful and others want to follow you, if you’re in the spotlight, they have more reason to follow you. It puts healthy pressure on everyone in the market,” Mader says. 

When selling to customers, Mader says it’s important for Smartsheet to distinguish itself. Rather than pitching itself as an alternative to Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, Mader says, Smartsheet tries to position itself as a complement. Indeed, he says, many customers use Smartsheet alongside those other tools. 

“We’re saying, what is most important to them in establishing their strategy and how can we support that strategy alongside ours?” Mader said. “We have made very intentional bridges to these things where we recognize people’s allegiance and loyalty and we support those like crazy.”


Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: There are 7.7 billion humans on Earth today. Here’s what would actually happen if Thanos destroyed 50% of all life on the planet.