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Nitro (ASX:NTO) CFO on the secrets to attracting investors

By Alexandra Cain

California-based Ana Sirbu recently joined Adobe challenger Nitro Software as the company’s CFO to fuel its next phase of growth. Sirbu has extremely good chops in this regard.

Although it is now a global business, Nitro was founded in Melbourne and is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. This year has certainly been an interesting time for the productivity software category, given the way in which COVID’s shift to remote working has accelerated its growth.

Although Sirbu has only been in the role for six weeks, she says it’s been a great time to join the business given it’s deeply enmeshed in planning for 2021. “It’s certainly been fruitful ground for quick onboarding,” she says.

Sirbu was most recently CFO of BlueVine, a fintech banking platform designed for small businesses, whose run rate revenue grew from $US6 million to US$200 during her tenure. During that time, she raised US$200 million equity and US$800 million in debt capital finance. Prior to BlueVine, Sirbu was a technology investor at Capital G, Google’s growth investing arm. 

Despite what Sirbu terms the ‘COVID episode’ and the recessionary environment, investors still have funds to put to work. She says the laundry list they need to apply capital is surprisingly simple.

“They want a large, addressable market to allow for growth and a strong management team. They need to believe your product is sufficiently differentiated and hard to build, so another business cannot easily copy it. They also want unit economics that are strong and scalable. If you can address these points, investors have a good reason to invest. Predominantly, they are looking for growth.”

Sirbu’s top tip when dealing with investors is to tie financial performance and margin profile to the company’s story and vision. “It’s an art to do that well. Investors want good visibility into the product road map. They need to see depth.” According to Sirbu, technology is supporting the C-suite to become increasingly ingenious.

“Many processes can now be automated and the importance of data is growing across all aspects of the business. This supports entrepreneurship. There’s more emphasis on failing fast and trial and error is more possible. There has been a shift from the finance leader being the guardian of the books to being a strategic member of the executive team and strategic partner of the CEO.”

Although her career has been grounded in tech, Sirbu acknowledges how critical culture and keeping her team focused and motivated through 2020 has been.

“It all comes down to communication and clear understanding of priorities. During this time, I have learned how important company culture and human connection is to foster trust. Interpersonal relationships are so important.”

Ana Sirbu, CFO | Nitro Inc.

At the start of COVID, Nitro was able to quickly transition its entire workforce to remote working as the business operates in the cloud. But as a new hire, Sirbu has had to rely on technology to become acquainted with her colleagues.

As for the future, Sirbu says if 2020 has taught us anything it’s to not be attached to the past. “This is not easy – it’s a muscle I have learned to flex.” She says at the moment, the business is focused on positioning for next year.

“We have an exciting accelerated product roadmap; we’re extending the product suite and building a platform component. More broadly, we’re focused on ensuring the business is an excellent remote employer and we have embraced a ’flexible forever’ approach that encourages remote work. We intend to use our office spaces as an opportunity to collaborate. That’s the biggest opportunity and risk, and the question is how do we make make that happen?”

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