David Quattrone: Catching the Next Wave of Technology
By Emily Schalk
David Quattrone (M&T’96) is the CTO and cofounder of a global event management software company that was born from scribbles on the back of a napkin. Known as a skilled problem solver for his clients, he jumped at the opportunity to help create Cvent, a leading platform in the event management and hospitality spheres.
“A stranger called me, and left this long, rambling message on my voicemail, saying a coworker had given him my name for a new business,” Quattrone recalls. “When I finally met Reggie Aggarwal, I asked him for his business plan. He didn’t quite have one at the time, but he had written it all down on a napkin.”
Quattrone and Aggarwal both saw the need for a business that provided corporate-grade online tools to manage meetings and events. Shortly after their first meeting, the team founded Cvent in the fall of 1999, and since then, it has become one of the largest providers of event management software in the world, with over 3,400 employees, 25,000 customers and 300,000 users worldwide. Quattrone has remained with the company throughout, overseeing its slow beginning, nearbankruptcy, regrowth, emergence on the public market, its 2016 sale to Vista Equity Partners (for a price of $1.65 billion) and continued strong growth as part of the Vista portfolio.
AHEAD OF THE CURRENT
Quattrone came to the University of Pennsylvania at a time when Americans were buying their first computers and Penn students were getting their first university email addresses. “We really caught the wave in terms of timing as everything moved online,” Quattrone says, “and my career followed that path. I went from one opportunity at the cusp of the wave to the next.”
Quattrone studied Electrical Engineering and Economics as a student in the Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology (M&T). As a junior he founded the Network Resources Group, a web consulting firm, with two of his classmates at Penn Engineering. After graduation, he declined offers from large New York City banks in order to return to consulting with a Penn Engineering alumnus, Dwayne Sye (ENG’95), in Washington, D.C.
“I decided that working for a small company where I could drive growth was far more interesting than going up to New York and being a cog in the machine,” he states.
Quattrone’s entrepreneurial spirit was forged during his time in that early consulting space. Businesses were rushing to keep up with the rapid pace of new technology, and each day brought in clients from retail, banking, health care and government looking to make the leap online. When Aggarwal came to him in 1999, Quattrone embraced the opportunity and they asked both Sye and Chuck Ghoorah, a Duke-educated lawyer and close friend of Aggarwal, to join them at Cvent. Building and marketing a software so ahead of its time was the ultimate problem to be solved.
“It’s hard to imagine today, but back then, email wasn’t a classy enough solution for business communications,” Quattrone laughs. “Clients were very reluctant to use our software. And when we explained to them that you didn’t buy our software, that you subscribed to it on an annual basis and it was delivered over the internet, they would think we were nuts.”
TURNING THE TIDE
Cvent grew slowly at first as customers adapted to the new technology, then rapidly expanded in the dot-com boom of 2000, attracting over $17 million in venture capital. The company was about to undertake a massive expansion in 2001 when the bubble finally burst, pushing them nearly to bankruptcy and forcing the team to cut 80 percent of its staff.
“We weathered the storm because of our people,” Quattrone says. “The discipline that we had back then as a 25-person company continues to serve us well today across our global organization of more than 3,400 employees. We basically bootstrapped the firm and went back to the basics of creating a healthy long-term business: Hire the best people, invest in great products and focus on our customers’ needs and success. That time period formed the Cvent culture that still helps us to succeed today.”
Now, Quattrone keeps Cvent a leader in the event technology and hospitality space by developing software that covers the entire life cycle of an event, from inception, organization and registration to venue selection, content management and attendance tracking. His company has a network of loyal customers, including everyone from your local knitting association to Amazon Web Services, and now powers an entire ecosystem that connects organizations in need of locations to host their events with venues that offer compelling event spaces. Cvent is regularly named one of the best places to work by The Washington Post. Having remained with his company for over 18 years, Quattrone is inclined to agree.
“Every year there are new opportunities and new challenges for me,” he states. “There’s still a tremendous amount of opportunity in Cvent’s ability to drive innovation, and I think that’s the reason I’ve stayed with this company as long as I have. We believe there’s a lot of room moving forward.”