Inc.

THE WOMAN WHO BROKE THE CODE

THE SILICON VALLEY GENDER NARRATIVE IS FIRMLY ENTRENCHED: WOMEN DON’T GET COMPUTER SCIENCE DEGREES AND DON’T START SUCCESSFUL TECH COMPANIES. DON’T TELL THERESE TUCKER ANY OF THAT
THROWING SHADE Therese Tucker, whose cloud accounting software company, BlackLine, went public last year, decided to dye her hair pink, in part, as a provocation to the male-dominated tech industry.

ONE EVENING IN MAY, a team of Goldman Sachs bankers helped a founder-CEO raise some secondary money for investors in BlackLine, a fast-growing software company now worth more than $1.5 billion. After the deal priced, as they ushered the hoodie-clad founder and the besuited CFO into an elevator, the bankers ran into a senior Goldman guy: “Hey, you should meet the CEO of BlackLine. They’re raising $115 million.”

The executive looked right past Therese Tucker, in her black hoodie and flower-printed blue jeans and pastel-pink hair, and directed his praise to her male finance chief: “Great job.”

Tucker is laughing about this a few minutes later, humor loud and infectious, ethereal hair swinging along. It’s been a good year for BlackLine, a nine-time Inc. 5000 honoree that analysts credit with inventing a new market for accounting software. The Los Angeles company, which had $123 million in 2016 revenue and went public a year ago, has seen its stock outperform buzzier recent tech IPOs, including Nutanix’s and Snap’s. So for Tucker, a blazingly intelligent and impish 56-year-old, this evening wasn’t the first time in her long career as a tech founder—or her relatively short one as a public company CEO—that she’s been underestimated. But such dismissals barely give her pause.

“Why have a modest ambition?” she shrugs. “Because then you accomplish it, and it’s boring.”

Tucker has rarely been bored over the past 17 years, as she’s faced virtually every entrepreneurial obstacle. After cashing out her retirement savings to fund her startup, she came perilously close to failing with its first product, pivoted her way out, and then spent several white-knuckle years trying to persuade big corporations to buy her technology. Determined to become a sort of Salesforce for accountants—dragging antiquated business bookkeeping from paper into the cloud—Tucker gritted her way through every dark period.

Even today, BlackLine isn’t a household name (unless your household contains an accountant). But it does business with plenty of them: Coca-Cola, Under Armour, United Airlines, and eBay are all customers. BlackLine was so early

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