David Adams is a Software-as-Service pioneer who has led a series of startups through successful product launches and profitable exits. He is a specialist in the product-market-fit discovery process and in finding efficient, creative ways to solve customer problems. His first startup, ShopSite, was an early dotcom-era success and one of the first commercial SaaS apps, enabling thousands of e-retailers to build a site and merchandise their wares using an intuitive web-based interface. He went on to conceive and build platforms that powered tens of thousands of Web 1.0 e-commerce leaders.
He was also early to catch the vision of open source software. ShopSite was one of the first commercial applications to support Linux servers, and David’s second startup, Akopia, launched a popular open source e-commerce platform called Interchange. After Akopia’s acquisition by Red Hat, as a product leader and member of Red Hat’s executive management, he participated in a companywide strategic product shift that ushered in a wholesale realignment of the tech industry away from servers running expensive and limited proprietary hardware and software from vendors like Sun, to commodity hardware running on Linux and other open source software. This dramatic change precipitated the cloud computing revolution.
David’s next few startups were part of a wave of innovation around big data and analytics. He conceived and launched a platform called Command Central that allowed law enforcement agencies to visualize and map crime data, and to hold leaders accountable for crime trends in their districts. It’s now the cornerstone of Motorola’s intelligence-led public safety platform, used by agencies around the world. During the health care reform roll-out starting in 2010, David co-founded Benefitter, a tool designed to help business owners crunch the numbers to determine what kinds of changes to their health benefits would provide the best balance of increased coverage and reduced cost. It sparked changes in benefits policy that enabled thousands of employees to be able to afford health insurance that was previously out of their reach. Benefitter is now the group health plan enrollment platform for the US insurance giant, United Healthcare.
As a capstone to a career that involved ever-more-complex and specialized ecommerce and online payments facilitation, David co-founded chargeback.com, a company dedicated to helping merchants fight fraud and recover funds lost to credit card disputes. The industry standard was a labor-intensive process of manual data gathering and copy-and-paste, dominated by services firms competing over who can offer the cheapest offshore outsourcing. Working with pilot-customer Nike, the Chargeback product team created AI-enabled workflows that increased productivity by 1,100% virtually overnight and saved the company millions of dollars in lost revenue. Chargeback went on to be used by eight Fortune 500 and Global 1000 firms, along with top Silicon Valley tech firms like DoorDash. David led an effort to harness Machine Learning to predict which dispute cases needed manual review and which could be processed automatically. This work was supercharged when Chargeback was acquired by Sift, a market leader in ML-enabled fraud detection technology.
Throughout this journey, David has succeeded by harnessing the talents of cross-disciplinary teams: helping stakeholders arrive at consensus on priorities and objectives, designing quick and efficient prototypes and other market-demand experiments, and fostering mutual respect and trust among people from different backgrounds to support rapid product iteration.
interview with The New Entrepreneur podcast, where I discuss product development philosophy, how I got my start in the software industry, and my ups and downs with Chargeback.