If entrepreneurship and cutting-edge ideas can be described in racing terms, Davis Marksbury moved to the lead quickly, and has stayed there.
As an incoming University of Kentucky freshman, he was inspired during an orientation session to make engineering his field of study.
“They showed a list of potential areas of study and how much one could earn upon graduation,” he recalled. “Engineering was at the top of the list.” Having made his decision, Mr. Marksbury pursued his academic goal with energy and discipline, and produced outstanding results. He is a 1980 magna cum laude graduate of the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering.
Mr. Marksbury began his career with Shell Oil Company in Houston, doing computer modeling for off shore oil platforms. During that time, he was appointed to a management task force that was assigned to determine how to capitalize on the new Xerox electronic printers that were coming to market. Intrigued by the technology, Mr. Marksbury and the partners of PDR Engineers started PDR Information Services, a consulting company that focused on helping Fortune 500 companies build information management strategies. Those who knew Mr. Marksbury could not have been surprised at the move.
“I’ve always been entrepreneurial,” he says, and since the age of 26, he has launched three successful companies to address complex technology challenges in the document publishing industry.
In 1992 Mr. Marksbury and Dan Kloiber started a spinoff company, PDR Advanced Technology, which developed StreamWeaver, a product that allows large enterprises to re-engineer their high-volume transaction document applications such as invoices and statements. StreamWeaver is now the world’s most commonly used print stream processing software solution. PDR Advanced Technology was sold to Pitney Bowes in 1996. PDR Information Services was sold to Interleaf, now Broadvision, in 1998. The partners then tried to identify, in Mr. Marksbury’s words, “the next big thing.”
In the 1990s, as businesses struggled with the concept of customer relationship management (CRM) on the Internet, Mr. Marksbury and Mr. Kloiber, benefiting from the perspective provided by the PDR companies’ success, had their idea: Develop products that would allow users to practice effective CRM through multiple channels and all customer touchpoints, not just the Internet. Their new company, Exstream, founded in 1998, began a period of phenomenal growth after Dialogue® software was made available to customers beginning in January of 2000.
“The flexibility of Dialogue allows them to deliver faster and cheaper with one solution versus many tools to deliver different kinds of applications.” Mr. Marksbury said in an interview with Electronic Publishing magazine.
Put mildly, Dialogue was and is a tremendous success. It fueled a period of growth in which the company went from no revenue in 1998 and 1999 to more than $90 million by 2008. Today, Exstream provides enterprise software solutions for more than 400 large enterprises around the world to streamline document creation processes and produce higher quality communications. Customers are found in a wide variety of industries. Exstream, headquartered in Lexington , now has about 300 employees and is ranked among the world’s leading technology companies. Earlier this year, HP announced it had signed a definitive agreement to acquire Exstream Software.
Regarding entrepreneurship, Mr. Marksbury says, “You will be successful if your idea is better, if you execute well by focusing on customer and employee satisfaction, and if you outwork your competition.”
He is also a believer in assembling a strong team.
“The key to execution is to surround yourself with an outstanding management team, where each member is excellent — and stronger than you — in their respective field.”
“Davis is extremely efficient in everything he does, from writing software code to business and financial analysis,” says Mr. Kloiber. “We formed a great partnership because we’re both analytical, and we talk through issues together to get a consensus. And we’re still great friends.”
Mr. Marksbury says entrepreneurs should plan early for rapid growth and implement the types of systems, processes, and infrastructure a company will need when it is much larger.
The challenge is ongoing. Mr. Marksbury believes even the most successful entrepreneurs should expect to reinvent themselves every few years. “Leapfrog yourself,” he says, “before your competitors do it.”
Mr. Marksbury’s entrepreneurial success is widely recognized and honored. He was a regional winner of the 2003 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and has twice been a finalist for Inc. magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Mr. Marksbury and his wife, Beverly, reside in Lexington . They have a son, Lee, and a daughter, Logan.