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Posted: August 06, 2013

State of the state: Technology

Q&A: Convercent CEO Patrick Quinlan’s lessons learned

Eric Peterson

Patrick Quinlan wanted a new challenge after he grew XBRL shop Rivet Software’s sales from $1 million to $10 million in just two short years as CEO.

For an encore, he bought Denver Tech Center-based Business Controls, a provider of cloud based corporate ethics and compliance software, with ex-Rivet cohorts Philip Winterburn and Barclay Friesen in spring 2012. In short order, they raised $10 million in venture capital, developed a next-generation compliance software platform, christened the company Convercent, and garnered ink in Wired, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. In a little more than a year, the staff has quadrupled from 14 to 60.

Recently the company completed a renovation of an old car dealership in Denver’s Golden Triangle into one of the city’s slickest new office spaces. So we thought it was a good time to catch up with Quinlan.

CoBiz: Why did you opt to revamp the Convercent space?

Quinlan: The space stood empty for the last six years. There were lots of big offices and cubicles everywhere. It was very unwelcoming.

CoBiz: You enlisted Ellen Winkler, of Denver-based Drumbeat, to make your cocktail- napkin sketch a $600,000 reality. What did this entail?

Quinlan: Workers knocked down walls, made desks and office systems by hand from beetle-kill pine and local steel, and installed several works of art by Denver artists. We’re a startup company and we wanted to feature startup artists. Combining art and technology and getting that creativity going is critical.

CoBiz: You were born into an Army family and served in the military yourself. Any memories that stuck?

Quinlan: When I was in seventh grade, I was mowing lawns in Corpus Christi and my father saw my handiwork at the neighbors and got me out of bed for an impromptu performance review. He took me next door and asked me how I trimmed it. I said, ‘He paid me.’ My dad told me, ‘Just because he paid you doesn’t mean it’s right. You don’t do the least you can do – you do it right.’

CoBiz: How does that carry into your role as an entrepreneur?

Quinlan: The sum is greater than the parts. The military does that extraordinarily well. Most startups tend to be more about the person than the team. We take the opposite approach.

CoBiz: One ever-present part at Convercent is your 9-year-old, flat-coated retriever, Jasmine. What does she bring to the environment you want to create?

Quinlan: She worked as a therapy dog with Alzheimer’s patients for the better part of the last decade. When patients would lose their cool, Jasmine would intervene. She’d back into them and get them to pet her. Now she comes to Convercent and offers a little therapy to the developers. She is pretty exceptional.

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at

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