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Meet Eric Elfman of Onit

Today we’d like to introduce you to Eric Elfman.

Eric, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
To make a long story short, I dropped out of high school to join the Navy. I eventually realized that education was important and began taking college courses while still on active duty, ultimately receiving my MBA from Rice University after leaving the military. I co-founded a company named PeerPoint Technologies, where I helped identify new technology for e-invoice data management. I then founded a software company, Datacert, in 1998, which was sold 16 years later for $290 million.

Datacert is an industry-leading provider of corporate, legal and IP spend and matter management solutions for Fortune 500 companies. During my 10+ years serving as the CEO, president and chairman of the board, I grew the company to $28 million in revenue and secured more than a hundred Fortune 500 customers. Datacert become one of the fastest-growing technology companies in North America with three consecutive listings on the Inc. 500.

After selling Datacert and discovering that “taking time off” wasn’t my cup of tea, I started a new software company, Onit, in 2011, which now has 85 employees in two U.S. offices and in India. Between Datacert and Onit, I’ve raised more than $50 million, and have employed over 500 people.

I love keeping busy with other things as well. I’m a member of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and serve as a board member for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of the Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana, a non-profit organization that grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. I also volunteered as an entrepreneur mentor at the Houston Technology Center.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Being an entrepreneur is never a smooth road, but I believe that most successful entrepreneurs have a couple of traits in common. The first is tenacity – the ability to keep going despite overwhelming odds against your success. The second obstacle is a bright outlook on the future – again, despite the odds being against you. Third, I believe of all of the challenges facing start-ups that the initial “idea” is the easiest part. After you’ve had the idea, then the tough road begins to make it a reality.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Onit – what should we know?
Onit was formed by myself and Eric Smith. Onit develops and deploys software solutions to simplify business process automation and improve business productivity across all departments and industries. Onit’s Apptitude platform allows business users to drive efficiency and productivity by combining business process management, project management and information management into one easy-to-use tool so the user can create their own tools without having to rely on IT for support.

Businesses have processes for everything – whether it’s hiring a vendor or law firm, terminating an employee, submitting a contract for review, requesting a trademark request, obtaining an NDA, etc. Most of these processes are manual, paper intensive and cumbersome. With Onit’s solutions, processes are automated in a few clicks, responsible parties are notified immediately, and data collection is centralized. Onit doesn’t require any software to download or resources from IT.

I’m most proud of the team that we have put together and our shared experience of “creating something (Onit) where nothing existed previously.” That is incredibly intoxicating. What sets us apart from others is likely a lot of intangibles, because I don’t believe we are necessarily “smarter” than the rest. What we are good at is working our tails off, respecting our customers and the relationships we build with them, and creating a business model where success is shared by all, just as failure is borne by all.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
We were fortunate to have a great set of intrepid early investors for Onit. Every new business idea needs believers, even before it might really be “rational” to believe. We also have a great founding board and amazing employees that are willing to wear multiple hats and do whatever it takes to get the job done.

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