Nilofer Merchant Headshot
Report a problem with this profile
[email protected]

Nilofer Merchant      

CEO, Author & Strategist

Nilofer Merchant is a noted CEO, Fortune 500 leader, published author, marketing whiz kid, and business strategist. Thats why she has earned a reputation for enabling companies to win, if not dominate their markets.

The words smart and savvy just start to capture her acumen. She blends strategic models, market dynamics, and behavioural understanding to create solutions that work. She has leadership experience in start-ups and multi-billion dollar global enterprises. Merchant founded and was CEO of a global multi-million dollar services company, selling 80% of business. Merchant has profit and loss (P&L) experience at a public Fortune 500 company, and Boards of Directors, CEOs, and CMOs at Global Fortune 1000 enterprises turn to her advice to make mission critical decisions.

Merchant is the author of The New How, a critically acclaimed book on collaborative work and direction setting that helps organizations act flat and get fast. She is a Harvard Business Review (HBR) writer on the topics of culture, innovation, and strategy where she transfers lessons from both her successes and failures. Shes been profiled by The Wall Street Journal, and published by BusinessWeek, Forbes, and AdAge. She is a contributing author to three other books; two on social media marketing and one on wisdom leadership. Merchant has developed a trademarked framework for solving tough problems, called MurderBoarding.

As the founder and CEO of Rubicon Consulting, Merchants strategic insight was sought after and profitably deployed by Adobe, Symantec, Symbian, HP, Openwave, Logitech, and VMWare. Her firm served four inflection points of growth: finding new markets, go-to-market strategies, defending against competitors, and optimizing revenue. Rubicon created the $200M go-to-market (GTM) strategy for VMware to enter the SMB space, designed the GTM for Adobes now $180M Education business, and identified a new $2B mobile data market for Openwaves pivot. Merchant is one of the few people who can say theyve fought a competitive battle against Microsoft and won, for Symantecs Anti-Virus $2.1B annual business. She has personally launched more than 100 products, netting $18B in sales, with expertise in Europe and US markets. These experiences point to one thing: explosive global growth with superior shareholder value.

Prior to her own start-up, Merchant drove channel strategy, product launches, vertical segments, and marketing investment decisions for the Americas division of Autodesk (ADSK). She grew the business by nearly 50% from $200M to $310M in 20 months, including a major product diversification strategy. As VP of Sales & Marketing for GoLive, a start-up later acquired by Adobe (ADBE), she grew revenues from zero to $1.5M in 16 months. Merchant received industry recognition for an ingenious channel sales program she developed that grew Apple (APPL) server sales at nearly 900% CAGR over two years from $2 to $180M.

Merchant has extensive fiduciary and governance experience. She currently serves on the Board of the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. Appointed by Governor Deukmejian, she served on the California Community College Board of Trustees overseeing both budget and staff and the passage of AB1725 legislation. She has served on the Board of the Northwest YMCA, where she led a $2M capital campaign. In addition, in five years with Vistage, a CEO peer advisory board, Merchant was twice voted Most Valuable Player in a blind vote by her fellow CEOs.

In addition to being a sought-after speaker, Merchant writes for Harvard Business Review, advises entrepreneurs, and teaches at Stanford & Santa Clara University on innovation, and leadership. She holds an M.B.A. from Santa Clara, and a B.S. in Economics from University of San Francisco.

Speech Topics


1. Rebels and Subversives: We Want You

The truly kick-ass people in our organizations dont wait for permission to lead, innovate or strategize. They do what is right for the firm, regardless of status. They bring a combination of "curiosity and passion" which Thomas Friedman once said, "are key components in a world where information is readily available to everyone and global markets reward those people." There's a different set of rules & assumptions by which we'll thrive and succeed in this new, networked society and it comes down to this: while you can be a rebel or a subversive without being a leader, you can rarely be an effective leader without also having a little bit of rebel in you.

2. What SuperHeroes Can Teach Us

Whenever we think about leadership, we think of characters that figuratively wear the cape like Batman, but we deny or defuse the impact of the role of collaborators, like Alfred was in the iconic Batman storyline. Yet all modern day work that uses creative talent needs a mix of roles from directing, to guiding, to sidekicks, to enabling leaders. What is that mix for each of us and for our organizations that is the question, and one this talk answers.

3. Be Better [CEO]

We know the world has changed from when we made cars and even chips. But how we do manage in the 21st century world in such a way that works for current day economies. How do we create personal accountability, efficiency, creativity, and creating unbelievable human experiences? How do we define that which is immeasurable and how to do we get the skills necessary to co-create rather than silo our work. And how do we do that so it enables organizations to thrive, human beings to engage, and our larger economy to benefit? Collaboration, that's how.

4. Who You Are is What You Make

Innovations always occur (pyramids, paper, gunpowder, silicon), but they're the direct result of the cultures that foster them: empire, nation-state, vassaly, kindom, democracy, theocracy, technocracy, etc. So the Chinese could never build a Google or an Apple, but they excel at production-chain things like paper. Rome built massive stuff because it was organized to build massive stuff. Silicon Valley built things like email and social networks because it was centered around a bunch of guys wearing flip-flops, asking questions like, "Dude, what if I could just send you my thoughts?" The question is this: what are you trying to do or make? What kind of innovation are you going for? And how do you think about the culture that can make it?

5. Curating Kick-Ass Performance

The engineers who become CEO do so because they're artists of technology. The marketers because they're sculptors of identity. The finance guys because they're maestros of money, conductors of cash. HR leads when they are Curators of people, creating outstanding business performances.

Related Speakers View all


More like Nilofer