Meet Peter Baumann, CEO of ActiveNav

ActiveNav was one of ScaleUp Group’s first clients, successfully securing their Series A funding in late 2019. A true Global Champion, ActiveNav provides robust software solutions that allow organisations to perform data discovery, sensitive data identification, and remediation –thereby enabling actions on their data for deletion and migration through to enhanced sensitivity labelling or encryption.

CEO Peter Baumann has been leading the company since 2008, through highs and lows, including many successful – and, in the early days, a fair share of challenging funding rounds. But before Peter became CEO of ActiveNav, he had built an impressive resume of leadership roles in other data and content-driven businesses.

A born entrepreneur, even as a young kid, he was already devising ways of making money. Later, in his (multiple) gap years, he set up a bread delivery business in France that expanded to a broader delivery service. On returning to college, where he studied Business, Finance, and International Marketing, he sold his homemade wine to other students. It was admittedly terrible, but as it was much stronger than the alternatives, it was a big hit!

Straight out of college Peter turned down a trainee job with Rand-Ingersoll and joined his first formal start-up as the third employee and as a salesman in the UK operation of Bureau van Dijk. They were one of the first businesses to sell company financial data on CD ROMs using a subscription model. The UK operation generated more than £1 million subscription revenue in its first year and was eventually sold to Moody’s for €3 bn in 2017.

“That was back in 1989 when the term ‘start-up’ wasn’t even in use yet. It was ‘just’ a spin off from a consulting firm,” says Peter. “We were kids straight out of college having a riot, we had no idea how great those results were.”

Peter was soon headhunted to join Standard & Poors’ Global Markets as a technical support engineer. He quickly moved over to sales, where during a 10-year career that stretch several different divisions, he ended by heading the EMEA Sales Group first from Paris and then back in London.  Peter notes that Financial Marketdata was arguably the first industry to really crack the subscription sales model and leverage it for phenomenal growth.

And ever since, for Peter and his career, “whether you are the consumer or the provider, it’s always been about the content and data.”

At the height of the boom, Peter was again headhunted to become the VP Global Sales at a pioneering e-Learning start-up, which as he says was a “wild time.”

“I wish I’d written a diary; it was just crazy. I mean, literally a crazy time. In the first year I did 17 two-day trips to New York to establish our US business, on Wall St and several trips to Asia to establish our channel business. I built a sales organisation of more than 50 staff in 6 months. Most of the time, my calendar was blocked with three simultaneous meetings. I believe we raised around £18 m in twelve months which included JP Morgan, GE Capital and Reuters as investors” remembers Peter.

“That really sparked my interest in pure start-ups. So many smart people and so much energy all working towards the mission of making a company successful. It was a wake-up call to the fact that I had given nearly 10 of my best years to big corporate, and although nearly all my roles were intrapreneurial and exciting, I should have been building my own business instead.  And that was it, I never wanted to go back.”

And he never did. Peter went on to start three companies, including Inceptio Communications and Hanzo Archives (a successful going concern), while also working as a business consultant on the side. Consulting led him to what is now known as ActiveNav.

“A new private investor needed somebody to come in and look at a University spin-off opportunity and determine whether or not it was viable. What began as just a couple of days consulting, morphed into me joining on a semi-permanent basis as an interim CEO, and then eventually taking over the business which I re-founded.”

ActiveNav has grown from strength to strength under Peter’s leadership, including customers in more than 30 countries, establishing some of the language and terms now used industry-wide, multiple fundraises and setting up of operations in the US and Australia.

Throughout his adventurous professional journey which included moving his family to Washington DC in 2012 to grow and run the business from the States, Peter had a solid support system in his family.

Being an entrepreneur, “Your life is all connected, between the business risk; ability to pay yourself, personal guarantees against your assets, the people you hire, your personal life and of course your family… you can only do it if you’ve got their full support. A slightly mad but supportive partner also helps” he adds, jokingly.

And what would Peter be doing if he wasn’t the CEO of ActiveNav?

“I would be setting up another business.”

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