On May 19, the search startup Algolia announced former Alfresco CEO Bernadette Nixon as its new CEO.As CEO, Nixon says her goals are to scale the business, release new artificial intelligence products, and help customers navigate the coronavirus pandemic.Currently, Algolia competes with search software companies like Elastic, Lucidworks, and Conveo.Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Bernadette Nixon’s track record of leading information management company Alfresco through a sale and sky-rocketing growth made her a prime target when search startup Algolia was on the hunt for its new CEO. Cofounder and chief executive Nicolas Dessaigne decided it was time to start looking for his replacement after Algolia raised a $110 million Series C late last year and valued at $641 million, according to PitchBook. So, investors from VC firm Accel, which had backed both Algolia and Alfresco, approached Nixon, as did a CEO search firm. After more than three months of discussion, Nixon joined Algolia as its new CEO on May 19.The eight-year-old, San Francisco-based startup was originally founded in Paris and has raised $184.2 million total. It competes with other search software companies like Elastic, Lucidworks, and Conveo, and has started snapping up major customers like Zendesk, Stripe, Slack, and Under Armour.

Nixon says that her top priority at its helm is “scaling the business during hypergrowth.”Nixon brings experience from her reign at AlfrescoNixon first joined Alfresco in 2016 as its chief revenue officer and helped sell the company to the equity firm Thomas H. Lee as part of its growth portfolio in 2018. Two months later, the company appointed her CEO, and she proceeded to lead it through explosive growth. “In my tenure as the CEO of Alfresco, we achieved more than 10 times the market [compound annual growth rate] and exceeded expectations,” she said. Her time as CEO brought out her strengths, she adds.

“I have a passion around building teams, leading teams, and leading with a great vision in the market that our employees can get behind,” she said. “And there’s no better position to do that than being a CEO.”So, when she heard about the chief executive opportunity at Algolia, she took the bait.”Nicolas has done a fantastic job building Algolia to this stage,” Nixon said. “I’ve taken other companies of a similar size and grown them and scaled them.”She says that she plans to help Algolia power over 1 trillion searches this year (its last metric was 70 billion queries in a month), release new artificial intelligence-based products, and better serve customers, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“As with any company growing rapidly, you get the growing pains that are there,” Nixon said. “My go-to-market experience will align all the different functions in the organization.”Joining Algolia during the coronavirus pandemicNixon says it was “a little strange” to work her first day at Algolia at her home office because of shelter-in-place mandates from the coronavirus crisis, though there was one silver lining.”My first interaction with the company was via a Zoom call on Monday morning,” Nixon said. “I got to meet the whole team at the same time, and they all got to meet me at the same time.”When it’s safe, she plans to relocate from Boston to San Francisco for the job. 

The travel and hospitality industries are having a challenging time right now, and she says that Algolia wants to support customers in those types of businesses the best it can. For example, Algolia is proactively reaching out to customers to make sure they have what they need to support their businesses. It’s also offering a COVID-19 Pro Plan for free to support non-profit initiatives, as well as giving away its Pro Plan to other companies for 90 days. “Making sure we respond to the different challenges our customers are having requires you to be empathetic,” Nixon said.Algolia is also in the process of sorting out whether it will continue allowing employees to work from home, even after the pandemic.”A lot of people love the work from home and want to do it forever,” Nixon said. “Other people who may be in small apartments with young children find it a little challenging. We’re going through a process to figure out what’s right and best for the company.”

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