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By Jeb Bing

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About this blog: A longtime newspaperman, I have been editor of the Pleasanton Weekly since it was launched Jan. 28, 2000. I was a reporter and Neighborhood News editor at the Chicago Tribune for 13 years, and previously a reporter for the Advance...  (More)

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Veeva: A 'feel good' business in a life-saving industry

Uploaded: Sep 19, 2011
Pleasanton needs more entrepreneurs like Peter Gassner. A 15-year homeowner here in the Gates community with his wife Piyajit and their sons Filaa and Arin, Gassner heads up Veeva Systems, a company he founded with his next door neighbor Mitch Wallace that specializes in "cloud" technologies for the pharmaceutical industry.

At a time when many Americans are unemployed, Veeva is growing, with Gassner adding another 50 to its 185 software and marketing specialists in the last few months. The expansion is a direct result of Veeva's rise as the fastest-growing vendor offering cloud-based solutions to pharmaceutical companies, a focus others may have missed. Now nearing its fifth year of business, this Hacienda Business Park firm is no longer a "start-up" as it was once called, but has expanded its portfolio and geographic reach with offices in Europe, Japan and China.

Gassner has strong roots in Pleasanton, which he finds business-friendly and a convenient location for doing business throughout the world. Both his sons participated in the dual-immersion Spanish language program at Valley View Elementary School with Filaa now a sophomore at Amador Valley High School and Arin finishing his last year at Valley View.

The school played an important part in Veeva's location with Gassner spotting a rental sign at 309 Ray St. while shuttling his sons to the school. Looking for an office to launch Veeva, it was just the right location between school and home. He and Wallace moved in to pursue their plans to tap into what they saw as the bursting needs of better data storage in the pharmaceutical market. Adding other technologically savvy associates, it wasn't long before Veeva outgrew downtown Pleasanton and moved to Hacienda.

Gassner is a graduate of Oregon State University with an engineering degree in computer science. He's one of the few in the class who actually pursued a career in computer science, working first with IBM in San Jose and then for 10 years at PeopleSoft in Pleasanton. Before Oracle took over that company, Gassner moved on to SalesForce.com in San Francisco, further honing his skills in marketing, finance and business planning. Recognizing the opportunities in cloud computing applications for global life science companies, he and Wallace opened Veeva in 2007 and have been expanding ever since.

For Gassner, Veeva is not just a successful company, it's a "feel good" opportunity to work in a life-saving industry. The pharmaceutical companies make a big impact on people's lives, he points out, and he's proud to be part of an industry "that brings people out of their wheelchairs, that helps people regain their sanity" through the medications they develop. Where old software techniques were becoming complicated and slowing research, Veeva's success in moving data to cloud technology where it is both secure and readily available worldwide has helped expedite product development.

The pharmaceutical companies apparently agree. In early 2009, with business rapidly growing and more than a dozen employees crowded into the Ray Street office, Veeva headed a few miles north to a 3,600-square-foot suite in Hacienda anticipating it would last another several years. A year ago, the company absorbed an additional 8,700 square feet in the same building and now it is doubling the floor space once again.

Remembering the comfort of working close to home, Gassner makes sure his employees enjoy many of the same benefits. Some split their time between two offices that are close to BART for easy access. In an environment where the focus on customer value is paramount, Gassner finds a cultural fit at Veeva is imperative. "What works for our employees works for Veeva, and it also works for our customers."

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