Inside The Most Successful Silicon Valley Company No One Ever Talks About

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Photo: Owen Thomas, Business Insider

When we sat down with Intuit CEO Brad Smith recently and started talking about the company, he called the top maker of finance software a “30-year-old startup.”Not so fast, we told Smith: “You can’t use that line. The last guy called Intuit a ’20-year-old startup’ 10 years ago.”

That in itself speaks to Intuit’s longevity, and the constant urge to reinvent itself. Because in Silicon Valley, there are plenty of people eager to do the reinventing for you.

But that last guy—Steve Bennett, a GE veteran who’s now CEO of Symantec—was more concerned with having Intuit act like a grown-up company than a startup.

Shortly after he took over in 2007, Smith discovered an innovation gap: Only 4 out of 50 products introduced in the past decade had grown to $50 million or more in revenues. That’s changing: In 2012, Intuit got $100 million in revenues from products that didn’t even exist three years ago.

The stock has tripled since 2009, and Intuit has made smart acquisitions like Mint, a Web-based personal-finance manager, and PayCycle, an online-payroll service.

More importantly, with in-house resources, it’s rolled out enchanting new products like SnapTax, an iPhone and Android app that lets you prepare and file a simple tax return without touching a computer.

Where Bennett was obsessed with “process excellence” and “operational rigour,” Smith is rearchitecting Intuit for innovation—including the campus itself.

The company is getting rid of PowerPoint presentations and replacing them with whiteboards filled with customer stories.

It’s also adding perks like a full-service gym, sports courts, and cafeterias that make it easier for employees to work long hours.

Eileen Fagan, Intuit’s director of innovation, gave us a tour.

Like most of Silicon Valley, Intuit occupies a fairly traditional office-park setting—one that it's turning, building by building, into a friendlier, campus-like environment.

This renovated building is the new campus centre.

Here's reception. It's so new, employees still need maps to figure out where to go.

Here's the gym—everything you need for a workout.

And a new cafeteria.

No free lunch—but there is a fancy payment-card system so you don't have to use cash.

Caffeine is a must.

As is tech support—this is like an in-house version of Apple's Genius Bar.

Founder Scott Cook came up with the idea for Intuit at his kitchen table. This is the original table—and employees still use it for brainstorming meetings.

An employee presents a new product at Intuit's Innovation Gallery Walk event.

Time to move around campus. There are bikes available if your next meeting is far.

If you need to use a car, how about one you can plug in?

Alternative-energy vehicles get prime parking spots.

Let's check out some employee offices. This isn't some stiff finance company.

Some inspirational reading.

Lots fo quirky touches everywhere.

Meet Noelani Luke, assistant to founder Scott Cook. She's been with the company since 1989.

Here's Cook's newest office. He just moved in recently to be near the team working on boosting Intuit's innovation culture.

No PowerPoint decks—photos, quotes, and anecdotes inform Intuit's products.

Genevieve, for example, is worried about how sites like Tumblr and Pinterest, which make it easy to copy images, affect her design business. That's not a concern a business owner would have had even five years ago.

The whiteboards fill up fast.

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And Brad Smith, the CEO, talks about Intuit's progress in online payments.

We caught some employees starting a game at dusk.

In offices nearby, the lights stayed on.

It had been a long day.

The court lights came on—but no one was leaving.

In Silicon Valley, the game never ends.

Just down the road from Intuit, there's a startup that's growing up fast ...

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