Back in early January, veteran tech entrepreneur Adam Edmunds was just a couple of weeks past his one-year anniversary as CEO of Lehi-based property management software innovator Entrata when his phone erupted with messages.
That torrent of communications was spurred by a ranting, wildly anti-Semitic email authored by Entrata founder and longtime CEO Dave Bateman which had just become public.
Bateman’s screed was sent to over 50 addressees, including Utah tech sector executives, elected officials and other state leaders claiming “the Jews” were behind the COVID-19 vaccines and part of a “sadistic effort underway to euthanize the American people.”
“I write this email knowing that many of you will think I’m crazy after reading it,” Bateman wrote in the Jan. 4 email. “I believe there is a sadistic effort underway to euthanize the American people. It’s obvious now. It’s undeniable, yet no one is doing anything. Everyone is discounting their own judgment and dismissing their intuition.
“I believe the Jews are behind this.”
At the time the email was sent, Bateman was out of the day-to-day operations of Entrata but still held his position as chairman of the company’s board of directors and was also the majority owner of the company.
The email drew widespread condemnation, national and international news coverage, and sent a shockwave through the ranks of Entrata, a business-to-business software startup that had built huge success through innovation and prided itself on a company culture based on celebrating diversity.
And while the personal fallout for Bateman included his ouster from the board and, a few months later, a complete financial divestiture from the company he helped launch in 2003, Edmunds was left to steer Entrata and its employees, customers and investors through the toxic cloud left behind by the founder’s unhinged claims.
“It’s an experience you can’t prepare for,” Edmunds said in the first interview he’s done since the incident. “There is no chapter in the CEO manual for dealing with events like that.”
Edmunds responded publicly with a statement that condemned Bateman’s hateful statements and underscored Entrata’s commitment to inclusion, but knew the path forward would be difficult. Lacking any playbook to navigate the overwhelming response to the email, Edmunds said he chose to “lead with my heart” and believed the highest priority was to acknowledge the pain and anger left in the wake of Bateman’s vitriol.
“Really, what I felt like my job was at that time was to hold space for all the emotions people went through,” Edmunds said. “Our employees, our customers, the people who live in the communities we help manage, the Jewish community, the broader community ... I wanted all these people to feel OK going through their feelings.”
Part of Edmunds’ response included reaching out to Rabbi Sam Spector of Salt Lake City’s Congregation Kol Ami synagogue.
Back in January, Spector told the Deseret News that an initial phone call led to his meeting with a group of Entrata executives, an experience he called a first in his time as a rabbi. Ahead of that meeting, Spector said he had some degree of skepticism about the request.
“I expected they would offer lip service after this thing that happened,” Spector said. “But, that’s not what it was.”
Spector said Entrata executives were visibly emotional on greeting him at their Lehi headquarters and shared their anguish over “someone from our community causing so much pain for your community.”
“They asked how they could become allies of the Jewish community,” Spector said last January. “They said they were here to listen to what I had to say and wanted to learn how to become allies in battling antisemitism.”
Entrata also made an undisclosed donation to Kol Ami, hoping to help cover the cost of much needed repairs and improvements at the 50-year-old synagogue, including a new boiler, prayer books and other upgrades.
Spector said Entrata executives asked that the donation be kept under wraps and noted their focus was on how to partner with the Jewish community.
“That’s what impressed me the most,” Spector said. “We’ve seen before when people want to make a donation to get themselves out of hot water. But Entrata is working proactively to be an ally and they’re setting an incredible example of how to do that.
“The catalyst for this was a person doing the wrong thing, and Entrata is taking the stance of what they can do to learn and improve from this. I would encourage every single company in being equally proactive in saying, ‘We don’t want a Dave Bateman in our community and how do we combat that early on.’”
Just six months before the Bateman email, Entrata was celebrating a $507 million funding round, the company’s first infusion of institutional investment and the biggest-ever private funding round for a Utah company, according to Entrata.
The round was led by Silver Lake, Qualtrics founder and Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, and Vivint Smart Home founder Todd Pedersen. Also participating in the funding was Palo Alto-based HGGC, a private equity firm co-founded by BYU and NFL football legend Steve Young.
In a Deseret News interview, Young said Entrata’s stellar success as well as Edmunds’ leadership abilities were major factors in drawing HGGC’s interest in investing in the company. He also had nothing but praise for how Edmunds handled fallout from the January incident.
“I’ve got to give Adam a lot of credit for creating an environment for healing,” Young said. “That’s with the different communities in Utah, with employees, with customers ... it shoots in every direction.
“Adam’s response was ... a holistic repudiation of what was said. And an answer and an action for what the business represents.”
Silver Lake managing director Kyle Paster said his firm had been following Entrata’s success some time before it led the massive funding package in 2021.
Paster noted Entrata is the go-to software platform for enterprise scale multi-family housing operators and had, even before its debut investment round, been a company riding an impressive growth arc.
He also shared his support for how Edmunds and his executive team navigated the challenges raised by the founder’s email.
“I thought Adam handled the situation very well,” Paster said. “One of his team’s incredible strong suits is their empathy and ability to connect with people.”
In addition to its position as Entrata’s fund leader last summer, Silver Lake also participated in the divestiture of Bateman’s equity in the company, which was completed in March. And, Paster holds a seat on Entrata’s board of directors.
Edmunds noted Entrata’s robust growth continues and the company is now processing some $25 billion in payments from tenants who reside in over 20,000 apartment communities across the country that are managed with the help of the company’s software platform. At the time of its investment fund announcement in 2021, Entrata said it was the fastest-growing software company in real estate, with over $200 million in annual recurring revenue and has over 2,000 employees.
Entrata has also built out its management team over the past year-and-a-half including adding former Podium executives Nico Dato, Jason Taylor and Chris Finken as well as former Xant CEO Chris Harrington, now Entrata’s Chief Revenue Officer.
Beside its core property management product, Entrata provides solutions for student and military housing operators and has a new product in development aiming to bolster companies working to address critical affordable housing shortages.
Edmunds said he believes Entrata will grow to become the one of the biggest companies to ever launch in Utah and that navigating the issues that arose earlier this year have made him a better and even more focused leader.
“If anything, I came out of this feeling even more strongly about my goal of leading from my heart,” Edmunds said. “In the end, company building is really about the people, the customers you serve, the people who work here.
“The first half of my career was about my own fame and glory. The second half is about building people up, making the world a little bit better place and making Utah a little bit better place.”
Correction: An earlier version misspelled the names of Entrata executives Nico Dato and Jason Taylor as Nico Data and Jason Tyler.