By Abby Sorensen, Chief Editor
Four ISV executives — Granbury Solutions’ CEO Tom Bronson; Tony Glowacki, CEO of Gusto; Jon Halpern, Co-Founder and CEO of AthleteTrax; and Software Logic Founder and CEO Luis Reyes — took part in How To Build A Successful Reseller Program, a panel held as part of the Business Solutions ISV IQ Live! conference October 6 in Philadelphia. The four discussed different avenues available for raising capital and how to successfully grow a software business. Some of the top takeaways from the panel include:
- A spirited debate over the pros and cons of working with angel investors. Halpern pointed out the advantage of angel investors controlling their own process and final decision. These investors still want to analyze your business case, but they can be won over with the right amount passion. Bronson stressed the importance of choosing investors who can afford to take risk and will not have to change their lifestyle if the investment fails. Glowacki added savvy angel investors wouldn’t want to take more than 10 percent equity if they want your business to continue to grow.
- Reyes had a unique perspective on the panel because he has bootstrapped his current company and sees cultural and business advantages to growing his company organically. Reyes said, “If you want to be a financially-responsible company, it’s easier to start if that’s part of your philosophy from the beginning as opposed to trying to implement controls later. When you’re bootstrapping money is tight, you have to be a creative problem solver — figure out how to do more with less. My team is constantly thinking about these problems every day. They are the future leaders of my company and discipline is going to be inherent in the culture of our company later.”
- Every panelist stressed the importance of having a business plan, regardless of whether or not you are actively raising capital. Some of their advice on business plans included:
- Reyes works with a more than 150 page business plan that has measures in place for adversity, not just the best-case scenarios.
- Bronson said, “I’m astounded at the number of business plans I’ve read that really don’t talk about the use of the capital. These guys are going to write you check and they’ll want to know how you’re going to use that money and you’re not going to buy a ping-pong table.”
- Halpern suggested keeping your business plan and pitch deck short and sweet, making sure it outlines “the problem being solved, the solution, the market opportunity, how you’re going to go to market, what competition looks like, financial projects, the team, the use of funds, and the exit strategy and vision around it because it is really about the entrepreneur.”
- I asked the panelists when they knew it was time to raise capital. Bronson said, “If you know you needed capital today, you probably should have been looking at that a while back. It is important not to be in a position where you’ve got to have capital or you’re going out of business because that will lead to some bad decisions.” Glowacki explained the importance of taking time looking at multiple investors. He suggested starting with 50, then narrowing it down to your top 10 options before moving forward to have serious conversations with two to three investors.
- An ISV executive in the audience asked how to determine the amount of equity you should give away to investors. Bronson gave this example: “Every time I raise capital and I know I’m going to be diluted, I run the math. Is my smaller percentage of a bigger company worth more than my bigger percentage of a smaller company? If I can’t answer that question in the affirmative, then I don’t raise the capital. I’ve got to make sure the equation makes sense that even though I’m being diluted in my percentage ownership that it’s worth more.” Bronson explained how being the fifth-largest shareholder in his company today is much more valuable than owning 100 percent fifteen years ago.
- Reyes pointed out the advantage of working with an investor who can be a sounding board for your business, saying, “Adversity tends to cause strain on business partnerships and even causes you to have doubts in yourself. When you have an investor, this is somebody who understands, who’s actually invested, ready, and prepared for those situations. Sometimes those doubts can actually paralyze you, but an investor will help to push you past that hump — sometimes being the only difference between success and failure.”
- Glowacki responded to the challenges of finding investors, saying, “Money is easy to come by and there’s a lot of it out there. But ideas are hard to come by — that’s the real key. The savvy investor understands money is relatively unimportant to the whole process. It’s the idea, it’s the product, it’s the marketplace. It’s hard to find people with ideas, it’s hard to find people that are actually willing to go and get after it because it’s not a trivial process we go through to start businesses.”
- Halpern’s closed the panel, saying, “Be passionate when you’re talking to investors, be clear, and show you have a vision. Those are key pieces when you’re talking to investors and you need to make sure they know you’re fully bought in to what you’re doing have a clear plan of what you’re going to with the funds.”
About The Panelists
Tom Bronson is the CEO of Granbury Solutions in Dallas which he helped grow from 20 employees in 2010 to over 200 employees today with more than 10,000 customers. He is also the former CEO of DiamondTouch, a pizzeria POS software company.
Tony Glowacki is the CEO of Gusto in Bethesda, MD, a cloud POS software company catering to fast casual and quick service restaurants. He has helped five companies raise capital over his more than 30 year career, including a $2 million Series A round in 2015.
Jon Halpern is the Co-Founder and CEO of AthleteTrax in Pittsburgh, a sports program management platform. He launched the company while still in college and grew it to more than 13,000 in one year thanks to Angel investments and seed money from a startup accelerator program.
Luis Reyes is Founder and CEO of Software Logic in Tampa, FL, a custom development firm specializing in cloud conversions. He previously led software teams for several Fortune 100 technology companies and has grown Software Logic without outside investment
For more information on the Business Solutions ISV IQ Live! conferences, visit www.ISVIQLive.com.