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ConnectWise: The Force Awakens

ConnectWise CEO Jason Magee found a smart answer to a tricky question this morning at the MSP software company’s IT Nation Explore 2019 conference in Orlando, Florida.

The tricky question: How do you replace founder and former CEO Arnie Bellini’s main stage showmanship? Bellini, after all, stepped down when Thoma Bravo acquired ConnectWise in February 2019.

Fast forward to present day. Roughly 1,300 MSPs (managed IT service providers) and technology vendor executives are attending IT Nation Explore 2019. Many attendees (including me) were wondering if or how Magee would address the CEO and ownership transition on main-stage.

Star Wars After George Lucas: The Disney Approach

The ConnectWise ownership transition, to me, is somewhat akin to George Lucas selling the Star Wars franchise to Disney. How do you replace Lucas without looking like you’re trying to replace Lucas? The smart answer: You don’t.

No doubt, Lucas had big-picture vision. But over time, people began to realize that George didn’t create all the intricate character and set details in the original Star Wars universe. Nor did he create the music that tied it all together. Instead, it took a talented team — and a growing portfolio of intellectual property — to create and expand the Star Wars universe.

Amid that reality, Disney has put the overall focus on Industrial Light and Magic, key team members, familiar characters and some new faces to propel the franchise forward. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, Rey, Finn, BB-8, digital artists, set builders and thousands more.

ConnectWise: The Team

In the case of ConnectWise and this morning’s keynote, Magee spent a few minutes explaining how he has essentially run day-to-day operations at the software company for the past three years. Was he pumping up his own chest or in any way diminishing Arnie’s legacy? Nope. Was he providing context? Yes.

One by one, Magee humbly shifted the spotlight to a range of ConnectWise executives across R&D, cybersecurity, customer success and more.

The key take away: ConnectWise continues to execute a near- and long-term strategic plan that remains 100 percent focused on IT Nation partners.

I’m not suggesting that ConnectWise got everything “right” this morning. It wasn’t perfect. I also concede: The company faces intense competition in the MSP software market, which continues to attract private equity dollars at a record pace.

Still, Magee and the ConnectWise team addressed the unspoken question this morning: Who will replace Arnie’s main-stage vision? The answer: A team of MSP-focused executives who have been at the company for an average seven-plus years. And the approach worked exceedingly well this morning.

ConnectWise: MSP Technology Strategy

What exactly did Magee and the team say about ConnectWise’s software and business strategy for partners? We’ll share those details in a follow-up blog soon.


PS: Bellini never keynoted this particular conference, to the best of my knowledge. The event originally started as Automation Nation — for LabTech Software partners — several years ago. But he always keynoted the fall IT Nation conference, a reality that has been on partner minds heading up to this week’s event in Orlando.

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