MSP, Content, Content, Private equity

ConnectWise: New Owner, Same IT Nation Partner Commitment?

When the ConnectWise IT Nation Connect conference kicks off March 25 in Australia, it will mark the IT business management software company's first major event under new ownership. And the first IT Nation Connect gathering specifically for APAC (Asia Pacific) partners.

Jason Magee, CEO, ConnectWise
ConnectWise CEO Jason Magee

Private equity firm Thoma Bravo acquired ConnectWise in February 2019. ChannelE2E estimated the deal's value at $1.5 billion, based on our industry reporting. The deal included a CEO transition from Co-Founder Arnie Bellini to Jason Magee. Moreover, ConnectWise cut about 110 positions -- or about 10 percent of its workforce -- the day the deal was announced.

At first glance, that's an awful lot of change -- especially for a technology company that had the same CEO for roughly three decades. And let's not overlook co-founder David Bellini's contribution to the company for essentially three decades as well. While Arnie Bellini officially remains an "advisor" to the company, he and brother David are essentially retired from the business.

Meanwhile, private equity firms have a habit of putting their own stamp on a business -- especially when it comes to fine-tuning or changing budgets to maximize profits. At the same time, rivals often attempt to pounce on the ownership changes. No doubt, companies such as Continuum, Datto, Kaseya and SolarWinds MSP are pushing extra hard against ConnectWise at the moment.

ConnectWise: New Owner, Same Strategic Plan

But if you take a closer look at the Thoma Bravo-ConnectWise deal, it looks like the agreement was built upon the software company's existing five-year business plan and existing 2019 strategic plan. In other words, the private equity team wasn't planning some sort of major course correction or about-face from ConnectWise's chosen path forward.

Moreover, familiar names like Magee, Chief Customer Success Officer Craig Fulton, SVP Scott Marshall and other company veterans are driving the business forward. And plenty of staff members shared in the M&A deal's financial outcome. Indeed, the buyout created more than 70 millionaires, and distributed a combined $270 million to ConnectWise employees.

Those variables should be welcome news for ConnectWise's customers -- which are commonly known as 'partners' across the company's IT Nation ecosystem. While many technology companies run lean conferences focused on their own products, ConnectWise is known for business-centric education sessions at its gatherings.

In addition to its home-grown conferences and user groups, ConnectWise acquired HTG Peer Groups in 2018 -- a key move that essentially doubled down on partner-centric business education across sales, finance, marketing, profit margins, exit strategies and more.

That partner-centric DNA should be on display this month at ConnectWise IT Nation APAC 2019. If that DNA is missing, we'll know that something isn't quite right with the new ownership model.

ConnectWise: Keeping Score

Of course, business plans are subject to change. I suspect Thoma Bravo will give ConnectWise and Magee considerable breathing room to execute the software company's business plan. But we don't know how aggressive the software company's revenue and profit plans are...

We'll be watching and listening for clues as IT Nation APAC 2019 unfolds in Australia. And we'll likely be on-hand for additional IT Nation conferences in June 2019 and October-November 2019.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.