Live Q&A: Arnie Bellini

ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini sat down for an extended Q&A with media at IT Nation 2015. His big-picture theme: IT service providers have to continually reinvent themselves, the way ConnectWise reinvented itself as each new IT wave emerged -- from PCs to Novell networks to the Web and now to cloud. Here's a quick recap.

Arnie Bellini
Arnie Bellini

Among the Key Opening Statements

  • "You don't have to abandon existing practices or businesses. Instead, you can continue to open new business practices that transform your business."
  • Bellini is now 57-years-old, and he insists he'll continue to be a renegade for change.

Question from ChannelE2E

ChannelE2E: "ChannelE2E has heard chatter about LabTech CEO Matt Nachtrab allegedly shifting to the president position of ConnectWise. Can you talk a bit about his evolution, as well as all of the entrepreneurs you've pulled into the company through M&A?"

Bellini's replies:

  • "It's always great to see a younger person's view. Every single one of the founders is still here. They're still with us from LabTech, Quosal, ScreenConnect. That doesn't happen in a private equity buyout of a company. Please quote me on that. My position is to inspire."
  • Bellini confirmed that the original ConnectWise investments in LabTech and Quosal were 50 percent stakes each. That approach ensured the entrepreneurs in each company would stay and have a stake in the growth plan, he asserted.
  • "Once you lose your passion, your vision exits soon after that. And if it becomes all about making money as your first priority that's sad."

Extended Q&A

Bellini's answers to questions from other reporters in the room, including a heavy percentage of questions involving IT service provider M&A.

  • "Any technology trend partners don't take advantage of is a threat."
  • "Yes, we're seeing more entrepreneurs who are ready to exit -- because the industry is now 33 years old. Some partners are now aging out."
  • "Are you willing to change your business model as you personally age? It's either time to change your business, retire... something. You need to make that decision. I don't care how old you are. You can add practice areas and change your business."
  • "The young people coming into the industry... they're technology entrepreneurs who come in as cloud service providers. I can tell you what a person's business model is based on their age."
  • "For every item thing that floats into the cloud, there are still 10 new or existing things under the roof for MSPs and CSPs to manage." He pointed to firewalls, routers, security and more.
  • The new ConnectWise Cloud Console will extend beyond Office 365 to Microsoft Azure. He mentioned potential opportunities for Google Docs and Amazon as well. "We're getting ahead of it before become too complex."
  • On international expansion: "It was a big step to take a founder and move him to the UK. We have big plans for expansion in the UK and Australia."
  • On R&D: "We believe our solutions are blurring the lines between PSA, RMM, a quote and proposal system and a remote control system."
  • Internet of Things: "Companies like GE -- the big organizations and governments will be playing first, but everything will trickle down. It gets popularized and standardized to let it trickle down to your IT service providers. Get thinking about it now to catch that wave."

After the interview, Bellini and I traded a few notes in terms of the past, present and future of ConnectWise. He's key statement: "ConnectWise is constantly looking at the problems our partners will face two and three years into the future, and solving them today. We see the issues because 'We are you'. All of our founders started as IT solution providers. We know the life of an IT entrepreneur is Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. We bring order to the chaotic world. Our solutions give IT entrepreneurs their lives back. We can't let our partners fail."

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.