CARY — A pair of successful local entrepreneurs are betting that they can help other technology companies succeed too.
Mike and Will Shook are behind Accelerence, a new venture focused on helping emerging information technology companies whose sales have stalled.
The Shook brothers are best-known for founding and leading Triangle-based Strategic Technologies and its successor, Consonus Technologies, which was generating $110 million in annual revenue when they departed at the end of 2009. Mike, now 65, was CEO, and Will, 52, was chief operating officer and executive vice president of sales and marketing.
Accelerence is a for-profit business, but its pay-for-performance model dictates that the Shooks don’t profit unless their clients do.
“If we don’t grow you, you don’t pay us,” said Will Shook. “Simple as that.”
Well, sometimes. The Shooks are willing to adjust their compensation structure based on what works for the client. That may include fees, but they anticipate that the bulk of Accelerence’s revenue will come from taking a percentage of revenue growth plus an ownership stake – also contingent on performance – for companies willing to give up a piece of equity.
Since Accelerence succeeds only when its clients do, the Shooks are eager to jump in and get their hands dirty. If, for example, they come up with a list of more than a dozen actions that a company needs to take, they’ll do their share of the follow-through.
Consequently, Accelerence can handle only a limited number of clients. Its sweet spot is IT companies that have a proven product that is marketed to other businesses.
“We can probably handle five or six customers a year, until we start hiring additional people,” said Mike Shook. The Shooks envision adding other executives with a strong track record down the road.
Accelerence won’t take just any business on as a client, Mike Shook said.
“We can’t be wrong,” he said. “We are being very selective.”
A stealth beginning
The Shooks quietly formed Accelerence in 2011, operating in stealth mode while they fine-tuned the best way to leverage their experience – and their contacts – into helping companies. That includes nailing down exactly what is holding companies back, which can be a mystery to its executives.
“We walk into companies and ask them, how is your technology being used by the customer base?” Mike Shook said. “When we go to their customers, they aren’t using it that way.”
Tavve Software, a Morrisville company with about 10 employees, has been working with Accelerence for about a year.
The 15-year-old company, whose software is used for security and network management, hired Accelerence to help it break into a new market, said Gary Schlachter, co-founder and chief of engineering.
“Our product, ZoneRanger, has many different functions,” said Schlachter. “What tends to happen is our customers use one or two features.”
The Shooks met with Tavve customers to find out how ZoneRanger was being used, then followed up with focus groups made up of their industry contacts. The end result was a new sales and marketing campaign, Schlachter said.
Tavve launched that campaign about two months ago which, given its typical sales cycle, is too soon to have made an impact on sales. But Schlachter is encouraged by the market reception, including the number of companies that have signed up to use ZoneRanger for free 30-day or 60-day trials.
“We’re gaining traction,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Shooks remain involved.
“They’re actively engaged in customer meetings with clients they know that they have worked with in the past,” Schlachter said. “In fact, I was on one with them last week.”