Yearly Archives: 2019
May 6, 2019
We saw this column by our friend, Frank Williamson of Oaklyn Consulting, in the Memphis Business Journal and thought it was excellent. Frank captures well the way we, and many others in the Southeast, like to do business and both the importance and pleasure of focusing on building long term relationships.
Source: Memphis Business Journal
As a Southerner by birth, I grew up in a culture where manners were of paramount importance.
When interacting with authority figures and peers, I came to understand the social benefits of maintaining proper eye contact, saying “please” and “thank you,” and having a firm handshake.
Yet, out in the professional world, I’ve been struck by how the continued value of these and other niceties isn’t commonly discussed. According to some studies, social skills are 85 percent responsible for personal success, as opposed to 15 percent from learned technical skills.
Out of the 10 U.S. cities boasting the highest levels of business growth, seven are located right here in the South, according to a recent CNBC article. The past five years have seen huge levels of business and employment growth in Southern cities, including Nashville, Orlando, and Charleston, South Carolina.
I don’t think this is a coincidence. Although our region’s economic success certainly can’t be attributed to solely etiquette, as a Southern business owner, I feel that it has played a part in businesses deciding to establish themselves here.
With civility seemingly on the decline in our world, it’s worth thinking about how we can incorporate this general attitude of courtesy into both our work and personal lives.
Respect in the negotiation process
First impressions are everything. When you treat a business partner with a lack of respect during the process of making a deal, you shouldn’t count on the relationship continuing. But, by bringing a different attitude to the negotiation process — treating it as an opportunity for both sides to solve a problem rather than as a situation where only one side wins — you have the potential to build a relationship that extends beyond a single deal and may result in a more mutually beneficial agreement.
In my experience, those who adopt the attitude of a hard bargainer are being short-sighted, trying to extract some kind of immediate value from a deal instead of seeing it as the first step in a lasting partnership. Naturally, you have to prioritize your interests in any negotiation, but empathizing with what the other party hopes to achieve can make a huge difference in the way you relate to each other.
I saw this dynamic play out recently with a client, a family-owned business that was up for sale. One buyer stood out from the others by the level of consideration he showed toward the family, which was understandably concerned with continuing its legacy. The buyer’s approach took into account the benefits of maintaining a strong, lasting relationship, while keeping his own business interests in mind. In the end, both parties felt the sale was a positive experience.
Balancing work and life
Some business owners may disagree with me, but I believe that the time we spend away from work is as valuable as the time we spend building our businesses. It may not always seem wise to leave work undone just so you can make it home for a family dinner. But, there’s a good argument to be made that the Southern tradition of keeping a healthy work/life balance has the long-term benefit of setting up the next generation for success.
I’m not advocating giving short shrift to business matters. However, there is real value to leaving the office at 5 p.m., staying largely offline during dinner and through the evening, and letting your home life be your primary focus until the next morning.
A major part of Southern civility is our continued devotion to passing on our values to each successive generation, both in our families and through nonprofits. By putting time and effort into this, we raise up a new generation that will eventually enter adulthood with an understanding of how Southern etiquette can be applied to their personal lives and business relationships.
Memphis Business Journal Article: https://bit.ly/2PQLV7v
April 18, 2019
The individual income tax-rate cuts of the 1980s helped make LLCs the default business structure for startups – but the 2017 reduction in corporate tax rates, coupled with the capital gains tax rate increases in the 2010s, have changed the dynamic.
As last week’s Wall Street Journal explains in “Startups Discover the Allure of the C Corporation,” in some circumstances the ‘C’ structure creates potential tax benefits for entrepreneurs and their investors:
For years, Mr. Bisges started ventures using limited-liability companies, known for their flexibility and tax advantages. But when Mr. Bisges and his nephew, Aaron, started planning StillFire Brewing, their accountant suggested the C corporation.
Mr. Bisges is pinning this part of his business plan on Section 1202 of the Internal Revenue Code, an underused provision expanded under Mr. Obama, and one that is gaining new attention after the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made it more attractive.
The strategy is particularly advantageous for business founders who expect to start small, keep earnings inside the company, make annual profits and then cash out. If a taxpayer holds C corporation stock for five years and follows the technical rules, capital-gains taxes on a subsequent sale get erased—on gains up to $10 million or 10 times the original investment, whichever is greater.
In a nutshell, the article argues that it may now be tax advantageous for entrepreneurs to realize their profits in the form of long-term capital gains instead of ordinary income because they can exclude from federal income tax 100% of the gain from the sale of qualified small business stock.
LLCs, S-Corps, and C-Corps each offer different advantages and restrictions, and choosing poorly can lead to expensive and difficult changes down the road. There are many complexities and issues to consider and no one right answer. Just as people shouldn’t decide to have children for the tax benefits, we advise founders to not view tax considerations in a vacuum when choosing the legal structure for their businesses. They need to think hard about the long term goals for the business and seek expert advice on the optimal legal structure.
You can, however, reduce the number of future headaches (and possibly legal bills) if you choose the structure that is most appropriate for both your current situation and your long-term objectives. Aside from avoiding personal exposure to business liabilities, the main considerations when choosing from among the three structures are tax consequences and corporate governance issues.
We ourselves have invested in both C’s and LLC’s, and have found the defined governance structure of a C-corp is almost always preferable. For a more expansive view of our thinking on the subject, we recommend you check out our 2010 white paper, To LLC or Not to LLC.
April 1, 2019
Source: The St. Pete Catalyst
By: Margie Manning
Lanny Tucker, CEO, PowerChord, with Stephanie Shreve, vice president of customer success, and Michelle Tipton, vice president of finance.
PowerChord, a St. Pete software company, has bested other technology companies including Google and Microsoft in one key measure.
Following several recent promotions, women account for 40% of the senior management at PowerChord, twice the percentage of female executives in leadership at Microsoft and nearly twice that of women leaders at Google.
The women and men in leadership at PowerChord have different, and complementary, thought processes, said Lanny Tucker, a tech industry veteran who was named CEO at PowerChord in 2016.
“Sometimes us men, we want to jump up and pull the trigger and a lot of action. The women in the team add a different perspective and a very valuable perspective that benefits our customer, our recruitment of personnel and our stature in the community,” Tucker said.
PowerChord develops software-as-a-service that provides brand specific marketing for its clients, companies with hundreds or thousands of dealer distributors or franchisees.
Ballast Point, a Tampa growth capital and venture equity firm, invested $10 million in PowerChord in 2016, a few months after Lanny Tucker joined as CEO.
Since then, PowerChord has grown from 35 employees to almost 80, and as the company grows, it’s important that female leadership grow as well, Tucker said.
“There’s been study after study done. Companies that have a good gender mix have more innovation, more profitability … and they’re more admired,” Tucker said, citing Fortunemagazine’s annual list of the world’s most admired companies.“Companies that are ranked the highest in that group have almost twice as many females in senior leadership positions than the less admired companies.”
PowerChord announced the latest promotions last week. Michelle Tipton was named vice president of finance, and Stephanie Shreve was named vice president of customer success. Both are seven-year veterans of the company. Their promotions came two months after PowerChord named its first female vice president, Nikki Vegenski, who is vice president for marketing and strategy and also a long-time PowerChord employee.
The company named two directors as well : Nicole Clemens as director of people and culture, and Kate Dalley as director of product management.
“These are our leaders of the future. They are going to be people both with PowerChord or other companies that will take on C-level capabilities and functions in the future and we’re really proud of what they do and what they stand for,” Tucker said.
Meet the new members of the PowerChord leadership team
Michelle Tipton served as financial controller as well as accountant and HR specialist with PowerChord for seven years, before she was promoted to vice president of finance.
Traditionally, finance departments focus on historical performance, Tucker said. One of Tipton’s goals in her new role is to use data that reflects PowerChord’s past to help the company move forward.
“The past is all relevant data and it’s really important to have those analytical skills and toolsets, but also how can we expand the current programs and platforms that we’re using to become more of a data-driven team, to support the organization’s strategies moving forward,” Tipton said.
Tipton’s job is taking the next big step, as artificial intelligence and data analytics are transforming the finance function, Tucker said.
“That’s the predictive part, being able to look into the future with the data that we have in the past and be proactive in our decision making, as opposed to just reactive,” he said.
Stephanie Shreve served as PowerChord’s director of partner engagement for seven years before she was named vice president of customer success.
“My focus will be on fostering an environment of customer experience,” Shreve said. “From the moment we start talking to a potential client all the way through to bringing them on board, we want to make that a smooth seamless experience, so they can then offer exceptional customer experience to their customers.”
Prospective clients face a tough decision when considering taking on new business partners, Tucker said.
“That fear, doubt and uncertainty is won over by both metrics and data, it’s won over by past performance and recommendations of current customers. And quite frankly, a large part is personality and trust. Trust is the most important word, and that’s the hallmark that Stephanie is trying to build,” Tucker said.
Nicole Clemens, the new director of people and culture, will drive key functions of human resources and business strategy with a modern perspective built upon creating a collaborative culture and ensuring equality for all employees. Since joining PowerChord in 2015, Clemens has spearheaded instituting paid paternity leave, implemented a company-wide key performance indicators and bonus program, and has coordinated culture events to engage employees.
Kate Dalley, director of product management, is dedicated to providing scalable and efficient solutions to PowerChord’s local and global markets. She is also responsible for assessing ongoing industry needs to ensure the company is providing innovative and transformational SaaS services, while also continuing to define the ongoing evolution of the PowerChord platform.
March 20, 2019
Source: Prepaid Technologies
Deal more than doubles Prepaid Technologies’ purchasing card portfolio, adds exciting new product enhancements for the business payments leader
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., March 20, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Prepaid Technologies, a leading provider of business payment solutions, announced the acquisition of Karmic Labs’ dash™, the San Francisco-based purchasing card portfolio and expense management solution, as well as other select assets.
The deal, which closed on March 1, 2019, adds several members of Karmic’s key personnel to the Prepaid Technologies team, with team members now operating throughout North America. The addition of the dash platform also adds a robust expense management solution and extensive card portfolio to the Prepaid Technologies suite of offerings, including payroll programs, business purchasing cards, reward and incentives and per-diem card offerings. Current Karmic and dash customers will benefit from an expanded range of services, products, and resources including Prepaid Technologies’ dedicated customer support.
“Integrating the dash purchasing card structure into our existing portfolio increases efficiencies and enhances our growing suite of solutions for businesses and payments service providers,” said Prepaid Technologies CEO, Stephen Faust. “This cardholder portfolio more than doubles our existing expense management business, elevating purchasing to the level of our payroll, incentive and rewards lines of business.”
Prepaid Technologies’ solutions provide customers with a mobile-focused platform enabling business owners to move money in real-time to individual cards and accounts for everyday purchases. It also empowers administrators with key insights into spending, providing better control in the expense reconciliation process. These solutions are significantly enhancing traditional payments for many business segments, particularly universities and municipalities.
“The addition of dash is another prime example of how we’re fulfilling our commitment to provide the broadest suite of payment solutions to our partners and commercial clients, with a focus on quality,” said Faust.
Over the next several months, Prepaid Technologies will integrate the dash portfolio into its service offering, working diligently to transition existing clients, while also providing them with access to additional payments and business management solutions including:
- Revolutionary payroll card programs that improves bottom-line performance and provide value to employees.
- Reward and incentive cards to support stronger customer and employee relationships.
- State-of-the-art API Payment Integrations that transform internal operations, speed-up payments and create operational efficiencies.
For the past 20 years, Prepaid Technologies has built an extraordinary reputation as a trusted partner and advisor in prepaid payments, helping bank partners and clients deliver efficient and meaningful payment experiences, from concept to cardholder. Learn more at in-prepaid.com.
About Prepaid Technologies
A pioneer in financial technology, Prepaid Technologies has been providing innovative electronic payment solutions including payroll, expense, gift, reward and incentive card products to employers, financial institutions, and government agencies for more than 20 years. Learn more at www.in-prepaid.com.
Prepaid Technologies is celebrating 20 years as a leader in the business payments space. Learn more about our history and vision for the future at https://www.in-prepaid.com/prepaid-technologies-marks-20-years-of-prepaid-innovation-and-success/
February 21, 2019
Tampa, FL – February 21, 2019
Ballast Point Ventures II, LP and Ballast Point Ventures I, LP (“BPV”) are pleased to announce that they have successfully exited their growth equity investments in MolecularMD, a molecular diagnostics company founded in West Palm Beach, FL. MolecularMD was acquired by ICON plc (NASDAQ: ILCR), a global provider of outsourced development services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries.
Founded in 2006 by Dr. Brian Druker and Sheridan Snyder, MolecularMD developed a core competency in streamlining the development, regulatory approval, and clinical development deployment of precision oncology medicines for well-established, long-term biopharma clients. Drew Graham and Matt Rice, Partners with BPV, served on MolecularMD’s board of directors prior to the acquisition.
Dan Snyder, the Company’s CEO since 2014, remarked, “Our team has worked tirelessly to provide our clients with an exceptional, full-service diagnostics offering aimed at accelerating the approval of cancer drugs and therapies. Ballast Point Ventures has been a great partner and tremendous resource for us in driving growth in our business. We have relished the leadership, guidance, and expertise that Drew and Matt have provided, and we appreciate the support that the entire BPV team has provided MolecularMD throughout our multi-year partnership.” He continued, “ICON plc has a very complementary strategy to our focus at MolecularMD, and we are excited to become part of the ICON team.”
Drew Graham, a Partner with BPV who served as Chairman of MolecularMD, said, “We are proud of our partnership with MolecularMD and the Company’s growth from a small business in West Palm Beach to a highly regarded player in the molecular diagnostics industry with a blue chip client base around the world. Dan Snyder and his talented team built a great company, and I have no doubt they will help ICON achieve even greater success.”
Please see here for full press release.
About Ballast Point Ventures
Ballast Point Ventures, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, is a later-stage venture capital and growth equity fund founded in 2002 to provide expansion capital for rapidly growing, privately owned companies, with a particular emphasis on companies located in Florida, the Southeast and Texas. The BPV partners have more than 80 years of combined experience investing in and building high-growth companies in several industries, including healthcare, software, technology-enabled business services and consumer. BPV has $360 million under management across three funds and seeks to make initial equity investments ranging in size from $4 million to $10 million. For more information, visit www.ballastpointventures.com.
February 20, 2019
Source: Business Observer FL
By: Brian Hartz
Tucker says hiring employees who want to stay and grow with the company is a priority. That’s one reason why PowerChord has been diligent about implementing a unique organizational culture that involves staff from all departments in high-level decisions.
“I want to hire people who are smarter than me,” Tucker says. “What I’ve found is that great ideas, whether related to products or strategy or anything else, don’t always come from your top dozen executives. They come from people who are out there facing the customer, who understand the customer and deal with them
Proving the theory, Tucker involved some 30 employees outside PowerChord’s C-suite in the firm’s 2019 strategic planning sessions. That means hundreds of ideas can be brought forward. Then, through a distillation process, the sessions will produce a few key companywide strategic initiatives, as well as department-level goals ripe for execution.
Tucker, in the process, balances pushing staff with realistic expectations. “We’ve got to challenge employees, but we’ve also got to guide them,” he says. “As employees grow and mature, and as the company grows, you can start taking on more things and still not have plates hit the floor.”
Employee empowerment is also a major part of PowerChord’s culture. Company policy allows for a generous amount of paid time off, for one, and managers are instructed to be tolerant of mistakes. “You have to be able to accept good news and bad news equally quick,” he says. “I’m a huge believer in that because if you’re not out there trying, you can say, ‘Well, I’ve never had a failure.’ But if you say that, you’ve never pushed yourself and you’ve never really tried.”
(This story has been updated to clarify that PowerChord does not offer unlimited paid time off to employees.)
February 8, 2019
Tampa, FL – February 7, 2019
Ballast Point Ventures II, LP (“BPV”) is pleased to announce that Flexpoint Ford has led a majority recapitalization of BPV portfolio company YPrime, a global leader in cloud-based eClinical solutions. Ballast Point Ventures II has retained a substantial minority stake in the Company, and BPV Partner Matt Rice will continue to serve on the Board. BPV II originally invested in YPrime in 2013 to help the Company grow its sales and marketing teams and further enhance its technology platform with additional product offerings. BPV’s investment facilitated the Company becoming a premier provider of electronic Clinical Outcomes Assessments (eCOA), a large and rapidly growing segment within the eClinical landscape.
“When we decided to raise our first round of outside growth capital in 2013, we knew the Ballast Point Ventures team was aligned with our vision for YPrime and would be a great partner as we scaled the business,” said Shawn Blackburn, co-founder and CEO of YPrime. “We are grateful for the leadership and guidance that Matt and the team at BPV have provided over the years, and we are excited to continue our partnership with BPV as YPrime expands. The new investment from Flexpoint Ford will allow us to accelerate our growth of technology solutions across global clinical trial operations and will provide us with additional strategic resources and capabilities to support our continued rapid growth.”
Matt Rice, Partner at BPV, remarked, “At YPrime, we saw the opportunity to partner with a tenacious and innovative management team operating in a large, rapidly growing industry undergoing fundamental change. Shawn and the YPrime team made the right investments in both people and technology and have positioned the Company as a leader in the eCOA market. We are proud to support YPrime in this next chapter, and we look forward to the Company’s continued success during our partnership with Flexpoint Ford.”
Founded in 2006 by Shawn Blackburn and Jaime Cook, YPrime provides innovative software solutions and consulting services to pharmaceutical, biotechnology and life sciences sponsors, clinical research organizations, research sites and patient users to enable efficient and collaborative clinical trial data collection and information management. Data services tools eliminate data silos and help sponsors bring together fragmented clinical research data into contextual and actionable information. For more information, please visit www.yprime.com.
About Ballast Point Ventures
Ballast Point Ventures, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, is a later-stage venture capital and growth equity fund founded in 2002 to provide expansion capital for rapidly growing, privately owned companies, with a particular emphasis on companies located in Florida, the Southeast and Texas. The BPV partners have more than 80 years of combined experience investing in and building high-growth companies in several industries, including healthcare, software, technology-enabled business services and consumer. BPV has $360 million under management across three funds and seeks to make initial equity investments ranging in size from $4 million to $10 million. For more information, please visit www.ballastpointventures.com.
About Flexpoint Ford
Flexpoint Ford is a private equity investment firm that has raised more than $2.3 billion in capital and specializes in privately negotiated investments in the healthcare and financial services industries. Since the firm’s formation in 2005, Flexpoint Ford has completed investments in more than 30 companies across a broad range of investment sizes, structures and asset classes. Flexpoint Ford is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. For more information about Flexpoint Ford, please visit www.flexpointford.com.
February 4, 2019
Source: St. Pete Catalyst
By: Margie Manning
Drew Graham (left), managing partner, Ballast Point Ventures, interviewed Jeff Vinik at the Florida Venture Capital Conference. (Photo credit: Stuart Rudolph, ScaleUp Executives)
Jeff Vinik opened up about getting back into money management, his investment philosophy and the infamous “Florida man” during a candid interview at the Florida Venture Forum’s Venture Capital Conference.
It was the first public interview Vinik has done since announcing earlier this month he would relaunch Vinik Asset Management, a fund he ran between 1996 and 2013.
Vinik, who owns the Tampa Bay Lightning and is partnering with Cascade Investment on the $3 billion Water Street Tampa development, became a well-known name in the investment community when he managed the Fidelity Magellan Fund in the mid-1990s. Vinik — who described himself as “relentless”— said he still spends five or six hours a day reading Wall Street reports.
“I love it so much I can’t stop doing it,” Vinik told Drew Graham, managing partner of Ballast Point Ventures, during the interview. “I don’t put many trades in, but I follow companies. Today is the busiest day of earnings season. There will be 300 companies that will report earnings today and from my analysts I’ll get Wall Street research on every one of them. I’ll spend 10 seconds on some, two minutes on others, looking for ideas.
“I’ve been doing that for the last two years and I thought, as long as I was doing all this work I might as well get paid for it.”
The market has shifted from active money management to passive management and computerized trading strategies. Vinik said he sees opportunity in active management.
“The story that I’m telling is that active has underperformed for so long and competition has decreased, that we are now finally at the time for active to outperform passive and I’m going to be taking advantage of that. I don’t really believe that,” he said. “I actually think passive will still outperform. I think the human emotions of greed and fear are every bit as strong as they were 20 or 30 years ago. I see hedge fund managers making the same mistakes, buying high and selling low … but reading so many hours a day like I do and having people feed me information, like a point guard in basketball, and being such a generalist, I think I can make it work for me, but I’ve got to prove it.”
He described his investment philosophy for public companies as simple — buy good companies with good earnings and good management. He’s industry agnostic but singled out Software-as-a-Service as a hot sector right now.
Vinik also has been active in private company investing, including putting money into local startups such as digital health firm Peerfit and educational technology company Knack. He’s also backing Embarc Collective, a downtown Tampa hub that will bring together entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and other funders, and academic resources in one space.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for entrepreneurs to get to the next level. Many won’t but some will,” Vinik said.
Vinik – who has called on everyone in the area to be an evangelist for Tampa Bay — said he was speaking to a group of high school students a few years ago and was surprised by how many of them said they wanted to leave Tampa after graduation.
“That was like a light bulb going on. How do we keep talent here and attract talent, which I believe we can. It’s education, it’s getting this entrepreneurial movement. It will build on itself as we go along. It’s still early, but we do have momentum.”
Florida traditionally has been better known for tourism and for “Florida man,” a Twitter handle and a euphemism for weird news that comes out of the state.
“There’s an Arkansas man. There’s a Texas man. But it’s the Florida man that’s getting published every day … We’ve got to do a better job of getting the word out,” Vinik said. “I moved from Boston and it’s fantastic here … People don’t know what they’re missing.”
He predicted growth in Florida’s business community and the venture industry would outpace tourism over the next 20 years.
He touched on a couple of other topics in response to audience questions.
Sports. “If sports were a stock, it wouldn’t be the first stock I would buy.” That’s because young people spend less time playing and watching sports than they used to, as the internet has captured more of their interest. He has an investment in an e-sports company, Team Liquid, and said he’s bullish on that investment.
Attracting entrepreneurs to the area. It’s key to build critical mass, Vinik said, so that someone moving here from out of town knows there’s a fallback to go to if their venture fails. “The type of people we attract are early adopters,” Vinik said. “Tampa Bay is not Miami, which has blossomed and exploded. I’d like to think we have that ahead of us. People who are the early adopters come in and want to be part of that movement, as do I.”