The co-founders of email marketing company Bronto Software, Joe Colopy and Chaz Felix, recently left the company after overseeing a transition period that was triggered by last year’s sale of the business for $200 million.
Colopy, who was the Durham-based company’s CEO, said entrepreneurship is his true calling and that he always anticipated his tenure with Bronto wouldn’t be long-term once the company was acquired by NetSuite, a publicly traded software company based in Califronia. That deal was announced last April and was completed in June.
Felix, who was chief operating officer, said in a separate interview that his departure wasn’t pre-determined by the sale, but he recognized from the outset that founders usually “transition out” after selling their businesses. And he ultimately decided that was the best course for him as well.
Unlike many acquisitions, there were no financial incentives in place to keep the two founders tied to the business for a certain period.
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“We could have left day one,” Colopy said.
Both Colopy and Felix said they were leaving the business, which operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of Netsuite, in good shape and in excellent hands.
The first quarter of this year, said Colopy, was Bronto’s best quarter ever.
“It continues to be a growth story,” he said.
Carolyn Sparano, who joined Bronto nearly a decade ago and most recently was vice president of client services, has been named the general manager in charge of Bronto.
Colopy said Sparano is an excellent manager, has customer service in her DNA and is passionate about the Bronto culture – all of which make her a great choice for the top spot.
In addition, said Felix, she is backed by a top-notch team of senior managers or, as they’re jokingly known within the company, “the BLT” – for Bronto leadership team.
Today Bronto has more than 300 employees, up from more than 250 when the NetSuite deal was announced a year ago. More than 230 of the company’s employees are based at its Durham headquarters; Bronto also has offices in New York, Los Angeles, London and Sydney, Austria.
“Our challenge is that we can’t hire good people fast enough,” Sparano said. The company currently lists 36 open positions on its website.
The NetSuite acquisition, she said, “really allows us to play on a larger stage. So we’re really focusing on opening up the opportunities to really leverage that NetSuite advantage.”
NetSuite generated $741.1 million in revenue last year. On Thursday it reported first-quarter revenue of $216.6 million, up 31 percent from a year ago.
Colopy said that NetSuite has been hands-off when it comes to Bronto’s culture, which he described as, among other things, “very friendly, very creative, a little quirky.”
That quirky side came to the fore when the company organized a send-off for Colopy and Felix on their final day, April 8.
It included a segment of “This is Your Bronto Life” featuring former Bronto employees who came back for the occasion and roasted the pair, followed by by a ceremony in which they were “put out to pasture.” The latter involved being led out of the office in handcuffs to an old pick-up truck loaded with hay bales and goats while being shot at by employees armed with Nerf guns – a Bronto tradition.
“For some reason we had goats,” Colopy said. “I don’t know why we had goats.”
In the near-term, Colopy and Felix plan to spend time with their families. Longer-term, they plan on remaining in the Triangle and see themselves playing once again in the entrepreneurial arena in one way or another.
“At my core, I’m an entrepreneur and an operator of a business,” Felix said.
Sparano said of Colopy and Felix’s next act: “It’s going to be fun to keep our eyes on them and see what happens in the next couple of years.”