Long-time entrepreneurs Will and Mike Shook want to disrupt the growth consulting model for struggling tech startups with hands-on intervention and a pay-for-performance model
A Q&A with Accelerence managing partner Will Shook. The Cary, North Carolina–based company was founded in 2011 by Shook and his brother Mike, and launched to the public in late January.
SUB: Please describe Accelerence and your value proposition.
Shook: Our value proposition is to identify and partner with emerging growth companies that have existing revenue generating customers to help them accelerate their business success. Our model requires that we get actively involved with these clients to help them improve their understanding of their business. We then team to develop a fresh and improved strategic plan and go to market strategies. A unique component of our value proposition is that we also take a very active role in executing the plan. The key objective in all of our client activities is to transform companies with interesting technologies into great businesses with consistently improving shareholder value.
SUB: Who are your target markets?
Shook: Emerging technology companies located in but not limited to the Southeast [U.S.] focused on enterprise software, cloud computing, managed services and data center hosting.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Shook: There are other entrepreneurial consulting companies that offer strategic services however our business model is unique in that it includes our active involvement in the execution of the strategic plan.
SUB: What differentiates Accelerence from the competition?
Shook: Our pay for performance remuneration model and our active involvement in participating in the defined go to market strategy to include new customer acquisition and the creation of new business partnerships.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Shook: The company was incorporated in May of 2011. Our first steps were to develop a business model that fully leveraged our broad background and experience base in building successful business. This included creating the tools sets, processes and best practices that serve as a catalyst in transforming companies. Many of the tools were repurposed intellectual property from the previous companies my brother and I owned. We also got very active in mentoring through the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, assisting entrepreneurs from North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina, socializing our idea with the investor community of VCs and Angels. We really wanted to pin down the opportunity and the need. We received great feedback and were able to start tuning our offering and market—really getting the marriage between the two right. The second phase was to leverage these best practices and tool sets with our first clients. This has been successfully done and we are now in full execution mode.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Accelerence? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Shook: We are avid fans of the Triangle, have hung our hat here for years and, after a little flirting with other opportunities in other geos, we settled on the fact that we want to remain vital members of this community. Early on, we were looking for approaches to the make the cloud truly meet its promise in the enterprise, not just the consumer world. There was a gap. But as we explored the landscape, we came up with perhaps an even bigger gap. The success pyramid for tech startups is dauntingly steep and the ratio of startups achieving successful exits was surprisingly low. As life-long entrepreneurs this challenge interested us even more than the cloud. We felt we could really make a difference to our community and to other entrepreneurs. That was the inspiration. So the ‘aha’ moment actually washed over us for about six months until it sunk in.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Shook: In our background with technology, we were always about results. The challenge so often for successful technology implementation or adoption is the time it takes. We always put an emphasis on ‘rapid results,’ or time to value on customer projects. That created better ROI for our customers. Speed was something we also kept a keen eye on in our own business in rolling out new offerings or business units. We felt that our target customers were looking for the same thing—they were stuck at the same speed: acceleration. Accelerated customer acquisition, revenue and success. They were looking for a path to excellence. Hence, ‘Accelerence.’ By the way, the name popped after about minute 50 of the weekly lawn mowing task.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Shook: To date, there haven’t been any great obstacles. Just a lot of hard work taking all our experience and channeling that into diagnostic tools, planning methods, and ways to help others execute in a superior way. Clearly identifying the right partner companies will be instrumental in our long-term success. In a pay-for-performance model, it places the burden up-front in selecting the right companies that have truly meaningful proposition, but haven’t mastered how and who of bringing it to market successfully. If someone is a solution in search of a problem, we can help fix that.
SUB: You just launched to the public. Why was this a particularly good time to launch?
Shook: We believe the time is ideal to launch our company. We are being introduced to many companies that have great ideas and teams but are not performing. As the institutional investment community continues to shrink and consolidate, good companies can’t find growth capital and are in desperate need of help. We have taken time to build a business improvement tool kit that will materially improve the results of these underperforming companies and the expectations their investors have in them.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Shook: Our pay-for-performance model is based on revenue share—growth of the business over the past year, equity—based on an increase in company assessed value, and finally—a retainer when appropriate.
SUB: What are your goals for Accelerence over the next year or so?
Shook: Our number one goal is about results for each partner/client. We are a results company, not an hours billed company. We’re in this to make a difference. We really want to see this model create an uptick in hiring in the communities we work in. It was one the initial sparks for us on how we could make a difference. Two immediate goals are to secure six partnerships/clients for 2013. That then provides the basis for us adding full-time to our staff. We have talented people we’d like to add to the rolls right now, but we’ll be patient for the revenue.
Accelerence – www.accelerence.net