Ten years after his first startup exit, Matt Watson finds himself at the finish line once again.
“This time was a lot different than the last,” Watson, founder and CEO of Stackify, told Startland News, comparing his run with the APM solutions startup to his tenure as co-founder and CTO at VinSolutions — the startup that sold for $147 million in 2011, paving the way for Watson to found Stackify in 2012.
Expertise takes time, exits take years
“Startups are a long, hard grind. Stackify took nine years. My previous company, VinSolutions, took eight years. Don’t start a new company unless you plan to do it for five-plus years,” Watson said, offering advice to rising founders who might look at his success as an example.
“Our focus on application monitoring and selling to software developers was a big strength to us. We became experts in our niche within the larger APM and IT monitoring space,” he explained.
“That was ultimately highly attractive to Netreo. They were looking to add those product capabilities and industry experts to join their team with those specific capabilities.”
Stackify was acquired by privately-owned Huntington Beach, California-based Netreo for an undisclosed amount, the company announced Tuesday.
Click here to read more about the acquisition of Stackify or to learn more about Netreo.
“Because I am the main owner [of Stackify] and didn’t have any business partners, this time was also much more difficult,” he continued, noting the intricacy of the Stackify product and challenges in selling it within its target market.
As the company joins the Netreo family — itself a fast-growing company, sharing space with Stackify on the Inc. 5000 list — such challenges could find their own exit.
“Netreo’s products are extremely complementary to ours. They target large enterprises with IT infrastructure monitoring solutions — we target small to mid-sized companies with application monitoring,” Watson explained.
“Not only do our products perfectly align, but we can help each other with new go-to market expertise. For a long time, our customers have been asking us to do what each other [does.]”
On the cusp of the sale, Stackify boasted 22 Kansas City-area employees and 13 additional team members across offices in Mexico and the Philippines. The majority will transition into roles at Netreo — including Watson who will serve as the purchasing company’s CTO.
“I was never officially CTO of Stackify … I have always been busy doing other tasks a CEO and founder has to deal with,” Watson said. “… I am super excited to be the CTO of the combined companies. … Netreo has a very strong management team and I am excited to be able to focus on only being the CTO.”
Watson plans to remain with the company for the foreseeable future, he said, noting eagerness to watch the combined ventures grow.
“… We would have preferred to become a unicorn company and ring the bell on Wall Street,” Watson said of the sale and how it compares to his first.
“However, even smaller successes like ours count. We hope others will learn and be inspired by our story. I am also optimistic that Netreo will continue to hire more people in Kansas City in the future,” he said.
“The team and private equity company behind us has big plans. Who knows? Maybe I can ring the bell on Wall Street in a few years after all.”
Watson’s second exit comes amid a challenging time for many businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic — but at the same, a period of personal happiness and growth outside of the office for the serial entrepreneur.
“The last year has been hard on everyone for a lot of reasons. But for me, it has been one of the best years of my life,” he shared, noting his new marriage and the birth of a child as additional highlights.
And while the ink is barely dry on Netreo’s acquisition of Stackify, Watson isn’t ruling out another go as founder.
“I definitely learned a lot and I have some extra scars from this one — luckily no gray hair! … They say the most successful founders start companies in their forties — I turn 40 this year,” he teased. “Maybe I have one more in me and I am hitting my prime?”
Time will tell, Watson said, adding his present focus is contributing his knowledge to a fully-stacked team at Netreo.
“Netreo is in growth mode and the team has a strong entrepreneurial spirit. I am excited to help take them to the next level.”