During a quick-hit interview with MSPmentor, it became clear that Autotask CEO Mark Cattini is bringing focus to the company. He isn't chasing every opportunity. He's talking less about traditional PSA (professional services automation) and more about user experiences for VARs and MSPs to help drive Autotask's MRR (monthly recurring revenue). Here's the interview -- including a FastChat Video covering browser support and open APIs.
1. Browser Support: Cattini says cross-platform support was on Autotask's priority list when he arrived at the company in December 2010. But now, it's a much higher priority with certain Autotask modules supporting Firefox, Chrome and Safari by August 2011. See FastChat Video, Below:
2. Open APIs: Also in the FastChat, Cattini describes why Autotask will not compete with RMM (remote monitoring and management) software providers.
3. Executive Staff: Cattini says the Autotask executive team is firmly in place. We didn't get into a name-by-name discussion. But it sounds like the CXO staff positions are filled.
4. Focusing on VARs and MSPs: "There’s enough runway in the market we currently address," says Cattini. "We're in no rush to do anything in other markets [outside the channel] and we won't do anything drastic. Our success will involve understanding our core competency and executing on that really well. And I’m not interested in moving into our software partners' markets. You can talk about partnerships but it will come down to how well we make sure our partners' products integrate with Autotask."
5. Will Autotask Build a SaaS Partner Marketplace?: "We're very aware of Salesforce.com and Force.com. They are building a broader ecosystem through their partners. So yes, in terms of a marketplace ecosystem we're interested but we want to do it right. We can’t satisfy every customer need. But our partners can."
Right now, Cattini said, the focus is on making sure partners can use Autotask's APIs to integrate and also build their own applications. He's thinking about a marketplace. But there's no organized effort yet, to be clear.
6. Is VARStreet strategic to Autotask?: "VARStreet is an important product to us but it’s not Autotask. If our customers want to integrate with another quoting tool I’m happy to do that," said Cattini. "We recently upgraded the VARStreet UI. But in the final analysis if a customer found a better quoting tool I’m okay with that because our philosophy is to make sure everyone can integrate with Autotask."
7. What's the exit strategy for Autotask and its venture capitalists?: "Autotask's view is the same view as our venture capitalists, and this is an overused cliche: If you start with the customer and drive meaningful value to the customer, you'll build value and increase value for the company. We have an annual plan this year, but we also presented a 36-month plan to the board. That's not an exit plan; it's a multi-year plan." Translation: Generally speaking, Cattini isn't in a rush to lead an Autotask sale or IPO. It sounds like he and Autotask's investors continue to take a long-term view of the opportunity.
8. Does Autotask need to raise more venture capital? "We don't need to raise more money. We're well-funded with a world-class CFO in place. This isn't [CFO] Vince [Zumbo's] first rodeo. The whole organization feels the impact of a world-class CFO. Capital will not be a constraint to our growth." Still, Cattini allowed, if the right opportunity came along Autotask would consider pursuing more capital.
9. Views on the Global Market: "We're seeing good growth in Europe but we need to be careful and disciplined. I know what it can take and where the mistakes are. Localization is different than translation. We just hired in the United Kingdom and 20 percent of of new business is international. Also, Australia is interesting. Their IT marketplace punches harder than their weight" -- meaning than IT opportunities are bigger in Australia than the traditional economy may otherwise indicate.
Bottom LineYou'll notice that I don't compare-contrast the Autotask strategy to rivals like ConnectWise and Tigerpaw Software. I'll try to carve out some time to do that in the days ahead. But in the meantime I guess I'd sum up the Autotask strategy as follows:
Founder Bob Godgart grew Autotask from zero to roughly $20 million (my estimate...) in annual revenues. That's impressive. Godgart is now stepping away from the business, and Cattini is making some subtle but strategic shifts. The conversation within Autotask is now all about (A) user experience with VARs and MSPs driving (B) monthly recurring revenues to (C) lift Autotask's valuation multiple to match SaaS companies like Salesforce.com and NetSuite.com.
Note: I'm talking about valuation multiple (roughly 10X to 12X revenues) rather than overall value; naturally, Salesforce.com and NetSuite.com have much higher overall values than Autotask based on their much higher revenues.
That's all for now. Time to catch my flight home.
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