When Paul Stillmank, founder and CEO of 7Summits, got about four years into his venture, he made the decision to go into a private equity fund, take some money off the table and try to organize for a more formal growth in the business. Once the company had been in that fund for about seven years, there was a natural maturity from a timing perspective, he says, to move up to the next level. That laid the groundwork for what would become one of the largest tech exits in the region in recent memory.
7Summits, from the beginning, decided to be a very deep specialist at something. Stillmank says back when the business was started, social media was brand new. He saw an opportunity to build a company that would help those social constructs find their way into companies to help enable partnerships, customer motion, employee engagement, and that setup an opportunity to build up some intellectual property.
“So this company was kind of an agency meets a consulting company and then has all of this cool IP or software assets,” he says. “And so that set up an opportunity to grow a great business by staying focused on that mission and purpose, and then we built a company to be significant to large exits like this. So this is almost by design, the timing had to be now.”
Stillmank says the company reached a point as it approached $50 million in revenue, that to go really big it needed to get a larger sponsorship.
“This company was ready for more scale at a speed that you just can’t fully do organically without putting some serious investment in, which IBM is prepared to do,” he says.
Stillmank spoke at the inaugural Smart Business Dealmakers Milwaukee Conference about the growth of the business and it’s deliberate trajectory towards its sale.