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Matt Watson shares stories from roller coaster start-up | KC Roundtable

Matt Watson; Stackify and VinSolutions

Matt Wat­son; Stack­ify and VinSolutions

This week, KC Round­table wel­comed , founder and CEO of Stack­ify , the much antic­i­pated start-up due to launch in Novem­ber. But rather than gush about his excit­ing new ven­ture, Wat­son shared bat­tle sto­ries from his last multi-million dol­lar endeavor, the com­pany he claims should have failed 1,000 dif­fer­ent times: Vin­So­lu­tions .

With a fiercely com­pet­i­tive back­ground in soft­ware devel­op­ment**, Watson’s brief expe­ri­ence with the auto­mo­tive indus­try led him to real­ize a large oppor­tu­nity in stream­lin­ing its day-to-day processes, like inven­tory data and cus­tomer rela­tion­ship man­age­ment ( CRM ). Vin­So­lu­tions offered a com­plete turnkey solu­tion, solv­ing five dif­fer­ent prob­lems for its car deal­er­ship customers.

After a slow start of boot­strap­ping and pour­ing sweat equity into the cause, Vin­So­lu­tions even­tu­ally found lever­age and dou­bled in size every year, land­ing on the Inc 500 list as the 33rd fastest grow­ing soft­ware com­pany in 2010.

But get­ting there wasn’t easy.

Busi­ness part­ners came and went like the wind, one of whom sued Wat­son on his way out the door. An attempt to resell the soft­ware flopped. Har­vard MBAs laughed their way through the busi­ness plan.

Regard­less of exter­nal chal­lenges, Vin­So­lu­tions had a qual­ity prod­uct, and Wat­son knew it. Through a stre­nous sales cam­paign — reg­u­lated by an ex-drill sergeant, no less — cus­tomers took notice of Vin­So­lu­tions quickly.

The com­pany grew so fast, it couldn’t sup­port the high demand. Cash flow was chok­ing on its own breath. They owed all of their ven­dors money, and new cus­tomers sat in queue for 90 days before receiv­ing the product.

Even­tu­ally, 40 per­cent of the com­pany was sold to raise growth cap­i­tal and iron out revenue.

In 2011, Vin­So­lu­tions sold to Autotrader.com for , mak­ing a few of its 300 employ­ees instant mil­lion­aires and allow­ing oth­ers to accept gigan­tic sign­ing bonuses dur­ing the acquisition.

Accord­ing to Wat­son, “One of the rea­sons we really suc­ceeded was (because) we had very strong tech­ni­cal and prod­uct exper­tise, and a really strong sales side. So often, you see com­pa­nies that have one or the other, and they often fail because they don’t have the other piece.”

**In mid­dle school, Wat­son pro­grammed his video games to play them­selves while he was at school to ensure he retained the top scores.

is president of Tether New Media , which helps B2B companies raise website traffic by 10 to 30 percent. Follow her .

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  1. […] last session’s heart-racing story about Vin­So­lu­tions and Matt Watson’s cut-throat jour­ney to a 9-figure buy­out, KC […]

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