ConnectWise’s PitchIT Program Grew Finalists’ ARR By $3M
‘New companies, new technologies make us all better,’ says ConnectWise CEO Jason Magee. ‘MSPs are always looking for something new and exciting, something that's going to make their business better. ConnectWise has a platform where we can help enable that and we're enabling the next wave of innovation and companies to better the industry.’
After a fifth successful year, more than 60 startup companies hosted and hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money awarded, ConnectWise’s PitchIT program is back in 2024 with a larger global presence.
Companies accepted into the program are all a part of the preliminary 16-week accelerator program that covers branding, marketing, channel enablement and messaging, among other topics, all while getting more exposure to the channel community. Those in the program even get to pitch to their peers, garner feedback and hear from industry coaches brought in to discuss particular topics.
Three program finalists are chosen and compete at Tampa, Fla.-based vendor ConnectWise’s IT Nation conference each fall. Vendors pitch to a panel of judges for the first-place spot and $70,000. The second-place winner receives $30,000 and the third-place winner gets a free booth on the vendor floor at the conference.
Sean Lardo, ConnectWise evangelist who runs the program, wants to make sure the vendors in the program are successful so they can keep growing and keep reinvesting in the ecosystem.
“The more money they make, the more they invest,” he told CRN. “The more they invest, the stronger they become and partners want them.”
And the proof is in the numbers on how the vendors, specifically the three finalists, are growing. From the start of last year’s program in May 2023 to the PitchIT competition in November, the three finalists had more than 40,000 website visits collectively. Demo requests and engagement and opportunity creation went up by 400 percent and closed deals increased by 200 percent.
Between all three finalists, they had 14,000 views, 7,000 unique visits and about 1,600 new followers on LinkedIn and about 700 new MSP connections on Facebook. All three also landed more than $3 million in annual recurring revenue collectively.
The program in 2023 also saw the most significant turnout with 26 vendors going through the program. Six countries were also represented from the U.S. and Israel to Australia. Because of the worldwide growth, Lardo wants to take the program global and have the pinnacle competition at ConnectWise IT Nation.
“The goal is to make sure we don't bite off more than we can chew,” Lardo said. “We need to make sure they're successful. The program has to be successful for them to be successful.”
PitchIT Expedites Communication And Collaboration
Bobby Jacobs, head of growth at New York-based service experience platform Thread, said being a small vendor "you only have so many cycles to get to spend with that community.”
Thread won first place at PitchIT’s 2023 competition.
“You're doing a ton of roles and you're always running from one fire or opportunity to the next. PitchIT just expedites a lot of those connections,” he told CRN.
Being able to interact and collaborate with other vendors whether it's integrating faster, co-marketing efforts or referring MSPs to each other is a value add that separates PitchIT from the pack.
Thread joined the program as the team wanted a closer relationship with ConnectWise. Through the workshop sessions, Jacobs liked how it made his team think about aspects that weren’t on their radar that they could then bring back to other team members.
“There's probably nothing you can do that would get you relevant experience,” he said. “You can join an accelerator program or an incubator anywhere, but having one that's channel focused where people will know exactly what you're doing, who your customers are and what conferences you go to it just incredibly valuable.
“Our whole team has leveled up on how to speak about our business, and that's direct ROI (return on investment) that goes into our conversations every day,” he added.
Brian Doyle, co-founder and CEO at Essex, Conn.-based vCIOToolbox and second place PitchIT winner, said the program gave them an opportunity to get more visibility within the organization.
“The real reason we entered the contest was the opportunity to collaborate with new and emerging vendors,” he told CRN. “Sometimes it's tough for new vendors to get into the old card’s ecosystems as quickly so this gave us an opportunity to build some new relationships.”
His biggest takeaway was honing in his pitch for the company, whether it be a five-minute pitch or 30 seconds, “This really helped us reshape our message to take to the market.”
“Anytime that a bigger company is going to give you the opportunity for exposure, take money out of the equation, but really help you get some branding and visibility, that's invaluable to those of us that are in startup,” he said. “One of the biggest challenges as a bootstrap company is you only have so much money to go around and you can't be at every show. To get that really comes through guerilla marketing tactics. Them investing into these companies is a great opportunity for us to get seen, to get measured and to prove out whether or not we actually have value in the channel.”
His advice to other companies looking to enter the program: know when to join. Don’t join too early in the business but don’t join too late.
Matthew Koenig, vice president of channel sales at Pittsford, NY-based vulnerability platform company Nodeware and third place winner, joined the program because he believed his team could learn a lot in the workshops. The biggest thing he wanted was exposure for the company.
“I really didn't care about winning per se. I cared about the exposure,” he told CRN. “Being aligned with ConnectWise…that's a big deal, that's a big boost.”
Besides the exposure, it’s the partnerships that Nodeware valued most.
“What I learned is how to work with ConnectWise more effectively,” he said. “They're the 800-pound gorilla, so attaching yourself to them and meeting all of their executives, it's never a bad thing.”
Startups should look into the program as he said all the sessions and guest speakers bring so much value to the business.
“There is no way for you to be involved in PitchIT and only walk away with one or two things. You're going to walk away with 10 or 20 things,” he said.
In an industry where ConnectWise wants to win, it also wants to help others, said Jason Magee, ConnectWise CEO.
“New companies, new technologies make us all better,” Magee told CRN. “MSPs are always looking for something new and exciting, something that's going to make their business better. ConnectWise has a platform where we can help enable that and we're enabling the next wave of innovation and companies to better the industry.”