As the Atlanta Tech Village helps feed the entrepreneurial fire of Atlanta, the amount of personalities or lack-of-a-better-word: characters, that find themselves in the hallways and offices of 3423 Piedmont Road are newsworthy.
The first time you meet Anthony Bratti of BuzzBoard, a level of inquisitiveness cloaks the conversation. His confident demeanor is infectious. Like any quality salesman, Anthony artfully weaves feature benefits with ARPU statistics and average CRM adoption rates. Add to his pitch a hinted, New Jersey accent and all of it combined keeps you on your toes — until you peel back a few layers. As Bratti and I became better acquainted through bs’ing, story telling, and coffee run-in’s, we finally sat down to learn the story of BuzzBoard, their phenomenal success, and the people behind it.
Birdsong: ”You’ve been in Atlanta for 6 years. How did you get to Atlanta by way of Jersey?”
Bratti: “AT&T brought me. I was a 20 year AT&T veteran, largely in outsourcing and system integration. To date, the coolest thing I did was help the build broadband networks nationwide. Most recently, I worked in operations and sales post-BellSouth merger for YP: a billion dollar digital business.”
Birdsong: “How did you get out of the AT&T realm and make the leap straight to entrepreneur?”
Bratt: ”We were trying to grow our legacy managed services business. The legacy managed services business was called vSplash which provides digital outsourcing for many leading newspapers and directories. We were trying to 10x that business. For example: one of our largest customers with 2500 sales reps a month were only providing 500 orders a month.
The biggest question we had: how do we get more orders? So we teach them how to sell more faster.”
Birdsong: “What ended up being the solution?”
Bratti: ”We identified all the pain points in the sales process from opportunity identification, all the way to fulfillment. From there, we mapped and created Buzzboard.”
Birdsong: ”What made you so confident in taking the leap?”
Bratti: ”The team. We can take an idea and bring it to a reality.”
Birdsong: How did you meet the two founders?
Bratti: ”We met 6 six years ago at and industry conference. We hit it off, established a great relationship, and the rest is history. We all work remote. One leads a dev team of 85 (54 solely working on BuzzBoard) in India, the other works out of New Jersey. I’m building the sales and customer support team in Atlanta. We’re looking to hire 15-20 sales reps in the next 18 months — all in Atlanta.”
Birdsong: Who are the other leaders of BuzzBoard?”
Bratti: ”Umesh Tibrewal – he’s a Cal Berkely alum that built the first flash site builder back in 99’. He’s located in Hyderbad, India. Then there’s Anil Bansal. He’s serial entrepreneur and Notre Dame alum. He’s done a lot: real-estate, banking, and more. He founded Indus American Bank and is the partner out of New Jersey.”
Birdsong: “So tell me about Buzzboard.”
Bratti: “Local media sales professionals all over the world are working very hard on making the transition from print to online media sales. It is not an easy transition. BuzzBoard is passionately devoted to empowering these sales organizations, their respective sales teams and sales people to succeed beyond expectation in that print to digital transition and then some.
After entering your accounts in BuzzBoard, BuzzBoard automatically searches the web to do your research and preparation on each of your accounts. Tasks that would normally take hours to do manually are done in seconds, leaving you more time to sell.
Development started 9 months before our first paying customer. June 2013 was the first customer.”
Birdsong: Who’s building the platform?”
Bratti: We have 85 developers in India with 54 solely working on the product, all lead Umesh.
Birdsong: You haven’t been in Atlanta relatively long. Why are you building BuzzBoard here versus anywhere else?
Bratti: The moment I found the South, I knew it would be very hard for me to leave. All the best resources are here: inside sales teams, professional expertise, quality of life (I love to play golf year round). It’s easy to get in and out of Atlanta, as much as people like to bitch, Atlanta is much easier to get to the west coast than from New York. And of course our largest customers: YP, Cox, Hearst, Advance all have a presence here or in the South. Atlanta is the perfect city.
Here’s another thing about Atlanta. You’re not going to last long if you’re some bullshit product. In Atlanta, you get hardened. What I mean, in other markets you can pass off with an inferior product because everyone is selling something.
Birdsong: “What type of results have you found so far?”
Bratti: ”Most of our contracts are 100+ reps, they do a 30-90 trial and then it starts to ramp. We generate a 35x-50x ROI in the first 60 days. It took about 9 months to get first paying customer. Our ARPU (average return per user) is $150-$180/month base upon size and term.”
Birdsong: ”How did you find out about the Atlanta Tech Village and why do you stay here?”
Bratti: ”I found out about the ATV from all the buzz and initially moved into the ATV because I was having problems getting the right resources. Now I stay here because of the energy, ideation, and camaraderie of the place. Now, I have people knocking down my door.
Also, do you know how hard it would be to get access being in other markets? There’s nobody in Atlanta that we can’t get a meeting with. The Atlanta Tech Village provides immense credibility.”
Birdsong: “Talk to me about some growth growth metrics.”
Bratti: ”Just passed 4mm ARR. Cashflow positive. Never taken outside investment. In the next 12-18 months I’m looking for at least 20 resources. Sales and customer support. Email me at email@example.com.
Birdsong: “What’s next?”
Bratti: ”Next week we’re doing Atlanta Startup Village. I’m flying down to Miami. We’re sponsoring Google’s Latin America event. Longer term, we want to clear the 5mm and 10mm hurtle as fast as possible. The team is laser focused on clearing those hurtles.”
Birdsong: “Are you guys going to raise a round?”
Bratti: ”We haven’t been interested in raising money because we’re cash flow positive, squarely focused on growing the product and users.”