Paul Farrell | From Running Software Firms to Mentoring CEOs and Going Into Angel Investments
Smart Business Revolution

Paul Farrell is a longtime entrepreneur, founder, mentor, angel investor, and executive. Most recently, he was the Founder and CEO of Nehemiah Security, which he sold in September 2020. Paul has shepherded a startup from product launch to over a million in annual recurring revenue in less than two years, led a corporate acquisition that yielded a sale five years later at 10X the purchase price, and participated in the explosive growth of a global leader in business communications that yielded an 11X return on investment in just over a year. 

After successfully selling Nehemiah Security to ThreatConnect, Paul is now leading Pater Holdings. His goal is to invest in companies and help them flourish.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran is joined by Paul Farrell, an entrepreneur and angel investor, to discuss what Paul learned from scaling and selling software firms. They also talk about hiring strategies, preparing for a successful sale, and the dot-com burst of 2003. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Paul Farrell’s experience working at AOL and what he learned from the dot-com boom
  • Paul talks about his role as a Chief Customer Strategy Officer at Aspect Communications, the shutting down of Wizard Productivity Systems, and his transition to Moreover Technologies
  • What strategies did Paul use to develop talent at Moreover Technologies?
  • Paul talks about the sale of Moreover Technologies to LexisNexis, his move to cyber security software at Nehemiah Security, and the sale of the company to ThreatConnect
  • Paul’s experience providing informal mentorships — and the people that have inspired him 
  • How to get in touch with Paul Farrell

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:01

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40 

All right. Welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I am the host of this show. And every week I get to talk to interesting CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs. Check out some of my recent episodes where I featured the founders or CEOs of Netflix, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, we had Kinkos’ a few weeks ago, LendingTree, OpenTable, Ace Software, and many more. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. A big shout out to Jeremy Webb, who introduced me to today’s guest. Organizational Engineering is his company, go check out for Jeremy Webb. 

But my guest is Paul Farrell, he is a longtime entrepreneur, founder, mentor, angel investor, and executive. The most recent was the Founder and CEO of Nehemiah. Am I saying it wrong? I’m probably saying it wrong. Nehemiah Security, which he sold not too long ago, about a year ago in September of 2020. As we record this, and just a few highlights from Paul’s career, which we’re going to get into in a second here. He has shepherded a startup from product launch to over a million in annual recurring revenue in less than two years, led led a corporate acquisition that yielded a sale five years later at 10x the purchase price, and participated in explosive growth of a global leader in business communications that yielded an 11x return on investment in just over a year. And Fun fact, he joined AOL in the mid 1990s. And he was an executive there. So we’re gonna talk a little bit about what it was like being at AOL at that period of time. We’re gonna jump into that in a second. But first, of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media, where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. If you want to learn more about that, go check us out at Alright, Paul, a pleasure to have you here. And you’ve had such a great journey, so many interesting successes and challenges along the way. And I want to start with AOL, what that experience was like, you know, for those who, who don’t know, AOL was a massive leader in the 1990s, in helping people to get onto the internet. So what was it like joining it? Well, when did you?

Paul Farrell 2:52

Well, it was fantastic. The deployment my time at AOL, I learned so much that I actually feel all the entrepreneurial efforts afterwards. In terms of being able to understand this thing called the internet. Remember, they started out with the first aim, which was a messaging platform. And we’re the first in many, many ways. I mean, we, you know, we’d sell ads, and we could, you know, in at night, a very nocturnal firm. And you could watch millions of people as they flow through the screens to make sure they were designed right to talk about click throughs and surveys, you know, they could get millions of people within a couple of minutes to reply to a survey. And so that about, you know, in terms of the data, in terms of the entrepreneurial ability, the friends I made along the way was just a fantastic time. I mean, just totally thrilling.

John Corcoran 3:49

And Steve Case, the founder, you said, you remember seeing him in the cafeteria. 

Paul Farrell 3:55

I mean, I have a lot of admiration for Steve. And, you know, I mean, Steve, and all the other executives, Steve was the guy in the cheeseburger line, if everybody else I mean, he came down, and ate with us all. You know, you’d see celebrities in the lunchroom, like Walter Malzberg when he was, you know, writing articles for Wall Street Journal, and he’d be trying to interview people and stuff like that. It was a really, really exciting time. I spent a lot of time in your hometown, San Francisco, where you are now. Yeah. And in the 90s got a real love for that city. But we worked a lot. I mean, you know, we kind of start him at nine in the morning, go to like 11 at night, doing some of the big initial deals and financial sectors and other sectors, selling internet advertising, and explaining it to people. It was just a thrilling time and lots and lots of really,

John Corcoran 4:45

I wanted to ask you about that because you did business development at AOL, and it sounds like a variety of different things. You forge partnerships with GM, Chrysler UAW. What was it like explaining to these large companies being around for a while about this new thing, the internet and advertising on a messaging platform and you know, message boards and things like that. How did you approach those conversations?

Paul Farrell 5:10

Well, John, I mean, it’s a truce. It’s a true salesman’s opportunity you have something that you have to explain to people and I always say in sales if they think one plus one equals three it does into you new information to explain what’s at and it’s a relationship business. I mean, I can remember being on the executive floor and Amex talking to them about an ad Citibank talking to them about credit cards, and how it works. And they were so precise, I loved it that you know, this is what field a lot of my sex later on is they were data. Man, they had data down, they knew within a 10th of a cent, how much you’re able to afford to spend and how many people need to look at it in what sectors. You know, this is the initial kind of internet that is developing. But you know, when we started targeting these, there were the channels where the people we think well why credit cards are, are going this is what we want to present this is the ads that work. That’s that found that the whole stuff presented a great foundation for me going on. And even though I’ve always worked on enterprise SAS software solutions, it’s always about data, right? And in the long run, even when you’re at Rice 25. It’s about data, how many people you got to talk to to get somebody to raise their hand? How are people responding to your content? It’s all exciting stuff. Yeah, yeah.

John Corcoran 6:33

Yeah. From AOL, from that period of time, well, first of all, let me ask you, you were there through boom and bust. You’re there through 2003? What was that? How did that change and evolve after burst?

Paul Farrell 6:49

Well, remember, AOL bought Time Warner, which was a completely different AOL, was a completely different company. And around that time a lot of Steve had departed, Bob Pitman, who was a great operator, had departed. Some of these guys that work there had locked in a new machine and came in just as much a bit bigger, a different firm than it was today. And it was just a great ride. I mean, and remember, great rides have exhilarating times. And it also adds, I call them roller coasters. I mean, all great firms are all coasters, right? You can go like, Hey, we got that contract in the morning to disaster in the afternoon, the releases that work and right, clients are calling phones are ringing all over the place. You know, they’re great rollercoaster rides, which become exhilarating, because you’re never going to get it right. But what you do is you learn from those down swings, right? You learn, you learn from the top parts, and you learn from the bottom parts. And that’s the most important thing about all those firms in every differentiation. And the other thing I will say is, we were just so fortunate to be there, John, we were very blessed by God, because we went there buying into a dream. There were other people that were vying for those jobs at the same time that decided to go elsewhere for another dream, it didn’t pay off. That doesn’t mean that they were any less talented than us. They just picked a different path and went on because there were so many great people and it was such a great idea. But that, you know, there’s a lot of people that decided to go to work, Matt for a while didn’t like it and especially, you know, to go back when all the Attorney General’s are suing them when they went unlimited, right? I don’t know if you remember that you were probably just a baby. And you know, there were tough times for that, too. And that persevered. I mean, this whole thing, you know, I mean, they were working towards their dream for a decade before it started to take off. And that’s one of the things you got to realize every person out there that student startup, it’s never easy, you gotta put the boot camp time in, yeah, learn about your product and grow it and you gotta be passionate enough to stick it out and you know, raise money and put your own money and all that stuff that happens

John Corcoran 9:06

what um, you know, after that your title after that would chief customer Strategy Officer at the next company you worked at what is that? What did you do?

Paul Farrell 9:17

I represented the people who put 15 million into that business, I bought 50 million shares at Dollar share, and they really didn’t have a role for me. So they guessed the title I got, it was very tough. It was a tough job because the business has a lot of promise. But I didn’t really have an operating role. But we were able to do a lot of different things and that thing became a great success. And you know, it’s always wherever you go, John, it’s about the people and helping the people realize their dreams. And you know, there were some tough times when we first got there, we had to be the right size, the cost went down and a lot of other things were going on. Oh, that wasn’t very pleasant. But in the end, it had a great turnout.

John Corcoran 10:03

I mean, it was acquired a year, a little over a year later for 1160 a share. Yes, I saw a great turnout. That is an insane turnout, you know, anything else that you want to highlight that you would credit for why you had that turnaround?

Paul Farrell 10:20

Well, once again, John, I was part of a team. I mean, I wasn’t the CEO, then I was, you know, taking direction from other people. We had some great investors that mattered, the organizations that have been there, done that. And that’s where I, where I really started learning a lot of the when you want, if you’re a golfer, you watch somebody else’s putt, and then you know how to putt. That’s where I learned a lot by watching. I was doing it for them. But I was also watching.

John Corcoran 10:50

Got it. Got it. Let’s talk about Moreover Technologies.

Paul Farrell 10:57

Moreover Technologies was really great, because we had started a firm before that called Wizard Technologies. And an agreed idea worked really well. But just the market didn’t accept it. And so we would build up to 120. resellers and had to get how to just shut down the firm. And that’s good coming out