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

John Corcoran 11:17

of that. But before we get to that, what was that, like that decision to shut down the firm when you had 120? resellers?

Paul Farrell 11:25

You You know it, right? you kind of know what’s coming, right? I mean, every CEO knows that it’s coming in, we knew it was coming. We had one shot at an acquisition, and that big party that couldn’t have done that past us. And then right after that, I realized, hey, this business at the core, doesn’t have the margins and the stuff we normally do. An investor friend was investing in the currency on the CEO before I came in, got sick, and eventually passed away during our tenure there. Very sad situation. But we knew it wasn’t gonna work. And when you know, it doesn’t get to work. You just gotta make the hard decision. And that’s, that’s really tough, because you get passionate about whatever you do, you you claim to it, you want it to work, you work night and day. But sometimes things don’t work out. And that’s one of the ones that didn’t work out. I mean, and I think that every great entrepreneur out there, and we tend to focus a society on the success Oh, they did this, they did that. And I’ve been really blessed by God to be successful, more than I ever deserve. There’s also failures in there.

John Corcoran 12:38

So how, how did you decide on your next venture, which was Moreover Technologies?

Paul Farrell 12:44

Well, it was interesting enough. There was a gentleman I had worked with before, at VeriSign called Mark McLaughlin, who went on to do work with Palo Alto. And he called me up and said, I think this firm is perfect for you. They had done VeriSign a bunch of times, bought a bunch of firms, and then decided to divest them all. And he said, this is perfect for free with your background with enterprise software, and with marketing. And, Moreover Technologies was a big data play, initially, because they had a feed of decent social media from around the world. But we saw media monitoring organizations and big corporations. So a lot of the people that were our competitors for us, our customers, because they bought the data feed. And then they competed on the media monitoring solution we had, which was used by big corporations to, you know, follow media around the world. You know, what are people saying about us? What our executives are saying, what are our competitors doing? What’s happening with the rain in the Midwest, things like that. We are no big deal. That’s where I really learned a lot about big data, and how to handle it. I mean, at the time, remember, we had a well over like 600,000 spiders crawling the web for information. We had to learn how to deal with newspapers, right? Because, you know, we had, you know, wasn’t free wasn’t free. What could we take? What can we not take me one is, you know, it was a great time. And then, so what happened was they were kind of on the downswing because they had never bought, but they hadn’t really done anything for a couple years. It was a London base. And we built it up. And eventually, five years later, LexisNexis Reed Elsevier came knocking for the first time. They did. We weren’t prepared as an organization. And so I said, No. And then they came back three or four months later, and we’d worked three, four months to get prepared as an organization that I said, Yes.

John Corcoran 14:46

God, well, I want to break down some of the things that you did in order to improve its value during that period of time you wrote that you focused on areas of the business that had been neglected. So what was that about?

Paul Farrell 14:58

Well, the main software, the meteor monitoring tool needed to refresh, right. And that took us a good year, year and a half to get out, which is top because you’re flying the plane, you have customers using the current version. And you gotta keep that up to speed. But you have this new version that’s coming out that’s more agile, easier to run, better UI. And that’s a balancing act, right? And yeah, how many developers are on this versus that. And of course, we didn’t have unlimited checks. And it’s also my main baby, 60 to 80 trips to London, it was a London base, we had a really cool, and this is what I love in enterprise firms to 50% of me 50% here in terms of customer base, large in bulk. And that’s really important to have a worldwide base in my mind.

John Corcoran 15:54

And so of a downturn or in cases, just diversification,

Paul Farrell 15:57

diversification, but also knowing that everything just doesn’t happen in America. Right? I mean, yeah, a lot of startups come up here, they sell here and no, but no, I mean, I have a great appreciation for our friends in Europe, and in selling to them in even the United States. John, you sound differently, right? I mean, differently. And that I was really blessed also to spend three years in the Midwest selling completely different sales processes and ways to talk to people that on the coast are completely different in the United States than in Europe. Or then in the Middle East. It’s all different, and you get to know your customer, and how they do things, how they negotiate, how they want to be introduced, all those things.

John Corcoran 16:39

Yeah, you also wrote that you added top talent to key positions and you’ve said that it’s all about the people So talk a little bit about how you develop the talent while at Moreover,

Paul Farrell 16:49

Well I think talent Moreover Technologies, Nehemiah talent anywhere, it’s about your corporate culture and what fits in, right and if you buy something and you’re changing the corporate culture is this person a good changing gender to lead the way and, and usually lead the way you’re hoping for a non disruptive style. In other words, they come in and people see the characteristics of the people you’re hiring, and they want to be like them, right? And they started marrying those things on the team, and Moreover had a great sales MD in the office, a guy named Mark dad, and we built around him, you know, salesmen, that could work with him and knew how to sell on that market. And we also built out people in the United States that could also sell as well. And it worked out really well. And again, if you’ve heard me say, time and time again, John, it’s a face to face I spent a lot of time seeing CEOs and companies flying to The Hague and in Paris and going over to Munich in different places and seeing CEOs and talking about what they really wanted out of the software and understanding what their needs were so we can go back and build a great product.

John Corcoran 18:03 

So you were doing this a lot of the selling it sounds like yourself during that time.

Paul Farrell 18:09

I would call it relational stuff, top level relations stuff the team did really great and finding leads and developing Milan but you know if a big corporation is going to take a flyer out a firm that’s you know, let’s say 10 million in sales you got to CEOs got to come in and say hello and you got to meet him and you know, that’s just the way it is it doesn’t happen by magic, your small firm you’ve got to do more than anybody else to get the sale across

John Corcoran 18:38

right and talk about the sale to LexisNexis and how that came about did did you approach them did they approach you

Paul Farrell 18:44

Oh, they approached me there’s a little breakfast place under the bridge ran across in Grand Central New York and I think I can’t remember the name but the guy ran the business there Tom called me up and invited me to breakfast and what I always say is any kind of networking for your people are involved in sales do it all the time. Some of them will pan out someone will pan out this year it will pan out in two years but we went to breakfast and he said hey are you interested in selling and as I said earlier, we we kind of sort of remember we weren’t prepared and whether you’re buying or selling you got to be prepared to do it. In other words, like you know you’re gonna get I always say if I’m buying a firm I’m gonna know everything about you the good, the bad, everything about you so when I talk to a CEO, I say tell me now You know, there’s some you got hidden, let’s just talk about it up front because we don’t want to get into this and there’s times when I’ve made $100,000 into due diligence and walked away or something, yeah, find something and grow it. But I would also say that the relationship between CLC is the most important thing at this level for doing either acquisitions, or yourself. divestiture, whatever you’re doing. Because you have to be able to call that guy up or gal up. And you got to say to her, Hey, we got this problem because in the process, there’s, it’s gonna hit the wall, right? Is it a sales process and you have to have a person on the other side of the phone or that you’re talking to that’s calm, cool and realizes the bigger picture I’ll give on this one. But last week, you got me, you gave me something and can get through within five or five minutes of discussion. And if you when I interview people, if I figured that the person who’s running the organization, if I can’t come to that in a quick birth, or you know, let’s say they want to argue everything out for hours and hours, or they’re, you know, focused on getting every penny walk away, because it won’t work in the long run, because it just you’re going to come to loggerheads.

John Corcoran 20:52

And what was it like selling to a large company like LexisNexis?

Paul Farrell 20:59

It was really interesting. They’re great people. Everybody’s got great people, but they had like, I think 90 plus people on the DLT. And that was like way more than employees we had the whole place. And by the way, think about it. They’re a big organization, and you’ve got stuff in the United States, stuff in Europe, you got legal people on both sides, you got accounting on both sides, you got sales on both sides.

John Corcoran 21:22

It’s a big red, big investment if it falls through for you. Yeah,

Paul Farrell 21:26

well, if it falls through for me, yeah. And for them they’ve invested a lot. And the other good thing is I want to tell you, like I always look back, and a lot of the people that I met that went to work from LexisNexis, or Moreover still there. And that’s important to me. A couple of sales guys are still there. So the deaf guys, it’s still there, and you’re talking about 2014. Yeah, six years ago, that’s important. That means advice that, that we found a hole for people and they liked it, they stayed

John Corcoran 21:58

and what was it like for you, you know, coming on the heels of the Wizard, you know, shut down to then exit Moreover

Paul Farrell 22:09

Well, it’s always great to exit, right? I mean, and I make it. But you know, as I get older, and as this, this podcast, I’m 62. And I figure I got a couple more wins left in me. But still it all evens out in the long run. And it keeps that perspective that I think and I think we set this up front when we were just getting to know each other that every great CEO has got to win, it’s got losses. And those losses you got to learn from them, you know, and lessons I still apply every day that I learned their Wizard going into Moreover, the war went and then even jumping into cyber security after that.

John Corcoran 22:50

So let’s talk about that. Nehemiah, I think I got it that time finding Nehemiah, Nehemiah. So you go from media monitoring software to cybersecurity software, isn’t that a big chasm for very different types of software?

Paul Farrell 23:05

It is, but it’s also SAS software. And that’s also enterprise sales. And are there consistent things on that level? Well, there’s no doubt we had a learning curve initially. But good people who are quick to learn, I mean, we all you asked me about hiring earlier, this is just coming to mind, a couple of things we look for are people that were, you know, very smart, and were quick to learn. And then we’re adaptable. In other words, they’re quick to learn. And they also could figure things out fast and then move from left to right. They’re gone. Right, right, right, all of a sudden, oh, no, we find that it’s over here because they’re not, you know, they leave that behind and they go No, this way is better. And they run that way. And that helps build a core corporate culture. But in that particular instance, we did, we got out, we actually made a small acquisition, that didn’t work well, in the long run, we ended up shutting it down. But through that whole process, though,

John Corcoran 24:04

you think it was Nehemiah, you made a small acquisition?

Paul Farrell 24:07

Yeah, there were a couple of small organizations and acquisitions early on that didn’t work as well as we would have liked. But it all towards the final product, which was, you know, we are trying our goal. When we got in and we started looking at all the things we’re going to ask for security, you look for whitespace. And whitespace suddenly means there’s an opportunity where you can build a product to help people out. It does not exist today. And we found the whitespace. And that was a hard nut to crack, which was defining cyber risk at the board level and board level turns. So a lot of what we heard from board level is this: Yeah, they come up, they talk about all these things that we really don’t know a lot about. We try to make decisions but if you talk to a board level person and and let’s say NBA terms like like we did, like pay I’m John, Mr. CEO of rise, you’ve got 150 million cyber risks with a 61% chance happening in the next two years in these particular areas, what would you like to do? They understand that and but that was a really hard nut to crack because we had to go off and do the math. It was a gas, red, yellow, blue green that we saw a lot in the industry. This was when we actually looked at the attack vectors and the defenses of a corporation. And we calculated what the risk was.

John Corcoran 25:28

And it’s interesting. So it’s not like you went after a niche or vertical or an industry, it’s more the way that you sold it, or the way that you messaged around it.

Paul Farrell 25:38

Yeah, I mean, we went after something very hard, something very hard to crack in terms of, it wasn’t an easy, easy solution. We had a lot of people that worked hard on math models, and, you know, we talked about, you know, how the fit our model fit and when the actual risk was, was very deep and math at times, and, and attack factors, right? We hit our head, sometimes computational constraints, like we could never make all those calculations at once. So how do you make a good calculation with you not using all those people or endpoints, but maybe 80% of what we needed, and it’s still reliable. And that team did a really, really good job. And again, I just say, I’m going to say hello to somebody in the last month or so when that whole development team is still intact, working for threatconnect, which is, which is I say, it’s a credit to Adam, who’s the CEO of threatconnect, but also to the team and the fat that will resolve it, because sometimes if it’s out, right,

John Corcoran 26:47

and I want to take a step backwards to the beginning of Nehemiah, so you go from this company that you sell to LexisNexis to a few months later, it’s like you’re starting over from scratch, right? I assume you started from 00 revenue, and just started building it up. So what was it like complete? That’s such a disconnect going from selling to a big publicly traded company, you know, negotiating with 90 people on the deal, you know, team to then all of a sudden starting over what was that? Like, for you personally, what was the experience like?

Paul Farrell 27:23

I, you know, I never looked at it as a, it’s always, I’ve always seen this as an exhilarating process, starting over doing something, you know, new and different, and solving a solution that helps people. That was, it’s always been key to me, and so we don’t write it. I mean, the good news is you have more money in your checking account than you did last time around. So you have some runway before you have to start making money again, right?

John Corcoran 27:53

There are some people who say that’s not a good thing. Well, now you

Paul Farrell 27:58

have to put your kids through college and where they had my kids were in private school, we had to go through college, too. So I mean, it’s good to have some money saved.

John Corcoran 28:07

So do you feel then that on balance it was better for you? Did you feel like you made decisions any differently because you had more money in your bank account with this startup?

Paul Farrell 28:17

Well, here’s the way you make decisions when you’re in. I mean, this is ours from early on, we always believe this, my mentors taught me this is what you make when you’re a startup, you make a decision every day, and that startup software company, like you’re going to run it forever. And you don’t cut corners. Because when you cut corners, come back and bite you. So you have to think I’m going to I’m going to be in this software company, I’m going to have it 20 years from now, you never think about I mean, there’ll people ask you about accent and you could think about accent, accent not the key, the key is building the best product. And if you build the best product that way, without cutting corners, people will tap you on the shoulder eventually and say, Hey, you have a really really cool product we’ve heard from your customers, your employees, we would like to talk to you about buying that product. And so it’s a different way of thinking about the same exit strategy, but it is concentrating on making really different daily decisions that you’re going to have for decades, not just for two to five years.

John Corcoran 29:19

Yeah. And then you How did the sale come about?

Paul Farrell 29:26

Well, I just got a call one day and said Hey, are you in New York in the next couple of weeks? They said hey, do you want to have breakfast with them? I forget the name of the restaurant there’s underneath the tracks right across the grand Santos little battery spice and we met in there and spent a lot of time talking about the industry and stuff and Tom from LexisNexis brought the question up. Hey, would you like to sell? I said it for the first time.

John Corcoran 29:55

That was the Moreover Technologies, I was talking about Nehemiah.

Paul Farrell 30:01

Well, very interesting. And this is another thing to all your entrepreneurs out there. I was at a local board here during COVID. And so it was three or four CEOs talking about a topic and Adam was on. And, and added, I haven’t mentioned that we have for sale and he didn’t know it. Then as soon as we got off the meeting, my phone rang. And he said, I’m interested. Tell me more.

John Corcoran 30:31

He knew he knew enough about your company to be interested, I guess.

Paul Farrell 30:35

He knew that our main product was his first product. And it would be a way better Gartner cool vendor award winner. Big partnerships. And some large customers, we’re very blessed by that need to pick up the phone. And once again, it’s as CEO or wherever your role is, is getting out there and participating on these calls, where they say we’ve come to talk about this bigger thing in cybersecurity. And I remember what the topic was. Or were you talking to this person about hiring practices in HR? And I always say yes, because I’ve learned that all that stuff comes back. As you get your name out there, appear. Yeah, think about that. I’ve done a bunch of referrals myself when people said, I am looking for XYZ, and I’ll talk to this guy. And I think that’s a great attitude to have. I try to make three or four calls to a weaker text message that people have been talking to for a long time just to say, Hey, I came across your name, thinking about you. I mean, you know, I want to let you know that. If you ever need anything, give me a call. And I think that’s in today’s day and age. That’s important. It means one thing to do all the stuff you have to do on LinkedIn and stuff, but we’re relational people. Yeah. You know, and after this interview, probably a month from now John, you’ll get just a quick email, hey, oh, ball as well. Let’s see, Rise25 is good. Let me know if I can further help you.

John Corcoran 32:02

talk a little bit about and this relates to what you were just saying, you know, you we were talking before, and you said you do a lot of mentorship. So and not formally, just kind of informally, people come to you and you mentor them? What’s that experience

Paul Farrell 32:17

been? Like? Um, it’s been great. You know, I will tell you, I got a note on Father’s Day, from a person I’ve been working with. And it moved me to tears. Because sometimes you don’t know the value you’re adding until somebody lets you know the value you’re adding. And, you know, all these things we talked about today, John, AOL through Nehemiah, I’ve got a lot of experience. And I’m in pretty, I’m pretty transparent enough. And I love to share with them. I mean, especially in this case, would be generally men for me. And young fathers with families, we see the same things that I saw, you know, my kids are now 29 and 26, some of the things I saw 2827 years ago, you can render advice, you know, not through kids. But even as your kids go into college, What’s that like? And to have somebody that has a perspective on that has been there done that, that you can talk through things, not just career because careers are easy, right? I mean, we could do that off. But it’s also you look at the call person, and the whole person is, you know, their significant other, their children, where they’re from, and all that. And that is just we’re here to help people in my mind. Yeah, our key is helping other people. And if you’re not helping other people, well, then great, you’re making a great paycheck and you’re going home, I think I get a lot more out of my life, because I put it into people and I get a lot of positive feedback that makes me happier and more content in the long run. It’s a Paul thing. It might not be for everybody, but for me, it’s it’s special.

John Corcoran 34:03

And who was that person for you? So who were who were the mentors that you had to turn that you turn to when you

Paul Farrell 34:11

meet with them for a daily basis. But Steve Case, I mean, if you look at the history, about how I got there, and 19 697 that he was there in 85, toiling away with a dream. And you see guys with a dream, right? I mean, I think that’s inspiring. You know, you know, I’ll also go back to when I was in college, I went to a small Christian school and buffalo new york because I grew up in an area with 100 inches and 160 inches of snow here. I didn’t know any different things, only good or bad. By comparison, right from a sales perspective. And there was this priest there. His name was Charlie Lemke and Charlie appeals every Day whenever you see with shout at Founder voice What a beautiful day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad. I think I’ll never forget that because that’s the way you should use every day as you get up in the morning. Well, thank you. I’m here. Let’s go. Let’s have it, it’s a beautiful day, whether it’s raining, snowing, whatever. And believe me most of the time, it was snowing and raining in Buffalo, right? Beautiful. California weather like you enjoy John. I think it’s a perspective on life that we can bring in, you know, as you go about your day work and you invest in other people.

John Corcoran 35:33

I want to wrap up. Yeah, I’m a big fan of gratitude. So if you look around at your peers and your contemporaries, others in your industry, who do you respect? Who do you admire?

Paul Farrell 35:43

Well, I just talked about Steve Case starting a whole new venture. I remember I line wasn’t even thought of and that I can’t remember. I can’t remember how I got hired there as on a plane coming back from LA with a guy named David game. Who was by the way, there’s a great guy, he’s a great product guy, a great product guy, then again, and he was doing two attachments. In an email, I said, Hey, I like Halo. I don’t know, I’m not out there a lot. But how do you do two attachments? And he’s like, well, this is the new. This is the new product, Casablanca. It’s due out this fall. And then we started talking about what I did. And he was a nice person with a lot of enterprise sales experience. And that’s how I got started there. But along the way, I mean, you know, there’s tons of people. You know, though, probably most was my chairman. His name is Bob Rocklin, is pretty infamous lately, because they’re chasing after tax evasion. But he knows how to run software firms. And he taught me a ton. And I’ve had a 40 year relationship with him, I really respect him. And he’s taught me a ton about how to run software firms. And obviously, he made a ton of money along the way. And now he’s in a bit of hot water. I really lament that I haven’t been able to talk to them in a few years, just because of a lot of the things that have happened, but he showed me a lot along the way.

John Corcoran 37:16

But is that like to have your mentor be wrapped up in a little bit of a controversy? I haven’t followed it closely.

Paul Farrell 37:23

It’s a big controversy. Yeah, I

John Corcoran 37:25

haven’t followed it closely. But I’m seeing the headlines now, as you mentioned it,

Paul Farrell 37:28

and it’s a big controversy. And I’m sad. I’m sad for him, because he is a great operator, and, and he’s holding the stock right now. You know, dementia, and other things are plaguing at the time of his life, where he should be just enjoying the grandchild and fly fishing, and maybe a bunch of other stuff he admired and this, this whole controversy, and so I feel bad. As I said, I have my own talk to him for a couple of years. But I know, you know, back to what I talked about earlier, it does mean you heard me say 10 times on this, more and more the podcast goes back to Faith. And I have faith that, you know, it’s all gonna turn out. And so we’ll wait and see what happens there. And hopefully, I get to go see him sometime. Maybe I won’t. But that’s the way it goes. But he taught me a lot and I am very grateful for it.

John Corcoran 38:31

Paul has been so great talking with you. I know you’re in between things right now. So don’t move, maybe have a primary domain to send people to but you’re on LinkedIn, Paul, for all. Where can people learn more about you or connect with you?

Paul Farrell 38:44

Like that’s the best way to find me right now. We will be doing a new endeavor. But the web page isn’t out yet. So just LinkedIn to find me on Pater. You can still say it’s still under Nehemiah, because there are still parts of Nehemiah that are still out there that I’m working with. But I’ll be changing in the next month too. And I can announce the name it’s gonna be Pater Holdings, which is Pater Holdings, which is more transition for me into mentoring CEOs than being the CEO.

John Corcoran 39:15

Oh, that’s great. Well, we’ll keep tabs on that, Paul, thanks so much. Yeah.

Paul Farrell 39:19

God bless you. Bye.

Outro 39:21

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at and while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast.