A Conversation with BROWZ and Golub Capital
Jonathan Spira
Jonathan Spira
BROWZ (now Avetta), Chief Financial Officer
Jonathan Spira served as Chief Financial Officer at Browz until it was sold to Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe in February 2019. During his time at BROWZ, Jonathan guided the company to double its annual bookings growth rate while simultaneously transitioning to positive cash flow. Jonathan previously served as CFO at Nikola Motor Company, Untangle, blinkx, Kapow Technologies, PacketHop, Atrenta, ePeople and Autonomy plc. His previous experience includes senior finance roles at Walt Disney, PepsiCo, Nestle and KPMG. Jonathan has deep knowledge of the SaaS industry and extensive experience in leading successful high-growth companies.
Jonathan Spira served as Chief Financial Officer at Browz until it was sold to Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe in February 2019. During his time at BROWZ, Jonathan guided the company to double its annual bookings growth rate while simultaneously transitioning to positive cash flow. Jonathan previously served as CFO at Nikola Motor Company, Untangle, blinkx, Kapow Technologies, PacketHop, Atrenta, ePeople and Autonomy plc. His previous experience includes senior finance roles at Walt Disney, PepsiCo, Nestle and KPMG. Jonathan has deep knowledge of the SaaS industry and extensive experience in leading successful high-growth companies.
BROWZ (now Avetta) has provided supplier qualification and management solutions since 2001, across more than 35 industries. Working with the world’s largest organizations, including respected Fortune 50 brands, BROWZ has the proven expertise to provide supplier qualification and management for existing programs and those starting from scratch.

Golub Capital’s Peter Fair interviewed Jonathan Spira, CFO at BROWZ.
Peter: 
Tell us about BROWZ. How does your company maintain an edge in enterprise software, specifically in the SaaS supplier qualification and compliance management market?
Jonathan: 

BROWZ has developed a solution to achieve high supplier compliance through innovative patented technology, value-added services and best practices. A key differentiator is the software’s configurability. It enables us to tackle each client’s specific risk management strategy, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. The framework also allows for rapid expansion: BROWZ has managed to regularly be first to market with new products and solutions, such as mobile applications.

Peter: 
What are the keys to a successful enterprise software product along with barriers to entry in your market?
Jonathan: 

Successful enterprise software solutions have powerful intellectual property and offer a value-added service using a signature approach. In our segment, SaaS providers must have deep expertise in the domain in which they offer qualification services, an intimate understanding of their customers’ pain points and the ability to advise suppliers on how to adopt best practices using cost-effective processes.

New entrants in the space must overcome the technological challenges of building a quality solution. They must also establish credibility with large, conservative multinational clients. BROWZ derives considerable advantages from its existing network of client relationships which have a high percentage of shared suppliers. This network lowers barriers to adoption and TCO (total cost of ownership) for new clients—in many cases, ones that already have a meaningful percentage of their suppliers registered with us. New competitors would not have this advantage.

Peter: 
Where is the greatest possibility of increasing market share?
Jonathan: 

We see considerable international growth opportunities. We’re also well-positioned for dramatic growth in manufacturing, chemicals, transportation and energy.

Peter: 
You mentioned international growth opportunities. What are some of the challenges to global expansion?
Jonathan: 

For a company like BROWZ, successful global expansion is critical to providing high service levels for its predominantly multinational client base.

One key challenge in global expansion is managing multiple, divergent labor, tax and business regulations. Another is establishing a cohesive company culture across multiple regional satellite operations. It’s also essential to ensure strong communications with varied constituents—including personnel, professional advisors, vendors, suppliers and government officials— that operate across time zones. Finally, marketing messaging must be localized, not just translated.

Peter: 
BROWZ is headquartered in Draper, Utah. How has the tech environment evolved over the past several years in the “Silicon Slopes”?
Jonathan: 

Tech companies have identified the Silicon Slopes’ unique combination of a large, high quality labor pool and a strong local venture capital and private equity community. This extraordinary location also features a reasonable cost of living and offers a myriad of year-round recreation options and is a gateway to five national parks (more than any other state, except California and Alaska).

However, the rapid influx of tech employers over the past few years is fueling growing competition for talent, driving up wages and extending hiring timelines.

Peter: 
What are some of the challenges for fast-growing companies?
Jonathan: 

One challenge is hiring key talent, including leadership, at the necessary pace to sustain growth. This hiring often needs to take place before you need it. Leadership and key personnel must cooperate and understand the unique challenges of rapid growth, such as high stress.

Another critical challenge is securing ongoing access to growth capital.

Finally, maintaining focus on evolving client needs and process improvement is key. It’s a fine line to walk between implementing continually enhanced controls and more effective processes without simultaneously creating burdensome bureaucracy.

Peter: 
What was your first job and what was your biggest lesson learned?
Jonathan: 

My first job, at age 16, was as a sales person at a Joseph Magnin department store in Los Angeles. I learned many valuable lessons: the importance of customer service, professionalism, punctuality, dependability, sales and persuasion. I also developed a lasting appreciation for team diversity that has stayed with me throughout my career.

Golub Capital would like to thank Jonathan Spira and BROWZ for participating in this edition of SaaS Talk.
Golub Capital is not responsible for the information or views communicated by representatives of other companies. This material is not indicative of the past or future performance of any Golub Capital product and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation by Golub Capital of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Golub Capital has distributed this material for informational purposes only.