New York-based tech giant IBM recently acquired Milwaukee-based Salesforce consultancy 7Summits from private equity firm Sverica International Management, LLC. Founded by Paul Stillmank, 7Summits builds cloud-computing software within Salesforce, called “accelerators,” which enable businesses to develop pre-built, purpose-driven communities for a variety of industries and audiences. IBM now has access to these assets, which the company said it will use to improve the go-to-market strategy and digital experiences of its customers in a way that allows businesses to more easily build partnerships, hire employees and increase sales. BizTimes reporter Brandon Anderegg recently caught up with Stillmank after the sale of his company.
What did IBM see in 7Summits?
“They saw in us a deep specialist that understood collaboration and social thinking. We understand audience journeys and we see every business process as collaborative. … As far as what IBM saw, (they saw) someone who gets how to productize something. When you add that up, there’s a cultural match and they want a company that does stuff the way they do it. We fit really well with how IBM works, so integrating us into the business was much less of a challenge. And we brought a lot of assets, like software and our way of doing work. Our 7Summits way has a lot of development templates, that’s also intellectual property, so that we can help companies scale.”
What about 7Summits is so innovative?
“The original idea for 7Summits is we’re going to enable your customers, your partners and your employees to build your company for you. That’s a social crowdsourcing idea. That was our promise to make sure they knew that if you hire us, we’re going to actually get these audiences working together and they’re going to do the work. So, you don’t have to bring a bunch of customers together for a focus group; let them go collaborate online and bring ideas to you. Those types of concepts are powerful.”
What are your clients struggling with the most right now?
“Most businesses have now transitioned to remote working, but many did it in a hurry and they need to step back and take a more strategic position to do it long-term. You can’t just paste together Zoom, Slack and some other pieces and say we’re ready to go. What are the underlying business processes and how are those audiences engaging with your business to be the most effective at doing that work?”
How will the acquisition benefit Milwaukee?
“Milwaukee, because of the ubiquity of technology, there are companies here with ideas. We have the talent. The benefit to Milwaukee is we’ve proven we have the talent. I think the nature of remote work amplifies Milwaukee’s ability to go after new markets. Another benefit for Milwaukee is jobs. We’re going to keep hiring here. Analysts are talking about the Salesforce economy and how there’s all this job creation going on in general and that’s hard at work here. Look at TechCanary and Penrod. Inside these organizations here in Milwaukee, they are hiring Salesforce talent because they have to manage these environments, so there’s an opportunity, a benefit for Milwaukee to wake up and say, ‘hey, if I get trained in this technology, I can see great job growth.’ Salesforce was just listed on the Dow Jones, so the market is signaling that (Salesforce) is going to be a company for the ages. The technology stack they are creating should make everybody turn their heads and say, ‘why not Milwaukee? Why aren’t we creating the training and enablement to take our slice of that and become more tech-centric?’ This is a time to pivot.”
Paul Stillmank Founder and chief executive officer
7Summits, an IBM company
Industry: TechnologyEmployees: 225 nationally, 71 in Milwaukee