Into the Cloud
by Allysar Hassan
It all started with a bug– an inkling, a scratching, a buzzing idea. It was pesky and relentless. It could not be caught, but it could be chased. It was an idea that whizzed around Tony DiBenedetto’s head murmuring creativity and fueling passion that would change the course of his career forever
“I wouldn’t say that I was an entrepreneur, but I got a bug and was feeling the need to start something,” DiBenedetto said.
And that’s precisely what he did. Now, DiBenedetto, CEO and co-founder, successfully leads Tribridge — a company of over 600 employees in 14 states (including Florida with offices in Orlando and Tampa). It serves nearly 3,750 clients through business consultation and IT service offerings with one goal in mind: to solve strategic problems that lead companies to success.
“I think I’ve been fortunate — and this sounds a little hokey, but I’m a little hokey — to kind of figure out why I’m here. If you can figure that out, then just do the things you’re passionate about. My purpose in life is to try and help other people and, really by serendipity, I fell into consulting and helping other businesses get better,” he said.
DiBenedetto’s career first began at Arthur Andersen, a “Big 5” accounting firm, as a consultant and eventually a partner. But by 1990, he was dissatisfied and bursting with ideas to start his own company. He decided to take a risk, like any true entrepreneur – even when he wasn’t sure about that title yet – and started a trucking service and a restaurant. And while the trucking service went on to be a success, the restaurant didn’t do as well.
By 1995, he met Brian Deming and Mike Herdegen – two guys that would later leave their jobs and partner with DiBenedetto to start Tribridge. But before they did that, they spent three years pursuing other venture opportunities — from opening a sports bar across from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ stadium, bidding on a safe company, and following a patent for a child’s monitoring device using satellite technology. None panned out, but they didn’t give up — instead, they kept trying harder.
A Bold Move
After a countless number of nights and weekends devoted to writing business plans, conducting research and talking to numerous engineers, in early ‘98, an idea was born — a kind of life-changing one.
“We were very persistent. I don’t know if this was the state of us wanting to be entrepreneurs or just the fervor of the market at the time, but technology was on fire,” DiBenedetto said.
At the time, there weren’t cloud applications on the market like they were imagining. They were dreaming of ideas for an Internet-based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software application. The next step? They asked for $3 million from a prospective investor named Tom Wallace over lunch.
“He pulled out his checkbook right then and wrote a check for $300 (with a pause) grand – not $3 million – and said, ‘Why don’t you do what you know first (which was consulting) and if the customers want to do this CRM/Internet thing, let the customers drive that versus you,’” DiBenedetto said.
At the time, DiBenedetto had a 2-year-old at home, Deming’s wife had just had a baby, and Herdegen’s wife was pregnant. “It was kind of a big, emotional thing to leave our big salaries and careers … I left two-thirds of my income on the table, which didn’t do well for my family life but was a good business decision,” he recited.
After an 11-year career at Arthur Andersen, DiBenedetto, with Deming and Herdegen, left with Wallace’s seed money to write the business plan that would become Tribridge, which launched just three months later in September 1998.
“I think a lot of technology services firms are very technical. They implement solutions and then they move on. If you were to ask me what our strength would be, it’s the culture of the firm. We decided that in our business plan,” DiBenedetto said. “If you look at the Tribridge museum of documents, you see the culture and the way we are going to do things are bigger than how we describe the market or the product offering.”
A Partnership is Born
When Tribridge first launched, 100 percent of its focus was on being an IT consulting firm to solve strategic problems like how to increase a company’s overall revenue, retain more customers, or provide assistance in deciding on sales and marketing systems.
“Really early on, we knew that our business model couldn’t scale if we relied just on doing services with people that only knew the founders. We were looking for different ways to find a recurring revenue model that allowed us to stay connected to the customer,” he said.
In 2003, Tribridge made that shift in its model. Part of the transition was driven by a vision to help companies get a better return on their investments in technology, but the only way that could happen was if it owned and controlled the technology software along with its services. Hence, a strategic partnership with Microsoft Dynamics business was born, which has led to over $100 million in revenue.
With Tribridge’s partnership with Microsoft Dynamics came a clearer opportunity to expand its cloud services beyond what it had previously been offering for the past 10 years and pioneer an industry-led solution that would set it apart from other platforms on the market.
For the next three years, Tribridge dedicated all of its practices and resources, and placed its brightest people across the company to develop it, said Greg Pierce, vice president of Tribridge’s Concerto Cloud Services.
“Think about it like this: if an enterprise was to outline all that it would need to run its systems, they might have to contract with three, four or five other companies. We put all those things together within our cloud offering in order to provide one cloud solution for the customer that includes application, expertise and security,” Pierce said.
Tribridges’ Concerto Cloud Services creates an individualized database for its customers to meet its exact needs in health care, consumer-packaged goods, public sectors or more. The model focuses on providing “Solutions as a Service” (SaaS).
“I think the content of our Concerto Cloud Services that we are developing is not a platform (like Salesforce). Rather, it’s an individual solution for a company and solves the problem in complete context — that trend, we’re now calling SaaS 2.0, and it’s something I think we are the pioneer in and continue to lead and develop.
“We are just as aggressive and just as risk-taking as we were when we started. Some people struggle with once they have something to lose, to put it at risk. We’ve been the opposite. We’ve taken more risk over time, not less. We’re a little bit smarter and calculating about the risk, but we still take a lot of risk here. I think that fuels growth in addition to our culture,” DiBenedetto said.