Bruce Hollinger's departure as president of Exact Software North America (the former Macola) should not surprise anybody. After all, presidents of acquired companies often don't stick around and Hollinger's 15-month tenure after selling his company to Netherlands-based Exact Software was surprisingly long.
But Hollinger's exit signals the end of an era--the founder-led mid-market accounting software company. This is not a great revelation. Consolidating markets move from an entrepreneurial focus to a corporate focus as smaller companies disappear into broader ones.
In the last year, the last of the founders of Solomon Software left the business. Two of the founders, Gary Harpst and Jack Ridge left almost immediately after the purchase was closed. The third, Vernon Strong, worked in product development under Microsoft Great Plains until earlier this year. At Softline, Ben Tse, who founded and led AccountMate for 20 years, recently resigned, as has Steve Rostovsky, who founded Datafaction, and had moved up to become president of Softline North America. He was replaced by BusinessVision founder Murray Aston, who moves up from the company he started. Accpac is years away from being led by its founder. Great Plains Doug Burgum was not the founder of his company and it has moved into the corporate environment under Microsoft. In the mid-range the founder of Red Wing died and the founder of Champion sold out as both companies moved under the ownership of Active IQ last year.
In the mid-market, the closest thing to entrepreneurial leadership left remains at Open Systems, a company that has moved from founder to a variety of corporate ownership, and ended up a few years ago under owner Michael Bertini. The only founder left running a mid-range company is Cougar Mountain CEO Bob Gossett. On the low-end, Chris Lee, MYOB founder, is still an executive, although his firm now has Australian co-ownership.
This simply marks a normal transition from small, founder-led companies that had narrow product lines and were more often focused on technology than on marketing. The new generation follows corporate leaders with deeper pockets and broader product lines that pay more attention to spending on sales and marketing, than on bits and bytes. There's no great lessons here. Markets do this. We simply pause to note what has occurred.
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