Round-Table Talk with BIP Capital: Looking Back at 2019, Ahead to 2020

For the second year, members of our BIP Capital team came together in December to discuss the year’s biggest technology and business trends, as well as what opportunities and barriers may lie ahead in 2020. The discussion also included leaders from a number of our portfolio companies so that they could offer their own unique perspectives, especially as they relate to the challenges of growing a successful business.

Participating in the discussion from BIP Capital:

Mark Buffington, Co-Founder and CEO – As a founder, Buffington has built a handful of successful businesses himself and now focuses on growing the Healthcare IT practice within BIP Capital’s portfolio. His most notable deals include Vendormate, Ingenious Med, PlayOn! Sports, and others.

Dan Drechsel, Senior VP – Drechsel has worked with leading innovators that include S1 and Global Energy Decisions. He oversees the firm’s investments in SaaS, FinTech, and Dev Tools/Architecture.

Mark Flickinger, COO – Flickinger focuses on fundraising, talent acquisition, marketing/branding, and accelerating the growth of the firm’s portfolio companies. His portfolio coverage includes AchieveIt, PlayOn! Sports, VoApps, and others.

Paul Iaffaldano, CIO – Iaffaldano is a builder of market-leading companies, with particular expertise in the communications and media industry. Notable deals include Blinq Media,, Brightwhistle, and more.

Participating from BIP Capital’s portfolio companies:

Jeff Cravens, CEO, Huddle Huddle is the nation’s preeminent provider of physical and digital high school event tickets. Leveraging its client base of over 9,000 high schools, Huddle is the exclusive provider of digital tickets to the NFHS Network and is rolling out GoFan, its digital ticketing platform, nationwide.

Christopher Day, Co-founder and CEO, DemandJump DemandJump’s comprehensive marketing platform uses AI to provide actionable insights and intelligent recommendations, allowing marketers to track campaign performance and position themselves to effectively engage with customers.

Ian Juliano, CEO, Trella Health Trella Health, formerly Excel Health, utilizes one of the most current, comprehensive, and robust medical claims databases in the world to deliver critical healthcare analytics to their clients, positively impacting a patient’s care path.

Kevin Lee, CEO, Kobiton Kobiton delivers the needed real device management infrastructure to make native mobile applications work. Powered by AI, Kobiton enables non-technical users to create test scripts to automatically run across hundreds of different device and operating system combinations, leading to faster QA delivery with fewer resources and higher app quality.


Round-Table Q&A


Q: How is technology helping to put a “science” behind marketing for greater ROI?

Iaffaldano (BIP Capital): If the last big trend in marketing was “data,” the next big trend is correlation coefficient, which is a statistical measure of how strong a relationship is between two variables. This is something that’s now being applied to marketing in order to better determine what customer attributes have a causal relationship to the desired outcome—something extremely beneficial to marketers. Just as it is the force behind many of today’s innovating technologies, artificial intelligence will help to drive our ability to apply and use correlating data in this manner.

Day (DemandJump): Another trend is consumer behavior mapping (CBM), and it’s something DemandJump is leveraging, both internally and externally for our customers, to dramatically improve marketing ROI. CBMs enable us to see the most powerful questions, searches, websites, videos, and more, all ranked in order, for any product or service. The results often double the performance of marketing campaigns through increased traffic, conversions, revenue, and cost savings. Consumer behavior insights have largely been outside the view of the marketer until now and I think this is one of the most exciting breakthroughs we have seen in the last 20 years.


Q: What are some of the biggest challenges facing healthcare and how can technology help?

Juliano (Trella Health): Reducing costs and improving outcomes continue to be two of the biggest challenges in healthcare. Both require greater coordination and collaboration among healthcare providers than ever before. We’re even seeing an increasing number of employers taking a more active role to reduce costs through things like managing their networks and negotiating contracts directly. Technology can be a great enabler of coordination and collaboration. Today, most providers have no idea what happens to their patients outside of their four walls. Without a solution like Trella, this makes any type of performance benchmarking nearly impossible. So to start, analytics solutions like ours can help organizations identify and build their care networks based on performance and outcomes data. This will in turn drive innovation to improve outcomes and reduce costs dramatically.

Buffington (BIP Capital): We’re really excited about the progress at Trella Health. Trella’s unique set of solutions enables post-acute providers, hospital systems, and payers (including Medicaid and Medicare) to save billions of dollars annually by optimizing the cost/quality dynamic and by eliminating waste. One of the states that is beginning to explore the use of Trella’s solution found that by simply empowering healthcare decision makers to select equivalent quality, low-cost providers, the state could save $600 million annually in its Medicare spend. Regardless of which side of the healthcare debate you’re on, our system of healthcare is in dire need of tools like Trella.


Q: What trends impacted the SaaS market in 2019? What trends do you foresee on the horizon for 2020?

Drechsel (BIP Capital): In 2019, pressure started to emerge to contain spending in growth companies where the growth rate was not significantly above average, with the target being the rate at which investors believe a SaaS business must grow to deliver returns of 8-20x. This seems to be 80%+ at this point in the investment cycle. This is pushing some companies to “burn” less than $250,000 per month, when previously they were incurring significantly higher burn rates.

In 2020, one trend we’ll see is the introduction of broad applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Examples of this include our portfolio company Kobiton, which automates the production of test scripts for testing mobile applications across many phone platforms. Another of our portfolio companies, Pointivo, is using AI for image capture by drone and manned aerial platforms to assess the condition of large assets.

Lee (Kobiton): A couple of trends come to mind. With the maturation of machine learning and artificial intelligence engines, SaaS companies can much more readily and inexpensively leverage capabilities that previously required on-premise or global enterprise resources to implement. This allows SaaS organizations to expand their total addressable markets to solutions that previously were only affordable as offshore resources working in large teams. ML and AI truly provide a higher quality result faster at a much lower cost.

Another trend is the effective use of buyer intent data to make SaaS prospecting and sales teams more productive. With regulations like GDPR now implemented, capabilities are being developed where privacy can be maintained while allowing SaaS organizations to actively target individuals and businesses that are signaling their intent to acquire certain SaaS solutions.


Q: As a leader in a high-growth company, what advice would you give new companies just starting out in 2020?

Cravens (Huddle): First, you need to work smart and hard to get to a business model and value proposition for your customers that make sense. Then you have to align your resources to get there. The most important aspect of that resource alignment is getting the right people in the right seat on the bus, then creating a performance culture where your people excel in a way that drives the business forward.

Flickinger (BIP Capital): Set out to solve a pain that your customer can’t solve on its own. In order to ensure you’re doing that, get close to your target customer and walk in their shoes to thoroughly understand the problem, inside and out. Oftentimes, a good idea turns into a product that is directionally correct but doesn’t hit the bullseye of your customer’s needs. Lots of time and money can be saved by engaging in market research in the beginning and using it to inform your product roadmap. Early effort on this will increase your chances of success.


For more insights into emerging trends and our region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, download BIP Capital’s The State of StartupsSM in the Southeast report.


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