MSP platform developer ConnectWise is looking to bring new coaching and peer group expertise to its 21,000-strong MSP community with the acquisition of Heartland Technology Group.
ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini (pictured, left) said the acquisition of Heartland Technology Group, better known as HTG, was an easy decision given that the two companies have had a strategic relationship since 2008 and that he and HTG CEO Arlin Sorensen (pictured, right) have known each other since the late 1990s.
"It's like we have been living together for 10 years and are finally getting married," Bellini told CRN. "Arlin and I are just old-fashioned about that."
HTG, Harlan, Iowa, is an organization that brings together 600 members from 500 MSPs, primarily in the U.S., through a series of meetings to provide them coaching and consulting services and the opportunity to form peer groups.
Tampa, Fla.-based ConnectWise provides a platform through which MSPs can access and manage vendor services for their customers.
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
While the two have different business models, they share a common vision of how to support the MSP community, Bellini said.
"ConnectWise is a software platform while HTG provides coaching and training, but we have parallel visions," he said. "We hope to get greater synergy working under one roof. We know we will be able to spread the education, the consulting, the peer groups, and their services including strategic consulting, to a wider community."
Sorensen told CRN that his organization's acquisition by ConnectWise formalizes the decades-long relationship between the two. "HTG has been a 27-person organization located in the corner of a farm in Iowa," he said. "Now we will be part of a global organization. It's time for us to work together to help our partners succeed."
HTG does not have a strategic relationship with any other MSP platform providers and encourages its partners to use the ConnectWise platform, Sorensen said. About 95 percent of its members use the ConnectWise professional services automation platform.
Sorensen plans to remain as head of ConnectWise's new HTG business unit for the long haul, he said. "I'm happy to be part of ConnectWise and looking forward to where we are headed," he said. "The reality is, I work for Arnie now."
Not really, Bellini said. "We don't use the word 'employee' here," he said. "We say 'colleagues.'"
HTG typically sponsors 50 meetings of its community members a year, and those meetings will continue for now due to hotel and venue contracts already signed for the next couple of years, Sorensen said.
Sorensen said the HTG peer groups typically bring together 10 to 12 MSPs in a room. That number will not change, but with ConnectWise there will be more rooms to meet, he said.
"It's like an NFL expansion," Bellini said. "There are more teams. They're the same size, just more of them."
HTG has until now been run as a family business, but really needs the backing of a big company like ConnectWise, said Brian O'Shaughnessy, CEO of ITConnexx, a De Pere, Wis.-based MSP that has worked with both organizations for over 10 years.
"As a 10-year HTG member, I've seen incredible transformation of my business and that of HTG, which had been a family-owned business," O'Shaughnessy told CRN. "But because it was family-owned, HTG can sometimes be stressed. It was tough for them to grow. With the acquisition, HTG can move to a new level and help with the business transformation of my companies and that of my peers."
The relationships HTG has built will fit well in the ConnectWise MSP community, O'Shaughnessy said.
"I don't like ConnectWise because of the software," he said. "The software's good. But anyone can write good software. ConnectWise is dedicated to helping partners succeed. Through meetings and the IT Nation conference, we see ConnectWise is committed to partner growth."
With HTG, ConnectWise will be more relevant to its MSP partners, O'Shaughnessy said. "The acquisition shows ConnectWise is ready to help partners grow more with leadership training and peer groups," he said. "I should not have been surprised about the acquisition."