Bezlio CEO Adam Ellis reflects on Bezlio’s start and what’s next for the startup software company.
Wadsworth-based consulting business, SaberLogic recently shifted focus after 16 years and raised $2 million to focus on the no-code/low-code platform, Bezlio, which provides real-time mobile access to on-premise and cloud data.
It all started in 2016, when SaberLogic CEO, Adam Ellis and CTO, Brian Ellis realized their clients consistently had the same problem—not being able to access their data systems on mobile devices. They decided to create a mobile app to get the sought information into their customers’ hands. Bezlio, a DIY app creation platform that allows non-programmers to customize their screens, was born.
In 2017, SaberLogic launched an ambitious pilot project to evaluate the value of Bezlio. 500 customers tested the platform and the results were surprising. Companies were not merely using Bezlio, they were changing whole business processes around the platform. This gave the team the insight to know it was time to focus on this opportunity and in order to do so, venture capital was needed.
In November of 2017, CEO Adam Ellis attended the 3 Rivers Venture Fair in Pittsburgh to make connections and ultimately secure venture capital for Bezlio. Adam describes the fair as “speed-dating for investors.” Three-minute pitches were a company’s shot to capture the attention of a potential investor. “I didn’t have to be there until 10, but I couldn’t sleep, so I got there at 5AM. I sat in my truck and practiced my pitch over and over and over again. I wanted it to be perfect,” Adam remembers.
After scrutinizing over the pitch for hours, Adam arrived at his first assigned table to find the investor hadn’t shown. He looked around the room, seeing other companies begin their pitches and couldn’t stand the thought of losing out on this invaluable opportunity. He spotted an investor with no one at their table, so, instead of waiting for his next appointment, Adam sat down, introduced himself, and began his pitch.
At the conclusion of 3 Rivers, Adam walked away with several new contacts showing strong interest in Bezlio, but the next few months proved to be extremely difficult. As the team met with a string of potential investors, each rejection stung more. “I wish I would have been more mentally prepared for what we were up against,” Adam said. “It really weighs on you.”
Finally, on January 2nd, 2018, Bezlio received its first term sheet. This was a major win after months of consistent rejection. The term sheet validated the team’s work and signaled to them they were on the right track. “Getting this told us: let’s go ahead and start pivoting this business,” Adam explained.
The Let Down
With so much to accomplish, the team decided to immediately start executing their plans. “At the time, we were told within 90 days, we would have the money in-hand. We thought: why not just start executing it? We had some excitement in the air; we were ready to go,” Adam said. Plans were beginning to move forward until an unforeseen challenge brought progress to a screeching halt.
The lead investor of the round was a series-A investor and concluded backing such a young company was beyond their expertise. They officially pulled out in March and subsequently, the whole investment round collapsed.
This was a devastating blow to Bezlio. Money was quickly running out and the founders had used their homes as cross-collateral against the business. They wondered: did they make a disastrous mistake?
In the wake of the extreme setback, a local organization, JumpStart Inc., stepped in as Bezlio’s lead investor to help reestablish the funding round. While the first term sheet validated the direction of the business, JumpStart’s involvement solidified the team’s confidence in Bezlio.
With a mission to “unlock the full potential of diverse and ambitious entrepreneurs to economically transform entire communities”, JumpStart exceeded expectations. “They really went to bat for us. They solicited other investors on our behalf and went at it in a big way,” Adam said. ProMedica Ventures, M25, North Coast Angel Fund, a longtime colleague of Bezlio’s founders, Bounce Innovation Hub, and 5 angel investors joined JumpStart as funders, formalizing the investment round.
According to Adam, this investment will allow Bezlio to accomplish several goals. The team is concentrated on pivoting from SaberLogic, its legacy business, and establishing a consistent, clear message for Bezlio consumers. Measurable, executable sales and marketing processes will be developed, as well as company leadership roles. Finally, as all of this change occurs, the Bezlio team is committed to creating a company culture focused on progress and collaboration.
Revitalized by the seed investment, big changes have occurred at Bezlio and the momentum continues to thrive. 7 new employees were hired in the first 8 months of 2018. In September, the company will move from Wadsworth to downtown Akron’s Bounce Innovation Hub. “Moving to Bounce puts us into the epicenter of an ever-expanding set of support systems to help startups thrive in Ohio,” Adam explained.
As Bezlio has evolved as a company, so has Adam Ellis. “I’m soaking up everything I can. I was never a reader—I’ve read more in the last 90 days than I have my entire life,” he said. Adam has also learned to lean on mentors. Talking with other industry leaders that have been in this position has been instrumental. Adam explained, “You feel so alone during the fundraising process, but when you step back and talk to other people, you realize they’ve felt the same way. Every startup goes through this.”
Adam also stated the importance of taking this time to recognize the company’s strengths and weaknesses. He is focused on working to “develop our ability to communicate with each other and work out of shared pools of meaning…there are a million things we can do and it has been enlightening to realize our capabilities.”
In the next three years, Adam sees Bezlio becoming one of the top companies in the no-code/low-code space. “The name Bezlio will resonate. People will know what Bezlio does,” he said. Adam envisions the company located at Bounce, growing from 25 employees to 40, and supporting 15,000 users.
As the forward momentum continues, the Bezlio team is aware of the gravity of the opportunity at hand and is determined to continue to strive for success. Noting 98% of startups do not get funded, Adam concluded, “We’re the 2% that made it through the funnel. Every day is a gift for us.”