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Marc Visser, founder and former CEO of the managed service provider hallo (their preferred style is lower-case) was on a tear with his acquisitions strategy earlier this year when his vision for scaling the firm got even bigger.
He’d purchased 14 other MSPs in the Netherlands and the Caribbean and grown the firm to EUR 60 million (about $64 million) when he saw an opportunity to expand into Spain and Germany.
With banks tightening funding, hallo decided to sell a majority stake to KLAR Partners, a private equity firm, in May 2023. That firm was already hallo’s London-based partner. “We need some more dry powder to continue our journey and potentially look abroad for expansion,” says Visser.
Visser transitioned out of the CEO role on January 1, 2023, handing the reins to Barry Wissink, who had already been running day-to-day operations.
Meanwhile, hallo’s original private equity partner, which had provided EUR 75 million (about $80 million) in funding to fuel its combination of organic growth and growth-through-acquisitions, stayed on board, as well. “We grew a lot faster than they thought five years ago,” says Visser.
With 300 people, 12-year-old hallo is considered an employer of choice in the tech industry. It delivers IT and telecom services to small and midsize businesses, using a “one-stop shop” model to make IT accessible to them. It is known for its “digital customer journey,” where small business owners can use self-service features to keep costs down.
Staying ahead of market trends
Visser is confident that rapid technological change will continue to bring hallo new opportunities to help companies keep up with changes happening with Microsoft. He also believes the market is ripe for expansion in Europe. “We are making our first inroads to Germany and Spain to replicate our whole model there,” he says.
Migration to the cloud has been slow in Germany. Now, however, Visser says, “It’s starting to move to a more cloud/managed service model”—and many small and midsize companies need help with it. Meanwhile, the market in Spain is very slow to adapt to the cloud, and IT help is sometimes hard to find, with providers fragmented.
Becoming a go-to brand
Hallo is concentrating on becoming the single trusted go-to brand for SMEs in the markets it enters—but that’s a tall order. “SMEs can be very demanding, very different from the company with 20 offices around the country,” says Visser. “But it’s increasingly doable, because Microsoft is standardizing. The tools for supporting business are standardizing.”
Taking operations to the next level
With more funding in place, hallo is professionalizing all of its operations to an enterprise level and building its internal team, drawing on what its team has learned from the Scaling Up platform. Hallo has historically promoted from within, but with the company getting larger, Visser says, “now there will be a little more focus on finding quality outside, as well.”
Building an M&A team
Part of the firm’s talent scouting will be finding the right people for its M&A team. Hallo will be hiring two M&A managers, so Visser can focus on the expansion and creating a single brand for SMEs to turn to for their IT services needs. Says Visser, “If you want to be ambitious, operationally excellent and live up to the Scaling Up standards, you need to have the right people on the bus.”