1. Business

Can Tampa tech firm ConnectWise achieve national success? CEO Arnie Bellini hopes so

To borrow a line from The Matrix, is ConnectWise "the one" — the "Neo" of technology firms that can break through to become that hugely successful company that helps legitimize Tampa Bay as a U.S. tech hotbed it so eagerly wants to become?

ConnectWise co-founder and CEO Arnie Bellini would be delighted if his fast-growing, 34-year-old private company stepped up and delivered. On Tuesday morning, speaking in Tampa at a "Diary of an Entrepreneur" series about area technology startups, Bellini says his company — with more than 750 employees and 100,000-plus customers operating in more than 60 countries — was considering going public.

That's a key step to elevate a ConnectWise or any other tech company seeking the spotlight of success. Any area firm that transforms itself into a hot tech business on a national scale brings Tampa Bay one step closer to what Bellini calls a "Tech Mecca" or some such Silicon Valley-styled name.

"There's a lot of activity here, but we need to see it more united," the CEO says. "I hope we can be that spark" that lifts the tech community. "We need one great success story."

ConnectWise provides customers a suite of business services on a technology platform that can handle their financial, help desk, administrative and other services.

In Tuesday's conversation on entrepreneurship, presented by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, Bellini touched on the founding of the company, the risky but rewarding decision to go international and the purchase of tech businesses to round out its product mix.

He praises author Jim Collins for his book Great By Choice for comparing the running of a business to the discipline of taking a 20-mile march every day. Doing that, Bellini says, can yield more success than thinking a company is "lucky" or just in the right place at the right time.

At 57, Bellini knows something about going the distance. He is a long-distance swimmer, having swum the English Channel, circled Manhattan, traversed Catalina Island to Los Angeles, as well as the Sunshine Skyway bridge here to Ben T. Davis Beach on the Courtney Campbell Causeway. He also swims around Harbour Island weekly.

Speaking to his audience of startups and entrepreneurs, Bellini says he is a businessman who learned how to build a tech company, not a techie who created a business.

He grew up in a family where his father worked for IBM — a.k.a. Big Blue — and talked often about computers.

"I was raised in blue diapers," Bellini laughs. His brother, David, co-founded ConnectWise and serves as company president.

ConnectWise never had to borrow outside money to prosper. Today the company is owned 100 percent by its "colleagues" — a term Bellini uses instead of "employees."

The company on Sunday was named one of this year's 100 Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces. It has made the list six of the survey's seven years.

Says Bellini of Tampa Bay: "This is a beautiful place to grow a company."

Now there's a slogan to build upon.

Contact Robert Trigaux at Follow @venturetampabay.