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Business Observer Friday, May 8, 2020 3 months ago

Company founder reaches high for next venture

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Starting from his teens to nearly 50 years old, Barry Shevlin has had a passion for ideas. It’s led to some big entrepreneurial successes.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

After three decades of chasing, hustling and growing, lifelong entrepreneur Barry Shevlin found himself in a rare spot late last year: He almost had nothing to do.

A firm he founded in 2002, Clearwater-based managed IT services firm Vology, had just received what he called a “transformative” investment and recapitalization from a North Carolina equity firm. He could have stayed on at Vology, where he maintains an ownership stake. But Shevlin instead amicably parted ways. “It was just so different,” says Shevlin, the Business Observer’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008, about going to work but no longer running the company. “It just didn’t feel right.”

Shevlin joins a big club of founders and entrepreneurs who seek new challenges after an exit. He found his answer in Tampa-based investment banking firm Skyway Capital Markets. He was recently named a senior managing director at the firm, where he will work with clients, mostly middle-market tech companies, on restructuring, debt and equity capital raises, and mergers and acquisitions. “I believe there are a number of mid-market technology companies that will benefit from my experience and approach to identifying creative financial solutions,” Shevlin says in a statement.

That creative mindset has driven Shevlin going back to when he was in his late teens, in the blue-collar Queens, N.Y., neighborhood he grew up in. He worked for the local cable company, splicing wires and climbing cable poles in the days long before Wi-Fi. By 1990, when he was 20, he moved to the St. Pete area and started a few companies from scratch. Some were small successes, such as a Florida cable installation company, while another one, a dot-com era online business directory, was a colossal failure.

All through those ventures, and then Vology, Shevlin says his favorite part of being an entrepreneur was the creativity. “It’s the constant stream of ideas, and working with people to turn those ideas into reality,” he says, that motivate him.  

Vology, initially called Network Liquidators when Shevlin founded it, is proof. The company did $1 million in sales in year one, in a niche where it sold refurbished phones to hospitals and other large entities. He shifted to other hardware in the 2008-2009 recession, and then, by the early 2010s, the firm had shifted again, to IT services. Today it handles IT, cloud and security services, mostly for mid-size enterprises, with 5,000 customers worldwide. It did $91 million in sales last year, after several years over $100 million.

Called a “serial entrepreneur and respected visionary,” by Skyway CEO Russ Hunt, Shevlin says he will maintain his passion for helping other entrepreneurs, no matter where he works. In addition to his Business Observer award, Shevlin’s recognition includes being an EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist in 2014, the Tampa Bay Technology Forum’s CEO of the Year in 2012 and a member of the Tampa Bay Partnership’s Council of Governors from 2016 to 2020. He’s also been an active member of the Young Presidents’ Organization since 2007. 

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