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Business Observer Friday, May 19, 2017 5 years ago

Jump for Joy

Sharing victories is nice. But in Joy Randels' world, it's just as crucial to talk about, and learn from, defeats.
by: Traci McMillan Correspondent

Joy Randels says the best business decision she has ever made was leaving Computer Associates and her job as an executive vice president of the software giant to work for a startup raising venture capital.

Why? Because she loves building businesses. And with 15 ventures, including nine that were successfully acquired and two IPOs, she has become an expert at it.

It's not just hype or self-promotion.

“She's the real deal,” says Ken Evans, a Tampa technology executive with both startups and Fortune 50 companies. “Here it is an anomaly to have someone with the depth and breadth of experience as an entrepreneur and as a leader ... she's lived and worked all over the world, lived and worked in most of the major tech hubs and has seen the bubbles and the busts ... the iterations of the industry.”

Randels, in total, says she's helped launch more than 89 companies, raise nearly $360 million in venture capital and generate more than $15 billion in revenue for various public and private companies.

Today, Randels is involved primarily in four companies: She's CEO of Citizinvestor; founder and CEO of New Market Partners; member of the board of Invision Communications; and cofounder of AppliedG2.

Randels doesn't stop at starting or running companies.

She's a board member for Technova in Tampa, an organization that puts on two major tech events annually — BarCamp Tampa and Ignite Tampa Bay. She serves as a board member of the Sarasota Bradenton Leadership Circle, and she's the director of StartUp Grind in Florida.

Randels also organizes StartUp weekend in Sarasota and has spoken at numerous tech events in the greater Tampa Bay region. She mentors women through various organizations, including Metropolitan Ministries and SmartGirl, which focuses on bringing high school girls into STEM careers. She's also represented the Florida tech community through Launch Florida, meeting once a quarter in Tallahassee with tech communities statewide to work on initiatives with a lobbyist.

“I'm a capitalist — I want to make money,” Randels says, “but I also want to do something I feel good about at the end of the day.”

Startup obsession

Randels says she had a normal childhood, growing up in Atlanta. Her dad worked for Delta Airlines and her mom owned a salon and later had “side hustles,” from breeding pugs to selling antiques. Randels' dad died when she was 16, but she credits lessons learned from him as the motivation for her success. That includes teaching herself technology at night when she was 21 years old, after her son went to bed. “My dad encouraged me to be brave,” says Randels.

Randels also showed little fear in sales. She started selling stuff at 9 years old, walking door-to-door advertising catalog items such as stuffed animals and small electronics. She later graduated from the University of Georgia, Emory University Goizueta School of Business and the MIT Entrepreneurship program.

Now, after Computer Associates and other companies, Randels is no longer interested in being someone else's employee. She'd rather be in charge of building a business, and fostering an environment of creativity and teamwork. “To work in the corporate environment every day, I'd rather be homeless,” Randels says.

Now that she knows her niche is with companies in the building process, she protects herself in her contracts so she has a way out of her own companies.

For example, with Velocitude, a mobile content firm, Randels included a clause that if there were a change of control, her equity would convert automatically. When Akamai Technologies bought the Bradenton firm in 2010, that move provided an option to not become an employee. She did stay with the firm for six months to assist with the transition.

“I'm great at scaling and building out teams because I love being in that position,” Randels says.

She thinks she works best when the company has fewer than 300 employees. At Cheyenne Software, a Long Island, N.Y., firm that Computer Associates acquired in 1996, Randels says when the company reached 500 employees, she didn't like that she didn't know who people were or what they did. The company had 1,500 employees when CAS acquired it in a $1.2 billion deal.

Solving problems

Randels just can't help but get involved, according to Evans. “She's a problem solver ... when we see a problem, we want to fix it. When we see an opportunity, we want to cater to it,” he says. “That's what she's done her whole life.”

Sometimes solving a problem can be easier than it looks from inside the company.

Take Austin-based ClearCube Technology Inc. Randels was hired to help turn around that company in 2007. Teams were acting in silos, and there wasn't good people management or recognition in place. Randels started an initiative where accomplishments were shared across the company, asking department heads to email one employee a week who accomplished something amazing. She also started the Peak Performer newsletter, which she sent out each week. It included a quote and an explanation of how that quote tied to the company's challenges.

“She's driven because there's a community need — there are people out there with questions,” Evans says. Randels sees the Tampa-Sarasota area as a region that is emerging, but still needs help. “She takes it upon herself to mentor the region,” he adds.

Being inclusive

Randels has also led several grassroots initiatives to cultivate the tech community in Florida, says Tonya Elmore, president of Tampa Bay Innovation Center and TEC Garage. What makes her stand out is her wish to be “inclusive,” Elmore adds. “She's good at bringing folks across the bridge, from other communities across the state of Florida.” When she hosts an event, she reaches out to all of the major players in the tech community.

Randels is also not afraid to share her failures publicly. At a recent Tampa Innovation Center Tech Talk event, she said one of her biggest mistakes was not properly vetting a business partner. She then got into a sticky situation when she claimed lies were told to her board and lies about the price at which the company sold.

She shared the story to let others know they should run background checks on partners and funders. You should “understand and talk to people about what they are like to work with, or do business with,” Randels says. “If they don't act with integrity, that can reflect poorly on you.”

Sharing defeat is just as important as sharing the victories, says Randels. “What's the post mortem — what did you learn and how do you apply that? Everyone has to deal with it.”

Entrepreneur: Joy Randels
Companies: New Market Partners, Citizinvestor, Applied G2, Invision Communications

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