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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 2 weeks ago

Media software firm targets massive growth, to $125M in sales

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How will Newswire stay ahead of its core challenges — and the CEO’s up-at-night worries?
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Joe Esposito has a been-there, done-that approach to overseeing super-fast growth — having once before led a company from $10 million to $125 million in sales in five years.

Esposito says another opportunity to scale a $100 million company quickly is in his sights. The company is Sarasota-based Newswire, a media/public relations firm with a software twist. It offers automated press releases and outreach to media professionals through its proprietary system, which utilizes a Software-as-a-Service model with monthly and quarterly payments. The program is called the Earned Media Advantage Guided Tour and includes a Newswire consultant to complement the software. “This is an opportunity I’m so optimistic about [that] sometimes I have to temper my enthusiasm,” Esposito says.

He also has some healthy anxiety to motivate himself — and the Newswire team, which will likely surpass 50 people in early 2020. Asked what keeps him up at night, Esposito answers everything. “I tell the employees execution, doing it every day, is what wakes me up at 2:30,” Esposito says.

A Longboat Key resident since 2007, Esposito has learned that rapidly scaling a company requires adherence to some core principles, including a simple customer offering, genuine market differentiation and hiring people to stay ahead of the growth. Those helped when Esposito led eResearchTechnology, a Philadelphia life sciences data company, from 2001 through 2006. In addition to surpassing $125 million in revenue, the firm’s market valuation grew from $27 million to $1.8 billion under his watch.

Esposito, 67, wasn’t looking for a job when the pair of investment firms that own Newswire, a team that includes his son, Michael Esposito, approached him in early 2019. The company, founded in 2007 and initially called iNewswire before it merged with another firm, has been Newswire since 2013. Based in the Bold Cowork offices in downtown Sarasota, it has been self-funded since 2013. (Newswire isn’t connected to a similar firm, PRNewswire, owned by Cision.)

Esposito says he knew instantly that Newswire was a stellar opportunity. It had annual compound growth rate of 65% over five years, for one. It also had an Esposito essential: ease of use. 

“It’s so simple,” says Esposito, who signed a three-year contract as president and CEO of Newswire in July. “A person can get started [on the software] if you have just one or two conversations with him. That’s what I look for in any company.”

Lori Sax. Joe Esposito was hired in April to oversee rapid growth at Sarasota-based Newswire.

Esposito says Newswire offers clients another key ingredient: a new way to solve an old problem. The problem? Many businesses, from startups to multimillion-dollar entities, lack a cohesive and consistent strategy to generate news from the seemingly infinite amount of media possibilities. The Newswire software, company officials say, uses algorithms to match its clients with media contacts on a regular basis.

“This transforms us from a press release company doing one press release at a time to a press release company with a purpose,” Esposito says.

Newswire’s services range from $600 to $3,600 a month and come in a variety of options. Clients span dozens of industries, with annual revenue of $300,000 to one over $180 million. Company officials believe they have some 100,000 prospects to target but also want to keep things segmented geographically, to generate word-of-mouth sales and continue proving the concept. They would like to have 50 customers in the Sarasota-Bradenton region, for example, as a test group.  

‘This is an opportunity I’m so optimistic about [that] sometimes I have to temper my enthusiasm.’ Joe Esposito, Newswire

Beyond execution, challenges abound. For one, Esposito says the service’s pricing has to increase to keep up with its added features and boost margins. Another obstacle: hiring and retaining top people, similar for any company in fast-growth mode. The company plans to hire at least eight people by the end of 2019. “The greatest chance of success is you have to do just-in-time hiring to keep up with everything,” Esposito says. “We always interview before an opportunity arises.”

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