Spiceworks New CFO Brings Lessons From Twitter to IT Networking

Austin, TX’s Spiceworks—the biggest social network you’ve probably never heard of—continues to grow apace, adding 100 employees in the last year.

The company, which is akin to both a LinkedIn (for a social network) and an iTunes (a one-stop shop for products and services) aimed at IT professionals at small to mid-sized companies recently hired Amir Movafaghi, a former Twitter executive who was involved in the social media company’s 2013 IPO, as chief financial officer.

So, does that mean Spiceworks’s growth will soon be marked by an initial public offering?

CEO and co-founder Jay Hallberg demurs at the question. “We have no specific plans or timeline,” he says. “Bringing Amir on board with the experiences he had at Twitter is certainly about growing and scaling an amazing technology company. It certainly fits with what we aspire to do in terms of growth at Spiceworks.”

For his part, Movafaghi says he’s enjoying being the CFO for a company that has an “incredible runway” ahead of it. “I can’t think of too many companies that are in a sweet spot of being a category leader and past the most difficult part of proving the business model,” he says.

I spoke with Movafaghi and Hallberg last week at the company’s annual Spiceworld conference in Austin, which brings together the systems administrators that make up its network. These are largely solo practitioners in law firms, schools, or police departments who rely on Spiceworks to connect them with peers who can help trouble-shoot problems and offer other advice. This year, about 2,200 came to Austin, a 40 percent increase from last year’s tally.

The gathering is a chance for the company’s customers, or “Spiceheads” as they are called, to connect—and for Spiceworks to debut new products, such as a concierge service rolled out last week that helps IT professionals navigate the products and services available in the marketplace.

Spiceworks offers customers such services in addition to its social network—similar to Doximity for doctors, or Researchgate for scientists and researchers. The company charges for advanced IT help and gets advertising revenue from large vendors like Microsoft and Box, which also pay to set up company pages within Spiceworks’s site. For each sale brokered through Spiceworks’ App Center, the company gets a 30 percent cut. Spiceworks says the millions of IT professionals who visit the site represent about $600 billion in spending on IT services and products.

Movafaghi and Hallberg say their focus is on managing the company’s growth even while it actively seeks to hire difficult-to-find IT talent. Another priority is the company’s international customers; Hallberg says half of Spiceworks’ customers are now from outside North America.

“IT pros are dealing with a never-ending set of challenges in an increasingly mobile and cloud-based workforce,” he says.

Movafaghi, who had joined Twitter at the 100-employee mark, says he is enjoying becoming part of Austin’s tech community, which he says is how he imagines the Bay Area was two decades ago.

“I’ve seen the evolution, having lived at Twitter and going at that pace,” he says. “That helped me learn a tremendous amount about making trade-offs, and how to make the right ones.”

Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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