Editor’s note: Charlotte Beat is a regular feature on Wednesdays.What could have been a recipe for disaster has turned into a potential gourmet meal for xpient Solutions, the company formerly known as Progressive Software, and its CEO, restaurateur Christopher Sebes.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Sebes, a native of Great Britain, says in his pleasant, very British accent. “We have very supportive customers, and we have a great partner in Patriarch.”
Patriarch Partners, a New York firm that has an office in Charlotte, provided the financing to keep Progressive going as a business and closed last week as the owner of the former company’s assets as well as its customer base and employees — included Sebes.
“I’ve never thought of myself as an asset,” he says with a laugh.
Patriarch purchased a firm that is all about restaurant software and applications — and is run by someone who knows the ins and outs of the business.
“I’m a restaurant guy,” Sebes explains. “I know how restaurants work. I’ve done it all — operated restaurants, cooked, waited tables, bus boy.” He “fell into the software business” several years ago in Texas with some friends who developed applications for eateries. The company later sold, and Sebes ended up at Progressive as CEO 3 Â½ years ago to help take it out of bankruptcy. “I’ve been very lucky to leverage my restaurant experience to help produce products that our customers need.”
As CEO, he treats his current customers as if they were seated at tables ordering from menus. “We run this business like a restaurant,” he explains. “We take care of our customers, listen to our customers, and solve our customer problems.”
Sale — then a no sale
Xpient’s point-of-sale solutions and other offerings have produced a list of high-profile clients. But it appeared the company’s assets were going to be sold to a Florida firm. Then the deal fell as flat as a punctured soufflÃ©. Turns out that some information provided by the prospective buyer turned out not to be true, Sebes says.
“We had been approached by a company in South Florida that wanted to buy our assets, but some of the information was untrue,” Sebes says, referring to Siva Corp. “Our lender made a backup bid. We were not looking to be sold.”
Now, Sebes is focusing his efforts on growing xpient. Progressive was founded in the 1990s by entrepreneur Paul Smith in Charlotte, and later sold to a Connecticut firm that filed for bankruptcy.
Through all the financial turmoil, xpient’s predecessor company signed on some of the biggest names in restaurant chains: Steak n Shake, Burger King, Arby’s, Boddie Noell which operates Hardee’s franchises, Jack in the Box, and Captain D’s.
Being in the restaurant software business is not for the faint of heart, Sebes adds. “Our two largest customers are Jack in the Box and Steak n Shake. They operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” When someone has a problem with mission critical applications like problems with the cash registers, the phones ring at xpient, and Sebes says the company has people ready to help.
Sebes also insists that xpient’s secret software sauce is not why the firm is on its way to profitability. “It’s not the technology as much as the way we treat our customers.”
When he’s not working, Sebes admits he likes to cook despite his day job. “I used to cook much more before,” he says, noting that French food in his favorite. He has a degree in hotel and restaurant management.
As for the name of the re-launched firm, Sebes sought to insure it stood out on the biggest Internet menus, such as Google.
“I wanted when someone ‘Googled’ to find nothing but me,” he says. Sebes based xpient on xylophones and also felt the name was safe. “I had to make sure the name was not something terrible in Swahili.”
Financial terms of xpient’s acquisition were not disclosed, but Lynn Tilton, the principal at Patriarch which has $4 billion in assets, made a very positive statement about the firm: “We are extremely excited to be in a position to provide long-term financial support to xpient, a company rich in technology with a very bright future.”
xpient denies restraining order
On Thursday, expient issued a press release denying that Siva had won a restraining order regarding the failure of its purchase attempt.
“Contrary to a press release issued earlier this week by SIVA, a temporary restraining order was not granted and the assets were transferred to xpient Solutions,” the company said. “Notwithstanding Siva’s assertions to the contrary, xpient is entitled to – and shall – conduct its business in the ordinary course and no sale of the assets to SIVA is contemplated at any time in the future.”
The company said that Patriarch Funds had accepted “Siva’s bid based on representations Siva made regarding its balance sheet and financial condition. According to xpient these representations were fundamental to the acceptance of the Siva bid since the consideration to be paid had a combination of cash and non-cash components, including a significant promissory note. After the Patriarch Funds accepted Siva’s bid and entered into a purchase agreement with Siva, the Patriarch Funds discovered that Siva’s balance sheet bore no resemblance to, and was far worse than, the balance sheet as represented to them at the time Siva’s bid was accepted. This information was not disclosed to the Patriarch Funds until the evening before the proposed closing. For that reason, the Patriarch Funds did not consummate the transaction with Siva and terminated the purchase agreement.”
US LEC’s growing North Carolina presence
Charlotte-based US LEC, a provider of data and telecommunications services across the Middle Atlantic and Southeast, has grown its North Carolina customer count past 2,000.
The telecom (Nasdaq: USLEC) says it added 300 “mid-to-large sized” businesses over the first six months of this year. US LEC is nearing 20,000 total customers and deals strictly with businesses.
Networking: The BIG (Business Innovation and Growth) council’s August networking event will be Wednesday, Aug. 25, at Nectar Restaurant. The sponsor is New Way Media — Ken Biltcliffe is the newest member of the team at A.T. Distribution. He will handle close circuit television and information technology products and services. — InfoVision has been named to Microsoft Business Solutions President’s Club for the eighth consecutive year.