RALEIGH – Let’s just say for MapAnything’s founder John Stewart, it hasn’t been a straight shoot to the top.

Back in 2009, he was running a consulting business. A few years later, the company pivoted to software and changed its name to Cloudbily, releasing a suite of applications to the AppExchange – including MapAnything, which became a runaway hit.

He changed the company’s name —  again. Since then,  his Charlotte-based firm has raised more than $83 million in three series rounds.

It’s certainly not for the faint hearted, but Stewart was all smiles when he shared his journey at the CED Tech Conference in Raleigh on Monday.

“We finished the year at around $26 million recurring revenue,” he told the 900-strong audience gathered at the Raleigh Convention Center.

Joined on stage by Pendo’s CEO Todd Olson, the pair sat on tufted chairs as Olson quizzed Stewart on his journey to the top.

The pros and cons of strategic money

Among the hot-button questions: What was his reasoning for taking strategic money from corporate backers like General Motors and Salesforce?

“With us being so focused on the Salesforce platform and integration of Internet of Things objects in that platform, it made perfect sense,” he said.

He added: “There is kind of a delicate balance. If it aligns to your business objective and your strategy, you should absolutely do it. You get some industry insight that you’re probably not going to get any other way.

“Strategics is also great because they don’t typically have sharp elbows. If you’re raising capital for the first time, you want to have a board that is going to be super supportive and let you run the business the way you want to run [it]. And strategics are typically very hands off.”

He did offer a caveat, though: “You do wind up aligning your business to particular outcomes in many cases, as you get closer and closer to those strategics. You have to be a little bit careful where you do take the business because of competition.”

Interestingly, he failed to raise capital locally.

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“I talked to a lot of southern VCs, especially in those early days. One of the things about investors in New York and San Francisco, I think they tend to be willing to take a different risk profile. If you’ve got a little bit of background and a good pitch, you might be able to raise a Series A on the back of a napkin and a good handshake.

“That’s not necessarily the case [here]. It’s a little bit more conservative down here with regards to the investment profile. We had to find leads that were not in the southeast.”

As for the future, his company has big plans. “Right now, we have a mantra internally that I’m happy to share: It’s $100 million in revenue in 36 months,” he said. “That’s all we kind of chant. We’ll see what happens after that.”

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