Dave Gray, founder and CEO of Biso Collective, is busy building his brand new business right here in Birmingham. You might know him from his previous work with Daxko.
Read on to learn all the details of what he’s up to now plus the impact he aims to make in Birmingham.
What is the purpose of your new venture with Biso Collective?
To build a growing, profitable software business headquartered in Birmingham. We plan do this by acquiring multiple software businesses and then growing them leveraging our past experience in the industry. The result will be a holding company encompassing a family of healthy, vibrant software companies.
What services will Biso Collective provide?
Biso Collective will begin in earnest following the execution of our first acquisition, in which we will target B2B, mission-critical, software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies. Comparable large companies would be Intuit, Salesforce.com, or Workday. We won’t be targeting these particular companies, but they’re good to give an idea of the type of company we’re interested in.
Therefore, our intent will be for the products and services we provide to be a significant key to the success of our customers’ businesses. In other words, our customers will need our software to run their business effectively.
Who’s backing Biso Collective?
EBSCO Industries is the financial backer behind this new venture. There are several reasons why I believe they were the best possible partner.
First, their founder, Elton B. Stephens, has a great entrepreneurial story, which runs deep in the company’s DNA. In the first summer of the Great Depression, he sold magazines door-to-door to help pay for his education at Birmingham Southern College. That ended up being the beginning of what is now EBSCO.
Second, similar to the intent of Biso Collective, EBSCO has built an enormously successful, long-term business through both acquisitions and organic growth.
Third, although they have offices and divisions across the country, they have a heavy focus on playing an instrumental role in Birmingham’s growth and vibrancy.
When will Biso Collective ‘open the doors’ for business?
While I officially launched the effort on November 1st, 2018, it will truly take shape as we successfully execute acquisitions. I’m actively pursuing this now.
Where will Biso Collective be located?
In alignment with Birmingham’s emerging tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem, Biso Collective will be located downtown. I’m currently working from an office at Shannon Waltchack in The Stockyard building not far from Regions Field, Railroad Park and Innovation Depot. At the same time, we’re working to develop a more permanent headquarters in the city center.
What will differentiate Biso Collective from others?
For many founders and owners, I believe we offer a compelling alternative to the traditional venture capital or private equity route. We’ll provide a permanent home for these businesses to grow rather than being distracted by new rounds of private equity every 3 to 5 years or being consumed by a competitor. This will allow us to make the right long-term, strategic decisions to build enduring businesses.
Additionally, a key component of the holding company will be to create an “accelerator” with an experienced team aimed at increasing the likelihood of the portfolio companies’ success. We’re confident this will speed up their growth, provide enhanced career opportunities for their teams and deliver great solutions to their customers.
Tell us about the name: Biso Collective
This is the first place I’ve publicly announced the name of this new venture: Biso Collective.
Biso (pronounced bee-so) was derived from the first two letters in “Birmingham” and “software.” Also, the word “collective” was chosen based on the definition: “cooperative enterprise marked by similarity among the members of the group,” which ties nicely to our mission.
Of course, the brand is about much more than the name itself. The brand is built by what the name will come to symbolize based on our people, products and actions. Our hope is that it will come to symbolize a healthy culture, extraordinary team, and customer obsession. And, we hope it will serve as an example of Birmingham’s potential.
Have other leadership positions in Biso Collective been appointed?
Not yet. However, I know several local leaders I’ll be going to when the time is right.
Do you have open jobs currently?
At Daxko you won many awards for the best office culture. How do you plan to accomplish that in your new venture?
It’s relatively simple. I have a core belief that a healthy culture is the long-term, sustainable, competitive advantage. If you get the culture right and maintain it while the company grows, you will attract both the right team and many more customers.
I intend to take my learnings from 15+ years at Daxko, and implement the same fundamental philosophies, even if slightly different approaches, as we launch and grow this business. These fundamental philosophies include things like transparency, integrity, growth, diversity, and fun.
Have you been able to take a break between Daxko and Biso Collective? How have you invested your time?
I did take a break. I called it my “temporary retirement,” and it lasted exactly four months. Although a bit strange at first, it proved to be a great opportunity. First, I spent a lot of time with my family, which was particularly nice since we have two seniors in High School this year.
Second, I reconnected with friends, mostly on golf courses. Third, I met with startups and founders in Birmingham to share my experiences. Finally, I was able to avoid airports for the most part, which was a nice change of pace.
How are you involved in Birmingham? Are you involved in non-profits or community programs?
Beginning in January 2019, I am the volunteer Chair of the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. I’m also on the board of directors for TechBirmingham, the YMCA of Greater Birmingham, and the Birmingham Venture Club.
What vision do you hold for a better Birmingham? How do you hope your new role as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham will help support that vision?
I’ve long believed Birmingham has great potential and plenty of inherent competitive advantages. However, we often don’t live up to that potential. I hope the Community Foundation continues to act as one of the leading conveners within the greater Birmingham metro area to uncover diverse perspectives, encourage cooperation and effect positive change for all.
What’s your favorite food in Birmingham?
I love to eat and fortunately Birmingham has a fantastic restaurant scene. It’s hard to narrow it down, but some of my favorites are: Gianmarcos in Homewood, Ovenbird in Pepper Place, and El Barrio on 2nd Ave N.
What’s your favorite beer in Birmingham?
For beer, I’d say Good People. As one of the originals in town and with their taproom in the heart of the Parkside District, they feel like the official beer of Birmingham. Plus, their co-founder, Michael Sellers, is an old friend, so he’d kill me if I didn’t say Good People.
What are your favorite hobbies?
In my 4-month temporary retirement, I had the opportunity to get reacquainted with golf, which is certainly one of my favorite hobbies. However, my absolute favorite is traveling to new and unusual places with my family.
With your very successful career building Daxko, you surely have many choices for where to start your next venture. Why have you decided to build Biso Collective in Birmingham?
My wife and I decided to move back to Alabama 17 years ago with the intent of raising our kids here. In the process, Birmingham has become our home, and we love it here. So from a personal perspective, we had no interest in moving. Additionally, I believe our city has great potential, and I’d like this new company to have an impact on us living up to that potential.