By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Ed MacFawn laughs when he describes his previous career in the San Diego area as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for several venture-backed businesses.
“Once it was apparent we wouldn’t grow the way our investors expected, my job was to get them ready for sale, so I could be unemployed again,” the soft spoken but engaging business executive says. “That was me doing my job.”
Today, MacFawn calls Knoxville home, where he serves as President of BiT Dealership Software, Inc., a business he purchased in 2005. The company develops and markets an integrated management software suite to marinas and a variety of dealerships selling everything from boats to motorcycles, ATVs, PWCs, and golf carts. The software includes inventory/point of sale, service work orders, unit sales, slips/storage/rental management, and accounting modules.
“I’m so charged about the software business today,” MacFawn says, acknowledging this was not the initial career path he established for himself. In fact, his early years involved stints with several global giants.
MacFawn grew-up in Northern Virginia and earned his undergraduate degree in business at Boston University. Immediately after graduation, he joined KPMG as a consultant in the Washington, DC area.
“I worked my way into a position in Kuwait right after the first Gulf War,” MacFawn says. While in the Middle East, he joined Bechtel and then moved from Kuwait to Moscow where he spent time helping establish a stock brokerage in the then new Russian economy.
MacFawn returned to college, earning a Master’s in Business Administration at the Darden School at the University of Virginia.
“I wanted to join a well-run business to see how they worked,” he says of the decision to join Allied Signal Corporation which later merged with Honeywell International.
“I had a series of finance and operations roles,” MacFawn says of his Honeywell career. The last was with a small semiconductor capital equipment business division in San Diego that Honeywell decided to sell in 2000. It is now owned by the industry leader Applied Materials.
“This was my first experience selling a business,” he explained. “I could have moved to other locations with Honeywell or stay in San Diego.”
As is the case with many people who have corporate assignments in the Southern California city, MacFawn and his family decided against relocating. So, he joined Pentech Solutions as CFO. It was a venture-backed energy technology company manufacturing what MacFawn described as a really neat product.
“We did a really good job of moving the product forward,” he said. Nevertheless, the investors decided the best long-term strategy for the company was to sell it to a larger enterprise which turned-out to be its biggest customer.
“It (the technology) still exists as a product of the public company,” MacFawn says proudly.
Having “fired” himself for the second time, MacFawn next joined Clean Air Power, another energy technology start-up backed by some of the same venture capital investors in Pentech Solutions. The new company’s technology enabled the conversion of diesel engines to operate on dual fuel, primarily natural gas.
Although Clean Air Power was also based in San Diego, its largest market was Great Britain. So, it was natural that a decision was made to relocate the headquarters to that country. And, once again, MacFawn had helped fire himself.
“By this point, I decided I wanted to find something more stable,” he says. “I also wanted to run something.”
NEXT: The decision to move across the country and settle in Knoxville.