Tim Mueller leads all strategic growth initiatives and operations for martinwolf.
Tim returns to martinwolf after eight years as CEO and Co-Founder of IT ExchangeNet, a martinwolf company. From 2005 – 2011, Tim was CEO of Phylogy, a Silicon Valley tech startup offering groundbreaking broadband technology to telephone carriers worldwide. By 2010, Phylogy was ranked 243rd on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies in the United States. Actelis Networks acquired the company in March 2011.
In the early 90s, Tim capitalized on the Internet’s growing commercial applications as co-founder and CEO of Vantage One Communications, where he and his team accomplished numerous “firsts” by uniting non-linear communications with the untapped muscle of the worldwide web. While at Vantage One, he was named Entrepreneur of the Year by USA TODAY / NASDAQ / Ernst & Young and received the Pillar Award for community service from the Small Business Network. After expanding his firm nationally, martinwolf sold Vantage One in November 1999.
In between Vantage One and Phylogy, Tim turned to public service as Cleveland, Ohio’s Deputy Mayor / Chief Development Officer, leading initiatives in city planning, building, housing, and economic development that resulted in over $1 billion of development throughout the region.
A life-long musician, Tim served 15 years as a Board Trustee at the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame & Museum (where he Chaired its Technology Committee), DigitalC (a civic tech collaboration in Northeast Ohio), and Union Home Mortgage. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton.
Tim, can you start off by telling us about yourself and why you chose entrepreneurship?
It goes back to 8th grade with my newspaper route in Cleveland, Ohio. I made enough money to purchase a 35MM camera with a telephoto lens and started taking photographs of high school athletes competing in track, baseball, football, and basketball. My photos generated a lot of interest, so I sold 8×10 prints to the jocks at a great margin. With money in my pocket, my dad and I used it to build a darkroom in our basement so I could start processing the film and printing the enlarged photos myself. My profits grew, as did demand. I taught a few friends how to work in the darkroom and hired them to help me. One day during one of my baseball games it dawned on me that they were back in my darkroom making money for me while I was out playing around. I didn’t know what an entrepreneur was at age 13, but I knew I could make money when I wasn’t, in fact, working.
Can you tell us what drives you to be successful as an entrepreneur and Co-Founder/President of ITX?
Success for me is defined in not only doing what I love but more so in not having to do things I hate. At ITX, I get to work with amazingly brilliant people on our team who care about our clients. In most cases, a majority of our clients’ net worth is tied up in their business. Our team gets to help them unlock wealth as a result of the sale of their business. These outcomes drive me to lead our team by encouraging them always to be better and do better.
Tell us about your role and your vision of the company in the next 5-years.
Our vision for growth during the next 3-5 years is anchored in our syndicated ITX M&A Marketplace initiative. We are quickly building a channel partner network of media partners, organizations, and technology vendors by embedding an M&A Marketplace within those ecosystems, dedicated to those customers or members of those communities. With 25 years under our belt, a database of nearly 50,000 buyers, and over 220 closed transactions, we know who the buyers are of IT Services business. Knowing our model can scale, we are populating these M&A Marketplaces throughout the planet.
What’s the one or two accomplishments that you’re proud of?
In addition to having an incredible wife and five young adult children, I’m most proud of the talented people with whom I’ve had the honor to work. I look back and see some of the amazing things they’ve accomplished personally and professionally. Mind-boggling. At City Hall, I’m really proud that we were able to facilitate more than $1B of development projects during my time at the Campbell Administration. These projects encompassed new businesses entering our City, transit projects, infrastructure, and commercial/residential projects.
What advice do you have for other up-and-coming entrepreneurs and leaders?
One of my most treasured mentors, Marc Morgenstern, authored this quote that I think applies to every walk of life: “Expectations unarticulated in disappointment guaranteed.” I use it at work, at home, with friends and strangers. Secondly, I encourage them to celebrate every victory – even if it’s a quick high-five in the mirror. While early-stage businesses come with such concern and anxiety, this is a magical time of invention and accelerated pace. Keep a journal so you can accurately look back at all the life experiences that come with each chapter.
Are you active on social media professionally? If so, what platforms work best for engaging your followers?
LinkedIn is the single most important platform for us, but we also leverage a vast number of Facebook groups who share experiences, best practices, and mutual networks. For mergers and acquisitions, we tend to canvass multiple platforms, venues/conferences, and develop a long list of Intelligence products that demonstrate our knowledge and relevancy in the IT space.
What is the major difference between being an entrepreneur in the private sector versus driving innovation in the public sector? Any comparison?
An entrepreneur in the private sector knows no limits and makes a habit out of asking for forgiveness vs. permission. Money and lack of execution are typically the only two things stopping success. In the public sector, taxpayer money requires more checks and balances, which inherently slows the process. I often said it felt like we were swimming in peanut butter, in a fishbowl.
Who was your biggest professional influencer?
I was really lucky to have mentors such as Marty Wolf, Albert Ratner (Forest City), Dick Jacobs (JVJ Real Estate), Sam Baker (Standard Ohio), and Bennett Yanowitz (Kahn Kleinman). But the person who has had the greatest impact on my career has been Marc Morgenstern – an incredible negotiator, dealmaker, early-stage investor, and mentor. Marc sees things most people miss and has a strong empathy gene to humanize transactions. He takes time because he genuinely cares about people and everyone’s best interest.
What is the most challenging part of your work as a leader?
Balance. Making sure the business is profitable and growing while ensuring our culture is solid and our people continue to evolve as professionals. At the same time, I am staying focused on my personal life at home with my wife and our family of seven. None of this matters if we aren’t happy at home.
What do you have your sights set on next?
We are introducing a new Channel Partner initiative for ITX that will materially change the way we do business. Through a network of media partners, associations, and larger IT vendors, we are launching an M&A Marketplace for those contemplating the sale of their IT-enabled business. In essence, our Channel Partners extend the reach of our traditional business development efforts twenty-fold.
What is a day in your life like?
As a list maker, I tend to take time before emails and calls start crashing in to establish a list of what would make this a productive day – both professionally and personally. And while we don’t always have total control over our days, lists are my way of adding a sense of structure. My wife says “TO-DO lists” should be called “TA-DA lists” so you can celebrate each box checked.
Do you have any hobbies?
Running, Yoga, Hiking, Cycling, and home renovation. At night, I love long walks with my wife and our family pets, who follow us around the neighborhood.
What makes you smile?
Intelligent humor, children’s laughter, a long run, and any Cleveland sports teams making the playoffs.
What are you never without?
What scares you?
The drastic division in our country and the role social media has played in giving dangerous extremists a voice and the ability to come together.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Siesta Key, Florida with my wife and children.
Other work, published articles, interviews or accomplishments:
• Entrepreneurship Speaker Series: Tim Mueller, IT ExchangeNet
• Tim Mueller – From Web 1.0 pioneer to Deputy Mayor
• IT M&A Expert: Over $5 Trillion in Transactions Completed in 2021
• Tale of Tech
• 5for5 Episode#1: Stuart Fenton
• 5for5 – Episode 2 – Earl Overstreet