How Nashville-based BluWave made the Inc. 5000 list by helping private equity firms connect to experts

How Nashville-based BluWave made the Inc. 5000 list by helping private equity firms connect to experts

When Sean Mooney quit his New York City private equity job to launch a startup, the Austin native had to decide where his new venture would be based.

“I have no connection [to Nashville] other than coming here on business. But I did a market study and I had all my columns and variables lined up and the top city on the list was Nashville,” Mooney said. “I grew up in Austin, Texas, but Nashville is what my internal algorithm said is the city that is best positioned for the next 10 years.”

Five years later, Mooney’s startup, BluWave, is also in a prime position — No. 127 on the Inc. 5000 list.

Brentwood-based BluWave has grown 3,157% over the last three years, according to Inc., making it the second-fastest growing company in the Nashville area, behind Upperline Health.

BluWave works to connect private equity firms to the third-party experts they need to help grow companies in their portfolios, Mooney said, using proprietary technology to asses needs, match resources and monitor the process. The firm counts more than 500 private equity firms as clients, including Chicago-based Shore Capital Partners, which has a second office in Nashville.

Nashville’s private equity landscape has expanded quickly in recent years, with big city firms such as Shore, Starr Investment Holdings LLC and Atlanta-based MSouth Equity Partners all opening offices in the city. The team from Whistler Capital Partners LLC recently completed a spin out from Starr to form a new private equity firm in Music City.

Mooney said he came up with the idea to help firms like those while working for a private equity firm in New York. He would often spend hours Googling to find the right experts or services to help companies in his firm’s portfolio with any particular issue they were having.

Frustrated, Mooney imagined a platform similar to Angie’s List where businesses could easily search for experts to address their specific needs.

But when Mooney launched BluWave, it didn’t take off as planned.

“The first year of our formation, we were barely a business. That’s when we were trying to be a platform,” Mooney said. “So we had the proverbial pivot, where we were trying to sell the business in a way that I wanted it to be sold. I thought it had to be a subscription service or platform. Our customers said, ‘We love what it is. We just don’t want to eat it the way you’re trying to feed us.”’

That’s when Mooney changed his strategy and made BluWave more of a person-to-person interactive experience, while still relying on technology and his extensive knowledge experts around the country. Today, BluWave has 20 employees, with five open positions in marketing, account management, operations and data.

And with the growth his company is now experiencing, Mooney is content to continue riding the Nashville wave.

“You don’t have to be in the big city centers anymore. Information is agile and widely available. … And in fact, sometimes you don’t want to be there because you don’t want to be viewed as ‘big city,’” Mooney said. “There were other places [we considered moving to] that were great but I kept asking [people] about the relative cities and every single time the answer was, ‘I love Nashville, I can’t believe you’re going to get to move there.”’

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