Alessandra Lezama, CEO of AbacusNext

Alessandra Lezama, CEO of AbacusNext

Though AbacusNext has been around since 1983, the San Diego-based software company has seen startup-like growth in the last five years. When CEO Alessandra Lezama joined the family-owned company in 2013, AbacusNext was a $5 million company with 29 employees building case management software for legal clients.

Now, AbacusNext has just under 500 employees globally, reporting $77.89 million in revenue in 2017. Private equity firm Providence Equity Partners acquired AbacusNext in 2015. The business recently moved into a new, 65,000-square-foot headquarters in UTC.

Lezama, who previously headed up local companies including Sunfood and American Internet Services, credits the company’s growth to meeting a big need for professional services companies. Since she took leadership of AbacusNext, the company built out its private cloud services, and expanded its customers to the banking, financial services and insurance industries. It currently has nine data centers and more than 1.2 million users.

Read more about how Lezama led the company to its current growth trajectory:

Q. Why did you join AbacusNext?

A. I had met the founder (Judd Kessler) at a presentation. He asked me to look at this company that had been around for 30 years. What captivated me about the opportunity is that they had 250,000 captive clients. Not many tech companies can do that. I thought, ‘there must be something special about it.’

(AbacusNext) was one of two leaders in the market. They had not been able to make the leap to the cloud. They hired me to come and reengineer the product.

I’ve spent 24 years in tech. My background has ranged from satellite communications to datacenter operations. It was the perfect marriage.

Q. How was it taking on leadership of a family-owned company?

A. The founder was very gracious in giving me the opportunity. He trusted my vision and helped me to position myself. (Kessler) remained chairman of the board and gave me full reign.

Q. How did you grow the company?

A. I brought on some folks that I had worked with in the past. I brought a team of data tech experts and we built out Abacus Private Cloud.

When we launched, it was incredibly successful. We couldn’t build it fast enough for all of the attorneys. We created an ecosystem that enables attorneys to integrate all of the piecemealed software applications they use under a (remote desktop).

Given the success we had in 2014 launching this product, we were targeted by many institutional investors. We received a major investment from Providence Strategic Growth. In the last two years, we have gone out and acquired six new companies.

In less than three years, we grew exponentially.

Q. Did you ever think AbacusNext would become this big?

A. I really did. The very first all-hands meeting I had five years ago, there were no more than 20 people. We didn’t even have a conference room

I said, ‘Mark my words, we will be a $100 million organization in the next five years and we will have our name atop a building. You can take that to the bank.’

People kind of chuckled in the room and said ‘how can we grow that big that quickly?’

It was a leap, especially for a company that for 30 years had been so small. We went from being a software shop to being a fully integrated technology-as-a-service provider for all of the professional services sectors. It’s a very powerful transition.

Q. What opportunities do you see for future growth?

A. We get really excited about the accounting space because there is a huge void currently for a fully-integrated suite of products. We are currently working on adding additional products including tax and workflow management. … Attorneys and accountants are late adopters to tech. They don’t have time to deal with it and don’t have deep pockets. The sweet spot where we see the value hitting home the most is firms that are 20 to 100 users.

There’s also a tremendous upside opportunity for us with demand for services in other verticals: medical, finance, insurance and other highly-regulated professional services sectors.

Q. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

A. My best project ever has been bringing up my son. He just went off to college and was accepted to USD. Other than being a mom, I love to horseback ride. When I do casual trail riding in nature, my best ideas come to life.

I also really enjoy contributing to any effort that brings women closer to STEM. I’m a big believer in instilling the right skill sets, but more so the right mindset and self-esteem in young women.

I had it challenging coming up the ropes as well. I’m an immigrant, a single mom and a woman in a predominantly male industry. I can be a stepping stone for them, or just a story to believe in.

This interview has been edited for content and clarity. Startups and software reporter Elise Reuter can be reached at ereuter@sdbj.com or at 858-277-6971.