FINANCE · OPERATIONS
When I arrived in Miami in 1985, my plan was to learn English and return to Colombia to work at a multinational company. Like all life’s “plans,” there were detours along the way – some incredible, others more treacherous. I’m proud to say I learned from them all and ended up better off given all the worldly experiences shaped who I am today.
Gonzalo Troncoso is a founding partner of Bryant Stibel. Previously, Troncoso served as Senior Vice President, Operations of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., overseeing human resources, facilities, and operations.
Troncoso has over 25 years of experience in the US, Europe, and Latin America across a diversity of functions that range from finance, accounting, mergers and acquisitions, operations, and sales.
Prior to Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp, Troncoso was President of Web Services and CFO at Web.com (NASDAQ: WWWW). He has also served as CFO of Interland, Finance Vice President at PSINet and Anixter International, and CFO of SRC International.
Troncoso holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Universidad Javeriana and an MBA from Saint Joseph’s University.
Starting in South Beach
Landing in Miami Beach was my first experience in America – and it was fun. The mornings were spent studying English, in a yellow school. All the students spoke Spanish and the teachers spoke Spanish with us. Most afternoons were spent running on Collins Avenue, and going to the beach. I delivered pizzas in the evenings, for a few bucks an hour and was essentially just getting by.
After one year in Miami, far from learning English, I ended up with a heavy Cuban accent in my Spanish, so on a whim, I decided to pack my bag and move to Philadelphia to take a temp job as an accountant in downtown Philly, at $7.50 an hour.
Getting Down to Business
My first real accounting job in the U.S. was for an energy consulting firm in Bala Cynwyd, PA. They needed a Lotus 1-2-3 expert. They made me an offer after I told them I was an expert, and ran to the library straight from the interview to take a crash course. I had two weeks to learn Lotus. But once I got going, it seemed I was a natural as I set up their entire accounting system and payroll in just a few months. A couple years later, I was the CFO of this multinational energy consulting firm and seemed to be on my way.
Pursuing my M.B.A. at night while working full time wasn’t new to me – after all, I’d worked full time during my university years in Colombia. However, doing it in English was a challenge – there were just so many words and they didn’t sound anywhere close to how they were written. That said, I still graduated with an M.B.A. in Marketing and Finance in 1990 – and thanks to my studies, I now get called the grammar police.
Around the Globe and Back
After the consulting company was sold in 1998, I spent four years in international finance and M&A; one year in Croatia; a couple of months in Spain; and a few years in Latin America, Chicago, and Virginia. My international globetrotting came to an end in 2003 when I met Alex Kazerani. Alex was a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur that had started, HostPro, a web hosting company. I joined his team as VP of Finance and embarked on a series of acquisitions aimed at consolidating the web-hosting industry.
Alex had sold the company to Interland (NASDAQ: INLD) when a new management team took control of the company in 2003. This was the beginning of a new experience that’s still in the making 15 years later. Jeff Stibel, Pete Delgrosso, Bill Borzage, Judy Hackett and I presided over an amazing transformation. The company was renamed Web.com – operations were consolidated, marketing, messaging, packaging and pricing simplified, and most importantly to a CFO, profits were delivered.
This success was recognized by the financial community, when our team was given the honor of presiding over the opening bell for the NASDAQ stock market in June, 2007. Adding to the honor was the fact that the local newspaper in my hometown in Colombia mentioned that I was the first Colombian executive ever to open a major world market. The Web.com experience eventually came full circle when the company was sold for $2.24B in 2017. A win for many of the key players at Bryant Stibel today.
In August, 2010, our team, now enhanced with the additions of Moujan Kazerani and Wisdom Lu, purchased the small-business arm of Dun and Bradstreet, to form Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. A privately held company headquartered in Malibu, California, and we immediately dove right in.
I had committed to Jeff and team that I would stay in Malibu until the company was fully functional. But I had a dilemma – at the time, I had a desire to give my daughters the opportunity to fully immerse in a life in South America. They already spoke Spanish, but being “a local” would allow them to study in Spanish and experience the South American culture at the same time. So, we moved to Santiago, Chile, in 2012 and the girls started school almost immediately at the Lincoln International Academy.
The experience was one our family would never forget.
While in Chile, I ran a copper and gold mining company. I felt as if I had been transplanted into a different world. A few weeks earlier, I was immersed in spreadsheets and financial statements – and now I was driving pickup trucks, riding mules, exploring and searching for old, abandoned mines.
While out on one of those mining explorations, my team of geologists and I got lost in the Andes Mountains – while in search of an old, forgotten mine, believed to have been abandoned in the 1600’s. We wandered aimlessly for two days, hungry and thirsty, eventually finding our way back to our trucks. We never found the mine, but as we drove back home, we celebrated… we were going home empty-handed, but we were going home to our families with our lives intact. And that was all that mattered.
From Misfortune Comes Inspiration
My entrepreneurial spirit was challenged again one chilly afternoon in the foothills of the Andes when our car was stolen from our house in the outskirts of Santiago. The car was found two days later, completely destroyed. According to the police, the SUV had been used on a “moon-landing,” a common practice in Chile, whereby large SUVs were used to ram ATMs, dislodge them, and haul them away.
It was from that misfortune that inspiration struck. This car theft-turned-cash-grab led to the creation of SolutionWorks, a metals company that I helped form specializing in the reinforcement of ATMs. By October of the same year, legislation was passed, requiring that all ATMs in Chile be retrofitted to comply with European standards. Our company was certified in December, 2012, and by March of the following year, we received the first contract to retrofit the ATMs of a large local bank.
Despite our success, I decided after two years in Chile that it was time to go back to our roots. Within a few days of returning to the U.S., I found myself in a familiar environment, with Jeff and the gang, as COO of D&B Credibility, until we sold the company back to Dun and Bradstreet in the summer of 2015.
Today, I’m a Founding Partner of Bryant Stibel, where we get to work together, learn from each other’s experiences (in life and business), and use our combined knowledge to help other teams achieve the same success.
Most importantly, we do it while having fun.