ROANOKE, Va. – “I thought I was going to play college basketball,” jokes Kevin Bloomfield, sitting on a stool at the RAMP Building in downtown Roanoke, his “sometimes” office.
Bloomfield had high expectations and while the basketball dream didn’t pan out, he exceeded that initial dream.
He said he didn’t have a plan for anything beyond basketball, noting that in hindsight, he had no idea how big college basketball players really are.
His path to fortune clicked one day in college, when he heard about the then-new internet browser called Netscape, going public.
“A company that has zero revenue is in this new thing called the Internet and the public market is valued at $1 billion after one day on the market,” Bloomfield said.
He tried to launch several technology companies and failed - including a pitch he once made to Delta Airlines.
He and his partner at the time had been working on the software they thought could help airlines better manage their passengers and other aspects of the business and they were sure it would work.
“We’re in this meeting. We’ve got brand new suits on and shiny shoes and we are eager to talk about how successful we were going to be and they were going to be with our technology,” Bloomfield said.
Then, Delta found out he had no company to back his idea.
“We were honest. We told them we both had other full-time jobs,” he said. “Within 15 minutes, let’s call it, the meeting wound down, finished much more abruptly than we anticipated.”
On the way home his partner quit, saying he had been through enough; however, Bloomfield persisted.
He and his wife had been high school sweethearts in Wytheville.
Kevin put himself through college, graduating from Radford University.
Though admittedly naïve, he was determined to be the next great tech entrepreneur. But at his father’s suggestion, he settled for an opportunity to help YMCAs develop operations software.
“I knew instinctively that no one was going to make me $1 billion market value around YMCAs,” Bloomfield said.
But 8 years later, he had grown his company, Net Ventures to 58 employees, serving 250 organizations.
“We ended up processing $2.5 billion of YMCA transactions through our financial network,” explained Bloomfield.
Then during a run, he got an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“One day I was going for a run on the Greenway. And I never answer my cell phone if I don’t know who you are… And I see the number and I don’t know why I stopped and picked it up, and it was a partner at a private equity firm who owned the majority interest in our biggest competitor. And within two minutes he dropped a number on me.”
At first, Bloomfield declined the offer as he had several others. But a few more paces down the trail the size of the (undisclosed) offer hit him. He called a mentor and asked for advice.
Four months later he had sold Net Ventures – and his big dreams had come true.
In the time since, he’s helped develop the business accelerator called RAMP in downtown Roanoke, bringing together angel investors, and start-up companies so they and Roanoke can succeed.
“You need access to mentors. You need some basic programming. You need access to capital. If you do those three things and all the other things around those three things when you have a chance to be successful,” Bloomfield said.
He also operates Bloomfield Partners, which specializes in guiding investment in software and technology companies.