Sramana: When you got your first product done, how did you get it out to market?
Curt Keller: We started with Google PPC. That is where we focused all of our energy. It started to get some traction. We got a lot of traction that first year.
Sramana: How much funding did you put into the company? What was your strategy?
Curt Keller: When we first started, I was piggybacking on our other businesses. We already had offices, so I was not incurring additional overhead. I reinvested all of our sales into PPC. In terms of numbers, I think I was getting a ROI in about three months per client acquisition.
Sramana: What were you charging for your subscription service?
Curt Keller: Our average today is $65 a month, but we can start as little as $10 a month. Back then the average was $20 to $25 a month.
Sramana: How much money did you have to put into the business before it started becoming profitable? It sounds like a bootstrapped business.
Curt Keller: We are completely bootstrapped. We bootstrapped with credit cards. All advertising was put on credit cards. We probably spent about $70,000 to get to profitability. Back then, PPC was still very new. The return on the PPC dollar was fantastic. In 2007 and 2008 I started taking a little money out to live on. I was not investing as much back in as I should have. In 2009 and 2010 I started reinvesting into the company which is when our growth really took off.
Sramana: What kind of revenue levels did you reach in 2007 and 2008?
Curt Keller: We were around $750,000 in revenue. It was purely PPC in and revenue out. We started becoming an organic search model company. Our organic search marketing was paying the dividends and generating a lot of customers for us. Even today our organic search is more successful than our PCC.
Sramana: Having organic search outweigh PPC is great. How did you get there?
Curt Keller: Yes, we did. One of the guys who joined the company early on is a self-taught guy who embarked on a massive learning program to build our SEO department. He watched and read everything. We started doing the right things for search marketing. We wrote articles; we had the correct text and links. We had the right posts on the right websites. We did everything that you had to do right.
Sramana: Would you talk a bit about developing your team during that organic growth period?
Curt Keller: Since I was bootstrapping, cost was big factor. I was not able to go out and bring in great talent like a VC would do. A lot of it involved setting up systems. I always asked if I could automate a process to make it work well. My wife became an integral part of the company. She is a great systems person and has great ideas. In terms of support, I outsourced that. I did not go find a company, I went out and found one person that I felt was trustworthy. He would support my customers and we built our support office in his town. That worked really well to keep the cost down.
Eventually we had to deal with U.S. clients telling us that they did not want to talk to someone from India. We also developed a support team in the U.S. later down the road. Our search marketing systems and administration was done in the U.S. All of the programming came from India.