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Bootstrapping to $40 Million: iCIMS CEO Colin Day (Part 3)

Posted on Saturday, Jan 19th 2013

Sramana: That aligns exactly with the 1M/1M philosophy. That is what we want people to do – get to customers and revenues as quickly as possible. Our belief is that entrepreneurship equals customers, revenues and profits. Financing is optional.

Colin Day: We were forced to go that route. If I had not received that call, I may have continued to go on asking for payroll loans. Any company can make the excuse for more people than there are available customers and revenue to support. I was forced to make it a viable, profitable entity very quickly. It was a painful mindset shift but a very important lesson. We have run that way ever since.

We are now a viable, profitable, and independent business, which has allowed us to do interesting things. Many of our competitors are in a shooting star mode, and they are burning through large amounts of money. One of them is burning through around $80 million a year. It is all about top-line growth. While that sounds wonderful, the second something goes wrong with the economy, they are the ones who need to lay off massive amounts of people. We are in terrific position to withstand that.

You can argue that some of the shooting stars got out and got their payday. In the long run, what is best for the customer is a long-term company which is sustainable and viable. I like our model for that reason.

Sramana: How did you get your first customers? What was the journey to profitability like?

Colin Day: There was a high degree of scrappiness in those early days that we simply would not do now. Back then, we were honestly looking to get business and revenue any way we could. We knew long-term what we wanted to be. We wanted to be a pure SaaS, single source-code, never customized platform with thousands of customers.

That is where we are today, but in the early days it can be important to veer from that vision. You have to understand that you do not need to give up on the long-term vision, but you need to do some other things. Early on we built one-off systems for AT&T college recruiting. It was in our domain and it was not the vision of what we wanted to be long-term. It paid the bills and gave us a reference client. At one point we hosted career sites. If you go to Amazon.com and apply for a job, that is powered by us.

We had an early customer that told us they would only sign with us if we designed a website for them with a rotating lighthouse on it. I managed to convince one of my developers to spend a weekend designing this thing. I remember those days fondly. That is not what we wanted to do long-term, but we had to take any route to viability.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Bootstrapping to $40 Million: iCIMS CEO Colin Day
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