Sramana: What were the steps that you took to validate your concept? Who was the first customer you went to talk to who resonated with your value proposition?
Roman Stanek: I absolutely believe that as much as you can validate a business model there is no substitution for intuition. The opposite applies as well. If your intuition does not resonate with customers then it is worthless. In 2008 and 2009 we did not have a customer, we just worked on building the software. I was not worried about not having a customer at that stage.
Eventually we had a product that was ready and we had to go find customers and I found that our message resonated with companies who were using products such as SalesForce.com. We spent one year in a pre-production mode with a few selected customers. At the end of 2010 we felt that we were ready to hire a sales and marketing team and the company has been booming since.
Sramana: What was the industry and size of your beta customers?
Roman Stanek: The first customer had about a billion dollars in revenue and they were trying to understand their pipeline. They wanted us to do analytics on SalesForce data.
Sramana: Did that lead to you proactively seeking out SalesForce.com customers who might also want analytics on SalesForce data?
Roman Stanek: Absolutely. Even today SalesForce customers represent a big chunk of what we do.
Sramana: Did you ever approach SalesForce and work with them?
Roman Stanek: Yes we did. The introduction to our first customer came from SalesForce. As an entrepreneur I always look for leverage. I always look for a bigger partner who I can compliment. Small companies need big friends.
Sramana: What I find most striking in your story is your ability to find the use case that gives you a business reason to sell your product. Silicon Valley is full of technologies that cannot be tied into a business use case.
Roman Stanek: I absolutely agree. I believe that in the world of cloud and SaaS that the business use case will be more and more important. I do believe that all of IT is going through transformation and the plumbing is getting less and less important.
There is big problem that a lot of those technologies which are not tied to a business case are going to encounter. They are going to have a hard time defending their IP. It is hard to find a problem that is not solved by an open source toolset today. Five years ago that was not true.
Sramana: What other business cases were you able to discover in the course of your work over the past couple of years?
Roman Stanek: As business processes moved towards the cloud the need for cloud analytics became very real. SalesForce was a useful pipeline but then people started managing their call centers in the cloud. That resulted in a need for call center analytic software in the cloud, so we picked up a couple of thousand customers there. Then marketing campaigns started moving towards the cloud so we entered the cloud analytics for revenue management space. The use cases that we find for GoodData directly correlates to the business processes which get moved to the cloud.