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How to Sharpen Focus and Own a Market: Imprivata CEO Omar Hussain (Part 3)

Posted on Saturday, Feb 23rd 2013

Sramana: The terms for accepting the term sheet involved your joining the company. Did the founders stick around after you came on board?

Omar Hussain: There were originally two co-founders. One left and the other, David, remained. He is still here today, and he is essentially my partner. We got funded and within four months we went back to the investors and told them that finger biometrics was not as big of a market as everybody thought. However, we did inform our investors that there was another market for automating passwords for users. People did not want to remember so many different passwords, and they were more enthralled about central sign-on than they were about finger biometric authentication. We wanted to use the money we had raised to invest in building a single sign-on solution.

They were very concerned because there were already companies in the single sign-on space. Other companies had tried it and failed, and our investors wanted to know how we were going to be different. We had a differentiated approach to solve a problem in what we felt was a bigger market. We went ahead and re-tooled the company to develop a single sign-on solution that was far more productized. Our solution required fewer people and services and instead offered an appliance. All you had to do was plug it in, turn it on and you could automate password sign-on activity with enterprise applications.

It took us a year and a half to get the product out. Once we got it out, it was a huge hit. We received funding in 2002 and we changed directions shortly afterward. We rushed an initial product to the market nine months later. With that product, we instantly got a lot of customers, but the product had a lot of challenges. We had to make a very difficult decision. We had to either sell our way through the problem, or we had to take our product off the market and get it right.

We had seen a lot of initial traction which told us that there was demand for the solution. We decided we needed to pull the product from the market and get it right so that we could come back to a market with high demand and offer the correct product. We let go of some sales and shut down marketing. When we returned the product to our original customers, they did not want their money back, they just wanted us to fix the problem.

It took another year of development to get the product right. In the middle of 2004 we released the second round of the product. We had it right this time, and the ramp was amazing. We did a million dollars the first six months, the following year we did $5 million and the third year we did $10 million. In 2008 we did $18 million. We went from zero to $18 million like a rocket ship.

This segment is part 3 in the series : How to Sharpen Focus and Own a Market: Imprivata CEO Omar Hussain
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