Sramana: How did the transition between Sergient and AllWebLeads happen?
Bill Daniel: I was contacted by Ross Garber, one of the founders at Vignette, who had been contacted by two young guys in their twenties who owned AllWebLeads. They were looking to create a board of directors and had created a profitable company via bootstrapping. Ross was not interested in that roll, but after talking to them, he felt they definitely needed some adult supervision in order to turn it into a bigger business.
I agreed to talk to them. That led to many sessions with one of the founders in downtown Austin. As I got to know him and the company, I became intrigued. Both founders were young engineers. They made an interesting contrast. One was the very conservative, no risk-taking, fear of failure type of personality and the other was an all in, bet it on black, and spin the wheel type of person. It was that combination of conservatism and incredible optimism that made them successful in the early days because they really had no idea what they were doing.
They wanted me to come on board and I agreed, but I told them that I was not going to join as the CEO. I wanted to help one of them be the CEO. I was worried that if I came in, they would hand me the keys and leave. What happened is that as I came on board we figured out a few things. We grew the company faster than they thought was possible. Very quickly, it became obvious that Jim did not want to be the CEO of a company. We eventually agreed that I would formally take over the roll.
That led over to a series of other things. We did a big acquisition and brought in some outside funding. One founder completely left the business the other became a board member. Five years later, both founders are out of the business and still thrilled with how everything turned out.
Sramana: What was the business? What were they trying to do when you met them?
Bill Daniel: They were trying to do what we do today in a small way. We connect consumers who are online shopping for a service with the people who provide that service. We call it lead generation because we take the person who is shopping for that service into a consumer and we sell that lead to the sales person who is looking for a lead in that area. We focus on only one area, which is insurance. We do auto insurance, homeowners insurance, health insurance, renters insurance, motorcycle insurance, and every other type of insurance you can think of.
We focus on insurance because it was the first thing the two founders stumbled across that they were able to make money on. They did not know anything about insurance, but it has some important characteristics that make it a great market for lead generation. There are tens of millions of consumers who are online looking for insurance each month. There are only 400,000 insurance agents in the U.S. who are actively selling insurance. For any one insurance agent in any city in the U.S. to find the consumer who is looking for insurance that they can underwrite is a very difficult proposition. We become the middle man.
We market to millions of consumers and we deal with 10 million unique consumers every quarter. We generate about a million leads a month. Those leads are then routed directly to the agents that are local and can serve those consumers the best. That is our business model, and that is what we continue to do. We now have a $100 million business we have created from this.