Sramana: What was your first product?
Amith Nagarajan The first product suite that I built were component tools that allowed people to build user interfaces more rapidly. Back then it was based purely on Microsoft Windows. It evolved quickly from there.
Sramana: What path did you follow to get the company launched and find your first customers?
Amith Nagarajan I put the first set of products that I built were put out on the Internet as shareware. It is the same idea as the freemium model. I packaged up a set of tools on usenets which were similar to discussion forums. People could use them for free for 30 days and after that timeframe they had to purchase a license key.
I started getting mailbox income at that time when people started sending checks to activate their licenses. I was in college and it started to gain some momentum. I used the proceeds from the first initial sales to buy advertisements. My first products were based on Windows so it targeted users of Visual Basic and Delphi. I found magazines that were relevant to that type of person and put ads there.
I spent the first couple of years focused on selling low-priced, high volume products and widgets. I sold to over 1,000 customers from more than 20 countries. There was good revenue that came from that but on the flip side these were very small sale amounts. That was a challenge because there were a lot of customers with a lot of needs but the actual revenue was rather small.
Sramana: What was the next step in that evolution?
Amith Nagarajan People would hire us to be advisors and consultants. They would ask us to help them design component based architectures for their systems. I had a co-founder who joined me about 18 months into it and we hired some people a year later. These calls made us realize we had the opportunity for a consulting branch, so we took advantage of that. From there we built these generalized development platforms.
At that point we had more than just some tools. We had a platform and methodology for building business applications. This was in the 1996 timeframe.
Sramana: I presume that you bootstrapped this from the checks you received in the mail?
Amith Nagarajan Essentially yes. There has never been any outside funding for Aptify. We have bootstrapped all the way. The initial process was two-fold. There was early revenue but not enough to accelerate growth. I used a strategy that I actually discourage others from following. I went out and simultaneously applied for, received and maxed out a number of credit cards with cash advances. It was the only source of financing that I believed I had access to. It was high risk but I was young and felt it was tolerable. I probably raised 25,000 dollars at that time.
Sramana: How much were you able to generate on the early revenues?
Amith Nagarajan It was very small. The product revenue in the first couple of years was probably 75,000 dollars a year combined. Once the consulting model came in then it started to grow much more rapidly. Our products ranged anywhere from 30 dollars on the low end to 300,000 dollars on the high end.