Raised in an entrepreneurial home, Mark was encouraged to become a doctor or professor and delighted his parents when he went to Northwestern to earn his PhD in neurosciences. In no time he was incubating Eloqua from within Bain and Company during the Internet boom years. This is a unique and rare story of bootstrapping, crowdfunding, struggles and ultimate success.
Sramana: Mark, you have an incredible entrepreneurial journey. Let’s start at the very beginning. Where do you come from?
Mark Organ: I was born near Hamilton in Ontario, Canada. It’s a steal town. My father was an entrepreneur and my mother was an entrepreneur after her homemaker career wound down. My grandfather also came to Canada from Poland very poor and built a nice entrepreneurial career for himself. I was exposed to the idea that it was completely acceptable to be in business for yourself from a very early age.
Interestingly both of my parents tried to steer me away from becoming an entrepreneur. They wanted me to become a doctor or professor or something. I studied life sciences in college and I started several businesses as a way to pay my way through school. I went to Northwestern University to get a PhD in neurosciences. My father was delighted that I might become a professor.
I left Northwestern to join Bain and Company as a management consultant. I was never that interested in being a management consultant for very long. In my interview they asked me where I wanted to be in 5 years and I told them that I wanted to be in business for myself. They hired me anyways. I knew that I would gain important tools at Bain and that turned out to be true. My initial team and at Eloqua was from Bain and I use the tools I used there all the time.
Sramana: Doing some strategy consulting at some point in your career is worthwhile. It is great practice to take business situations and analyze them. You develop and intellectual map and can forecast how business will evolve.
Mark Organ: I recommend consulting to anyone who is struggling with their career decisions when they are young. It is a great place to spend some time.
Sramana: What years were you at Bain?
Mark Organ: I was there from 1998 and 2000. I was in a PhD program from 1996 to 1998. I left with a masters instead and returned to Toronto so I could be with my future wife. I was at Bain for a year and a half before I started Eloqua.
Eloqua is one of the few companies that was incubated inside of Bain. At the time they were suffering from attrition. In San Francisco 70% of their staff left to join startups. As a reaction to that trend they wanted to help their people gain benefits of the startup culture while retaining their workforce for consulting engagements. I ended up working 50% of my time on Eloqua.