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Bootstrapping a $7 Million Company in Houston: Gaurav Khandelwal, CEO of ChaiOne (Part 5)

Posted on Friday, Mar 21st 2014

Sramana: When did you start hiring people? What year?

Gaurav Khandelwal: I hired the first three in February of 2010. That year, we hired 22 people, all in Houston.

Sramana: Where you at in terms of revenue in 2010?

Gaurav Khandelwal: In 2009, we doubled our revenue from 2008, and in 2010, we tripled our revenue from 2009.

Sramana: What happened in 2011?

Gaurav Khandelwal: That was an interesting year. The business was bootstrapped and profits were all reinvested into the business. I have a philosophy of making $3 for every $1 we spend. We ran the shop pretty tight that way, but we were very attentive to people’s needs from a cultural standpoint. That helped a lot because they would tell the story of the company to their friends.

Sramana: What was your primary challenge during that period?

Gaurav Khandelwal: Recruiting. My brother and I were selling. Winning business by that time had become reasonably easier because my competition primarily consisted of application developers. They did not have the business acumen that I had gained as a consultant. When I spoke to owners about their challenges they could resonate with what I was saying because I could speak their language.

We started to host meet-ups to look for talent. It allowed us to get familiar with Houston’s developer community fairly rapidly. They started to recognize us as a top brand. They would hear stories about our culture and they gravitated towards us. A lot of developers were doing mobile apps on their own during the weekends and they wanted a full-time job doing that.

By the beginning of 2012, we started to form a good relationship with Apple. We were Apple fan boys and they recognized that and sent us some small deals. In 2012, we did a project for Jeremy Lin. The Houston Rockets were courting him and they called Apple looking for a developer to build a video app for him. Apple called us and recommended us to the Rockets. We came up with the idea of creating a personalized app just for Jeremy that talked about the benefits of Houston, its fans, and its history. We built the app and Jeremy was ecstatic. That feedback made its way back to Apple and they were pretty pleased with the outcome. We then started to get a good stream of business from Apple.

During that time, we had a lot of growth but we struggled on the management side. We did not have performance reviews, one-on-one interviews, or anything else. In 2012, we decided to slow down a little bit so that we could get those different things in place. It was a year where we went through some attrition. We let some people go who were not the right fit culturally. It was a very important year for us to mature as a company.

Last year was our most interesting year. That is when we started working with Fortune 100 companies. Apple introduced us to some of the largest companies out there. We are yet to disappoint them in terms of the work that we have been putting out. That has resulted in the ChaiOne brand getting stronger.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Bootstrapping a $7 Million Company in Houston: Gaurav Khandelwal, CEO of ChaiOne
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