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Building a Fat SaaS Venture: Rob Hull, Founder and President of Adaptive Insights (Part 4)

Posted on Saturday, May 3rd 2014

Sramana: Once you recognized the problem area, what were your next steps?

Rob Hull: Our goal with building Adaptive Insights was to apply the concepts of ease of use in a cloud-based format to really attack the space that Hyperion was in.

Sramana: Which specific problem did you go after as your killer app?

Rob Hull: The very start was around planning which encompassed budgeting, forecasting, and analytics as it pertained to looking forward in your business.

Sramana: What year was this?

Rob Hull: This was in 2003. I knew a number of folks in the venture industry from my prior experience. I approached some of them with the idea. I described the idea to one of my VC friends and he was very interested in the idea. He then introduced me to his partner who had some background in this space.

I sat down and spent some time with them and described the business opportunity. They liked the idea and asked me to pull together a business plan. They let me use their offices as a base for that. For the next 6 to 9 months, I worked out of their offices, while I was still running my consulting practice on the side, and vetted out the business plan.

I interviewed somewhere between 50 to 60 CFOs, VPs of Finance, and others and asked them to explain to me what their current processes were for budgeting, forecasting, and reporting analytics. I then asked them what they wanted that experience to be like. I would then describe my vision of putting that process in the cloud. The response was overwhelmingly positive. We had a lot of enthusiastic support in the early days.

We spent a lot of time thinking about the go-to-market strategy with an emphasis of figuring out where in the market we should place our focus. The concern was that players like Oracle, Hyperion, and BusinessObjects were already well established. I was trying to figure out how to come out and find our own place. We ultimately decided that our focus should be to target the mid-market. That was important because for the most part, those vendors did not play well in that space. Everything about them was too heavy for the mid-market, from the product to the sales strategy.

The result was that the mid-market looked like a green-field space with almost no competitors. That was important for us. We were able to get a strategy in the market to determine where we would play. My co-founder Richard and I were able to raise money to get the company started. We then hired a team and started building a product. We raised the first round of money with no product and no team other than the founders. We raised our money using a very un-sexy PowerPoint deck.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Building a Fat SaaS Venture: Rob Hull, Founder and President of Adaptive Insights
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