Sramana Mitra: Did you get this off the ground with some funding or bootstrapping? How did you get going and who were the first customers?
Neil Araujo: It was through a combination of primarily bootstrapping and some funding. It was very hard for us to raise money at that point in time, particularly in the Midwest. We spoke to a bunch of venture capitalists and none of them invested in technology in the Midwest. It was just too risky. A lot of them were in manufacturing, process engineering, and things of that nature.
When you take a combination of tech and legal, which is our primary vertical, it makes it even more difficult because legal is one of those markets where it’s not as big as finance or retail. It was hard for us to sell this idea that we can become a multi-billion dollar company. We are, primarily, self-funded.
Sramana Mitra: How long did it take you to get to an early product that you could sell?
Neil Araujo: We thought it would take six months. It took two years.
Sramana Mitra: You had to red ink finance for two years?
Neil Araujo: My rent was $180 a month. My biggest bill was my phone bill because my fiance was in India and AT&T would charge me a dollar a minute.
Sramana Mitra: It was very expensive at that time.
Neil Araujo: We didn’t ramp up in terms of the number of people but both of us were extremely productive.
Sramana Mitra: Both of you were actually writing software?
Neil Araujo: Absolutely.
Sramana Mitra: Both of you went without salaries?
Neil Araujo: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: You are from India though. You basically got a visa to work for this company?
Neil Araujo: I actually worked as a consultant of this company to start out with.
Sramana Mitra: Interesting. That’s an interesting way of doing it because this is a question that we get a lot from immigrant entrepreneurs. I suppose that’s an interesting way of doing it. Then what? During the process of developing the product, did you have customer input? Did you have some customers in the loop who were helping you develop the product?
Neil Araujo: My partner is Pakistani. In India, the only time we see Pakistanis is in cricket matches. He and I turned out to be great friends. His previous business was selling systems to a similar type of customer base. There were resellers as well as customers who were running legacy systems that did things similar to us. That helped us along the way. We had some customer input in the process.
Sramana Mitra: Two years later when you did have a product, which of these customers converted into paying customers?
Neil Araujo: After we deployed, they didn’t call me back for three weeks. This was our first customer. There was no beta, we just deployed the software. I actually thought they had thrown us out and don’t want to talk to us. After three weeks, they called us. I remember the guy’s name. His name was John. He goes, “It’s going great. People are loving it. Just one issue. There’s all of these files in the directory in which you installed it.” I opened up the code, and I saw that there was a bug. We were not deleting temporary files. I sent him a new disk the next day. We ended up writing great software. The product did what it said it would do.