Rick Rudman is the co-founder, CEO, president, and chairman of Vocus. Prior to founding Vocus he was one of the co-founders of Dataway Corporations, which developed software applications for large corporations. He earned a degree in accounting after spending four years in the Air Force and is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland.
SM: Rick, tell me about your background. Where do you come from?
RR: I was born and raised in the Washington, DC area. I went into the Air Force right out of high school. I enlisted and was there for four years. That is where I was first introduced into electronics and computers. After the Air Force I went back to school and got my degree in accounting.
I was in accounting for a couple of years back in the late 1980s. Right around that time the personal computer came out, and I picked up dBase. I was still doing my accounting work manually, so I started coding at night in dBase hoping to automate some of the accounting work that I was doing. That got me hooked on computers and programming.
I then met up with an old friend from junior high school. We went into business in 1986 doing PC consulting work. We did custom programming projects for government agencies and other large consulting firms such as Booz-Allen, KPMG, and the Navy. I did that for a few years, and then we created a program for grassroots lobbying. That is what introduced us to the vertical software market industry. That was the creation of Vocus.
SM: What year did you start working in the vertical software market?
RR: We launched our lobbying product in 1992. I consider 1992 to be the beginning of Vocus.
SM: Did you intend to create a new company, or was it just a new software product?
RR: In 1992 the company was really built around grassroots lobbying. We had built a database application that we sold to large companies and associations that wanted their employees or association members to lobby Congress. That is a legacy product, but it was the first product that we actually launched ourselves, which happened in 1992.
We did that from 1992 to 1997. The first five years of the company was really focused on this legacy grassroots product. In 1997 we were doing a couple of million in revenue. It was a lifestyle company and we really had no venture capital. Somebody came along in 1997 who wanted to buy the company. They wanted us to handle the grassroots management software and have us integrate with another portfolio company’s media relations software. It would become a corporation communications software company.
We thought that sounded great, and we were happy to sell. We had already signed the closing documents and were at our attorney’s office waiting for the wire transfer. We had $2 million in revenue and they were going to buy us for $6 million in cash. While we were at the attorney’s office, we got a call instead of a wire transfer. The deal was off.