Sramana: What are the advantages to being in the Valley, from your perspective?
Amy Pressman: It is an incredibly energizing location. When you are feeling oppressed by the day-to-day challenges of a startup, it is great to be around other people who have succeeded and are willing to encourage you. There is an energy that is unique to the Valley. Even if people start their company somewhere else, they need to find a way to tap into this energy. We have never taken any funding. I know other entrepreneurs who have, and they think it is much easier to get funding here.
Sramana: How did you start your company? What were the beginning days like?
Amy Pressman: When we set out, we intended to use VCs like everyone else. We did get an angel investor and we were on that path. We felt we needed $10 million for the first round. Fortunately for me, the bubble burst, followed by 9/11. We had a big meeting with hotels interested in doing a pilot with us on September 10th, so 9/11 had a big impact on us. The prospects of raising money as a tech company in the middle of the bust that was targeting an industry that was having one of its worst economic records ever was daunting. We did not even bother to try and raise money at that point.
We had personal resources that we were able to live on while we got this off the ground. I remember being worried after 9/11 because my husband and I were both doing this full time. We were not working elsewhere. There was a great deal of uncertainty in the country at that time, but we both believed in what we were doing, and we really wanted to do it. We were not incidental entrepreneurs.
Sramana: At that stage what was your vision?
Amy Pressman: We wanted to build a company that leveraged technology to help service industry companies improve themselves. It was an incredible area of opportunity to apply concepts and methods used by manufacturing companies for quality improvement and apply them to a new industry. We have stayed true to that vision. Tracking customer experience is like tracking your temperature. If you have a steady fever, there is a larger issue that needs to be explored. Good customer experience is our window into how companies are in general. A company will not survive long if they are not delivering something of value to customers.
Sramana: How did you monetize that vision? How did you penetrate the market?
Amy Pressman: Historically, most companies have tracked their customer experience, but they have done it with things like comment cards and customer surveys. What they really had was market research data, which was sort of interesting and could help to form a strategy. It was not enough to be operational.
We make it operational. We help companies have dialogue with their customers in their marketplace. A store manager will know if the AC is down in the store before he or she even arrives there because the information comes via customer feedback. We let companies put their finger on the pulse.