Sramana: You mentioned earlier that you were not a very technical person. Did you lead the technology development efforts?
Amy Pressman: No, we had a CTO for the first five years. He was a very strong, early startup type of CTO.
Sramana: How did you find him?
Amy Pressman: I found him through several degrees of separation from my Stanford network. I think that a key aspect of starting a company is to get out there and talk to as many different people as you can and then follow up on every lead. You never know where that will take you. If you try and predict beforehand which leads will pan out and which ones will not, you will probably guess wrong most of the time. Some leads that I thought would be worthless were invaluable, and some that I thought would be helpful were worthless.
Sramana: Was there anyone else on your startup team besides you, your husband, and your CTO?
Amy Pressman: I found one other person through the Stanford network. He was a colleague of a classmate of mine at business school. She had worked extensively in the hospitality industry. She consulted for us for a while and eventually joined us.
Sramana: What role did your husband play?
Amy Pressman: The reality is that at that early stage of our startup, we were all generalists. Titles were irrelevant. My husband was much more involved with the product and engineering side. I was more involved with identifying leads and facilitating sales. We needed market research and service industry expertise on every sales call. We were able to speak to both issues, which we combined with a demo. We hired people with broad skill sets. The idea of an organizational chart was irrelevant at that stage.
Sramana: What was the structure of that team like? Did everybody have an equity stake in the company? Were you paying them all salaries?
Amy Pressman: My husband and I were the founders, so we had founder shares. We gave significant shares to the others who joined us. We also paid them salaries, but those salaries were pretty low. Somehow we all managed. One of them was working for a Fortune 500 and we were not going to be able to match that salary, but we were not paying starvation wages, either.
Once we became profitable, we focused on paying in the 9oth percentile and above. We want to hire top talent, and we pay for that talent. We were never interested in maintaining 100% ownership in the company. We believed that we were building it as a team and that the team should benefit. That goes to the core of who we are.
Sramana: Some people have reservations about that approach. If you set up a company with equity as compensation, then you have to either sell the company or give out dividends. Are you giving out dividends today?
Amy Pressman: We are not giving out dividends. We plan to have a liquidity event. We believe across the team that there is a lot of value left to create. Nobody is interested in looking for that event now. The assumption is that there will be an exit at some point. My sense today is that people are thinking more creatively about liquidity options.