Sramana: Once you had conceptualized ReTargeter, what steps did you take to get the company off the ground?
Arjun Dev Arora: I had the pleasure of meeting some great people in San Francisco. Things at Yahoo were shaky. I asked to be laid off and unfortunately was not. There was a lot of attrition, so I reached out to my network in the Valley. Through those connections I was introduced to some early angel investors who helped formalize the idea, provided some initial funding, and really helped me get the company going.
Sramana: What format did you take when you started the company? Did you have customers in place to validate your concept before you created the company?
Arjun Dev Arora: There were people who were committed to testing the product out. We had a few customers before we had a product. To be honest, there was not a lot of validation. I took a leap of faith because I knew the industry was huge and I knew that re-targeting worked. There was not a lot of traditional validation. The angel investors were willing to take that risk with me. They saw the same opportunities I did. I did not raise a lot of money.
Sramana: What did you do with that money?
Arjun Dev Arora: The first thing I did was buy some laptops and get the website established. I had to pay for some third-party technology I needed to use to build out the solution. I needed ad servers. Initially we leveraged a lot of open source and third-party software tools. There was a lot going on just to get the product started and get our first set of customers. We got our first customers in less than six months, and we scaled the business from there.
Sramana: Who were your first customers?
Arjun Dev Arora: EchoSign and HomeGame. My early customers were companies that I was found through my network. I essentially sent a note to every email address I had ever used in my life and explained what I was doing and asked them to let me know if they thought of anyone who could be interested. That helped bring in referrals and early adopters.
Sramana: What was the use case that enticed EchoSign to try our your very first product?
Arjun Dev Arora: The core problem we are trying to solve is that people spend time, money, and effort to drive money to their site. They have a PR person, their CEOs do conferences and interviews, all in the hopes of getting people to their sites to take action. Unfortunately, for every 10,000 people who visit a site, only a handful will take any form of action. We try to solve that problem. When someone visits a site, we drop a piece of code that allows us to show them ads from the site they are visiting when they visit other sites on the web. EchoSign wanted people to use their software to sign legal documents online. A lot of people expressed interest and they felt it was cool software, but then inertia sets in or they get distracted. When they browsed the web they would start seeing a lot of ads for EchoSign. That would get them to return and increase the action they would take on EchoSign’s site.
Sramana: Essentially you were nurturing leads by bringing them back to EchoSign’s site.
Arjun Dev Arora: That is correct.