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Bootstrapping to $40 Million: iCIMS CEO Colin Day (Part 5)

Posted on Monday, Jan 21st 2013

Sramana: There is no question that the entrepreneur is the key salesperson for the first 50 or 100 customers. This may vary by the type of product, but in general that is a common scenario.

Colin Day: That was true in my case. I never thought I would be great at sales, but I did very, very well in sales. For about four years I was responsible for the majority of sales. Eventually, it was time to build a successful sales team, and it took almost two years to get me out of sales.

Sramana: When did real sales of the product company that you were trying to build actually begin?

Colin Day: Around the third year of the business. We became a direct marketing and sales machine. We knew search engine marketing and we understood email marketing. We did a ton of that. We converted leads into opportunities and opportunities into wins. It just became a mathematical equation for us.

Sramana: What market segmentation did you find success in, and what was the process you used to discover the gap in the marketplace? How did you know where to target your lead generation efforts?

Colin Day: Right now we like to think of ourselves as the leading SMB solution in our marketplace. When we sat down and saw how crowded our marketplace was, we realized that everyone hated their applicant tracking system. They hated it because the service associated with whatever software package they were using was terrible. The first thing we said is that if we were going to have any chance of surviving, we would need to do customer service better than anyone else in this industry.

We fundamentally thought that in order to be great at customer service, we would first need to be great at software as a service. We saw our competitors customizing code for various companies, and they had clients on different release versions. That leads to customer dissatisfaction. We made a conscious effort to be the “purest” software as a service offering in our space. We were fanatical about one platform, one source code base, and everyone on the latest release.

The final thing we realized is that in order to be great at SaaS that we would need to play in a segment where SaaS was accepted. It was the enterprise companies that were making other competitors change their offering and write on-off code bases. In the SMB space those companies were willing to go with a “what you see is what you get” approach. That was fundamental to our long-term success.

Sramana: SMB is also a very large space. Did you tighten the segmentation in that space?

Colin Day: Right now our [target] is a company with more than 100 employees and less than 15,000. Early on we were signing very small companies. Growing from small to large is not a bad idea. There is a lot of bloat, customization, and one-off work in the enterprise space. When you start at the low end, it is easier to add features and capabilities. We started supporting larger companies after spending 12 years developing and maturing through the smaller companies.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Bootstrapping to $40 Million: iCIMS CEO Colin Day
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