Sramana: When did you start Influitive?
Mark Organ: I left Singapore in early 2010 and I started Influitive after I returned to Toronto. I was able to get a great team together. The goal was to help companies grow faster by leveraging their fans and advocates. We think this is going to be a huge new category in marketing software. Social media has made it easy to connect prospects with knowledgeable peers. We feel that the only way companies can be successful is to influence buyers before they talk to someone.
We did raise money earlier because I was able to leverage my reputation. We raised a couple hundred thousand dollars in seed money which I used to get the prototype out. We were able to get a few customers with that and then we did a $2.75 million round last year and have now raised just over $11 million.
Sramana: Why did you raise money this time? You obviously did not need to do that after your success at Eloqua.
Mark Organ: I made some money out of Eloqua, but I did not make a lot. Money is generally not just sitting around. In my case, it is all invested. I would have had to sell other investments to fund Influitive. There are only so many months that you want to have pass where you are writing $50,000 checks to your company.
I have found that I like the discipline of having investors. I can be a bit lazy when it’s my money, but when other people put money into a company I become a lot more vigilant. My CEO behavior is better when I have outside money. This is also a good time to raise money. The VC markets are much more favorable for B2B SaaS.
Sramana: This time around you have used AngelList to get a larger number of investors, and those investors then become evangelists for the company.
Mark Organ: That is exactly it. We have 44 shareholders and I hope to have more very soon. We are not just raising money from VCs. I allocate at least 15% of the round for additional angel investors. It is great to have angel entrepreneurs on your side. I believe in a bigger tent.
Sramana: The legalization of crowd funding is going to allow sophisticated entrepreneurs and sophisticated investors to work together in a larger footprint.
Mark Organ: I agree. I think it is potentially a disruptive innovation. There will be some entrepreneurs out there who figure out the system, and can raise $10 million on the AngleList. That will be as much of an innovation as anything else when it comes to building a quality software company.
Sramana: How is the business scaling?
Mark Organ: The business is growing very quickly. We grew revenue 12x in 2013. We have 41 amazing people on board and I think we will have $4 million to $5 million in sales in 2014. I have a SlideShare on how to build a billion dollar category that is starting to get a lot of traction.
Sramana: What market segment are you focusing on in this venture?
Mark Organ: We are focused only on B2B software companies and that is it. The nano segments would be HR software, marketing software, and developer tools. In each of those segments we are already getting high market share, close to 90%. Founders who do not have a very fine sense of the market need are not going to do very well.
Sramana: Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. I wish you the best of luck as you progress with Influitive.