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Bootstrapping to Inc. 500: Tallie CEO Chris Farrell (Part 1)

Posted on Tuesday, Sep 23rd 2014

Chris and his co-founder bootstrapped Tallie to a high growth Inc. 500 company in four years. After that, the product had to be re-architected, and slowed down for a couple of years, before picking up again. Read how they have competed in a crowded marketplace and built a robust position.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised, and in what kind of background?

Chris Farrell: I was born in San Francisco. I was basically born and raised in the Bay Area, mostly down on the peninsula. I got my start in my career with Arthur Andersen as an accountant. Then I worked my way up through the accounting ranks and eventually was a Controller of a public company and a CFO of a public company. Along the way, having been steeped in technology in the Bay Area, I set out on the latest part of my journey, which is running a software company.

Sramana Mitra: What public company were you the CFO of?

Chris Farrell: Occam Networks, a telecom equipment manufacturer.

Sramana Mitra: Obviously, the finance function is something that you bring a lot from into your startups. I’m checking if there are any other touch points that we should investigate.

Chris Farrell: You and I probably overlapped at certain companies at various points when Arthur Andersen worked on Cadence. I think you were there for some time. I also worked at other companies such as Oracle.

Sramana Mitra: What year did you start Tallie? What were the circumstances?

Chris Farrell: I was a co-founder and I started it in 2008. In 2007, we were working at Occam Networks. We were venture-backed and public. I attended a CFO roundtable at Palo Alto at Norwest Venture – one of the four primary VCs in that company. At the CFO roundtable, we essentially discussed the problems we were facing and the opportunities that we saw for growing and maintaining successful finance organizations.

One of the areas that we were discussing at that time was the area of expense reporting. Three of us among 20 CFOs concurred. We talked about the pros and cons relative to Excel. There was an opportunity for building a system that’s going to be little bit different than what was going on in the industry at that time. I decided the time was right to make the leap.

Sramana Mitra: How did you get it started? Was it something that you bootstrapped? What were the circumstances in which the company was launched?

Chris Farrell: We launched it on a bootstrapped basis. Given my background, I was very much risk-averse and we didn’t want to bring too much capital in. I think we also knew that it was going to be an exploratory journey. We started with a self-funded $100,000 in the bank and we started looking at the industry and the opportunity very closely. We essentially built it on that basis for the last several years.

Sramana Mitra: Who was your co-founder? How did you meet?

Chris Farrell: His name is Brad Pirtle. We met through a mutual friend. I started exploring my connections to see if there was a natural pairing out there. My background being specifically in accounting, I needed to have a technology partner. Brad and I met. We found that we had a strong mutual interest in the space and we got going together. It was pretty easy. I think that’s a big advantage of being in the Valley.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Bootstrapping to Inc. 500: Tallie CEO Chris Farrell
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