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Bootstrapping Using Services: InRule COO Rik Chomko (Part 2)

Posted on Thursday, Oct 2nd 2014

Rik Chomko: Once we shut down the services company, my business partner and I wanted to start a product company. Our idea was to provide software to corporations which would allow them to modify logic without any coding effort.

Sramana: What year are we talking here?

Rik Chomko: This is in 2002.

Sramana: 2002. And you had this idea for doing a product for editing rules without having to code?

Rik Chomko: Right.

Sramana: Was there a customer in the loop on whom you could test this idea?

Rik Chomko: At that time, we were doing some consulting work for a Fortune 500 insurance company. We went and told them about our idea. Our client knew us as good technology people and told us to put together a prototype for rating his insurance products. Insurance rating programming involves very complex logic. So, he felt that with all the different insurance products that they offer, there is no way they are going to be able to keep up with the changes. Earlier, they had the experts create a long document specifying the changes, which would then be handed it over to the development team. There would typically be several translation issues and the process would involve several iterations. That’s something that he wanted to avoid and knew he couldn’t afford in the long run if he had to get 50 insurance products up and running on this platform. So, I think we were doing lean startups before I even knew the word.

Sramana: Well, a lot of people were doing these startups and the word was coined because that’s a very common and sensible way to do this thing.

Rik Chomko: Exactly. We had the experience of the services company. With the dot-com crash hitting us hard, we had to shut down the company because we didn’t get paid by five customers. We learnt a lot from that experience. So when we were working on this new company, we knew for sure that we didn’t want to get into a position where we were taking out any long-term debt or even venture capital money until we knew that was a viable product. That was the basis of how we got started.

Sramana: Now, I’m going to kind of ask you some granular questions. What was the level of commitment of this insurance company? Were they willing to pay for it? Advance pay for it? Pay for it once you’ve built the software? What kind of conversation did you have with them?

Rik Chomko: So it’s kind of a two-part process. We were getting paid to do services work for them, so that was really where we were getting our bootstrap money. That has nothing to do really with the product that we’re talking to them about.

Sramana: Right.

Rik Chomko: So we said, “If we show you this product, this concept, would you buy it? And then let’s talk about what the price is.” So we showed it to them, they liked it and agreed to buy it. It was up to us to get that to a minimum viable product or a V 1.0 and that’s how we got paid on that particular first version of the product.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Bootstrapping Using Services: InRule COO Rik Chomko
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