Sramana: What was the number of customers? What were the major milestones in 2004? What were you able to accomplish?
Rik Chomko: We had about 10 customers in 2004 and then probably another 15 in 2005, so we were starting to really get some momentum. We also started getting some bigger blue chip customers and a lot more attention from overseas. This was mostly at that point when we were funding the business through organic growth and were tracking along very well. We also started competing against some of the larger players in our market.
Sramana: In that market, who were the competitors?
Rik Chomko: Competitors at that time were companies that have mostly been acquired by now. These include French company ILOG acquired by IBM, Haley acquired by Oracle, and RuleBurst acquired by SAP. I’d say those were the top three that we’re competing with at the time.
Rik Chomko: We also made a strategic bet. When we started the company, we focused on it being the only rule engine that ran on the Dot Net platform at that time. We felt the companies that were looking for a Dot Net rule engine were more likely to go with us. So finding a niche area to focus where our competitors weren’t really helped us in a number of deals.
Sramana: What did you learn in terms of where you were getting traction? Your original hypothesis was that you were going to go after the insurance industry and then you decided getting traction elsewhere. The original hypothesis eventually validate that insurance was where you will get traction?
Rik Chomko: Yes. We started getting more traction in other industries like financial services and healthcare. It was interesting because insurance companies, as we found out over the years, are very risk averse. They tend to not want to buy software from smaller companies, so it was an interesting learning experience for us. But now what has happened is that we’ve kind of come around the other side where now they’re looking at us as being the more stable one in the market. So we actually do a lot more insurance business now than we did earlier.
Sramana: So the number of insurance deals you did eventually was not that many. The business was really solidifying elsewhere in the industry?
Rik Chomko: Yes.
Sramana: But did another sector come up as a major adapter of your technology?
Rik Chomko: Yes. I would say financial services.
Sramana: What part of financial services?
Rik Chomko: Mortgage, brokerage, and loan origination. More of loan origination.
Sramana: I see. Okay.
Rik Chomko: We started getting a lot more interest from that sector. I think they were a little less risk averse, especially in the heyday of the mortgage market. In early 2005 and 2006, there were a lot of people wanting to get the mortgage processed as quickly as they could. That’s what our technology helped them do.