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Bootstrapping to $10 Million from Canada: Jory Lamb, CEO of VistaVu (Part 3)

Posted on Friday, Dec 5th 2014

Sramana Mitra: Let me see if we’ve got what you’re trying to say here. You got it off by providing training to farmers in Canada. That was the primary revenue-generating business that went on in the beginning. At some point in that time frame, you were offered to do a custom software development work by a client. You did that and you were able to preserve the IP. You packaged it into another product and managed to sell that product to a whole bunch of different customers. This is the summary of what you’ve said so far, correct?

Jory Lamb: Yes. What’s key in all that is we went from basically zero to dominating an entire market.

Sramana Mitra: That’s exactly the kind of detail that I want to get into. You started in 1996. At what point in your cycle did this client who gave you the contract software project come about?

Jory Lamb: At the end of 1997, we were hired to do this project. We had written it by 1998. From 1998 to early 2000, we sold it to Canada and had accumulated 40 customers with this packaged IP.

Sramana Mitra: We need to get granular in understanding how you put one foot before the other in building this business. Before this project came along, how much revenue were you able to build up doing your training services business and how many people were in the company?

Jory Lamb: That’s almost 20 years ago. It was maybe $250,000 to half a million dollars.

Sramana Mitra: How many people?

Jory Lamb: Three.

Sramana Mitra: One of them must have been a programmer, right?

Jory Lamb: Correct.

Sramana Mitra: That’s the person who wrote your software once you got this contract. How big was the contract that your client was paying for?

Jory Lamb: It was $30,000 to $40,000. It wasn’t more than $50,000.

Sramana Mitra: You encountered a problem, and in that problem, there was IP that you were able to build that you managed to productize subsequently.

Jory Lamb: Yes, we saw a market we could sell this again and again to.

Sramana Mitra: What was the relevance between the contract that you got and the market that you eventually sold into?

Jory Lamb: We were contracted to write software for animal health management around the whole concept of how you treat animals, specifically cattle when they’re in the feedlot. That product was written for a consulting veterinarian for his five or six clients. There was, in Canada, a couple of hundred feedlots that could also use the same product.

Sramana Mitra: So the veterinarian sold this to his five to six clients and you sold it to the rest of the market.

Jory Lamb: That’s correct.

Sramana Mitra: How much did you sell that for?

Jory Lamb: It was about $5,000 per license.

Sramana Mitra: It was a $5,000 perpetual license.

Jory Lamb: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: In 1998, you got into this market with a couple of hundred target customers. How long did it take you to penetrate that market? How did you find these customers? Were you selling on the phone? How did you identify the customers and get the product to market?

Jory Lamb: In Canada, we had this finished product. We went out and approached different feedlots inside of Canada who didn’t know us. We got a foothold in the southern part of Alberta where there were a lot of feedlots. Like most industries, we got a few influencers to buy our software. We sold direct. We leveraged their experience with our software to get about 40 feedlots in Canada. That was still too small a market. It was about $300,000 revenue stream roughly. We wanted to do more and get bigger. Because we had done a lot of Internet work, we put ourselves on the Internet. At that time, you had Alta Vista and Lycos. We were the number one feedlot software on the Internet. That’s how we got called down to go to United States and this location in Nebraska.

Sramana Mitra: Nebraska was your first United States foothold.

Jory Lamb: It was the first time we tried to do business in the US.

Sramana Mitra: How big did the Nebraska business turn out to be?

Jory Lamb: It was huge. We added about 200 clients in the three years we were in the US. We became the dominant provider inside of Nebraska.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Bootstrapping to $10 Million from Canada: Jory Lamb, CEO of VistaVu
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