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Bootstrapping to $10 Million from Canada: Jory Lamb, CEO of VistaVu (Part 5)

Posted on Sunday, Dec 7th 2014

Sramana Mitra: I’m with you that you set that up as a separate entity, ran by a full-time manager, and you focused on oil and gas contract software development. That’s where we are, right?

Jory Lamb: We focused on oil and gas commercial software products that would sit on top of SAP. We got out of contract work and we made a decision that we would write commercial software package for the oil and gas industry that managed the day-to-day operations of a field service company.

Sramana Mitra: Where did that idea come from?

Jory Lamb: In 2003, one of the challenges of running this web software company was that we were living from project to project. Some years we’d be written into the budget and some years out of the budget. We made a conscious decision that we would go find a solution because if we rewind the clock early days, I used to set up accounting systems for farmers and for small businesses. We needed to provide a mission-critical solution that people will consistently pay for where they can’t write us in and out of the budget every year. When we looked around, we asked them, “What software do you run?” These guys all ran SAP. We decided that whatever mission-critical solution we come up with needs to talk to SAP.”

In 2003, we picked up the phone, called SAP, and they had just launched a new product into the North American market called SAP Business Block. We dated SAP for about six months. We told them our story. We told them our vertical focus and the types of customers we worked with. They said, “Sure, you can be a reseller of this product.” When we took the product on, we realized we had never done ERP. We had done accounting systems but not of any scale. It took us a little while to figure out what we had and what it could do.

In that time, as we went into the market and assessed the capabilities of the product, we knew that we wanted to write something that filled a gap. It would need to be something that we could program, made us sticky, and gave value that we could sell our own IP into, so that the gap wouldn’t be so big that we would program forever and ever to fill.

We recognized that there was some real gap in field services. We started down the path of writing an application for energy services firm. That’s where VistaVu actually began. Up until then, we just threw things at the wall. Whatever stuck, that’s what we did. I know so much about what’s working and what’s not because of those early experiences. This is where the story begins of us reaching another gear of business management and revenue levels.

Sramana Mitra: It sounds like you also were able to do this next level of business building using some of the experience and also some of the cash that you had from the first business.

Jory Lamb: That’s right. It was started originally with my voluntary severance package from Amoco, which was $12,000. Over the years, $12,000 became several millions that I was able to invest back into the next opportunity. Today, we’re hovering around $10 million top line. It all started with a very gracious $12,000 check from Amoco, which to this day, I’m very thankful for.

Sramana Mitra: What was the reception in the market for your SAP-based field service product for the oil and gas industry? How did you go to market? How did you build out the customer base?

Jory Lamb: In the early days, we went direct and started in Calgary. We had some really good success. There was a lot of interest. Customers were growing. We had a customer that finished one year with $8 million top line and then 48 months later, was at $104 million. It’s great to grow that fast, but it comes with all sorts of pain and problems. Our system helps our customers get their arms around the business. They have a single fully integrated system that lets them see what’s going on in the business before it grows out of control.

The reception was really good. It took a little while for the product to be built. We started in 2004. The final version came to market in 2006. Then between 2006 and 2007, we had tremendous success. We were SAP Partner of the Year in 2006 in Canada. We moved into the US market in 2007 and set up shop initially in Denver, because of my familiarity with the mid-west, and then later on in Houston. We have fully-staffed offices today in Houston and in Calgary. We have a phone number in Denver, but the real business is managed out of Houston and Calgary.

Since that time, the product has matured and the market has matured. In 2004, we had zero sales but in the last four years, we’ve had tremendous success. This year, we won a ton of awards. Our tremendous growth was fueled by the recovering economy but more importantly, the energy independence policy of the United States and the unconventional oil plays. We have had about a 5-year compounded annual growth rate of 30%. That’s some tremendous growth coming literally from zero.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Bootstrapping to $10 Million from Canada: Jory Lamb, CEO of VistaVu
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