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Bootstrapping Lessons: FairWarning CEO Kurt Long (Part 7)

Posted on Monday, Aug 24th 2015

Sramana Mitra: You did not go to the channel and try to convince them to sell your product. You generated market demand first. This is very much the methodology that we teach as well. That’s a good strategic point to highlight. Are there other pieces that you want to discuss?

Kurt Long: There are many other strategies that I brought forward from my experience at Open Network. One of them is that the CEO and Founder has to own the culture. As the business scales, culture doesn’t happen naturally. I learned that my number one job was to set the tone from the top about our values. That remains my job today.

A second, more tactical, strategy is that we learned to sell our product without travelling. That allowed us to have a lower cost of entry for our customers because my cost per sale would be lower than anyone who tried to fly around with multiple sales people. We learned to sell the product remotely and repeatedly so my customers could get started at a lower price point and receive the same value as someone who might fly around. That’s another factor that allowed us to have the dominant presence that we do in the healthcare market. I got so much leverage out of sales people.

Sramana Mitra: Do you want to share metrics of where you are today? You did share a few already.

Kurt Long: We’re going to be multiple tens of millions of dollars. We’ve been profitable since 2008. We have a significant cash balance. We have the market share that I described. We have customers as large as 220,000 employees. We are also bringing FairWarning for Salesforce to market where we’ve taken the same technology of monitoring and watching for security incidence. We’re now applying that to Salesforce.com customers across different sectors. We’ve accumulated a series of financial customer wins that are already success stories. Then, at Dreamforce at San Francisco, we have multiple speaking opportunities to talk about those customers. There’s a lot of scale in that business as well even though it’s a younger business.

Sramana Mitra: Where do you want to go? Do you want to sell the company? When you think about the future, what’s your goal?

Kurt Long: I really don’t think about exiting the business. I think about how to generate more value for my customers. How do I expand the value that the FairWarning can deliver to the market? How do I solve new kind of challenges? These are not just privacy challenges, but information security challenges. I think of our growth as just a way of making a greater contribution to the healthcare industry. We’ve really changed the industry. No one else is even close to the scale that we operate at in terms of securing electronic health records. What that means is patients are able to confidently share their most private and sensitive medical history with their physicians to get the best care possible. Everytime we sell and service a customer, I feel like we’re changing the world for the better. Financially, I’ve done great in my life.

Sramana Mitra: Excellent. Wonderful story.

Kurt Long: There’s one thing that you shared in the start that I’m very passionate about. You said that entrepreneurs receive training as if the goal is to raise money. I think that is such an important observation to the point that I even started next generation entrepreneurs with the high school system in Pinellas County. I wanted to get to entrepreneurs when they’re 15 to 17 years old before they get trained by people who teach them off a spreadsheet, supply chain, and raising money. That’s all great stuff. None of that matters unless there’s a burning passion on the part of the entrepreneur to create value in people’s lives.

We ran that program for three years. I remain involved. We had hundreds of applicants. We awarded three teams $10,000 and I mentored them with the idea that they have to be passionate about creating a difference in people’s lives and convincing them that if they did that, the money is the trailing edge problem and not the leading edge problem. I’m super passionate about that sentence you said and I wanted to close the loop on it.

Sramana Mitra: That’s the guiding philosophy of 1M/1M. It’s always good for our readers to hear it from multiple people rather than just from me. The issue however is that the media is feeding a completely different story in a very amplified manner. The story, philosophy, and point of view that we promote is actually a contrarian view point.

Kurt Long: I think you’re 100% correct.

Sramana Mitra: It’s misleading young people into going in directions that are basically going to lead to failures.

Kurt Long: They are leaving their fate to being a bet on a roulette. They’re putting their lives together almost as if it’s a bet instead of focusing on that value creation and being passionate about that.

Sramana Mitra: Great! Thank you very much.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Bootstrapping Lessons: FairWarning CEO Kurt Long
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