Tod Browndorf: I ended up moving back to California. I went into a consulting business with a friend of mine. He was basically in high-end contingent workforce business. This is in the late 90s. We placed all sorts of different types of contingent folks inside companies. As a result, we placed instructional designers into companies that were looking to create training initiatives.
For instance, a company like Washington Mutual, which doesn’t exist anymore, might want to train their 5,000 bank tellers on something. We would find the instructional designer or course developer. We would put them all together and find someone to deliver it. We deliver these packages to these organisations. That’s how I got into what I’m doing now.
Sramana Mitra: When was this company founded?
Tod Browndorf: Coggno was founded in 2007.
Sramana Mitra: What was the premise of what you were going to do?
Tod Browndorf: After my experience with the consulting business and parallel with the growing sophistication of software and its availability, I realised that a lot of the curriculum that we were sending people could be taught online, especially as the bandwidth got bigger. In the past, developing a curriculum took very heavy coding. Around late 2000, you could buy a software program for $1000 and create a course. Software was easily available in order to convey information.
I decided that it would be really interesting to create an environment where the best courseware developers and the best subject matter experts were able to deliver their curriculum to organisations unilaterally. It’s sort of like disrupting the music business like what iTunes did. Earlier, you had record companies with promoters and talent scouts. iTunes came along and enabled artists to sell their music directly. I thought that we could create an environment where subject matter experts could deliver their curriculum directly to people who were interested in purchasing it. That was the premise of the idea.
Sramana Mitra: Did you get this off the ground by bootstrapping?
Tod Browndorf: Very much so. Although we were founded in 2007, we didn’t really launch until the end of 2009. I have a partner who’s the developer of the technology. We built it all from scratch. We did it while we had other jobs and we did it as cost effectively as possible. We raised some money from friends and family money for it but our goal was to try and keep this amongst ourselves for different reasons.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with some of the mechanics of how you managed to bootstrap. Did you guys put in personal savings or did you do something that brought in revenues early on?
Tod Browndorf: While we were developing, we used our personal savings and the standard credit cards. When we started to get up and running, we’d go to some friends and family for money to help us sustain and add some folks to the team.