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Successful Pivot to a High Growth Business: Ray Grainger, CEO of Mavenlink (Part 4)

Posted on Monday, Apr 18th 2016

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with the step-by-step journey of how you put all the pieces together to make this happen. When you quit InQuira, what was the first thing that you did? Who left with you? Who were the co-founders?

Ray Grainger: The co-founders were colleagues who I had met at InQuira. One is named Sean Crafts. The other is Roger Neel. Roger was a technical co-founder, so he had a very strong background in software engineering. Sean, interestingly enough, had a graduate degree in law. He was an attorney by education, but hadn’t yet passed the bar.

I had two very complementary partners, which I think was foundational to the success that we had. We had a technology co-founder and a practicing attorney. As you know if you’re somebody with a law degree in a startup, you’re corporate counsel. You do every deal and every contract. We all worked really well together in a complementary way at InQuira. We all got together around the spring of 2008 and I presented my concept to Sean. Immediately he said, “I love the idea. I’m in.” I wasn’t necessarily looking for a partner yet. I said, “Sean, you have five children. You’ve got no business doing a startup.” He said, “No, I’m in. I’ll manage it.”

We got on the phone with Roger. We knew we needed a technical co-founder. Roger wanted to be involved. He was going to get married in September. Both of them wanted to wait until we were a little bit more baked in our concept. Roger got married in September 2008. The next month, as you may recall, the financial crisis hit. The economy was going off the cliff.

Sramana Mitra: How did you deal with that situation? At that time, your first order of business was to build this platform. You can’t even validate the concept without having a platform.

Ray Grainger: That’s correct.

Sramana Mitra: The economic crisis didn’t really matter. You and your co-founders had to sit down and design a product. That would take several months.

Ray Grainger: Right. The only thing that we didn’t have was money. Fortunately enough, we sold some of our assets several months before the financial crisis hit hard. We had our seed capital in cash.

Sramana Mitra: The Oracle transaction happened after the financial crisis?

Ray Grainger: The founding seed capital principally from our co-founders and a lot of it was from me selling a considerable amount of Accenture stock prior to the crash. Frankly, I don’t know what we would have done had we not done that.

Sramana Mitra: You financed basically the seed capital of Mavenlink.

Ray Grainger: That’s correct.

Sramana Mitra: How long did it take you to do an MVP with which you could start transacting?

Ray Grainger: We partnered with a company in Silicon Valley called Pivotal Labs. With the crash, we had incredible rates. That all worked out well. It took us from January 2009 until mid April of 2009. We had, what we felt, a minimum viable product that tested all the concepts of Mavenlink. We marketed it and acquired about a thousand participants to test everything out.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Successful Pivot to a High Growth Business: Ray Grainger, CEO of Mavenlink
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