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Bootstrapping from New Zealand, Scaling in America: Jason Westland, CEO of ProjectManager.com (Part 3)

Posted on Wednesday, May 4th 2016

Sramana Mitra: You said you started the company at about 2008 around the financial crisis. It took you nine months to get the first product out. The first product didn’t work. Can you put this in a timeline on when the traction actually started?

Jason Westland: It actually started in January 2010. We had, what we called, our Gold release.

Sramana Mitra: How many customer did you have in 2010?

Jason Westland: I guess in December 2009, we had almost 100% churn rate and less than a hundred customers in the system. It didn’t grow for that first year and a half.

Sramana Mitra: How much were they paying?

Jason Westland: They were paying $25 per user.

Sramana Mitra: Per month?

Jason Westland: Yes, per month.

Sramana Mitra: Then what did you do in 2011 to accelerate things?

Jason Westland: That January 2010 release instantly changed our metrics. We had the right feature set. It was just that the quality of the product wasn’t up to standard. When we did meet that mark in January 2010, retention period increased dramatically. Retention period instantly changed to over 12 months. Currently, it’s over 30 months. It’s a very long retention period for our space given that projects, by their very nature, finish at some point.

The average number of users per account changed. It instantly went to five. Within just two months of that release, we had NASA sign up. They were using it for a whole suite of IT projects. We also had the United Nations sign up. That was six years ago and United Nations is still with us. The number of paying users just went through the roof. From a marketing perspective, we didn’t change anything, to be honest.

Sramana Mitra: It was content marketing that was getting all these clients for you. Fantastic. So 2011 was a good year.

Jason Westland: That’s right.

Sramana Mitra: How did things change in 2012?

Jason Westland: I missed a major milestone. By January 2011, or within 12 months, we were profitable.

Sramana Mitra: Fantastic.

Jason Westland: That was a big metric for me because I didn’t need to continue putting money into the business. Obviously, when you put money, you put money in from savings. Then you put money from your house. Then friends and family and finally, credit cards. We were at that stage by then. Our profitability until March 2014 approximately was over 50%.

Sramana Mitra: Did you take money out to settle your credit card debts?

Jason Westland: I did. Within two years, I was able to pay off 100% of my debt.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Bootstrapping from New Zealand, Scaling in America: Jason Westland, CEO of ProjectManager.com
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