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Bootstrapping from New Zealand, Scaling in America: Jason Westland, CEO of ProjectManager.com (Part 4)

Posted on Thursday, May 5th 2016

Sramana Mitra: In the 2012 to 2014 period, you were operating with a very healthy profit margin. How many people were in the company and how did it grow?

Jason Westland: That’s why it was so profitable. We had no marketing team at that time. It was just me. We had two full-time developers. We had one tester and one support person.

Sramana Mitra: It was a very lean organisation.

Jason Westland: That’s right. Prior to that, to build the product we needed a lotof contractors. The minute that we went live with the Gold version, we released all the contractors. We immediately became profitable. Then I paid off the debt. Once I paid off the debt, I reinvested the profit in growth.

Sramana Mitra: What were some of the growth strategies once you achieved that healthy mental peace state?

Jason Westland: The first one is obviously marketing. We rebuilt the website. We hired a number of content-driven people who could help us build the content on our website. As an example, we created the first YouTube channel for project management. We’ve got a number of people who contribute the videos. They are known experts on project management around the world.

Other than expanding on each of the different channels, we also acquired a LinkedIn group. We acquired one that had something like 80,000 members. Now, it’s 320,000. We released a mobile app where we did something quite unique. We released all the content that we were producing in the mobile app as well as the software. We have 237,000 installs. More than half of those installs are people who have never used the software but they love consuming the content.

We basically built this content delivery channels to be able to attract new people for consuming that content. That was the biggest thing from a marketing perspective. We still, to this day, don’t have a sales team. The next major play for us was in the product itself. That’s where we expanded on the width of the product. Originally, it was that person who wanted an online version of Microsoft Project. Then we expanded that to anyone who was more of a professional likely to use Microsoft Project. Now, we’ve expanded it again to cover anyone who’s in project management. By increasing the width of the product, we increased our conversion rates.

Sramana Mitra: Talk to me a bit about positioning and competition. Obviously, project management is not an empty space. It’s a crowded space. What is it that you do and what is it about your product that helps you win in this market?

Jason Westland: We got one thing right and that was to put the focus on a specific feature, which was the Gantt chart. It’s incredibly difficult to take a Microsoft Project that has a thousand tasks linked together to display them online on an older browser like IE8, and then to click-and-drag the first one and all the other tasks updates in real time. None of our competitors, even to this day, can do that. What’s happened is we’ve attracted larger clients that have more structured projects.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Bootstrapping from New Zealand, Scaling in America: Jason Westland, CEO of ProjectManager.com
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