Sramana Mitra: What is it about this company that appealed to you and what is your background?
Rudy Nadilo: My background is in technology. To keep it simple, I graduated from Northwestern and got my MBA. I ended up being in the advertising industry for the first 10 years. Then I went to the research field because there was a firm called Information Resources, which had this amazing technology called Behaviour Scan. I just thought about this.
I remember sitting with a client and looking at these people come in presenting these electronic test markets and quantifying. You’d write an opinion paper and everybody was talking about it. Here was people coming in with facts. We were able to, electronically, send and read what people are buying in the supermarket based upon their scanner purchases and beam a television ad to one house versus another house. Being a geek, I love that. I worked for IRI for 10 years running their consumer panel and ended up being their Chief Marketing Officer. There was a lot of manual things being done.
While the supermarket data was being collected by a scanner, all the other outlets were still being done manually. As Tobi mentioned, we were all messing around with Internet. I just said, “There’s a way to collect data on the Internet.” I wrote this business plan. I happened to run into a guy who had a company called Greenfield. He was a focus group guy but he had this small tiny skunk work of three people. I met him and showed him the business plan.
Within three weeks, I was hired as the first CEO of Greenfield Online. When I walked in, I think it was about $150,000 in revenue with three people. Four years later, we built it to $18 million. It was very fast. There was a passion for technology and understanding it. IRI has built a lot of technology. Obviously, we’ve built a lot of technology in Greenfield.
Just around the corner, there’s this blonde Swedish guy with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen – and he has one right now – showing the software. Everybody was like, “Wow!” I went up to him and said, “What do you do in the US?” He said, “I don’t know.” I said, “You should be there.” He sheepishly said, “We’re under the radar.” I said, “Today is our lucky day.” I met with him. We started talking about building the business. I said, “I’m going to work at this other company but I’m going to see if I can build a business plan for Dapresy.” This was September 2012. We had met July of 2012.
To the entrepreneurs out there, if you work with Europeans, they disappear in July and August. We reconvened in September. We originally thought that maybe we’ll get some money. You can’t get money from US investors if you’re a European firm. So I started setting up meetings with people. One of the key guys here named Frederick started flying over and go to meetings with me. To make a long story short, by the time we incorporated Dapresy North America in April 2013, I think we had signed about $150,000 worth of revenue.
At Greenfield, we probably brought in about $24 million. We were that company where there was a lot of money and we had a CFO who had a formula that for every dollar that came in, you hire this and did that. There was a lot of spending. In hindsight, I think he’s right when you say you’re not as sharp. I was a CEO of a couple of other software firms where we had a similar situation. When I look at what we do here, four years later, in Dapresy and how we’ve accomplished what seemed to be impossible, I believe you just have to be brutally focused. The word no doesn’t exist. I know it’s cliché, but it doesn’t exist. You can’t take no for an answer. There’s a brick wall. You have to go through it, under it, over it, around it.
Sramana Mitra: Let me ask you a couple of questions to flesh some meat around the bones here. There were 30 customers in Sweden whose inputs and requirements went into the original product design. In 2011, the internationalization process started in other parts of Europe. Was there any vertical nuance to the customer base that were adopting the product?
Rudy Nadilo: The subtlety that Tobi talked about is, we work with raw survey data. To be technical, it’s called an SPSS file. That is a very different type of data than what people think of in terms of columns and rows in an Excel sheet. It’s frankly one of the more complicated data to work with. What Tobi built was really brilliant. When you do surveys, you’re in the field and you collect information.
When that process stops, then there’s all sorts of data manipulation, processing, and massaging. It’s very manual. Tobi not only built a software that visualiZes that data, but it also had all of the underlying capabilities so you can close the field, bring the data, and do all the data processing within Dapresy. All of the manual work and the tedious things that you have to do is in Dapresy. Anybody can bring that file in and almost instantly, start building their charts and tables. The vertical was market research and it’s our heritage.
We started with research suppliers like agencies. In the last couple of years, we started expanding into the research departments of end clients like AOL. The other thing we did about two years ago is we started getting requests from clients to add in non-survey data to provide context. We were like, “That’s pretty simple. If we can handle research, we sure can handle sales data and other types of data.” The focus is MR but the MR is letting us go into the door especially on the client and starting to interface now with CMOs and being able to do things with employee satisfaction and board reporting.
Tobi Andersson: What I would like to add is that when you’re going to internationalize the company, you need to be brutally rigid in offering one thing versus many things.
Sramana Mitra: I agree with you. Focus.
Tobi Andersson: Yes. I have an expression with my team that we need to be as sharp as a knife. When we get into a new country, everyone needs to clearly understand why Dapresy exists and what we sell. If you’re a focused product that targets a specific sector or vertical, then we can really easily go out into any country in the world because we will be specialist. Then from that footprint, you can take the next step. Sometimes the challenge is not to invent a good software. The challenge is inventing functionalities and maybe take away things and focus on one core thing.