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Bootstrap First from Belarus, Raise Money Later from Silicon Valley: PandaDoc CEO Mikita Mikado (Part 4)

Posted on Monday, Jul 31st 2017

Sramana Mitra: What was the spec that you came up with for PandaDoc?

Mikita Mikado: It’s a commerce platform. That’s what we wanted to do. We were building a B2B commerce platform – a place where companies make offers, send them to buyers, and collaborate on those, agree on terms, execute on terms, sign, and then transact large sums of money. By large sums of money, I mean anything that needs paperwork. If you think about it, the bulk of the world’s economy is still run by paper. That’s the type of deals we want to digitalize and move to the cloud.

Sramana Mitra: It sounds like it’s a two-sided marketplace. Who were the early adopters of this? You said you

 didn’t move the earlier users so you had to acquire new users. Where did those customers come from? What segment and how did you find them?

Mikita Mikado: As you mentioned, the vision is to build a two-sided marketplace. As of today, we are primarily targeting sellers and add value to the sellers. We make it easier for the buyers to collaborate on the deal and sign the contract, but most of the value is still provided to sellers. We started with narrow problems.

Companies have problems with managing their proposals and contracts and getting their contracts signed electronically. That’s where we started. My customer development with PandaDoc was done much better than the previous product. Earlier, it was all about guessing and building a product and waiting for the time when they’re going to come. PandaDoc’s customer development looked like this. First we did a pretty significant email outreach and secured more than 50 customer interviews.

Sramana Mitra: Whom did you target this email outreach to? What was the criteria?

Mikita Mikado: It was a mix of existing clients and clients we didn’t close but really wanted to, as well as mentors, advisors, and friends. We got to more than 50 interviews. They were business unit managers from large companies, VP Sales and sales from mid-market companies. I had owners of small companies as well.

It was in different industries as well. I’d been running the PandaDoc design mocks by then. Designs are pretty cheap to build. It’s not like code. I’ve been gathering feedback and also selling the vision and getting commitments for people to sign up. That lasted for about two to three months. Then we started to build it.

Sramana Mitra: You really immersed yourselves in customers’ use cases and got to understand what they were looking for and then started building the product.

Mikita Mikado: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: We love that. We always recommend to our community to not start building stuff in vacuum. Immerse yourself in customers first.

Mikita Mikado: You have to sell it first. If they don’t buy, there’s not enough value, so don’t build it. I learned that the hard way.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Bootstrap First from Belarus, Raise Money Later from Silicon Valley: PandaDoc CEO Mikita Mikado
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