Sramana Mitra: How did you get the beta customers?
Chaitanya Chandrasekhar: We had a lot of experience at NexTag and we used to work with a lot of customers. Me and my co-founders knocked on a lot of doors. One of them gave us a chance. When we built an MVP, we built the MVP based on people we had talked to.
We signed our first beta customer in February. It was one of NexTag’s competitors back in the day. They’ve since pivoted. They knew about our background. They gave us a shot. When we realized that at the scale at which we had to operate, the MVP actually crashed and burned dramatically. It took us a month to onboard them. All the functionality we said we’d deliver, we couldn’t deliver because it wasn’t built for the scale that they were looking to use it at.
We went back to the drawing board and built something that we could support and scale. This was August 2013. We just started talking to a couple of big brands. One is IAC which owns match.com, Angie’s List, and Home Advisor. We were talking to all of these guys. From day one, we had to have a solution that could work at scale. Because of the customers we were going after, we didn’t have the opportunity to scale up slowly. We architected and built that in August.
We talked to IAC to do a pilot. They signed the agreement in December of that year. The other company was hotels.com. These two companies signed the pilots. Based on the fact that we had these MOU’s for these pilots, I said, “Why don’t we try raising another bridge round?” This was December 2013. I managed to talk to a couple of the folks at TiE angels and they introduced me to a few VC’s who were starting to write seed checks.
Luckily enough, I talked to two of them. One is Babu who wrote a check. He’s a prolific investor. The second investor was a venture firm called Cervin Ventures, who I got introduced through TiE angles. I was able to convince these guys to put in money. This was December. In January, the guy who signed the beta from hotels.com was let go from the company. There was a management shift. That was a little bit of a shock.
The one with IAC went well. It became a linchpin on how IAC grows their business. The scale at which the IAC guys were operating QuanticMind was so critical. They loved QuanticMind. In fact, the CEO started talking to us as well. 2014 was the year when we signed a bunch of other customers. We were still in my garage. We decided to go look for an office space. We moved to a space above a mechanics workshop in San Carlos.
We then started to grow the business. At the end of 2014, the CEO of Home Advisor called me up. He said, “I know you’re not looking to raise a round of funding but there are these guys who were recently asking me of technology companies that I’ve seen that I can get behind. I mentioned you.” This was a company called Safeguard Scientifics. Their claim to fame was that they had invested in Comcast.
I said, “I’m not thinking about raising a round of funding.” He, nevertheless, introduced me to the folks there. One of them happened to be traveling to California that week. This was in January or February. I decided to take the meeting. I went and pitched. They really liked me and we got along well. Over the summer of 2015 was when we raised our Series A. That was led by Safeguard. That was a good validation for us. We raised about $12 million. That really put us on the path to success.