Sramana Mitra: Did you bootstrap this company? How did you build the product? How long did it take your to build the product?
Rob Douglas: We bootstrapped it. We incorporated and started in the basement. The first year was all spent in research. From there, we began the process of developing what our product would be and look for people in our ecosystem who could be the first early customers to test our concepts and ideas.
It took us two years to get to a point where we had a 0.5 version. I would also add that in that two years, we pivoted at least once. It was a material pivot from our original assumption. You experience what the real world is like. You really need to be able to listen and adjust to the market.
Sramana Mitra: What customer base did you go out to? Was it the enterprise customers or did you go to these partners who are the identity vendors like Okta?
Rob Douglas: Initially, we were dealing with SME end users. We had no corporate strength to be in a position to communicate well or be taken seriously by the enterprise. Our attention was focused on SME entities who would generally be people I knew. They were friendly to us and were willing to accept our early technology and become part of the building out of what this technology ultimately needed to do.
Sramana Mitra: How long did it take you to get the MVP out and start selling?
Rob Douglas: It was, at least, two and a half years before we had an MVP that was in market. It was probably four years before we had something that I would consider to be commercially viable.
Sramana Mitra: This two-year period was bootstrapped?
Rob Douglas: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: Your product became available in 2012?
Rob Douglas: Yes, we had an MVP in 2012.
Sramana Mitra: Who were the first customers?
Rob Douglas: I won’t say them by name, but I’ll describe them. They were small to medium businesses across industries.
Sramana Mitra: You entered the market through the smaller end of the spectrum?
Rob Douglas: That’s correct.
Sramana Mitra: What kind of reception did the product get in the market once you came in?
Rob Douglas: Mixed mostly, because we were early in terms of understanding the full market need. The concept has always been well-received. When you got to the actual technology itself, we realized continuously that there was a lot that needed to be built out in this technology before it could fundamentally solve the identity problem for an organization.
Sramana Mitra: You did raise funding? This is not a fully bootstrapped company?
Rob Douglas: Depending on your definition of bootstrapped, we potentially might fit into that category.
Sramana Mitra: What was the funding strategy?
Rob Douglas: We did it from a small investor group of individuals who have been funding the company since the start. That and our own customers have been the funding sources to scale the company. We have no professional funding in our company. It’s nine people and customers and partners.