Sramana Mitra: What was the concept? What were you trying to do with this company when you started?
Cedric Savarese: The original idea was to make the data acquisition process more accessible to stakeholders. As an IT professional, I had built quite a few forms and surveys from scratch. I was very familiar with the concept of creating those forms and creating the data. Throughout my career, I had seen people needing those tools but always being dependent on IT and developers. I wanted to build a service that would allow them to, essentially, design those forms and services themselves without needing the technical skills.
Sramana Mitra: How did you get this thing off the ground? Did you have clients that you were building this for as a services project? Did you build the software and then started acquiring clients? What was the sequence of events?
Cedric Savarese: I started by building more of a proof of concept. I built it and made it available for free. I wanted to see what kind of traction it would get. It got enough interest at that time that it encouraged me to pursue that further. Eventually, I built up from there and made way for people to subscribe to the surveys and pay online through PayPal. That’s how I got my first few customers.
Sramana Mitra: What was the customer acquisition strategy that helped you sell the product?
Cedric Savarese: At that time, I was more in the mindset of, “If you’ll build it, they’ll come.” I didn’t have a lot of experience in marketing or sales. I had worked enough in those areas that I knew the process. I knew how to create sales proposals. I knew how to talk to large enterprise customers, but I hadn’t really spent a lot of time doing sales and marketing. I focused on creating a product that was useful. Originally, it was word of mouth publicity and posting in online forums to get those original customers.
Sramana Mitra: What kind of numbers are we talking through those forum posts? How many customers were you able to acquire?
Cedric Savarese: After a few months, we got enough to know that it was viable. I had a day job. I had an income from that. I wasn’t necessarily looking for revenue right away, but it was enough to know that there was some traction and that I could make it as a full-time endeavor. I quit my day job when the revenue from that made up for my salary. I don’t recall exactly how many customers it took.
Sramana Mitra: Are we talking about 50 customers, 100 customers, or a thousand customers?
Cedric Savarese: We’re talking about a hundred customers. Subscription would be $9 a month.
Sramana Mitra: $9 a month of about a hundred customers. You managed to get a boost from your social media activities. How long did this validation phase take while you still held on to your job?
Cedric Savarese: It took around 18 months to 2 years.
Sramana Mitra: You were based in the US at this point?
Cedric Savarese: Yes, in Indiana.