Mitch Russo: All of a sudden, my whole business was gone. There was no longer a reason to be in business. Neil and I sat down together and we brainstormed. Where else can we use this technology that we created? We came up with the idea that there are other people who bill by their time. Why don’t we adopt the system so we can help other people like lawyers bill by the hour and send bills to their clients. We went back to work.
It was another 90 days of changing the software, modifying the documentation, and reprinting much of it. It was then that we came out with TimeSlips. TimeSlips was the product that took us from 0 to $10 million. We had built this product in my garage. We struggled. About 30 days into the company, I remember my mom calling and saying, “How are you doing? How’s the new company?” She says, “Really. How is it doing?” I said, “Mom, we’re just about out of money. We have a trade show in New York. I don’t even think we can pay for the draping on the table.”
I forgot about it. Two days later, a FedEx truck pulls up into my driveway. This was 1985. The rarity of a FedEx truck coming to your own home is almost crazy. I’m looking outside and seeing this truck. He rings my doorbell and hands me an envelope. I zip open the envelope and I look inside. My mom had put $10,000 in cash and sent it to me.
We went to New York and we had an amazing trade show that first time.
Sramana Mitra: What product were you showing at the trade show?
Mitch Russo: TimeSlips. It’s the software that we had redesigned to keep track of time for lawyers.
Sramana Mitra: That trade show was a legal tech trade show.
Mitch Russo: That’s right – legal tech. We got the cheapest booth out of everybody. We had a folding table, two white towels, and a home computer with a television set. We had crowds at our little table every day from start to finish. Everybody was super excited about what we were doing. On that very first day, we had our very first buyout offer. A CEO of another company came up to us and said, “I’ll buy your whole company for $100,000 right now.”
Of course after three days of this demand and doing demo after demo, we said no. It was another moment in time that reassured us that we were in the right direction. Then from there, we went back and tried to continue to promote the product. We tried to get into retail, but we couldn’t. We wasted a lot of money in ads. We played a big ad on PC magazine. We only had five or six sales.
We got bingo leads – those little punchcard leads where people put a little dot on to get more information. I decided to call every single one of those people and find out exactly why they punched that little number on the card. In doing so, I found out two things. I sold another 30 copies of the software. It was mostly lawyers and accountants who were interested. I said, “Why don’t we shift our marketing completely to lawyers because it’s cheaper to market to lawyers?”