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Bootstrapping to Exit: TimeSlips CEO Mitch Russo (Part 4)

Posted on Thursday, Mar 1st 2018

Mitch Russo: We started running classified ads in Legal Tech and other journals. We were tracking these very carefully. If we spend $50 on an ad and if we got six or seven orders, we knew that the ad was great. We just kept doing it every week. We knew what was working and what was not. It was nine months after the company had started.

In the first month of the company’s history, I went to a show called COMDEX.

I took a hundred copies of the software. I stayed at the cheapest hotel I could find. Every day, I waited two hours for a cab to get into the convention area. I carried with me 15 or 20 copies of the software. I would go throughout the show looking for people that I could talk to about potentially selling our product. I spoke to computer manufacturers, modem manufacturers, and distributors. By the time I came home, I had no copies left. I had dropped off a hundred review copies throughout the show over the course of eight days. At that point, I followed up, but nothing big happened.

It was nine months later when the office phone rang. It turns out that it was a fact checker from InfoWorld magazine. InfoWorld was saying, “We got a copy of your software and we’re reviewing it. We want to make sure that we have all the facts straight.” We confirmed all the facts. Now we had to wait. The thing about InfoWorld is, it was make or break. They rated on a scale of 1 to 10. If you got a 7, you might as well close the doors and go out of business. They were so critical of products and so hard to please that the ratings for InfoWorld were like a Bible to the industry.

It was months later when the phone rang downstairs. At this point, all four phones are ringing. I started answering calls. It was individual people wanting to place an order for the software. I had a big stack of order forms by the phone. I was asking people to hold while I finished up one order. It was an hour or two hours later before someone came by to help us.

Later that day, we got an order from two of the three biggest distributors of the software industry. Their opening orders were for 600 and 800 copies each. We were thrilled. I still didn’t understand what was going on until we realized later that the InfoWorld review had been published. It had rated us at 9.3 which was the highest score they had ever rated any software product. The only product that got a 9.3 was WordPerfect. It was super exciting.

Sramana Mitra: What year was this?

Mitch Russo: At the tail end of 1985.

Sramana Mitra: Then what happens?

Mitch Russo: We moved to new offices. We had more money to advertise in legal magazines. We kept growing our review base. About 1987, we had to move again because the company kept expanding. We were now in 3,000 retail locations. The demand for our product was growing faster than our tech support could handle. I was a very hands-on person. If somebody needed a demo, I would get on the phone and I would do a demo for them. I would walk them through the product over the telephone.

I used to travel a lot. I used to show up all over the country and do, what they used to call, PC user groups. I’d go to a university campus and go to the auditorium. There’d be hundreds of people in there listening and watching on the big screen as I did a full demo of TimeSlips. I must have done over a hundred of them over the course of 1987 into 1988. We were starting to become the largest selling time and billing software system for lawyers. It was all based on the popularity of the software.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Bootstrapping to Exit: TimeSlips CEO Mitch Russo
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