Sramana Mitra: When you started, which competitors did you see most in deals?
Cedric Saverese: When I started, there was not a lot of competitive deals. We didn’t have a sales team. It was more like, “Here’s a product. If you want it, buy it.” We didn’t have a lot of visibility into our customers’ purchasing process. We didn’t know who else they were talking to. At that time, it’s not like there were a lot of other options. The competition was developers and people building it themselves.
Sramana Mitra: Did you raise any money?
Cedric Saverese: No.
Sramana Mitra: In the entire history of the company, there was no external financing?
Cedric Saverese: No.
Sramana Mitra: As time went by, did other competitors come into the market?
Cedric Saverese: Definitely. When I started, there were two competitors that came up within weeks or months of me having a product out. There was definitely some strong competition early on. One competitor that went through Y Combinator did very well. They sold to Survey Monkey pretty quickly. There was definitely some strong competition early on.
Sramana Mitra: Has Survey Monkey kept that product?
Cedric Saverese: Yes, they kept that product. Thankfully, they haven’t done much with it. The product didn’t seem like it changed in years since.
Sramana Mitra: What was the timeline?
Cedric Saverese: It was around 2007.
Sramana Mitra: What was the name of the other company?
Cedric Saverese: Wufoo.
Sramana Mitra: When did they sell to Survey Monkey?
Cedric Saverese: I don’t know exactly. It was a couple of years later.
Sramana Mitra: That was one competitor that you had to contend in the marketplace. Was there any other that you had to pay attention to?
Cedric Saverese: Yes, there was another one – Formstack. They are also located in Indiana. We’re just a few miles apart.
Sramana Mitra: They’re still in business?
Cedric Saverese: Yes, they’re still in business.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s switch a little bit. In your history, how long did it take you to get to a million dollars in annual revenue run rate?
Cedric Saverese: It seems like it took forever. It’s funny when you start a business, you think about, “Am I a real business now, or am I just pretending to be a business?” Especially when you try to sell to bigger customers, you start to feel that maybe you’re not in the right place. You have your first few employees. Then you’re like, “Now it’s a real business.” Then you think that maybe being a real business is reaching that $1 million mark. I don’t recall exactly when, but we reached that milestone. It took us several years.
Sramana Mitra: About four years?
Cedric Saverese: Yes, probably four years.
Sramana Mitra: After you reached that milestone, did anything change or was it still a linear organic growth as you experienced before? Did it accelerate?
Cedric Saverese: It did accelerate. It’s still very much organic. It didn’t accelerate as much as I would like. We definitely didn’t see the hockey curve that people like to talk about in startups.
Sramana Mitra: In niche bootstrapped businesses, it’s not unusual to have linear growth curves at all.
Cedric Saverese: Yes, that’s what we had. We are growing faster now than we’ve ever grown, but it’s still linear. A big change is being able to hire the people we need to grow the business.
Sramana Mitra: I want to hear about your team strategy. Let me get the growth trajectory down first. How long did it take you to get to $5 million in annual revenue run rate?
Cedric Saverese: I would say three years.
Sramana Mitra: Three years after the $1 million milestone?
Cedric Saverese: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: It did accelerate somewhat, right? That brings us up to 2013 now?
Cedric Saverese: No, I think we missed a few years there. The $5 million mark was more like last year.