Bongo has turned a ~$1M investment into $6M+ in annual revenue with a compelling growth projection in the next couple of years.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background?
Josh Kamrath: I was born in Phoenix, Arizona. I lived there until I was 12. Then my family moved to Colorado, which I consider my home. I grew up there and went to college at Colorado State University where I met my wife Josie. She’s from California. I graduated a year ahead of her.
I worked at Middleware Software Company, which was also a startup. At the time, they had seven or eight people. I worked there for about a year. Josie and I were just dating at the time.
When she graduated, we decided to move out to California where her whole family’s from. I had to quit my job and start to put my feelers out and look for something new. I moved out and lived with Josie’s parents in their basement for what ended up being a couple of years.
We originally thought it was just going to be a couple of months. Then she moved out and we just started living here. That was about eight or nine years ago. Originally we were called YouSeeU, which was a video tool. Especially in the early days, we were education-focused. Now we’re in a lot of different markets and have more emphasis on corporate learning.
That’s where the YouSeeU name came from. Bongo was founded by a tenured professor named Dr. Jeff Lewis. I had known him through college. He also taught at Colorado State where I attended. He said, “Higher education is really concentrated in Southern California. We’re just starting to get a minimum viable product out. Why don’t you start to try to go out and sell Bongo?”
I lived in my in-laws’ basement and just went out door to door trying to sell Bongo. Then Josie and I got married. Over the last several years, the company has grown significantly and I have come to climb the ladder. About nine months ago, we ended up buying the original founder out. We took over. I became the CEO and there was an equity transition.
Sramana Mitra: You’re saying you’re not the founder of Bongo. When you got involved, how big was the company?
Josh Kamrath: Basically, It was just the founder and me.
Sramana Mitra: So you’re almost a founder.
Josh Kamrath: Exactly. That’s the thing. I’m almost a founder, but technically I’m not one.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s go back to the very beginning of the founding of the company. Talk about how the founder got the company started. What was the concept? What was the genesis of the company?
Josh Kamrath: He’s a tenured professor in Metropolitan State University of Denver. Back in 2009, online courses were starting to become more prolific. He taught business communications. There was a need for the business communication course to go online.
A big part of that course was having students give presentations. Think of visual aids to those presentations and then receiving feedback and coaching from their peers. Obviously, you can’t give an online course and expect the students to come to class to give a presentation. So he set out to solve his own problem.
That was the genesis of Bongo. How he got it started was he found some contract engineers. I think the name is changed but it used to be called Upwork. It was a platform facilitating and connecting remote development.