You may have been reading our PaaS coverage, as well as Bootstrapping by Piggybacking posts. Well, 123FormBuilder CEO Florin Cornianu has built a $6 million SaaS business using this methodology with just $1 million in funding. What’s more, he has done it entirely from Romania and sells to largely a US customer base. Excellent story!
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Florin Cornianu: I’m the CEO and Co-founder of 123FormBuilder. We are a form-building SaaS. The company is in Romania. I was born in a small city in the northern part of Romania. I’m an engineer by profession. I graduated with computer science degree from a large university in the city where I live.
Sramana Mitra: When did you graduate?
Florin Cornianu: That was 2004.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do when you came out of college?
Florin Cornianu: I had a few attempts to build an online business with one of my friends. Back then, we did two things. We tried to grow our online websites and sell software online. We took our real jobs after. We both became developers.
Sramana Mitra: Of other software companies?
Florin Cornianu: Yes, in completely different industries like telecom.
Sramana Mitra: How long did that continue, where you had jobs at other companies while you were trying to experiment with something else of your own?
Florin Cornianu: I think it was in 2008 when we managed to get a very small degree of success in generating enough revenues to cover our salaries. The moment that happened, we gave up our day jobs and focused more on our projects.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do to be able to cover your salaries?
Florin Cornianu: We had some small software that we sold online. We did some outsourcing. I remember it was pretty popular to submit your website to different link directories. We did that as a service. We had a list of about 2,000 directories. We asked people for money. We did a semi-automatic job of submitting the websites to those lists.
We did a bit of AdSense and a few software libraries. The funny thing is, after we gave up our day jobs, we lost most of it. We were making most of the money from Google AdSense. Then Google penalized our website and we lost all the AdSense revenues.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do? You had quit your jobs at this point?
Florin Cornianu: The other project we had allowed us to collect some money. It covered a very simple lifestyle. We decided to give it another year. Luckily for us, 123ContactForm, the old name, grew a bit more. It became something that we felt we could focus on. This was a good decision.