Sramana Mitra: Before you continue, talk to me about the first five customers while you were still at Fidelity. How did you find them? Who were they? What kind of deal sizes did you have?
Saravana Kumar: Since 2004, I have been writing blogs – technology articles about BizTalk Server. I was always passionate about technology and I was writing a lot of deep articles about the study of technology. When I launched the product, I already had followers of over 15,000 readers at that time.
Microsoft has this program called the Most Valuable Professional where they award influential people for each technology. To give you context, there were only 20 people at that time in the world that had that title for this particular BizTalk Server and I was one of them. I got it in 2007.
That kind of gave me a lot of trust factor in the community. People treat you like an influencer along with the blogs that I was writing. When I was ready with the product, I already had a user bait, so I wrote a simple announcement blog advertising the product.
I started getting trial sign-ups straight away. The first customers came from Hong Kong. I don’t know them and there’s no connection with us at all. They just read my blog and found that the product that I offered is something that they are looking for. They came to me and, at that time, I didn’t have any pricing yet.
I was someone with a purely technical background who built something. I didn’t think about pricing, so I just came up with a random number. I charged $5,000 for a typical perpetual license of the product and 20% for annual support. That’s how I got the first customer from Hong Kong.
The blog was my key driver for a very long time. If you go and search for anything in BizTalk, these are articles coming from the blog or website. There are about 600 articles that have accumulated over ten years since starting it. It became a really good asset for the company.
That’s how the five initial customers came except one, which came through one of my contacts. They recommended the product to their company in Canada, they bought it, and they are still our customers after nine years. They are still using our product and they help sell our product through word of mouth.
Apart from this customer, the first four customers came through word of mouth or my blog. I launched it in June 2011 and I think I roughly made $50,000 to $60,000 in the first six months or December 2011.