Dean Guida: A strategic event along the way was definitely PR. PR was important to get advocacy, authenticity, and having others say that we were legitimate. That was early on. I told you the story about Wendy’s. That was big for us. Second, I was speaking at software development shows. That was another big inflection point of helping us build credibility and create relationships in the industry. That was a big thing that we did that helped us.
The third was just the fact that we were authentic. I loved software development, so anytime that I talked to a development team, they could sense that. They could see that we cared about what we were doing. There was this one deal where I was talking with Dun & Bradstreet. I was showing them our software and they were like, “Wow, you guys built all that software? How many people are on your team? You have 17 people on your team? No way, you didn’t build that software with 17 people. “
Meanwhile, it was just Don and I. It was just the two of us. Every time I went to talk with big companies, our authenticity just showed. People can sense that. That helped us get some good deals. There was this one deal where we were competing with Microsoft. Again, this is early on. They were going to take all their development team from doing mainframe programming to Windows Event driven programming and use Visual Basic. I was like, “No, use our tool with C and you will have the best performance and total flexibility.”
The challenge is that without tooling like what we built, it’s not going to be productive. It takes a smart expert programmer to use this language.” We created this thing where you built the menus, screens, and generated the code. They said, “The big test is this. If this woman programmer can build these five screens in a day, you got the deal.”
We were sweating hoping that she was able to do it. She did it. It was my first big deal. It was $200,000. We beat Microsoft. They were our partners, but it was such a rewarding moment. There is another thing I learned too. You have to have grit and conviction in what you are doing. You also have to celebrate every step along the way. You have to be happy about every moment. It’s just so important to have that long-term grit to appreciate those wins.
Sramana Mitra: What happens after this $200,000 deal that would turn your business into an enterprise software business. Were you doing large deals now?
Dean Guida: Yes, we did a lot of large deals. We were pretty successful. I don’t know if you remember Microsoft Systems Journal. It was a tech magazine for developers produced by Microsoft. PR people just talked about Microsoft technology, but I got into the editor’s note. That was a seed where they heard that I came from Wall Street and wrote enterprise systems.
That was a seed where, today, we do very well on financial services. Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Charles Schwab, and E-trade built their trading and customers facing systems our grids and charts which are the fastest in the world whether you are doing web, desktop, or mobile. That seed happened again from PR. Over time, we just became popular in the financial service market.
Sramana Mitra: What is the next major shift in your product strategy?
Dean Guida: We have this innovation fund that we put together. We invested $50 million in it to keep this entrepreneurial spirit going.
Sramana Mitra: You were talking about getting large deals. What is the next major shift in that chronology in your product strategy? At that time, what was your revenue?
Dean Guida: It was probably $4 million.
This segment is a part in the series : Bootstrapping for 30 Years