Posted on Thursday, Jul 15th 2021
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CEO Chris Farrell and his co-founder bootstrapped Tallie to a high growth Inc. 500 company in four years. After that, the product had to be re-architected, and slowed down for a couple of years, before picking up again. Read how they competed in a crowded marketplace and built a robust position. After we spoke in 2014, Tallie became a part of Emburse in 2017.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised, and in what kind of background? Chris Farrell: I was born in San Francisco. I was basically born and raised in the Bay Area, mostly down on the peninsula. I got my start in my career with Arthur Andersen as an accountant. Then I worked my way up through the accounting ranks and eventually was a Controller of a public company and a CFO of a public company. Along the way, having been steeped in technology in the Bay Area, I set out on the latest part of my journey, which is running a software company. Sramana Mitra: What public company were you the CFO of? Chris Farrell: Occam Networks, a telecom equipment manufacturer. Sramana Mitra: Obviously, the finance function is something that you bring a lot from into your startups. I’m checking if there are any other touch points that we should investigate. Chris Farrell: You and I probably overlapped at certain companies at various points when Arthur Andersen worked on Cadence. I think you were there for some time. I also worked at other companies such as Oracle. Sramana Mitra: What year did you start Tallie? What were the circumstances? Chris Farrell: I was a co-founder and I started it in 2008. In 2007, we were working at Occam Networks. We were venture-backed and public. I attended a CFO roundtable at Palo Alto at Norwest Venture – one of the four primary VCs in that company. At the CFO roundtable, we essentially discussed the problems we were facing and the opportunities that we saw for growing and maintaining successful finance organizations.
One of the areas that we were discussing at that time was the area of expense reporting. Three of us among 20 CFOs concurred. We talked about the pros and cons relative to Excel. There was an opportunity for building a system that’s going to be little bit different than what was going on in the industry at that time. I decided the time was right to make the leap.
Sramana Mitra: How did you get it started? Was it something that you bootstrapped? What were the circumstances in which the company was launched? Chris Farrell: We launched it on a bootstrapped basis. Given my background, I was very much risk-averse and we didn’t want to bring too much capital in. I think we also knew that it was going to be an exploratory journey. We started with a self-funded $100,000 in the bank and we started looking at the industry and the opportunity very closely. We essentially built it on that basis for the last several years. Sramana Mitra: Who was your co-founder? How did you meet? Chris Farrell: His name is Brad Pirtle. We met through a mutual friend. I started exploring my connections to see if there was a natural pairing out there. My background being specifically in accounting, I needed to have a technology partner. Brad and I met. We found that we had a strong mutual interest in the space and we got going together. It was pretty easy. I think that’s a big advantage of being in the Valley.
Our conversation continues
here. This segment is a part in the series : Best of Bootstrapping . Bootstrapping to an Exit . Why is Bootstrapping Important? . How Can You Play this Low-Probability Game Intelligently? . Do NOT Go to VCs as Beggars - Go as Kings . Excess is NOT Required for Success . Bootstrap First and Raise Money Later . Some Bootstrapping to Exit Case Studies . The Buy Side of Bootstrapping to an Exit . Blitzscaling vs. Bootstrapping . Bootstrapping to Unicorns More »» . Cinedigm Acquires Bootstrapped 1Mby1M Company Future Today for $60 Million . Mailchimp Bootstraps to $600M Revenue . Bootstrapping from Arizona to $10 Million . Bootstrapped Basecamp Executes a No Nonsense Strategy . How Under30Experiences Bootstrapped to $5 Million . Bootstrapping with a Paycheck . How Algo.ai CEO Amjad Hussain Bootstrapped using Services from Michigan . Seed Investors Who Like Bootstrapped Businesses . How iHeartRaves CEO Bootstrapped a Niche e-Commerce Company to $20 Million . Bootstrapping with Services . 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Discussing the Evolution of the Indian Startup Industry with Sasha Mirchandani, Kae Capital . Lean Company Bootstraps to $7M . Saatva Co-founder Bootstrapped a $25M E-Commerce Company . Looking at Terms with Heidi Roizen of Threshold Ventures . ADDA Co-founder CEO Bootstrapped with a Paycheck in India . Duda Co-founders Bootstrap with Paychecks . The Importance of Building Value with Shomit Ghose, Onset Ventures . Get Real Health Founder Bootstrapped Using Services . Bootstrapping Unique Vintage Using a Paycheck . Discussing E-commerce Startup Trends with Daniel Gulati, Forecast Fund . Bootstrapping a Digital Startup with a Paycheck . Discussing Seed Stages with Amir Banifatemi of K5 Ventures . Bootstrapping Avelead Using Services from Atlanta . Founder Bootstrapped a Big Data Company Using Services . Discussing Future Unicorns with Warren Weiss, Foundation Capital . Founder Bootstrapped Axosoft with a Paycheck . Raised a Series A with $10 Million in the Bank . 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Bay Dynamics Co-founders Bootstrapped Using Services . Building an AI Software Company from Dallas . RJMetrics Co-founders Bootstrapped First, Raised $22M Later . Bootstrapping Niche E-Commerce Business BuyAutoParts to Exit . TemplateMonster was Bootstrapped to $15 Million . Bootstrapping Edge Hosting to $18 Million . Bootstrapping, Fund Raising and Exiting with Sefaira . Bootstrapping IdeaScale to $5M from Scratch . Bootstrapping to $10M from Finland . Happy Grasshopper CEO Dan Stewart Bootstrapped to Inflection . Bootstrapping Gravity Pro Using Services . Founder Builds Multiple Bootstrapped Education Software Companies . Bootstrapping to $10M from Australia, Raising $25M from the US . Bootstrapped Y Soft to $30M from the Czech Republic . Bootstrapped from Belarus, Raised Money from Silicon Valley