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Best of Bootstrapping: Bootstrapped to a High Growth Inc. 500 Company

Posted on Thursday, Jul 15th 2021

If you haven’t already, please study our Bootstrapping Course and Investor Introductions page. 

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
. 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
. How The Intern Group CEO David Lloyd Bootstrapped to $13 Million
. How Passageways CEO Paroon Chadha Bootstrapped from Indiana
. How SmartBuyGlasses CEO David Menning Bootstrapped to $50 Million
. Death by Overfunding
. How RainmakerForce CEO Mack Sundaram Bootstrapped Decisively to $5 Million+
. How FormAssembly CEO Bootstrapped a Virtual Company with a Paycheck
. TimeSlips CEO Mitch Russo Bootstrapped to Exit with Sage
. The VC-Entrepreneur Compensation Disbalance
. BioConnect CEO Bootstraps with Sophisticated Strategic Maneuvering
. Tremend CEO Marius Hanganu Bootstraps from Romania
. Gesture CEO Jim Alvarez Bootstraps to $10 Million
. SproutLoud CEO Bootstraps to $30 Million from Florida
. Tuft & Needle CEO Bootstraps to Over $100 Million
. Co-founders Bootstrap Linguamatics to Over $10M from the UK
. Ownership Matters
. Vainu Co-founder Mikko Honkanen Bootstraps from Finland
. Entrepreneur Couple Bootstraps to $10M from Colorado
. Power2Motivate CEO Bootstraps to $80M from Canada
. Financial DNA CEO Bootstraps to $10M+ from Australia
. Big Barker CEO Bootstraps a Niche E-commerce Brand
. PrecisionLender CEO Bootstraps to Over $10M from North Carolina
. Master Bootstrappers with Over $1B in Exits
. Ultra Mobile Founder Bootstraps to Over $100 Million
. Bootstrapping a Two-Sided Marketplace to $10M
. Can You Bootstrap a Virtual Company to Over $5 Million?
. Capital Efficient Entrepreneurs Turn $1M into $80M
. Discussing the Journey Through Failure to Success
. From a Small Town to $12 Million
. Bootstrapping to Y Combinator and $10 Million Series A
. Bootstrapping a Marketplace to Over $10 Million
. Freightwise Bootstraps to $33 Million
. Bootstraps First to $5M ARR, Raises $10M Later
. Bootstraps in Europe, Raises Money and Goes Global in the US
. English Major Bootstraps a Tech Company
. Bootstraps with a Paycheck to $15M from Tennessee
. Queue-It Bootstraps from Denmark to the US
. Bootstrapping A Virtual Company To $25M
. ActiveCampaign CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $40M
. Alteryx Bootstrapped with Services to a Public Unicorn
. Inspyrus Bootstraps Using Services to an Awesome Business Model
. CEO Bootstraps Using Services to Millions from Russia
. Wiredrive CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $10M
. Scaling to Over $10M by Bootstrapping Using Services
. Bootstraps Using Services from Poland to a US SaaS Company
. ButcherBox CEO Bootstraps a Perishable Meat Business to Significant Scale
. Waveform CEO Bootstraps to $8M
. Bootstrapped Entrepreneurship from Estonia
. From Laid-off Engineer to Successful Startup CEO
. Imagine Easy Solutions CEO Bootstraps to Exit
. BannerBuzz CEO Bootstraps to $35M
. Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to Scale
. Bootstrapping Using Services from Wisconsin
. Best Tactic for B2B Startups
. Bootstrapping by Piggybacking from Romania
. Bootstrap First, Then Scale with VC Funds
. Bootstrap to +$10M First, Raise Money Later
. Madwire CEO Bootstrapped First, Raised Money Later to $120M
. Bootstrap Using Services First, Raise Money Later
. Wonderful Bootstrap with a Paycheck Story
. RushOrderTees CEO Bootstraps to $23M
. Bootstrapping with Freemium and Free Trials to $13M
. Bootstrapping, Pivoting, Gaining Liquidity, Scaling to $100M+
. Bootstrapping with Affiliate Marketing
. Bootstrap to Exit, Bootstrap Again, Then Raise VC Money
. Bootstrapping Using Services to $12M
. Bootstrapping an Ad Tech Company from Paris
. Bootstrapping a 100% Virtual Company from Ireland
. MiQ CEO Bootstraps with Services from London
. Bootstrapping to $8M During the Covid Crisis
. Bootstrapping a Marketplace from Brazil
. Bootstrapping Using Services from Sweden
. What Should Startups Do To Raise Seed Capital in 2021?
. EdTech Unicorn Bootstrapped First from Canada
. Coalition Technologies Co-founders Bootstrap to $10M
. Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to $10M from Atlanta
. Bootstrapping a SaaS Company with a Paycheck and Scaling
. Bootstrapping with Services to $20 Million
. Onit CEO Bootstraps First, Raises Money Later
. Pura Vida Founders Bootstrap to $130M
. Lawline CEO Bootstraps to $10M
. Bootstrapping a Technology Product Company from India
. Codesigned CEO Bootstraps Using Services
. Rukkus CEO Follows Bootstrap First, Raise Money Later Strategy
. Bootstrapping and Managing a Successful Pivot
. Ukrainian Entrepreneur Bootstraps to Global Scale
. Bootstrapping a Niche E-Commerce Venture
. Bootstrapping Planon to $100M from The Netherlands
. Co-founder Bootstrapped with a Paycheck from Indiana
. Bootstrapping an Education Company
. Bootstrapping an IoT Company from North Carolina
. Serial Bootstrapper Bootstraps to $27M
. Bootstrapping Identity Automation Using Services from Houston
. Bootstrapping ProjectManager.com from NZ, Scaling in the US
. Bootstrapping to $15M in Three Years
. Peruvian Entrepreneur Bootstraps to $200M
. JotForm Founder Bootstrapped with a Paycheck
. WeGoLook was Bootstrapped from Oklahoma
. Bootstrapping AutoClaims Direct to $15M
. Meltwater Founder Bootstrapped to $200M
. Bootstrapping to $20M From London
. Synechron CEO Bootstrapped to $300M
. Unique Vintage was Bootstrapped with a Paycheck
. Toptal CEO Bootstraps a Virtual Company to Scale
. Bootstrapping to $45M from Chicago
. Vacasa Co-founder Bootstrapped to $100M
. Bootstrapping Infinitely Virtual All The Way
. Bootstrapping to Exit Discussion with David Lambert, Right Side Capital Management
. Bootstrapping a Healthcare IT Company to $100M
. Discussing Seed Rounds with Cindy Padnos, Illuminate Ventures
. Auction.com Bootstrapped to $180M in Online Real Estate
. Discussing the Silicon Valley – India Corridor with Naren Gupta of Nexus Venture Partners
. Bootstrapped with a Paycheck to Techstars and Acquisition
. Discussing People vs. Market with Jon Staenberg, Staenberg Venture Partners
. Bootstrapping a Highly Profitable Company in Social Media Marketing
. Discussing Investments in Indian Startups with Anand Daniel, Accel Partners
. Bootstrapping an Evergreen Business from Oregon
. Discussing Startups in Africa with Osayi Igharo, Ripple VC
. Investing in Concept Stage Startups with Matt Holleran, Cloud Apps Capital Partners
. Serial Entrepreneur Bootstrapped Two Startups to Huge Revenue
. Discussing Investment Strategy With Deepak Jeevankumar, Dell Technologies Capital
. Bootstrapping Hotelplanner.com to $20M with Intelligent Financial Engineering
. Discussing Investing Across Sectors in India with Swapna Gupta, Qualcomm Ventures
. Bootstrapping Cleverbridge From Germany
. Discussing Open Opportunities with Hemant Mohapatra, Lightspeed Venture Partners
. Bootstrapping E-commerce Company Fun.com
. Discussing Seed Rounds with Bruce Cleveland, Wildcat Venture Partners
. From Friends and Family Funding to $30M Exit
. 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
. Discussing Unicorn Investments with Ravi Mohan of Shasta Ventures
. Bootstrapping a $7M Company in Houston
. A View into Pre-Seed Funding with Gaurav Jain, Afore Capital
. Bootstrapping to $13M in Niche E-commerce
. Discussing European Startup Funding with Alastair Mitchell, EQT Ventures
. Founder Bootstrapped Category Leading E-commerce Company Shoplet
. Discussing Trends With Yanev Suissa, SineWave Ventures
. Founder Mark Organ Bootstrapped Eloqua and Crowdfunded Influitive
. Sourcing Global Ventures with Ann Winblad of Hummer Winblad
. JAM CEO Survives Covid with a Bootstrapped Venture
. E-commerce and Investing with Tod Francis, Shasta Ventures
. How An Entrepreneur Couple Bootstrapped RuffleButts To $5M
. TextMe Founders Bootstrapped an App to $10M
. Bootstrapped Journey of a Child Entrepreneur in India
. Discussing Alternatives to Traditional Venture Capital with Bryce Roberts, Indie.vc
. Solo Founder Bootstrapped Wingify to $7 Million in India
. Co-founder Bootstrapped a SaaS Company in India
. Bootstrapped MindTouch to $12M+ and Exit
. Mobiliya Technologies was Bootstrapped Using Services
. What Traditional VCs are Looking for with Scott Sandell, NEA
. Bootstrapped Srishti Software Applications with Services from India
. How Robust SaaS Company RateGain was Bootstrapped from India
. Bootstrapped eGroup to $20M in Charleston, South Carolina
. Gravitant CEO Bootstrapped Using Services to $15M in Venture Capital
. CEO Bootstrapped Sitecore Using Services from Denmark
. Co-founder Dan Hermann on Bootstrapping Paint Nite
. Founder Krishna Kumar Bootstrapped App Orchid Using Services
. Bootstrapping a Web Hosting Company to $60M
. Bootstrapping CloudSense with Services on Force.com from London
. Bootstrapped Book E-Commerce Business BookPal
. Student Entrepreneurs Bootstrapped a Zero-Logistics E-Commerce Company to $19M
. Bootstrapped to a High Growth Inc. 500 Company
. Bootstrapping Using Services and Scaling Using Content Marketing
. Bootstrapped from London, Went Public and Scaled to $450M
. Bootstrapped Credit Card Processing Business Payscape
. Bootstrapped TEOCO to $175M with Services
. InRule Was Bootstrapped Using Services
. HighQ was Bootstrapped Using Services from London
. Ingenious Med was Bootstrapped with a Paycheck from Atlanta
. Bootstrapped VistaVu to $10M from Canada
. OnSIP CEO Mike Oeth Bootstrapped in Pennsylvania
. Pramata Founder Bootstrapped in Minnesota
. Conversocial was Bootstrapped Using Services from London
. Zephyr Health Bootstrapped First, Raised Money Later
. iText was Bootstrapped from Belgium
. CTO Bootstrapped InteliSecure Using Services from Colorado
. Bootstrapping Evariant Using Services
. Dave Elkington Bootstrapped Billion Dollar Unicorn InsideSales.com Using Services from Utah
. PMG Founders Bootstrapped Using Services from Atlanta
. Ensighten Founder Bootstrapped First, Raised Money Later
. Bootstrapping LittleThings First, Raising Money Later
. Bootstrapping eMazzanti Technologies Using Services
. Reltio Founder Bootstrapped Using Services

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