You have heard me discuss bootstrapping using services quite a lot. With Kinetic Data CEO John Sundberg’s story, we also take on another important key strategy for customer acquisition: content marketing.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with some background. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised and in what kind of circumstances?
John Sundberg: I’m currently in St. Paul, Minnesota, which is where our office is. I was born in Minneapolis. I’ve been in Minnesota all of my life. My wife is from Connecticut. My upbringing was very open-minded. My dad taught positive attitude and sales training and indirectly, I’ve had that positive attitude all my life. He ran his own company. It was a small company. As a result of watching that while growing up, I thought I wanted to work in a big company.
After I graduated college with a Mathematics degree, I worked at 3M and saw what the big company world was like. Lots of great things happen in big companies, but the way that I thought of things and the way I approach things is more than what one company could handle. In a bigger company, you get pigeonholed or targeted towards a certain style of problem. Your vision gets narrowed into that specific problem. The way I thought was much more generic than what any one company would think. Being in a big company working on projects was not the right fit.
Sramana Mitra: Until what year did you last at 3M?
John Sundberg: 1998.
Sramana Mitra: In 1998, the Internet is starting to hit full-swing point. What made you leave 3M?
John Sundberg: I was married and my wife was pregnant with our first child. I always thought of running my own company. It was do-it-now or do-it-never before the first child was born. So I decided to leave 3M and start my own company effectively doing Java consulting work. I knew I had a good plan B. I could find a job relatively easily.
What followed was an interesting thing for me. I could find consulting work but I was not familiar with the world of sales. I could do projects pretty well, but finding projects was just not my love, so to speak. What I did at 3M was I worked on these IT systems and something on the Remedy platform. A lot of people in the Remedy world knew me. Once I left and become available, a lot of those projects came to me. I wanted to have a Java company but the IT Remedy work came and found me. It was easier to work on projects that came to me versus selling projects.
What happened was I started working on those and more and more people found that I was available. I was getting more projects than I could personally do. I started hiring some people to work on those projects with me, and I taught them how to do the Remedy system and how to do IT projects and IT thinking. I grew the team around the opportunities that were falling into our lap.
My passion was more in the generic systems versus a specific system. As we were doing that, I was seeing patterns on the type of projects we were getting. I was also seeing patterns in the types of problems that people would have, but they weren’t able to vocalize them. They didn’t see them as problems like I saw them as problems. That’s where I would say the opportunity for Kinetic took off. We saw what companies wanted to do but weren’t able to vocalize it.
Pretty much every company wanted to respond in a reasonable time to business demands and be able to produce solutions that were long-time, manageable, and quick to get up and running. There was a whole bunch of small projects that we would get. We wouldn’t get a nine-month project very often. People were unable to get these small things done easily. They’d have to hire them out.
Reality is if you had a framework and some understanding to do a few things, these companies could have done these projects themselves in a day or less. The pattern that we saw was people wanted a whole bunch of specific business things that were specific to their business using their internal IT tools and processes to get things done. They just didn’t have a framework to build the forms and workflows that were needed.