Posted on Monday, Jul 19th 2021
If you haven’t already, please study our Bootstrapping Course and Investor Introductions page.
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.
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 . 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 . 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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 . 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 . 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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