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Bootstrap First, Raise Money Later: Ben Hodson, CEO of JobNimbus (Part 7)

Posted on Wednesday, Jul 28th 2021

Ben Hodson: What we realized is that customers coming to us were for customization and choice. Because we’d built the software to be so customizable with all these integrations, we now had a full product solution that we could start scaling. We saw tremendous growth in 2018. We did over 100% in our growth. In 2019, we were just skyrocketing.

In June, we hit a wall and had three months of negative growth. That was scary because it had never happened. We had become profitable back in 2015 and we were running the company at a good clip without outside investment. It was scary to have negative growth numbers. We didn’t know what was going on.

As we started looking at it, we realized that we added so much customization and capability to the product that our no-touch buying experience had been broken. Customers couldn’t self on-board anymore. They needed help. We had no customer success team. We had a very small support team frankly. It looked like we were heading for a plateau or negative growth as a company.

The other option was that we were going to have to change a lot of things in the business, go for high growth, and hire a sales team. It was a tough time for me and my partners. We all decided that we wanted to go for high growth. We hired our first salespeople in the summer of 2019. We switched around from the no-touch onboarding to build a funnel and start working on an MQL lead pipeline.

We started learning how to demo and convert those demos to win deals. We recreated a contract system. We revved our billing database. We built a bunch more self-help videos. We also hired our first customer success people. With massive change and a lot of risks, a lot of expenditure was concerning. We signed our signed customer on a contract on November 19. That was the first deal that we sold with a salesperson. We had a strong December.

By this time, we were about $5 million in ARR by the end of 2020. Going into 2020, we set a goal that we were going to get to $10 million. This was unheard of for a bootstrapped company to have that kind of growth. We had an amazing 2020 start. We were hitting records almost every week. Our sales motion was getting dialed in and then, of course, COVID hit. This industry got hit pretty hard. We didn’t know what to do, but we saw that our competition was pulling back.

A lot of them were laying off people as well. We didn’t want to do any of that. We’d been saving up money in our savings account. A lot of investors fuss over this because they say, “Why are you saving so much money? You should be using it to spend ahead.” We had about $600,000 to $700,000 saved up in our savings account because we had no investors. We had no one to fall back on.

If we couldn’t make payroll, we were out of business. We had to make sure that we had a cushion. We ended up deciding to use that during COVID to help customers stretch their bills. We gave a lot of forgiveness in months. We would help them out. We kept hiring. We spent more on marketing and we just kept exploding even through COVID. It was amazing. The construction market ended up doing well.

Towards the end of 2020, we got to $11 million. By the end of the year, we decided to take the entire company out to Hawaii. We took all 89 of our employees to Hawaii to celebrate such a big win. We ended up working with a private equity firm. We ran a big surge over that whole 2020 and closed the round on December 31st for $53 million from Mainsail Partners out of the Bay area. 

Sramana Mitra:  What product did you settle on when all this growth was coming?

Ben Hodson: It was the CRM product that we built everything around. It is our core system today. 

Sramana Mitra: How did you position this vis-a-vis your competition? That’s a very crowded market, right?

Ben Hodson: For sure. We had three unique things that set us apart. There are four, but you don’t want price to be a differentiator, but it was for several years. One, we were easier to use by far because we have been built on a mobile platform. We were the first ones to have a mobile app. We were the first one to have mobile-friendly web pages in the market. That set us apart.

The second thing was flexibility. We had all the integration and customization. Customers can come to us and dial in their process better than they could with anybody else. The third thing is, we focused on growing their business. We had ROI metrics to show that if you set up JobNimbus, your revenues would grow an average of 43% in the first month.

That is an insane number, but it’s because our systems are implemented with business practices and organization. Our average customer doesn’t know how to run their business very well. JobNimbus helps them to be professional and be the best businesses that they can be.  

Sramana Mitra: Where do you find traction from a customer segmentation point of view?

Ben Hodson: We are very focused on the home exteriors market. We are talking about outside of residential homes. It’s contractors who do that type of work. Roofing, siding, gutters, windows, doors, and solar companies use people who do project-based work. They need our estimating tools and CRM tools. It’s all targeted to that specific use case. Being so focused is the secret to our success. The only way to win at CRM or anything is to be super focused on a niche. If you are very good at that niche then nobody can compete with you. 

Sramana Mitra: Got it. 

Ben Hodson: Our goal is to get to $100 million and we are well on our way to that path.

Sramana Mitra: Good luck. Great story!

This segment is part 7 in the series : Bootstrap First, Raise Money Later: Ben Hodson, CEO of JobNimbus
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