Mikel has built a services company in Australia and spawned six SaaS products out of it. One of them, StoreConnect, is a terrific Bootstrapping by Piggybacking story on top of Salesforce.com. He has exited four of the apps and expects to grow StoreConnect to $100M+ in revenue.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Mikel Lindsaar: I’m Australian. I was born in Adelaide in South Australia which is the driest state in the driest nation.
Sramana Mitra: Australia does a lot of desalination right?
Mikel Lindsaar: Actually that’s in other parts of Australia because we’ve got a river. Even though we’re the drier state, no one lives in the dry bits. I got into computers when I was very young. I started learning about the internet. I was lucky enough to know a friend who knew a friend who worked at a university. I managed to get an internet connection in the early days. This was before the world wide web.
I started teaching myself all of those things. I dropped out of university with only six months left to my degree. I found it boring. I moved to Melbourne and started an internet service provider firm with my dad.
Sramana Mitra: So your dad is also tech-savvy.
Mikel Lindsaar: Yes. He was running a computer networking installation type of company. I started an internet service provider firm on the side with him. We ended up winning Choice magazine Best Value ISP in Australia. I helped set up the first peering exchange in Australia, which was very funny.
Straight afterward, we took so much money off the big telcos who were just forcing us to pay 30 cents per gigabyte at that time. We set up a peering infrastructure where we sent data to each other for free. I got snubbed by all the major carriers, because we removed a large percentage of their business. I always wanted to create things that helped people connect.
Sramana Mitra: This was a bootstrapped company?
Mikel Lindsaar: He had his business. I created the ISP with him. We started off with $500 to buy the first modems and equipment. There was no external VC. It’s quite interesting. I had taken any sort of investment till this current company.
Sramana Mitra: How long did you do the ISP?
Mikel Lindsaar: It would have been about five or six years. At the end of 1999, I quit and became a full-time volunteer. I helped people with marriages and drug abuse for about 10 years. I sold the ISP. I didn’t make a lot out of that deal. That was incredible.
During that time, I kept my hand in technology and I wrote some software. I wrote Mail Gem which is a software library for the Ruby programming language. You are a user of my software. Pretty much everyone on earth is. The Mail library that I write is part of Ruby on Rails, which is now being downloaded 380 million times or something. We’re talking about Airbnb, Groupon, and GitHub which are using Ruby on Rails. I kept building and had my pulse on technology.
At the end of that decade of volunteering, I decided to start my own business again. My parents were getting older. I was the only child. I wanted to make sure they are looked after. You don’t earn a lot of money when you’re volunteering. I then left and started reinteractive. I had about a thousand dollars left on my credit card. That was all the money I had to start my company in 2010.