Greg Gianforte, Founder and CEO of RightNow Technologies, took the company public, and later sold it to Oracle for $1.5 billion. He made an unorthodox choice of building the company mainly in Montana. Today, RightNow (now Oracle) is one of Montana’s largest employers.
Daniel Cane, CEO and Co-founder of Modernizing Medicine, has followed a unique and tremendously effective strategy of raising equity crowdfunding from his customers, about 100 of them, and reflects on how well it has worked for him.
Gaurav Dhillon, Founder, Chairman and CEO, SnapLogic, and also Founder of Informatica. Gaurav discusses his process of sniffing out high potential market opportunities in large horizontal enterprise software categories. Both Informatica and SnapLogic are Unicorns, and it is rare to have an entrepreneur who can do two of these in a row.
Girish Navani, CEO of eClinicalWorks, has bootstrapped a billion dollar Unicorn with a paycheck. Girish didn’t quit his job for two years, while he tested and validated his original product and customer base. He now has built a $300 million revenue company that is still 100% bootstrapped, private, and has no desire to sell out or go for an IPO.
Vineet Jain, Founder and CEO of Egnyte, a Unicorn company in the same space as the much-hyped Box – cloud storage and file sharing. In this discussion, we do a deep-dive on the space and how it is likely to evolve over time, including expanding into data management.
Therese Tucker, Founder and CEO of BlackLine, is a very successful female entrepreneur who followed our core philosophy of bootstrap first, raise money later. When I first met her in 2009, her company was in the $10 million revenue range. Subsequently, it has continued to grow at 50% CAGR year over year, and Therese raised private equity funding in 2013 to take liquidity for herself and her team. With annual recurring revenue in the $65 million range, and continued growth at 50%, $100 million revenue is not far in the horizon. And with that, the company’s valuation will easily touch unicorn levels.
Aaron Skonnard, Founder and CEO of Pluralsight, one of the few EdTech ventures out there that are scaling at Unicorn levels, discusses his journey over the last decade. Aaron bootstrapped Pluralsight to $16 million in revenue before raising a $27.5 million Series A at almost a $100 million valuation. From there on, the company has gone on to follow a roll-up strategy with additional funding and is currently valued at close to $1 billion.
Ross Mason, Founder of MuleSoft, has built a terrific commercial open source company that is scaling at Unicorn rates, with freemium conversion rates in the 5-6% range. Ross discusses how he got the company off the ground, and built a product strategy that makes such high conversion rates possible.
Fred Luddy is Founder of ServiceNow, one of the most successful companies in the history of enterprise software. Founded in 2003, ServiceNow is valued at over $12 billion in the public market. This is a truly wonderful discussion, marked with Fred’s warmth, humility and wit: “We hire people with a lot of experience. We ask them to bring their knowledge, and leave their baggage!”
Adam Singolda, Founder CEO of Taboola, has had a fascinating journey as an entrepreneur. It took him four years to get product market fit, and today, the company is at over $200M in revenue. Persistence pays off. Resilience is the single most important characteristic that drives entrepreneurial success.
Ron Heinz, Founder and Managing Director at Signal Peak Ventures, a venture firm operating mostly in the Rocky Mountain corridor, discusses what’s happening in Utah, as well as Colorado and Arizona. We’ve covered a number of companies from that area including Pluralsight, InsideSales, Steals.com, Ping Identity, and InfusionSoft. Today there are over a thousand funded startups in those geographies. Bootstrapping runs heavy in the startup culture of the region.
Tod Francis, Managing Director at Shasta Ventures, starts with a discussion on the history of retail, all the way from shoe stores, to departmental stores, and back to specialty retail. This is followed by a similar overview of the history of e-commerce ranging from Amazon’s strategy to how specialty retail is translating into niche e-commerce, and how Tod is looking at investments in the category.
Scott Sandell, General Partner at NEA, is one of NEA’s star investors. He has been named to the Forbes Midas list every year since 2007, and has been involved with eight Unicorn companies including Salesforce.com, Workday, Webex, Tableau, and others. Scott discusses, specifically, Webex and Tableau in quite a bit of depth. In both companies, the scrappy, capital-efficient management of those businesses were striking!
Among Silicon Valley’s venture firms, NEA holds a special place in my own entrepreneurial journey, being the first VC firm that I successfully raised funding from. Oddly, and we discuss this, at the time in the late nineties, the fact that my company was doing product development in India was considered unacceptable. Of course, all that changed in due course, and today India is firmly established on the startup map, as are China, Europe, and many other nations. NEA was an early adopter of the global entrepreneurship trend, and has offices in India and China. They also invest elsewhere in the world, where they don’t have offices.
Shomit Ghose, Partner at Onset Ventures, is also a veteran startup executive with multiple IPOs under his belt. He highlights the fact that 70,000 ventures received angel funding in 2014, but the number of companies receiving venture funding remains constant year over year at about 1,000 per year. Focusing on building value is of paramount importance, so that you can validate and prove your value proposition.
Susan Mason, General Partner at Aligned Ventures, talks about the dysfunctions of the broader venture capital model, and what her firm is doing to address those. Excellent conversation, please listen.