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Exactly How 100 Multi-Million Dollar Tech Founders Came Up With Their Winning Business Idea

Exactly How 100 Multi-Million Dollar Tech Founders Came Up With Their Winning Business Idea

Movies like The Social Network romanticize the world of tech entrepreneurship, and that’s okay. What is not okay is that they misrepresent how winning ideas are discovered.

SaaS — one of the hottest, fastest growing vehicles for entrepreneurship — is a prime example of how damaging the mythologized stories of Apple and Facebook can be. 92% of slow-growing SaaS startups fail within the first three years. Primary reason: a failure to establish the product-market fit. Which is a fancy way of saying “nobody wants your damn app.”

92% is a domesticated number that under-reports an extensive and profoundly brutal world of entrepreneurship failure. Assuming entrepreneurs are some of society’s most creative and determined individuals, it’s difficult to fully grasp the amount of talented productivity lost every year. Perhaps it doesn’t have to be this way.

After watching a few interviews with revenue-generating, small to mid-sized startup founders, I noticed a pattern in how they come up with winning ideas. Over the next two weeks, I analyzed 203 interviews in total to make sure. About half of them did not articulate precisely how they came up with the idea, so I did not consider them a data point. Below are the key findings from 100 interviews with founders who did remember and articulate their “aha moment.”

Key Findings

(For the data, please scroll down)

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  • 95% of founders had 12.2 years of previous job and/or business experience on average before discovering the winning product-market fit.
  • 40% of founders worked at a company when they noticed an inefficient internal process, an unsolved client need or a rising business trend.
  • 25% of founders ran an agency, consulting firm or software development company when they noticed a reoccurring client need that could be automated or simplified.
  • 14% of founders ran a business, built an internal tool to solve a problem, then realized other companies needed it, too.
  • 8% of founders built a minimum viable product, got client feedback, and then pivoted towards the winning idea.
  • 4% of founders used work experience and skills to solve a personal problem.
  • 4% of founders left their company to build a similar, but non-competing tool using their know-how or applied gained know-how in a different context/industry.
  • Only 5% of founders successfully built a company without any job or client experience.

It’s important to consider that seasoned founders have experience in management, operations and, sometimes, sales. They’ve seen firsthand how things are done — whether in their own business, or a company they’ve worked at. So, in addition to being exposed to real client needs and business processes, they’re also more proficient in business culture — which makes them more likely to execute their winning ideas in a winning fashion.

Another speculative argument could be made that seasoned founders are less likely to run into cash-flow problems. This is unconfirmed and warrants a separate investigation, but it appears that the 95%-cohort have either saved up enough money to build and market their MVP, or they already run a steady, cash-flow-positive business that finances their new venture. Day-to-day cash-flow problems are a primary reason for small business failure — it’s difficult to build the next big thing when you can’t pay rent.

There are two types of founders I did not include:

  • Post-exit-preneurs. I think it’s safe to say that serial entrepreneurs with multiple successful previous exits think quite differently from aspiring ones. They often have access to information that may not be available to a self-starter — VC insight, top-level business feedback — as well as the experience to make sense of that information. The average first-timer does not break bread with tech rockstars, nor would he know what to ask them.
  • VC-led-preneurs. Some founders trace their first steps to a defining VC conversation, rather than the MVP-meets-market moment. My hypothesis is that the average starter does not have the access to nor the aspiration to deal with VCs at the beginning.

Note: all revenue numbers are estimates and can be a couple years old. I found them either on this platform or a quick Google search. Most interviews analyzed can be found either on this channel or this website. All job/business experience numbers were taken from founders’ Linkedin pages, by substracting the year of the first professional experience from the year they founded the company analyzed. As far as I consciously know, all interviews were randomly selected.

Note #2: I reached out to most of the mentioned founders to verify their story and the numbers. 30 of them replied with additional context and insight.

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose. There are no affiliate links or other sponsored content in this article.

Exceptions to the rule: 5 dorm-room teen-preneurs

01. David Rusenko — Weebly — $10–50M annual revenue

Weebly’s free website builder makes it easy to create a website, blog, or online store.

  • Started out as a class project in college in 2006
  • Started receiving unsolicited $50 checks from multiple happy users
  • Applied to YCombinator, a seed accelerator
  • Got accepted since they had a beta product launched, while most other companies were still at the idea stage
  • Received $20,000 from YCombinator
  • Started working full-time on the project
  • Raised $650,000 the same year

Interview link

02. Paras Chopra — Wingify — $10–50M annual revenue

Wingify is a software company based in New Delhi and Pune, India. Its products include VWO, an A/B testing and conversion optimization platform.

  • Was fascinated by computers and startups from a young age
  • Built apps independently before college
  • Wingify, his big success, was Chopra’s “sixth or seventh” app

Interview link

03. Andrew Sutherland — Quizlet — $10–50M annual revenue

Quizlet is a mobile and web-based study application that allows students to study information via learning tools and games

  • Had trouble memorizing a list of 100 French animal vocabulary words in high school
  • Created a website that quizzes you on test items and remembers your results
  • Developed and expanded the platform to multiple disciplines and features

Interview link

04. Tiago Paiva — TalkDesk — $10–50M annual revenue

Talkdesk is a cloud-based contact center, unified communications and artificial intelligence software provider.

  • Worked as a developer at Procter&Gamble for 7 months while finishing Master’s degree
  • Participated in a San Francisco company MacBook giveaway that awarded the best apps
  • Built an app that allows users to set up a call center in their browser in 5 minutes
  • Won
  • Was approached by investors, who offered $50,000 to stay in the US and develop the app

Interview link

05. Panayotis Nikolaidis — Savings United — $10–50M annual revenue

Savings United is the leading coupon partner of media companies, connecting advertisers with smart shopper in a trustworthy environment.

  • Dreamed of running a business since youth
  • Went to a summer entrepreneurship camp
  • Toyed with ten different business ideas
  • Settled on a voucher code website
  • Pivoted towards premium media promotion partnerships

Interview link

The rule: 95 seasoned in-the-trenches problem solvers

06. Sean Hoban — Kimble — $10–50M annual revenue

Kimble Professional Service Automation drives business efficiency and resource optimization, delivering growth and profitability.

  • Ran an IT consulting firm
  • Learned the processes and inefficiencies in service-based client companies
  • Built SaaS prototypes feature-by-feature, gathered client feedback
  • Eventually ended up with a set of service-based project automation products

Interview link

07. Chris Marentis — SurefireLocal — $10–50M annual revenue

Surefire Local provides local marketing software for small businesses helping them attract customers, grow profits, and maximize efficiency.

  • Started out as a local marketing services agency
  • Noticed that much of local marketing can be automated
  • Built a SaaS platform where SMBs can manage all marketing activities

Interview link

08. Gordon Russell — Springboard Retail — $10–50M annual revenue

Meet your new partner in business — the user-friendly POS software system designed for retail businesses. Built for single, multi and franchise brands.

  • Opened the first Lilly Pulitzer store in 1997
  • Launched his first e-commerce website in 1999
  • There weren’t any systems to support the omnichannel workflow
  • Built an in-house system to manage workflow
  • It worked well, other companies showed interest, so they built a publicly accessible web version

Interview link

09. Haresh Patel — Mercatus

The Modern Data Platform for Private Market Investors.

  • Worked as a regional sales manager at Texas Instruments for 10 years
  • Served as VP of Sales at 3 different companies for 15 years
  • Wanted a career change, got hired by a high-profile solar technology company
  • Was let go 6 months later due to the 2008 crisis and CEO mismatch
  • Started a sell side investment banking company for solar projects
  • Realized most investment information is processed manually in private equity funds
  • Built a proprietory in-house data platform to be more efficient and get ahead
  • Clients noticed the software and were ready to give money for it
  • Launched the publicly available renewable energy data management platform

Interview link

10. Dan Berger — Social Tables — $10–50M annual revenue

Leading event diagramming, seating, design and check-in products.

  • Started out in 2012 as a seating chart software
  • Worked with hotels and event managers
  • Realized there was a need for an integrated events management solution
  • Built it

Interview link

11. Mikael Thuneberg — Supermetrics — $10–50M annual revenue

Marketing reporting tool. Pull all your PPC, SEO, social and analytics data into automated reports. Connect to Google Analytics, Adwords, Facebook, Bing.

  • Worked at an IT company as a web analyst
  • Constantly needed to import Analytics data into Excel manually or via CSV
  • Built an automated solution
  • Realized there was a huge need for that, turned it into a SaaS

Interview link

12. Babak Hedayati — TapClicks — $10–50M annual revenue

Unified, scalable, end-to-end solution for marketing analytics, reporting, workflow and order management. Now serving 1000000 dashboards across the globe.

  • Filled CMO positions for Fortune 500 and Silicon Valley companies specializing in software, hardware, Internet and mobile apps for 20 years
  • Was responsible for outbound global marketing, which involved distributing marketing to different markets
  • Realized it was difficult for marketing companies to gauge the effectiveness of their marketing tools
  • Built a SaaS that integrates with 14,000+ marketing tools to gather and visualise data

Interview link

13. Niels Hartvig— Umbraco

Umbraco is the leading Open Source Microsoft ASP.NET CMS.

  • At 11 years old, started teaching word processing to Danish journalists (colleagues of his parents) who were struggling to transition from mechanical typewriters to keyboards
  • Worked as a software engineer for 5 years
  • Noticed a need for a user-friendly CMS
  • Built one, now more than 500,000 websites run on Umbraco

Interview link

14. Jonathan Treiber — RevTrax — $10–50M annual revenue

The RevTrax Offer Management Platform (OMP) empowers brands to deliver offers across channels, track the performance and connect insights to decisions.

  • Worked at CitiGroup on mergers and acquisitions
  • Noticed that consumer goods companies over-discounted their promo offers
  • Built a SaaS that uses data to calculate optimal discounts for each customer

Interview link

15. Aditya Bhamidipaty — FirstHive — $1–10M annual revenue

Customer data Platform, CDP, customer identity, customer 360, Single Customer View, SCV.

  • Worked at Procter & Gamble as Senior Key Account Manager
  • Was the CEO and Co-founder of eMart Solutions India
  • Noticed that consumer good enterprises communicate with customers in a way that’s disconnected across different channels
  • For example, a brand may collect information from a Facebook consumer interaction, but that information may not be used in a customer support interaction
  • Built a SaaS that uses machine learning to gather all customer interaction data into a unified model of the consumer

Interview link

16. Franz Riedl — Styla — $1–10M annual revenue

Styla offers the content experience engine that automatically designs your content and makes it shoppable, inspiring your customers with digital experiences.

  • Started out in 2012 as a visual blogging platform for non-photoshoppers
  • Got approached by clients with requests for more robust content marketing features
  • Built a SaaS that automatically designs marketing collateral

Interview link

17. Dave Lee — PlusThis — $2.1M annual revenue

PlusThis is a Campaign Toolkit for Small Business Marketing Automation Users.

  • Ran a marketing automation consulting company
  • Got complaints from clients that available software doesn’t do things they wanted it to do
  • Built the features to satisfy client demands
  • Bundled them together
  • Turned the package into a SaaS

Interview link

18. Juha Berghall — ONEiO — $1–10M annual revenue

ONEiO automates you integrations. Free your integration consultants.

  • Worked as a software consultant for 4 years
  • Ran two different consulting firms for the next 16 years
  • Noticed that clients either outsource IT chaotically or build integrations from scratch
  • Built a SaaS that integrates sourcing processes and tools

Interview link

19. Michael McCarthy — InKit — $1–10M annual revenue

The fastest, easiest way to connect with online customers in the offline world. Inkit helps you send one-to-one, personalized direct mail as easily as email.

  • Sat next to a direct mail team on his first job out of school
  • Realized their process was dependent on manual, labor intensive tasks
  • Realized it takes them 12–16 weeks to turnaround big mailing campaigns
  • Built a direct mail automation SaaS with an engineer best friend

Interview link

20. Mike Oddo — Market Maker Leads — $1–10M annual revenue

A Real Estate System That Positions You as the Market Expert

  • Started selling real estate when he was 17, became market leader by 26
  • Got “kicked in the teeth” during 2008 recession, went from #1 to #47 spot
  • Built a platform that ties CRM and content marketing for real estate agents to get back to the #1 spot
  • Turned it into a SaaS

Interview link

21. Tamas Cser — Functionize — $1–10M annual revenue

Automation testing with Machine Learning technology

  • Ran a software development company for 8 years
  • Built an internal tool to test software via AI and machine learning
  • Turned it into a SaaS

Interview link

22. Dave Savage — Mortgage Coach — $1–10M annual revenue

The Mortgage Coach platform turns average loan officers into exceptional, highly trusted advisors.

  • Ran a mortgage consulting firm for 7 years
  • Started developing apps for mortgage professionals as a side project
  • Bundled his successful apps into a SaaS

Interview link

23. Eran Ben-Shushan — Bizzabo — $10–50M annual revenue

Bizzabo is the world’s most loved event software. Our holistic Events Cloud empowers marketers and planners to manage, grow and maximize their events.

  • Worked as an event planner
  • Noticed people who go to events don’t know who to meet or how to approach them
  • Built an event networking app
  • Other event planners liked it, asked for a full-on event management solution
  • Built a holistic event planning and management SaaS

Interview link

24. Matthew White — Qebot — $1–10M annual revenue

Integrating the best business technologies on the market, Qebot makes business software simple, powerful and cost effective.

  • Started out as a website builder in 2014
  • Got client requests for an integrated business software dashboard
  • Built a SaaS that manages websites, social media, email marketing, directories, reviews and CRM for businesses

Interview link

25. Dawn Dickson — PopCom — $1–10M annual revenue

Say goodbye to low-IQ automated retail machines; say hello to powerful customer data. We make future-ready solutions for vending and self-service retail.

  • Started out in 2012 as vending machine hardware company
  • Realized software was needed to collect data from the machines
  • Started selling vending machine SaaS
  • Realized no company had the ideal hardware to take advantage of the software
  • Invented a vending machine, now sells it to customers

Interview link

26. Tore Steen — CrowdStreet — $10–50M annual revenue

Diversify your portfolio with commercial real estate investments on the CrowdStreet platform. Start building wealth today.

  • Worked with commercial real estate firms who were raising capital for projects
  • Noticed their investment potential was confined to the geographic region and sphere of influence
  • Built a marketplace that connects real estate developers and operators to investors

Interview link

27. Scott Shatford — AirDNA — $10–50M annual revenue

Gain valuable insights into the performance of 10 million Airbnb & Vrbo vacation rentals. Analyze the competition’s occupancy rates, revenue and pricing.

  • Started renting AirBnB properties in 2013
  • Started scraping AirBnB to target real estate investments and better price his rentals
  • Turned his database into a SaaS platform to price, benchmark, and invest in vacation rental properties

Interview link

28. Greg Mercer — Jungle Scout

Leading all-in-one software tool for Amazon sellers. Jungle Scout supports $1B+ of Amazon revenue.

  • Started selling physical products on Amazon, quit his job
  • Realized his biggest problem was finding profitable products to sell
  • Built a research tool that lets people find profitable products online
  • Morphed the product into a full-suite solution for Amazon sellers

Interview link

29. Mike Sedzielewski — Voucherify — $1–10M annual revenue

Programmable building blocks for coupon, discount, referral, and loyalty campaigns.

  • Started out as a software development company for startups
  • Got asked by clients to find a flexible coupon tool
  • Couldn’t find it
  • Built one of their own

Interview link

30. Randy Frisch — UberFlip — $10–50M annual revenue

Uberflip is a Content Experience Platform & Software that enables marketers to create digital experiences with content for every stage of the buyer journey.

  • Started out as a PDF management solution for marketers
  • Realized PDF was just one type of content that needed to be managed
  • Built a SaaS where marketers can access and edit all of their campaign content

Interview link

31. Guy Tytunovich — Cheq — $10–50M annual revenue

Cheq is revolutionizing brand-safety by introducing cyber-based, real-time-prevention capabilities.

  • Served as a software engineer in the Israeli intelligence
  • Started a digital agency
  • Noticed cases of ad fraud where website owners would cooperate to generate clicks for additional revenue
  • Realized none of the available solutions were using the technology fit for the challenge
  • Built a SaaS platform that de-frauds ad numbers for businesses

Interview link

32. Eric Lam— AspireIQ

AspireIQ is the leading influencer marketing platform for producing branded creative at scale.

  • Was an associate at two capital firms for 5 years
  • Worked on product management at Pocket Gems for 3 years, half of that as VP of Product
  • Realized that without a physical storefront, many brands struggle to get their product discovered
  • Noticed an upcoming wave of influencer marketing
  • Built an influencer marketing platform

Interview link

33. Jai Rawat — Zinrelo — $10–50M annual revenue

Zinrelo is a 360 degree loyalty rewards and referral marketing platform that delivers 2.4X per customer revenue, 80% more repeat purchases.

  • Started out as a platform to get advice from friends and family when you wanted to buy something
  • Realized that the customers are the most active marketers for brands
  • Built a loyalty rewards and referral marketing SaaS platform

Interview link

34. Markus Linder — SmartAssistant — (merged with Zoovu)

SmartAssistant is the leading Omni-channel Digital Advice technology.

  • Launched as an agency that built guided selling solutions from scratch
  • Realized the tweaking they were doing on the agency side could be done by the clients themselves
  • Built a tweakable SaaS chatbot product

Interview link

35. Darren M. Jer — MarketFactory — $10–50M annual revenue

One API to 80+ FX Markets.

  • Led sales and operations in the financial services markets for over a decade
  • Realized the banks were losing millions over foreign exchange market risk that occurs due to inefficient information access
  • Built an API that enables B2B currency transactions
  • Turned it into a SaaS platform

Interview link

36. Joshua Tillman — DialSource — $10–50M annual revenue

CTI for Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM enables you to have better conversations by optimizing the time and energy spent on calls.

  • Started out as a technology engineering firm in 2005
  • ???
  • Years later built a SaaS CTI for Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics and made that their main business model

Interview link

37. Derek O’Carroll — Brightpearl — $10–50M annual revenue (founder Chris Tanner)

Brightpearl is the omnichannel retail management system that puts your orders, inventory, financials, POS and CRM in one place.

  • Worked as a developer
  • Set up a longboard shop
  • Started selling online
  • Started scaling
  • Ran into challenges in back office servicing
  • Realized there was no solution to automate and monitor mundane order processing tasks
  • Built a solution for himself
  • Turned it into a SaaS

Interview link

38. Brian Reale — ProcessMaker — $10–50M annual revenue

ProcessMaker’s low-code BPM & workflow platform makes it easy to rapidly design & deploy automated workflows.

  • Won a small project to create an online paperwork management system
  • Realized institutions and corporations were drowning in paper forms
  • Launched an automated workflow software on Sourceforge
  • Built it into a SaaS

Interview link

39. Clay McDaniel — Ripl — $10–50M annual revenue

Create marketing videos in minutes, then share them to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn.

  • Started out as a video creation and influencer engagement tool
  • Years later realized that video creation and publishing features were of greatest interest
  • Pivoted the SaaS towards that

Interview link

40. Pini Yakuel — Optimove — $10–50M annual revenue

Optimove’s customer data platform drives measurable growth through smart, hyper-targeted campaign orchestration, measurement & optimization, at scale.

  • Launched in 2009 as a “consulting gig around machine learning, data science and CRM automation”
  • Noticed a lot of what they were doing manually for clients could be automated
  • Built a marketing automation and personalization SaaS

Interview link

41. Suchit Bachalli — Unilog — $10–50M annual revenue

Unilog is a global technology company that delivers powerful, affordable eCommerce solutions and product data enrichment services for the B2B marketplace.

  • Started out as a content provider for e-commerce websites
  • Noticed client websites were built on archaic e-commerce platforms
  • Built a SaaS e-commerce platform

Interview link

42. John Panaccione — LogicBay — $10–50M annual revenue

Let LogicBay help you achieve success by building, scaling, and optimizing your indirect sales channel with their Channel Profit Center methodology.

  • Was EVP of Sales and Marketing for Cognitive Arts
  • Company was sold to an Indian company
  • One of the old contracts was a $3M homeland security contract
  • Indian owner didn’t have any interest in that
  • Got permission to handpick a few people who were working on the contract
  • Started a company around that $3M contract

Interview link

43. Guru Hariharan — CommerceIQ

Boomerang Commerce collects and processes billions of e-commerce signals in real time, analyzing data from over 50,000 brands across hundreds of retailers.

  • Worked on Amazon’s supply chain during inception stages
  • Co-founded one of Amazon’s cloud businesses
  • Established Amazon’s first B2B marketing channel
  • Invented Amazon’s Selling Coach
  • Put his expertise into a SaaS platform that helps Amazon sellers make informed decisions

Interview link

44. Adam Harris — CloudBeds — $10–50M annual revenue

Award-winning property management software that helps hotels, hostels, vacation rentals and inns save time and automate operations.

  • Went to Brazil during the FIFA cup
  • Observed historically unmatched inbound tourist traffic
  • Set out to build an online reservations system that would let all these tourists book rooms easily online
  • Realized it was impossible to take rooms available and make them available without intermediary software
  • Built a SaaS that lets hotels and other hospitality vendors easily list and manage their properties on 300+ online booking channels

Interview link

45. Alex Quilici — YouMail

YouMail visual voicemail for your iPhone or Android device. Get better caller ID, call blocking, voicemail-to-text, voicemail by email and more!

  • Was VP of AOL voice services for 7 years
  • Noticed their users were using the voice messaging app as a call blocking tool
  • Realized there was a need for cloud-based, anti-robocall voicemail
  • Joined a startup that was selling voicemail to carriers
  • Initially tried to sell the anti-robocall solution to carriers
  • Realized carriers move really slowly
  • Put out a free Blackberry app as a prototype for carriers
  • Got over 1M downloads
  • Realized there was a consumer market for it

Interview link

46. Bjorn Espenes — Finch — $10–50M annual revenue

The Finch Technology Platform is an optimization and automation solution for marketers. Display, paid search, & shopping. Google, Bing, DSPs, Amazon.

  • Ran an e-commerce platform
  • Did every channel but paid search
  • Tried to find a partner who could handle paid search, failed to find a partner who could execute and deliver results
  • Realized it takes very strong discipline to execute paid e-commerce ad campaigns
  • Built a SaaS that helps media buyers get rich campaign data and stay on track with their ROI goals

Interview link

47. Don Charlton — JazzHR — $10–50M annual revenue

JazzHR is a best in class Applicant Tracking System designed to streamline your hiring process, saving significant time & money.

  • Worked at a graphic design firm
  • Handled most hiring processes
  • Got bombarded with resumes and inquiries in his inbox
  • Built a SaaS that makes hiring management more efficient

Interview link

48. Aydin Acar — Influenster — $10–50M annual revenue

Influenster is your source for honest product reviews. Discover new products, read trending news, watch tutorials, and shop and share your favorite products.

  • Worked at a large market research company
  • Realized their method was inefficient and expensive
  • Got approached by future co-founder who worked at a sampling marketing services agency
  • Built a platform to target influencers efficiently for sampling purposes, seed products to them and collect feedback from their followers
  • Realized clients valued the exposure more than the feedback gathered
  • Became an influencer-brand marketplace
  • Eventually turned into a review site that brands use for product launches

Interview link

49. Vijay Bisani — Cygilant — $10–50M annual revenue

Cygilant is the world’s first Cyber Security Agency. We liberate you from the stress, cost and complexity of achieving enterprise-class security.

  • Ran a SIEM and Log management solutions company for 15 years
  • Realized just the technology won’t solve the cybersecurity threats for customers; implementation happens when people and processes are managed well
  • Launched a security-as-a-service integrated solution

Interview link

50. Gil Eyal — HYPR — $10–50M annual revenue

Discover, evaluate, activate, and measure the performance of 12 million+ influencers using HYPR. Voted the top Influencer Marketing Platform by Digiday.

  • Served as COO at pre-Instagram photo-sharing app startup Mobli
  • Wanted to attract big celebrities and their audiences to the platform
  • Signed 200 deals with big celebrities, but they weren’t driving traffic
  • Realized they weren’t reaching the target demographic through these celebrities
  • Built a tool that breaks down celebrities by demographics and other parameters
  • Turned into a #1 influencer marketing discovery and management platform

Interview link

51. Amanda Newman — Parkbench — $5–10M annual revenue

Parkbench is a network of hyper-local neighborhood websites. Each neighborhood website is sponsored by one community-minded real estate professional.

  • Was a new realtor in Toronto in 2012
  • Had a vast network of friends
  • Wanted to convert them into clients without being salesy
  • Created a community news and deals website for her neighborhood
  • Other realtors wanted to connect with local communities
  • Started creating and managing hyper-local community websites for realtors
  • Chose only 1 realtor “mayor” per community to generate leads for them

Interview link

52. Lalit Bhise — Bizom — $10–50M annual revenue

Enabling consumer goods brands to grow and drive greater distribution efficiency with actionable insights.

  • Worked as a software engineer and engineering manager for 8 years
  • Got approached by two entrepreneur friends who talked about difficulty of handling sales on the ground and working in a fragmented distribution system (India)
  • Realized it was an easy problem to solve with a mobile app, built it
  • Turned it into a full distribution management SaaS for the Indian market

Interview link

53. Nathan Barry — ConvertKit — $10–50M annual revenue

Get the email marketing tools and automation you need to grow your blog and business.

  • Worked as a software designer
  • Started writing a blog
  • Grew audience to 37,000 members
  • Realized none of the audience building tools cut it
  • Built a SaaS email marketing platform specifically for professional bloggers

Interview link

54. Marc Aubin — Appbuddy — (acquired by Validity)

Simplify complex data management processes while working within your Salesforce CRM.

  • Ran an IT consulting firm for 8 years, specializing in Salesforce
  • Noticed a big challenge is to get employees to use a system of record
  • Built SAP and Salesforce apps that simplify CRM data management

Interview link

55. Tim Valishev — JivoChat — $5–10M annual revenue

Install Live Chat on your website and turn your visitors into paying customers with JivoChat.

  • Ran a virtual PBX (business phone systems) startup
  • Was struggling with conversions
  • Didn’t have a large advertising budget
  • Was looking for a live chat tool to increase conversions
  • Realized available products were either too expensive or ugly
  • Built one himself
  • Turned it into a SaaS

Interview link

56. Michael Mandel — CompStak

Timely, analyst reviewed commercial lease comps, sales comps, and property details.

  • Worked as a commercial real estate (CRE) agent
  • Noticed he was sharing deal level data with other brokers all the time
  • Realized none of the brokers could access data real-time
  • Realized brokers wouldn’t pay for the data, but private equity firms, investors, institutional owners and lenders would
  • Built a SaaS CRE data insight platform that’s free to the brokers and financed by previously mentioned parties

Interview link

57. David Okuniev — Typeform — $10–50M annual revenue

Dynamic online forms and surveys that adapt to users’ needs.

  • Worked as a product designer and creative director for 8 years
  • Was fed up with juggling multiple projects for clients
  • Got asked by a client to build a lead generation form
  • Realized large vanilla forms were daunting for users
  • Built a one-question-at-a-time form inspired by a sci-fi AI interface
  • Realized they could be doing it for all clients
  • Built an interactive form SaaS

Interview link

58. Chad Rubin — Skubana — $10–50M annual revenue

Multi-Channel Inventory Management & ERP Software designed for high-volume merchants by the world’s top sellers & industry minds.

  • Built a vacuum cleaner e-commerce website for his parents
  • Made lots of sales
  • Got laid off during the recession
  • Learned coding and design
  • Started a direct-to-consumer vacuum company
  • Grew quickly to selling on 20+ channels
  • Had a hard time managing the omnichannel distribution
  • Built a multi-channel inventory management and ERP SaaS

Interview link

59. Bahar Ansari — Case.one — $10–50M annual revenue

Legal practice management software designed to help various user types, from small law office to large corporate law firms, address and manage all their workflows and processes.

  • Ran an immigration law firm
  • Needed a portal to manage client relationships
  • Realized existing solutions were expensive, lacked in capacity and usable day-to-day features
  • Built a client management portal for her business
  • Realized other lawyers had the same problem
  • Turned the portal into a SaaS

Interview link

60. Arthur Lozinski — Oomnitza — $10–50M annual revenue

Oomnitza’s cloud-based asset tracking software is a connected, automated and visualized solution managing everything that makes your business run.

  • Worked as a software developer and project manager at SAP Labs for 4 years
  • Noticed SAP stores metadata about products inside SAP’s product lifecycle management software
  • Realized other companies could use the concept for their asset tracking and management
  • Built a SaaS based on that concept

Interview link

61. Oscar Macia — Forcemanager — $10–50M annual revenue

Mobile CRM & Personal Field Sales Assistant.

  • Worked in project management, marketing, communications and sales positions for 11+ years
  • Realized sales reps he managed didn’t report relevant data
  • Couldn’t find any good tools at the time to produce sales insight
  • Built one himself, turned it into SaaS

Interview link

62. Ted Murphy — IZEA — $1–10M annual revenue

Discover, engage, create, transact, distribute, and measure with the most powerful influencer marketing platform around, IZEAx® Unity Suite.

  • Started a high-end website and application agency in 1999
  • Noticed an opportunity to use MySpace, messaging platforms and blogs to drive revenue to client websites
  • “Provided people with gift cards and free products in exchange for reviews or promotions”
  • Realized the process was labor-intensive
  • Built the first social media influencer platform

Interview link

63. Alexey Orap — YouScan — $1–10M annual revenue

YouScan is an AI platform for Social Media Listening and Image Recognition that helps businesses tune into their customers’ online conversations.

  • Worked at Yandex
  • Noticed PR teams were struggling to gather user feedback after product launches due to lack of tools that could track product mentions
  • Built a brand management SaaS that tracks and analyzes social media copy and images

Interview link

64. Rob Woollen — Sigma Computing

Sigma is the first business intelligence tool built for teams to explore their cloud data warehouse using an intuitive spreadsheet UI — no SQL required.

  • Worked at Salesforce for almost 7 years
  • Observed fast-paced transition to the cloud
  • Noticed companies scatter their data across multiple SaaS’es
  • Built a holistic business intelligence SaaS that combines all of company’s data

Interview link

65. Marcin Cichon — Price f(x)

Pricefx is the leading pricing software tool that helps users to manage their pricing strategy.

  • Served as VP of procurement and pricing software companies for 11 years
  • Realized the pricing software industry was lagging behind the cloud revolution
  • Realized all existing pricing software solutions were expensive and required on-premise installation
  • Built the first pricing SaaS

Interview link

66. Alexandr Galkin — Competera

Competera is a pricing platform helping retailers enhance their strategy and increase revenue using high-quality market analysis and advanced algorithms.

  • Filled various consultancy positions for 5 years
  • Ran a consulting firm for 2 years
  • Noticed consultants are inefficient in generating price and promo recommendations for different clients
  • Realized consultants use the same models every time
  • Built a SaaS that analyzes market trends and offers pricing insight

Interview link

67. Sovan Bin — Odaseva

Backup, CCPA, GDPR, Archiving, Data Ops: Odaseva Data Governance Cloud is a suite of data governance apps for large enterprises running Salesforce.

  • Worked as lead technical architect for Salesforce for 5 years
  • Was asked by a client to study “how to bring the maturity of the data processes from the on-prem environment to the Cloud”
  • Realized large companies are struggling to keep up with data protection policy
  • Built a SaaS data governance platform for enterprises
  • Now works with 10 Million users and manages 1,000 Billion records

Interview link

68. Ashwin Navin — Samba TV — $50–100M annual revenue

Samba TV is a content recommendation engine and viewer tracking application designed for Smart TVs.

  • Was an early BitTorrent employee
  • Witnessed mass adoption of digital media as an insider
  • Realized the Internet didn’t kill TV; TV needed to adapt
  • Built a digital smart TV platform

Interview link

69. Ben Harris — Decibel

Decibel is a digital experience analytics platform built specifically to identify poor experiences on websites and apps.

  • Ran a UX design and optimization agency for 12 years
  • Realized clients lack data to understand customer retention problems
  • Built a platform that tracks user behavior on the clients’ websites

Interview link

70. Parker Morse — H Code Media — $10–50M annual revenue

Our direct + exclusive network of endemic publishers combines highly targetable datasets (science) with exemplary custom creative executions (art).

  • Filled various senior digital demand generation roles for 9 years
  • Noticed his Hispanic wife would get Spanish ads despite not speaking the language
  • Realized brands and advertising platforms do not understand the Hispanic market
  • Built an advertising platform exclusive to the Hispanic market

Interview link

71. Alex Fly — Quickpath — $1–10M annual revenue

Build, run, manage, and trust your AI-enabled applications with Quickpath.

  • Worked as an AI consultant for 7 years
  • Realized all customers faced the same process when implementing ML projects
  • Built a SaaS where clients can build, run and manage their AI-managed apps

Interview link

72. Vijay Chittoor — Blueshift

Blueshift is the only Customer Data Platform (CDP) that combines customer data, AI and multi-channel activation in a single easy-to-use platform.

  • Worked “in the intersection of AI and Marketing” for 10 years
  • Noticed marketing teams have 1,000 times more data they’re capable of making sense of
  • Noticed marketing teams needed to use that data to communicate across multiple platforms and channels
  • Built an AI-powered B2C customer engagement platform for cross-channel marketers

Interview link

73. Lynn Browne — BrandVerge

On-Demand Marketplace for Premium Marketing Programs.

  • Worked as a digital media manager at Macy’s for 3 years
  • Got frustrated with the friction in the way that media partnerships are traditionally bought and sold
  • Built a marketplace that manages the discovery, planning and consideration of premium media sponsorships

Interview link

74. Ezra Doty — Quorum — $10–50M annual revenue

Quorum provides advertisers Mobile Ad Retargeting following consumer engagements with OOH and store locations, OOH Performance Analytics, OOH Location and Creative Testing, and Predictive OOH Campaign Performance across all OOH operators and platforms.

  • Filled various advertising tech positions since 1998 (including executive)
  • Noticed out-of-home physical advertising was on the rise
  • Noticed mobile location data was becoming more accurate
  • Built a SaaS that tracks user location to determine physical advertising effectiveness and enable digital retargeting to those users

Interview link

75. Clint Tasset — Adswerve — $100–200M annual revenue

We work with agencies, analysts and marketers at all levels to unlock the full breadth of the Google Marketing Platform and Google Cloud.

  • Worked at DoubleClick for 2 years (1 after acquired by Google)
  • Decided he could offer the same display network service but with more flexible pricing
  • Invited formed DoubleClick employees to join and built it

Interview link

76. Chris Johnston — Adoreboard — $1–10M annual revenue

Adoreboard uses emotion AI to analyse, measure and unify Human Experiences for better business outcomes.

  • Worked in corporate communications
  • Noticed enterprises try to predict customer behavior without data or by rudimentary analysis
  • Worked with HP, got inspired by their vision of analytics future
  • Built an “emotion AI” SaaS that quantifies customer behavior insight

Interview link

77. Pierre-Loic Assayag — Traackr — $1–10M annual revenue

Traackr is an influencer marketing platform providing discovery, campaign management and performance measurement.

  • Filled various marketing positions for 13 years, including Peugeot and Procter&Gamble
  • Realized “persuasion marketing” only works due to the lack of alternatives
  • Built an influencer marketing platform

Interview link

78. Abhi Yadav — Zylotech — $1–10M annual revenue

The Zylotech self-learning B2B customer data platform enables businesses and organizations to more effectively retain customers and drive brand loyalty.

  • Filled various analyst positions for 15 years
  • Built analytics software for enterprise employers
  • Realized enterprises struggled to gather meaningful insight from their customer data, despite their “heroic efforts to plan data discovery, schemas, build connectors, transform data, and do advanced customer analytics”
  • Built a self-learning B2B customer data platform

Interview link

79. Shamsudeen Mustafa — Correlation One

A Global Data Science Talent Network.

  • Filled executive operations positions at financial companies for 9 years
  • Noticed there weren’t any good tools for companies hiring data scientists
  • Built a global network of data scientists

Interview link

80. Mike Myer — Quiq — $1–10M annual revenue

Leading customer engagement platform & business SMS text messaging solutions by Quiq powers conversations between your business and consumers.

  • Served for 14 years as the CTO of RightNow (acquired by Oracle)
  • Realized consumers aren’t always satisfied calling or emailing a business
  • Realized consumers can’t text businesses
  • Built a business SMS text messaging SaaS

Interview link

81. Brad Agens — Glocally

Glocally is a technology company that discovers local social content and its local creators.

  • Filled various sales positions for 14 years
  • Served as the senior vice president of sales at Tribune Publishing for 3 years
  • Realized regional and local brands struggled to distribute content at scale
  • Built a platform that helps local brands distribute content globally

Interview link

82. Agu De Marco — Wideo

Wideo is an online video creation platform that enables users to create, edit, and share online videos.

  • Ran multiple educational companies
  • Needed a video for a landing page
  • Realized all available options were time consuming and expensive
  • Asked a graphic designed, future co-founder, for help
  • Built an affordable, template driven, novice friendly video creation SaaS

Interview link

83. Philip Inghelbrecht — Tatari

Tatari has turned TV advertising into a digital-like experience: measured, real-time, and with the ability to manage your campaign in small or big doses.

  • Served as the President of TrueCar for over a year
  • Was involved with TV advertising
  • Realized TV advertising, when treated with the right data and analytics, can work for any company
  • Realized traditional agencies aren’t equipped for data-driven TV advertising
  • Built a data-driven TV advertising management platform

Interview link

84. Martin Frascaroli — Aivo

Skyrocket your Customer Service and Sales KPIs with a Chatbot powered by Artificial Intelligence.

  • Started out as a software agency for call centers
  • Noticed call centers were incredibly inefficient in terms of human resources wasted, human resources costs, customer satisfaction and number of deals lost
  • Built an omnichannel AI chatbot SaaS

Interview link

85. Duncan Stockdill — Capsule

Simple yet powerful CRM.

  • Filled various positions building customer management solutions for financial services companies for 11 years
  • Noticed these projects take years to build and implement
  • Realized companies could set up cloud CRM solutions in a few days
  • Built a CRM SaaS

Interview link

86. Eric Christopher — Zylo

Zylo is the leading SaaS management platform for enterprises. Discover, manage, measure, and secure all cloud-based software subscriptions.

  • Worked as a senior business development manager at a software company for 8 years
  • “Had a front-row seat into the explosion in the number of SaaS vendors and tools” businesses use
  • Built a SaaS management platform

Interview link

87. Chris Roebuck — Clicktivated

Clicktivated seamlessly connects viewers to products and information in video as they watch.

  • Worked as a media planner for a communications agency for 2 years
  • Ran a couple service-based tech companies
  • Watched a lot of product videos, got frustrated not being able to find the product online
  • Built a shoppable video SaaS that lets users interacts with the products in the video

Interview link

88. Zachary Goldstein — Thanx

Thanx is the CRM and digital engagement platform helping modernize and personalize guest interactions to drive incremental revenue.

  • Worked as a consultant at Bain&Co for 4 years
  • Consulted brick-and-mortar businesses
  • Realized they lack data
  • Built a CRM for brick-and-mortar businesses

Interview link

89. Glenn Shoosmith — JRNI — $10–50M annual revenue

JRNI is the enterprise SaaS scheduling platform for personalizing and optimizing the customer journey.

  • Worked as a consultant for Reuters for 1 year
  • Worked as a data systems manager for CNBC Europe for 3 years
  • Worked as a portfolio trading developer for Merrill Lynch for 1 year
  • Enjoyed playing squash
  • “Found it virtually impossible” to find an available court near home in London via Google
  • Realized managing bookings and schedules was not a trivial technical task
  • Built a scheduling SaaS

Interview link

90. Yash Madhusudhan — Fyle — $1–10M annual revenue

AI powered expense tracking, powerful policies and audit-ready reports — Fyle is the best expense management software for your business and employees.

  • Spend over a decade in SaaS sales positions
  • Was always behind on submitting expense reports
  • Realized he “lost a lot of money by either displacing receipts or by choosing not to spend hours to submit an expense report”
  • Realized available tools didn’t really save any time or make the process easier
  • Built a user-friendly expense management SaaS

Interview link

91. Damon Henry — KORTX IO — $10–50M annual revenue

Multi-channel ad operations expertise, data-driven customization, and a personnel-forward approach for campaign results that drive real business impact.

  • Developed software projects for various agencies and startups for 13 years
  • Noticed marketing teams struggled to implement technology into processes
  • Noticed most marketing technology decisions were made by IT staff
  • Built a marketing data management SaaS friendly to non-technical marketers

Interview link

92. Tom Smith — GlobalWebIndex

GlobalWebIndex is the consumer data your marketing needs. Our insights and analytics help you understand what your consumers want and how to target them.

  • Worked in a market research role at Universal McCann for 7 years
  • Was tasked with providing clients customer insight based on available data
  • Realized data available was older than 18 months, local and limited to offline channels
  • Built a holistic market research SaaS

Interview link

93. Michael Lagoni — Stackline

Stackline is a retail technology company built by ecommerce industry veterans. Technology activates data and optimizes performance for thousands of brands.

  • Worked at Amazon as a senior manager for 1 year
  • Realized e-commerce owners struggled to see a unified picture of their sales and marketing metrics because these metrics were scattered across different tools and providers
  • Built SaaS tools that provide a unified view of all e-commerce metrics

Interview link

94. Warren Levitan — Smooch — (acquired by Zendesk)

Enterprise software companies, bot platforms, and SaaS startups all rely on Sunshine Conversations to help build a next-generation messaging experience.

  • Held executive management and marketing positions at tech and packaging firms for 16 years
  • Realized companies communicate with customers in a fragmented way across different channels
  • Built a unified customer messaging SaaS

Interview link

95. Rytis Lauris — Omnisend — $1–10M annual revenue

Omnisend is the ecommerce marketing automation platform built for growing ecommerce businesses.

  • Started out as an email marketing tool
  • Noticed “e-commerce marketers have very specific needs around automation”
  • Realized “e-commerce marketers needed to add more channels to their automation to reach their customer in a larger variety of ways”
  • Built an omnichannel marketing automation SaaS

Interview link

96. Asaf Greiner — Protected Media

Leading provider of mobile advertising verification. Detect & classify Ad-Fraud, Non-Viewable Impressions & Brand Safety Threats for mobile, OTT & desktop.

  • Held various cybersecurity positions for 18 years
  • Started noticing ad-clicking viruses
  • Realized there was no solution to protect advertisers from these attacks
  • Built a mobile advertisement verification platform

Interview link

97. Aaron Brooks — Vamp

Vamp connects brands to its invite-only community of creators who provide powerful, thumb-stopping, original content.

  • Held various business development positions for 9 years
  • Noticed influencer content was higher quality and more engaging than branded content
  • Realized brands were struggling to streamline content production processes
  • Built a self-serve custom, mobile content creation SaaS

Interview link

98. Zvi Guterman — CloudShare — $10–50M annual revenue

CloudShare’s ready to use solutions provide secure, specialized virtual IT labs for software training, sales demos & POCs, sandboxing & support.

  • Held executive technical positions for 5 years
  • Noticed a difficulty creating IT labs
  • Realized available solutions were “labor-intensive and automation fell short”
  • Built a virtual IT labs SaaS

Interview link

99. Joshua March — Conversocial — $10–50M annual revenue

At Conversocial we believe that connecting with a business should be as easy as messaging a friend.

  • Started out as a Facebook app development agency
  • Got a project to build a general social media management platform
  • Realized social media would integrate into customer service
  • “Spent a lot of time sitting in major contact centers, understanding how customer service agents worked and the tools and analytics that contact center managers needed to run a large-scale”
  • Built a customer service SaaS for messaging platforms

Interview link

100. Ben Haynes — Directus

Directus is an open-source tool for managing content across all your omni-channel digital experiences.

  • Was building websites for clients as a freelancer
  • Noticed most CMS’es “felt confusing, over-engineered, and far too controlling”
  • Build a “simple, safe and intuitive” CMS of his own

Interview link

Conclusion

Entrepreneurship is by no means for the risk-averse, but it doesn’t have to be a lottery, either. The majority of successful SaaS founders did not dream up their ideas, they found them. For entrepreneurial spirits, it is then logical to seek experience, not inspiration. The visionary brain will reorganize the data points into an innovative sequence, but it needs to feed off real facts, not perceived ones.

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