I have worked with many start-ups over the years. Some were funded by credit cards, some by a single founder, some by friends and family and some by venture capitalists. But regardless of the source of our funding or the product we developed, the questions from customers were remarkably consistent.
How long have you been around and who else has bought your product? (particularly difficult for the first 4 or 5 customers)
Can I trust you with my data? What happens if you sell yourself or go out of business? What happens to my data?
Will you be able to scale your service to meet my demand?
Will you give up on the product your are offering me if it doesn’t work out? Will you “pivot” away from my needs?
A common theme running through these questions is the customer’s concern that the start-up will be around for a while. In answering their questions, I have learned that there are some factors that make a customer feel secure about doing business with your company.
The company breaks even on its cash flows: When a start-up reaches cash flow break-even, it means they have enough customers to sustain operations. It also means the company has managed to balance investment with revenue. And it is a good indicator of their continued success. This doesn’t guarantee their success 10 years from now, but it is good bet that they are not going anywhere in the near term.
Your data stays with you: It is scary enough to hand over your company’s most precious data - your customer database - to a large company with all the data break-ins today. But with a start-up, the risks magnify, as there is the added worry that the start-up will fail, or will be acquired. What happens to your data then? Not giving access to your business critical data is always the safest policy.
The infrastructure is scalable: Creating a beta product for 10-20 customers is possible for most start-ups. The challenge is automating the tasks as the company scales, without sacrificing quality. Only companies that are focused on scalability right from the start can grow non-linearly, while meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
Which brings me to Compile.
We are two years old and have passed both cash flow and profitability break-even.
We never ask our customers to provide us with their data. We ask our customers for descriptions of their products and descriptions of their customer’s pain points. That information is enough to provide a continuous stream of targeted leads to our customers. We obsess over customer feedback - what worked best and what didn’t - so we can refine our product delivery.
We also continue to invest in our operations to ensure that the quality of the product continues to improve. Indeed, it is our goal that we surpass the expectations of each new customer as we continue to grow.
Finally, we are the owners of Compile. We have no other parties to answer to, nor to drive us in different directions. We will do whatever it takes to make our customers successful: each one of my colleagues is focused on providing the very best experience to each of our customers.
We are just getting started.