VV Show #58 - Siamak Taghaddos and David Hauser of Grasshopper
"Dial 1 for sales, dial 2 for support..." Ten years ago it cost over $10,000 to get a phone system with the advanced options we're used to hearing when we call big companies. Having a professional-sounding phone system was a surprisingly big challenge for small businesses short on cash. Enter Siamak Taghaddos and David Hauser who launched GotVMail to offer that service at rates starting at only $10 per month in 2003 as they were graduating college. They launched their business with under $200,000 in capital and never raised any more money. They bootstrapped their way to profitability quickly, and are now driving over $10 million in annual revenue. Despite their success, Siamak and David don't believe what's gotten them this far will take them to the next level. So they've just rebranded their company Grasshopper and are getting ready to launch some new products.
Show sponsor: FreshBooks - an easy online invoicing provider used by Venture Voice
3:15 Discovering a mutual love of entrepreneurship at Babson College
4:30 Entrepreneurial roots in cellular pager distribution and Return Path
8:00 Similar business models leads to a partnership
11:15 "It took us six months from shaking hands to turning up out first customer."
11:40 Early operations, developing the product, and balancing school
13:45 Low capital requirements (under $200k) through smart vendor deals
15:40 On falling technology costs: "If whoever is listening wants to get in the space and compete with us, you can do it a lot faster, easier and cheaper than we did."
16:10 Simple feature set allowed for easy building, but marketing took more thought
17:05 On marketing to entrepreneurs
19:10 "90% of [costs] went to developing the infrastructure."
21:00 Working with Google Adwords
24:20 On trust and working together
27:00 "We were never friends to begin, so there was never that conflict."
28:40 Advice for choosing business partners: "Find a partner that's an entrepreneur, and doesn't play a specific role."
30:15 Life after break-even
31:45 The continuing benefits of bootstrapping and a limited budget
35:30 "We've stopped outsourcing anything related to creating a brand."
39:30 On plateaus
42:30 From GotVMail to Grasshopper: "Forget telecommunications, but create a brand for entrepreneurs that provides tools and services that empowers them to succeed."
45:30 Why the Grasshopper name?
52:30 Maintaining growth and agility
53:45 Grasshopper today: 50 people, mainly tech; HQ in Needham, MA; office in Austin, TX
55:30 Getting the name out
1:01:15 Grasshopper as the "Virgin" brand for entrepreneurs
1:05:40 Future goals
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Ugh! I hate those things. And I am likely to hang up, unless I really have to get through.
They may be making a lot of money, but I don't think its a service. Sorry. But lets employ some people who can really talk to customers. Its better customer service and I am more likely to buy
Posted by: Margo Arrowsmith at August 2, 2009 7:04 AM