The Story Behind Qualtrics, The Next Great Enterprise Company.
#SuryaRay #Surya Editor’s note: Derek Andersen is the founder of Startup Grind, a 35-city event series hosted in 15-countries that educates, inspires, and connects entrepreneurs. He also founded Commonred and is ex-Electronic Arts. I met Ryan Smith about nine years ago in a college apartment in Provo Utah. We were both attending school, and after asking him what he was working on he replied, “I’m building an online research company with my dad called Qualtrics.” Nine years later Qualtrics has 5,000 customers, $70MM in funding, and turned down a $500MM acquisition offer last year in a bold attempt to build a billion dollar company. Qualtrics was well described last year when Sequoia Capital partner Bryan Schreier called them the “largest software company you haven’t heard of yet.” That is changing quickly. If you don’t know, Qualtrics was created by Ryan and has dad as a way to help schools and companies gather feedback and data on students/customers through surveys. They have 5,000 customers including FedEx, Hewlett-Packard, JetBlue, Microsoft, PepsiCo and Zappos. The company was started by Ryan and his dad. I recently interviewed Ryan at Startup Grind Utah and learned how it all happened. In the summer of 2001 while doing an internship at Hewlett-Packard, Ryan’s dad Scott called him and said he had throat cancer and would begin treatment immediately so Ryan returned home and took a semester off school. While at home he found that his dad, who Ryan describes as a “super early adaptor,” had built the technology that was the beginning of Qualtrics. Each day after Scott returned from chemotherapy they would work on the product. By the time Scott had returned to full strength, Ryan had signed up 20 customers and they had hired a small team to build out the product. The first customers were in academia. Ryan realized that he could easily find key decision makers’ contact information online, and since it worked for one it seemed only natural that it would work for others. The first customer was a professor at the Kellogg School of Management. Ten years later the first ten Qualtrics customes are still customers. All of this was literally happening from Ryan’s parents’ basement in Provo Utah in 2002 and 2003. Ryan’s first big hire was a friend that he convinced to turn down a $60,000 job to make $8,000 at Qualtrics. Don’t worry – after over delivering he made $12,000 the next year. By 2004 they had 20-people and there were so many cars on their street that neighbors http://dlvr.it/31w82V @suryaray