Sramana: What did you do in 1999 when the company you were working for was acquired? What path did you take?
Clate Mask: I stayed on board for another couple of years. About.com was the fourth-largest Internet company due to their roll-up of other companies. They were right behind Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL. It was a lot of fun and really exciting. After the acquisition, I went around and taught the different sales teams how to add more revenue and more value to the deals they were doing by using our Internet properties inventory.
It was a great way for me to sell our stuff through a channel of sales staffs. They were spread out over five offices across the country. We were then acquired a second time by Primeida, which was a big publishing company. Things became less dynamic after that, so six months later I bolted.
Sramana: What year was that, and what path did you take?
Clate Mask: Up to that point I had been based in Utah. I was living there with my wife and four children, yet my wife and I were both from Arizona. After I left About.com, we decided to move back to Arizona and start my career there. It was a tough decision because I wanted to work in technology, and there were not a ton of great opportunities in Arizona at that time.
I came down and did some consulting on my own. One of my clients was my wife’s two younger brothers, who were doing custom software development. After a few months of helping them, I realized they were very smart and had effective custom software. They asked me to come on board as an equal partner, so I joined Infusionsoft in the second half of 2002. There were three developers and me. Their job was to write software and mine was to do everything else.
Sramana: What was the game plan for Infusionsoft? What type of software were they developing?
Clate Mask: At the time, it was all custom software for small businesses. They focused primarily on Web-based JSP Java work. We did some desktop work with Access databases, but most of our work was Java. There were two things I quickly realized in late 2002. First, we wanted to be Web based. The co-founders convinced me it was the way of the future. Second, we knew we needed to have products. Billing hours for dollars was a very tough road to travel. We quickly began moving toward having a product. It took us 18 months to get our first product out because we did not have formal financing.
Sramana: How did you decide what product to build?
Clate Mask: We just felt our way through it. We found that everything our customers were asking us to create had a customer database at the heart of the solution. In January 2003, we were looking at all of the customers we had and the solutions we had created for them. We identified a CRM component that they were looking for that Salesforce.com did not give them. We decided to create a CRM program for small businesses that was Web based and truly created for small business, not distributed salesforces. That is what we started building, and by the end of 2003 we had our first CRM product for the mortgage industry. A year later we had a more general CRM product, which became our second market offering.