Editor’s Note: This is a new Q&A series from StartUp Beat that features entrepreneurs who have successfully guided their startups (or multiple startups) to maturity. It is a complement to StartUp Beat’s coverage of early-stage startups and an effort to provide further insight into the experiences of tech entrepreneurs.
Bio: Adam founded Model Metrics in an effort to accelerate the adoption of Cloud Computing within enterprise organizations, with the goal of bringing these companies all the value of the technology, from rapid implementation to ease of use, enhanced analytics, and tremendous ROI. Adam earned his MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management and his undergraduate degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a board member of the Illinois Technology Association and a member of the Kellogg School Entrepreneurship Advisory Board.
SUB: What was your first entrepreneurial venture?
Caplan: This is my first.
SUB: What prompted you to start Model Metrics in the first place?
Caplan: After completing my MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, I was working at a company that was an early adopter of salesforce.com’s cloud computing technology for customer management. I was blown away by the technology and its potential to disrupt traditional enterprise technology, but was less impressed with the implementation process. I knew there had to be a better way. I took a gamble that cloud technology would be the way of the future and that companies would need experts to implement it. I began pulling together a business plan out of a Chicago Starbucks, and in 2003, Model Metrics was born.
SUB: Was there a point at which you knew Model Metrics would hit it big?
Caplan: It wasn’t long after we founded Model Metrics that I knew we were onto something. When we founded the company in 2003, the cloud computing industry was heating up and salesforce.com was taking off. As the desire for cloud technology began to outpace traditional enterprise software, salesforce.com grew rapidly. And as they grew, the need for our services followed. It was the perfect storm.
SUB: Was there a “tipping point” (for lack of a better term) when Model Metrics really picked up steam and where it started growing exponentially?
Caplan: There have been two tipping points. The first was when salesforce.com opened up its platform to allow developers to build any cloud application on it. Now we weren’t just implementing customer relationship management (CRM) technology, but building net new cloud applications that bring tremendous innovation to customers. We were one of the first to build expertise on salesforce.com’s platform and have now extended to other cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services and Google. As a result, we’re known for building really custom, enterprise-class cloud applications.
The second tipping point was the introductions of the iPhone and the iPad. An entirely new market opened up for us as enterprises want to enable the cloud on the latest and greatest mobile devices. We saw an opportunity to be the first to mobilize the cloud. This has translated into a watershed of success for our business.
SUB: What were the first steps you took to establishing Model Metrics?
Caplan: The most important first step was quitting my job. To embark successfully on something like this, you need to do it full time and really feel the financial burden. You need to take a risk.
The other key step for us was finding an effective channel strategy early on to get leads. For us, it was salesforce.com. This allowed us to focus on building our service.
SUB: If you had it to do over again, what would the first concrete step to establishing Model Metrics have been?
Caplan: If I had to do it over again, I would have begun building processes to scale the business from the very beginning. This includes making investments like hiring employees within the first year so that we could scale more quickly and take advantage of the opportunity we found.
SUB: What were the most significant obstacles to growing Model Metrics to maturity?
Caplan: Because we’re in a relatively young market, our challenge has been recruiting people with the right expertise. Since the number of cloud developers is still growing, we’ve had to hire and train people, and as a result, have built a highly effective training program on our methodology.
This training program has also helped us to overcome another obstacle: Scaling our business to meet the market opportunity. We’ve had to learn how to bring scale to everything we do given our fast growth rate, from our hiring and sales processes to ensuring our employees deliver a consistent and excellent service to our customers.
Lastly, we’re also in a very competitive and fast market and have to continuously work to ensure we stay ahead of the game so that we can differentiate through our expertise doing complex and mobile cloud development. We’ve done this through having a laser focus on taking on the right kind of projects and executing to our best ability.
SUB: What kinds of outside funding did you raise?
Caplan: To date, we have received funding from private investors.
SUB: What was the metric/milestone that indicated to you that Model Metrics had moved past startup stage?
Caplan: I knew Model Metrics had moved past the startup stage when we won our first enterprise-wide deal. This wasn’t doing an implementation for a small division of a company, but a top down strategic cloud implementation. A couple early ones that we won were Abbott and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. We had gotten past any question of our ability to execute.
SUB: What were the most important lessons you learned about entrepreneurship while building Model Metrics?
Caplan: The most important lesson I’ve learned from building Model Metrics is to not be afraid of focus. In an entrepreneurial spirit, there are lots of ideas and opportunities. Being able to have focus on doing one thing really well pays off, and leads to being able to execute on those other great ideas and opportunities down the road.