Ep. #958 - Build Your Business Before Fundraising
In this episode of Startup Hustle, we’re learning the ins and outs of how to build your business before funding comes in. So Matt Watson talks to Nick Santora, founder of Curricula, about two things. First is how Nick went about building a business before any fundraising efforts began. And Nick also shares the journey of selling his business (for $22M) with us!
Covered In This Episode
Data security is a top priority for almost every company. That is why Nick hopped on this entrepreneurial journey to help spread awareness about security without the boring PowerPoint slides.
Aside from this primary topic, he also shares his insights on how to build your business before looking for funding. A little hint—it involves more than just meeting potential investors and shaking hands.
If you want to learn more about it, listen to this Startup Hustle episode today!
- Nick’s journey on how Curricula was built (01:35)
- On making a Learning Management System (04:32)
- Phishing attacks in the real world (06:23)
- What is the NERPSIP Model? (07:35)
- About security awareness education (09:01)
- How was Curricula funded? (11:01)
- Curricula’s David and Goliath story of success (13:45)
- On deciding when to stop bootstrapping and creating external funding (15:51)
- Striking a balance between needing a job, an income, and a business revenue (18:16)
- Struggles in bootstrapping your business while working a full-time job (20:20)
- Growing the business and selling Curricula to Huntress (22:55)
- The acquisition process (26:24)
- Life after the acquisition (31:08)
- Challenges while going through the acquisition process (33:11)
- Growth in Huntress and what they do (35:47)
- What’s next for Curricula? (37:22)
- On letting go of your “baby” (first business) (38:20)
- About diluting your core mission and business (40:35)
If you know you’re going to get acquired by someone or sell the company one day, you can build stuff into your plan to kind of support that. And I think we kind of always knew that early on. So we had great documentation, a slow process, but spent a ton of time on product and marketing.Nick Santora
What I would say is my advice to people who are starting the business and knowing that there was something tangible in front of us. Like what to build for it would change my perception of whether we raise or not. And what I realize, and I think most people know that, is like it’s better to raise incredible amounts of money with no traction and just a crazy idea. But you have to have a track record of doing that to be trusted.Nick Santora
There’s always an eleventh-hour disagreement, and they always want to pay you less than you wanted for some stupid reason or whatever. There’s always some shit that comes up, right? It’s like you get past the finish line, but you’ve kind of created a hostile relationship in the process of it.Matt Watson
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt Watson 00:00
And we’re back for another episode of the Startup Hustle. This is your host today, Matt Watson. I’m excited to be joined today by Nick Santora from Curricula, which was just acquired by Huntress. And we will talk all about his journey of being an entrepreneur. Before we get started, I do want to remind everybody that today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by FullScale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult, but Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably. And has the platform to help you manage that team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. Well, Nick, excited to learn about your journey and what Curricula did. And now, what you’re doing at Huntress. So it’s my understanding that both businesses are related to security. Sounds like security, small business, maybe is kind of the focus. Security is a hot topic. So we love to learn more about Curricula and your journey.
Nick Santora 00:56
Yeah, cybersecurity is a hot topic. So I guess the founding stories were a good place to start with this. I spent about seven years working for the federal regulator for our power grid in North America. It’s an agency called NERC. They basically make sure our lights stay on. When you turn the light on, it actually stays on and electricity continues to run through this country. So I spent a lot of time on cybersecurity, dealing with regulations and investigations and audits, and anything and everything related to this very boring environment. And it’s technology. That’s, you know, some of these devices don’t even have backups, or they’re made 50 years ago. So talking about shifting a legacy technology of the power grid up to the modern workforce and technology, which is not easier said than done, I guess. So, from that, you know, about seven years into it, I got the itch and I used to go on audits. I saw this one guy getting interviewed during an audit at an electrical utility. And, you know, typically part of the audit, the auditor will ask the oddity on, you know, hey, you have to go through an annual training program every year about this NERC CIP compliance stuff. Tell me what you know about it, just kind of casual, should be an open-ended thing just to kind of talk and deer in headlights. There is someone that’s been working there for 20 years that didn’t really know what they learned from their training because they probably didn’t learn anything. And they get asked this question about a specific device that can literally operate the power grid remotely. And they’re like, tell us what you know about this. And the guy didn’t know what it was, what the term was, like, I hear it all the time. But I don’t really know what it is. And that just blew my mind, because I’m sitting in this room watching this event take place with a bunch of lawyers and like people that are on edge. And here’s a regular guy working there for 20 years. And his desktop, the system he works at, is the device that can control the power grid, but he didn’t really know the terminology. Yeah, it all blew my mind at all this, but it also didn’t, because at the same time, there’s a lot of acronyms. It’s super complex. A lot of lawyers do really boring stuff. So from there, I kind of flew home after that and met with Joe, our co-founder, CTO. And we’re having some beers, and we’re just talking about like, man, I was out on this audit, and this guy had no idea it was going on, like really sad. And we’re like, kind of laughing about it. And then, for a second, we’re like, I don’t think we should be laughing. This is our electric power grid for the whole country. So yeah, I probably should take this a little more seriously. So, from that moment, we kind of realized like, man, what if we could teach people about cybersecurity in a way that was not just a bunch of deaths by PowerPoints? And fast forward, there’s been a lot of stuff along the way, but that’s kind of how we got our wheels spinning.
Matt Watson 03:51
So did you end up building effectively what I would call it and maybe this isn’t the right terminology for this, like a learning management system that was all about training, or was it more was more of like a sassed, you know, product and like service? Real, you know, separate from it? Or was it just all about training?
Nick Santora 04:09
It’s a little bit of all of it at the core, you know, put lipstick on a pig. It’s an LMS, right? Tracks, learning tracks, videos, does all this cool stuff. The thing that’s special I kind of translate this kind of like what peloton did where it was like, Just a bite, who cares? Or if it’s just video content, who cares? We have enough of that. But when you put them together, there was a different experience that came out of that, which it took me seeing it in real life to actually understand it. And with the curriculum, the same thing is that there’s a lot of LMSs out there, they’re super clunky, they’re clumsy, they’re overpriced, you know, the list goes on. And then you got security awareness content providers, which are basically companies that are putting together content to teach employees about cybersecurity. pretty miserable on both sides of the fence. So we wanted to create something that was simple for every business to set up and fun for them to actually learn and talk with each other about these complex topics. So we landed on this concept of storytelling, where we use this cast of characters and what we call curriculum Ville. And, you know, they wake up and go to work and stuff. And there’s heroes or villains. And basically, we have a full animation studio that puts together these episodes, where you can watch someone go on an adventure and get hacked. So much. So the software, you know, obviously does lmsc type things. But there’s a component in our software called a fishing simulator. And it allows a company to essentially simulate what a cyber attack could look like, towards their employees in the real world. Okay, and it sends a fake phishing attack out, you can customize, do all kinds of crazy things.
Matt Watson 05:47
So in my last company, I was the founder, CEO of this company called stack phi. And all my employees had told me all the time, they’re like, did you send me an email about XYZ thing, right? And then the company I work at now that our CEO, same thing, like all the employees, get all these emails, supposedly, from the CEO asking them to do this, that and whatever, I actually got an SMS text message, it was a couple weeks ago, from somebody pretending to be our CEO asking me if I could go buy gift cards at the Apple Store for her. It’s crazy, like, this shit happens in the real world all the time. And people fall for it.
Nick Santora 06:25
Bad. And I think we’re getting somewhat better for those that are taking the initiative. But there’s a lot of people that need to take the initiative. And I think what the world needs to realize is that just sitting stale is not going to save you from a bad day. And it’s a lot easier to prevent an attack than recover from one, just from the insurance, the liability, the customer, or the reputation, all the things that go with it have to be calculated in, which is why we see just a lot of people that are terrified, like I don’t know where to start with cyber, and that’s a good place to start.
Matt Watson 06:58
So did you end up building a platform that was kind of just very generic? Like, you know, HR, any company would kind of use this? Or was it specific to industries like, you know, the electrical power companies and stuff, and they had like a different kind of content they needed for the different kinds of equipment they had, and all that kind of stuff?
Nick Santora 07:16
Yep, yeah, we follow the nail niche model of like, just hyper focus on one specific industry and piece of content. That’s called the NERC CIP model, which is okay, utilities, they have a regulation, mandating that they perform an annual training and then show evidence for it. So we were one of two people in the world that, like, created that content. And I worked for the agency that helped teach the auditors on how to audit this stuff. So it was kind of a shoo in for us being hey, these guys are experts. But what we realize is that industry is very small, like there’s only 1000, maybe 2000 companies in the United States, North America and including Canada. So that’s not a way to scale a business with these price points. So we basically said, how do we create content and a platform that allows every small business to use us. And that is really where we open up the doors to this kind of general security awareness platform, which allows you to do all these things that you want to do with your employees, we take care of all the dirty work, click a couple of buttons, and people get educated throughout the year throughout our platform.
Matt Watson 08:23
So did you? So you ended up going really deep in that industry? And then eventually did the more broad content, but did you also go deeper into some other industries as well?
Nick Santora 08:35
Little bit, basically, with SAS companies, there’s a thing called sock two. Yeah, heard of that? Yeah. There’s about that. Nightmares. There are a couple of partners that do a really good job, like trata is one of them, just leading the charge on helping small businesses without a security department go through the motions of what it takes to build a starter kit security program. Security awareness is a requirement and one of those things you must do as part of a sock two. So one of our you know, we started seeing patterns where a lot of people come in for sock two, only when they’re like, Series B and above, or have like hundreds of employees. I started to see the pattern when there were two person companies coming to us saying we need training for our sock two. Like, why are you doing that? That’s crazy to me. And then when you start seeing dozens and dozens and then hundreds of them coming in every month. I was like crap, we should. We should help with this. So yeah, all of this led to our PLD model, where we gave back a free episode on sock two and that changed the whole direction.
Matt Watson 09:38
Yeah, for me, I consider sock two and GDPR to be four letter words that shall not be spoken.
Nick Santora 09:45
And then look at what else is coming. There’s just going to be more and more of these that everyone’s feeling like this. Like what am I even supposed to do? Who’s even going to audit me? It’s a confusing world to be in. Yeah.
Matt Watson 09:54
So tell me about you know, when you guys started in What was it like going through like the fundraising and early growth side of this?
Nick Santora 10:05
So we were atypical to show every other word Atlanta, at the Atlanta Tech Village. So we were right down the hall from Calendly and SalesLoft, and Terminus and some of the bigger well known names out of Atlanta. We did not raise fundraising. So we did five, almost five and a half years bootstrapped, and got ourselves to almost a million in ARR with four people. And we realized, like, Man, this is pretty nice. Why don’t we see if we can get to the next level here. Now, I think we’re ready to not rip her hair out and go get some extra padding, so we don’t have to watch cash flow every month. And well, we really, I got met with 6070 Plus VCs, and did several pitch events, and there was just a lot of confusion out there. And I learned a lot about the VC market. I think that year in 2019 is just like how to approach it, what they’re looking for, and why. But by the time we got to the tail end, I did a show called Venture Atlanta that was here. And we met RCP equity, which was our ultimately we did a deal with them. They’re a small family office private equity group. And what we realized is that we don’t want to dilute and go chase this series, an endless amount of series fundraising, we just wanted to keep the thing going as we wanted it to keep going with a little extra cash. And our moons align really well on that because they were a newly formed group they wanted, they clearly knew who we were, and our ideals aligned quite a bit on who we’re going to serve us. So we did a deal and I guess it closed in 2019. But we will announce it in January 2020. Our 3 million series A and that definitely gave us a good amount of padding leading into the chaos that Coronavirus led into good timing there.
Matt Watson 11:49
So I think for everybody’s listening, going back to one thing you mentioned, and I don’t know if you’re exaggerating or being specific, but you said you talked to like 60 different VCs.
Nick Santora 11:59
Face to face meetings with 60 plus, I probably met with literally like 1000 at like events and all this stuff.
Matt Watson 12:06
That’s insanity. Right? That’s insanity, that’s a full time job for probably more than a full time job, right? Just to keep track of all of that. And all the communication, the scheduling the meetings, the documents, they want to see this stuff, you know, all the due diligence, you have to put together all of that, like it’s an it’s a huge amount of effort.
Nick Santora 12:29
Probably like 40% of my year in 2019 was spent on this, which seems like such a waste. But hey, lifelong lesson, I learned how to navigate the system. And I don’t. I’m not gonna say I’m the best fundraiser in the world. Absolutely not. But I understand how the dynamics play between capital and capitalists.
Matt Watson 12:49
So how, how important was it? Do you feel like that you guys had at that point? A lot of traction? You know, would you feel like, you know, we had product market fit, we’re ready to scale the business like you had you had all the things that most investors are looking for, right?
Nick Santora 13:04
Yeah, we were definitely going slower than most, you know, if you’re a well funded startup, it’s either grow or bust at that point. So for us, we’re like, now, like steady wins the race on this one, we stayed in the shadows. Also important to mention at this same time from 2015, is when we started Curricula to recently this past year, we had a super large competitor that raised almost $500 million in VC funding along the way. So half a billion in cybersecurity funding is a lot for any cybersecurity company yet alone, the direct competitor and somewhat only competitor to the David versus Goliath story here and who was a company called no before.
Matt Watson 13:45
Okay, never heard, never heard of them. So. So was that one of the challenges you had with the VCs is that you weren’t growing fast enough. And they saw that your competition was, you know, much bigger and didn’t feel like you had a fighting chance.
Nick Santora 14:03
Yeah, I think it was like that first wave of like, Greenfield opportunities, where it’s just like, they raise a ton of money discounted every deal, like 90% off so we just literally couldn’t compete with them head to head because we didn’t have a padded bank account to discount that heavily. So we just kind of stick to our guns and we’re like, there’s people out there. They’re early adopters, they will go out of their way to choose this versus the big clumsy competitor. But that won’t last long. So what we tried to do was kind of like staying in the shadows to build up our little like supporter group. And then when we were ready to strike, we were, you know, ready to strike and that’s where our whole product led growth initiative took off in 2021.
Matt Watson 14:47
So I feel like a lot of people these days are quick to try and raise money before they really have a product. They really have, you know, figured out a lot of the things we figured out. You know, what advice do you have for people that are trying to decide when they should raise capital like, should they do an early seed round and early Series A round or bootstrap it for an extended extended period of time and somehow get the product off the ground?
Nick Santora 15:11
Depends on what you want out of it. And I think that the more important thing is like, round two of doing this, I’ll have more of an exit plan in sight of like, why are you building this for who and build towards that direction somewhat, it’s not like you’re gonna get it perfect. But if you know you’re gonna get acquired by someone, or sell the company one day, you can build in stuff into your plan to kind of support that. And I think we kind of always knew that early on. So we had great documentation, a slow process, but spent a ton of time on product and marketing, not a ton of time on sales. So we had like, what two sales reps the whole time, and we only hired two sales reps, like two years ago, it was just us just kind of winging it. But what I would say my advice on is starting the business and knowing that there was something tangible in front of us like what to build for, it would change my perception of do we raise or not. And what I realized, like, and I think most people know that it’s like, it’s better to raise incredible amounts of money with no traction, and just a crazy idea, but you have to have a track record to do that to be trusted. It also puts a, I wouldn’t say gun to your head, but it’s kind of a gun to your head, right, like you need to perform, you don’t need to worry about cash, per se, you need to worry about execution and growth. So if those things are up your alley, you kind of make your adjustments and say I want to go on a fundraising path to do it. You know, whatever, see, precede a B, keep going. But just know what that entails. It’s not, it’s not easy. And you’re gonna have probably more stress from that angle than we had, which was, you don’t need to hit growth in metric numbers, but you do need to survive. So I take that card any day, because that’s kind of just sensible growth versus growth at all costs in my eyes.
Matt Watson 17:04
So when you were starting out with this and decided to go down that path of not raising money right away, did you guys invest some of your own capital to kind of get it started? Or like, how did you balance the like, I need a job and I need income versus I want to start my own business. But we don’t have any revenue? Like that’s a struggle a lot of people have, right? Like, how do you make that jump into doing you know what you want to do full time? Until you know, it produces some revenue that you could, you know, leave your previous job? Like, how did you deal with that part of it?
Nick Santora 17:36
My circumstances demanded that I leave the job. So it’s almost like working at the IRS and then trying to do someone’s taxes for him, like a super conflict of interest. So I kind of just knew that was the thing. So I wasn’t able or wanted to work on anything while at the agency. But as soon as we left, we split up a website like that weekend, we announced it like that, that next week in March of 2015. But yeah, I think like, knowing that what was the question again? Sorry?
Matt Watson 18:07
Well, it’s like, so you do that. But you know, you know, how did you deal with the like, Hey, okay, we started a new company. Now, we don’t make any money, like, how do you personally like to make that jump? And you know, financially do that? Are you guys able to have some savings and stuff like that you were able to invest and kind of make this work? Or, like, how did you bridge that gap until you were able to make some revenue?
Nick Santora 18:28
Yes. So rewind to like 2013, I think it was, we actually ran a couple other small business, SAS type things in the online ad agencies, we did a WooCommerce iPhone app and a whole bunch of cool little projects that cumulatively were, you know, doing like 20k, MRR, something like that. And, you know, it was like, Oh, this is nice, this is a way that we can learn from our mistakes, show what growth could look like, on a project that we don’t really care too much about. And I think that gave me enough practice to be like, I’m ready for the big one. So once the big one Curricula came into sight, it was all or nothing like burning the boats. You know, you go to this island, and you want to be successful, you can’t have a backup plan. Because if you do, then you’re always kind of leaning into that backup plan as like your primary offering. And so I dumped 60,000 into the company, I think one put 51 of the other co-founders 50,000 So it’s about 110 that we started with out of our pockets 401k account, basically, and paid huge penalties to get access to that money, but super worth it. And then along the way, there were lots of ups and downs, obviously to keep the boat afloat. And I sold a condo in Atlanta a couple years later and then put that back into the company to keep things going. But yeah, other than that, it was no big fundraising until we got to our Series A in 2019.
Matt Watson 19:58
Yeah, it might have had to Uh, when I, when I started my very first company, I was working full time at my other job still and actually managed to, like, I went in at like six in the morning and worked till like noon. And then I went home and worked, you know, all day and all night, the rest of the day on my, my startup and, and it took like a year or two before I could actually make enough money from our startup that I was able to quit my job. And it’s just, it’s always a hard, hard thing for people to do, especially if they don’t raise capital, right? And it’s also hard to go to investors and like, we need to raise a bunch of money. So you basically can pay me that never looks really good to the investors either.
Nick Santora 20:36
No, and I, it is hard, because you’re working full time. And then you’re trying to do it again, full time on building the future. And it’s exhausting. So I guess I’m fortunate where I didn’t have to do that. Because I never would have been able to launch anything if I was even allowed to do that. But it did put some pressure on us and kick us in the ass like, we launched it in March, there’s a deadline by April of the following year for this to be done. And every utility has it. So what do we do in between? So we were like building shit and like trying to make content and the software was brand new, like we barely had anything. And our first sale was in I think November and we sold. There’s a company up in Canada. And they were like, Yeah, I love it. Like, will we like what direction you’re going in this? We need it because it’s a requirement. And they’re like, we’ll take two years worth of it. Like, oh, really two years like to this day, that is the only customer ever that has paid for two years upfront. Now we really need it.
Matt Watson 21:35
Yeah. Sometimes you get those. You know, you get those when you need them. It’s just crazy how that works out. I want to take a second to remind everybody that finding experts, software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit FullScale.io where you can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs. And then see what developers, testers, and leaders are available to join your team visit FullScale.io to learn more. So you guys raise your series A you’re growing, and then ultimately you sold the company just recently a couple months ago to Huntress so congratulations on that. So you started Curricula? You know, several years ago, a couple years ago, you raised a Series A but you sold the company a couple months ago to Huntress so big congratulations to that. So I’m curious, you know what, what led to the sale and you know, was it sounds like 1218 months after you did the Series A, you started exploring, you know, selling it or had some inbound interest or, you know, talk to me about how that went.
Nick Santora 22:42
So we spent all of our time selling directly to customers just b2b. And when we raised our fundraising, the head Joel Smith, who’s the head guy at RCB, equity, sold his business, AppRiver, to ZIX Corporation for 280 something million. And, you know, for us, one of the things that they were excited about was that all of their business was sold through a channel system, like channel partners. Yep. And they realize like, if you want to scale this, you would have to either hire a massive sales team and raise a ton of money. Or you can use channel partners to do it, and you give them margin. So we’re like, yeah, that makes sense. So we spent kind of that first year just like building the MVP around what our channel position would look like. And all the things we launched, it had some rough hires here and there. And then ultimately, we kind of sunsetted it for a little bit. We’re like we’re doing so well. On the direct side. We just don’t, we can’t spread ourselves so thin to do the channel as I would love to but we just don’t have enough cash or resources to do it. So fast forward to summer of 2021 last year. And we saw that like the patterns were there growth was their signups or they’re just with two salespeople, you’re just not going to do great. And with this price point, it’s circus peanut pricing. Like it’s so cheap, this stuff, what was the price, it’s like $2, and an employee per month for the whole platform with everything going on. So it’s really cheap when you look at some other LMSs. They’re like $25 in employee per month, some of them going down to like six to $8 per month on the reasonable end. And here we are with a full blown LMS security, with a content fishing simulator, all these cool features, and you could build your own custom content inside of our platform. So we were just kind of at a loss like man, I don’t understand. So a lot of it was how do we get more pipeline in the door and more automation. So we sat down actually, our investor, we had lunch and I was talking to him like, I think it’s time to do the plg strategy. I think this is the right moment to create a self service signup model that is full speed on their own. And so we spent like two months hard work ticking on rewinding features to say how do we give this stuff away for free without giving away the farm. And that’s not easy, it’s actually a lot easier, probably to go the other way. But we did it, we launched it in November I think was like 11th, or somewhere around there. And ever since then we would do somewhere like 100, inbound leads a month, something like that. Now we’re doing anywhere between like six to 800, sometimes higher inbounds a month from the plg engine that’s running. So it sets the top of the funnel up to a pretty good lot of automations coming in to kind of get people through the app. And we only have one sales rep. Working on that right now. So clearly, that caught the attention of a lot of people when you started seeing us pop up everywhere, from November into the winter, into the 2022. And we were approached by I’d say a solid six different strategies to acquire the US. Plus we had you know VCs that we were like just talking with and growth equity people we were talking with. And ultimately, we think the strategy made a lot more sense given the position we were in, and where we wanted to go. But it was also like picking the right strategy, there were a couple of meetings where I went into where I was just like, give me anxiety, just like I can’t work here like this will, this will be miserable, like putting myself here, let alone the other employees. And then we had some one meeting with the CEO. We just know that we didn’t get along, we just had totally different directions on who we wanted to serve. And then with Huntress they saw us at a show, I think in November, December, and then they became a customer of ours in December. So I just got introduced to one of their investors. I jumped on a call with Chris Bissonnette, who’s the CTO at Huntress and just shot the shit about startup things and partnership concepts and different things here. January comes and then Kyle, who’s the CEO gets on with Chris, they’re just like, hey, guys, we like what you do. We think you stand out. And we think you’re punching above your weight class, we want to buy you just like straight up and like, get in line because that was like other people too. And that was it. It was an exciting time, but also like a distracting time. Because we are so small. We’re like, we cannot spend all these hours trying to please a strategy. So we put everyone in a container. We said you gotta get us your info by this time. We had a couple conversations going throughout that time. And it’s really where the heart landed, like right away, I knew that it was like talking to me in a mirror to Kyle and Chris. It was like Nick and Joe talking to Kyle and Chris, and just to alternate universes. And the important part I think, was that not only seeing all this characteristics lineup, but we had a deep focus on serving what they call the 99% poverty line of small businesses, where most small businesses 99% of them are under resourced, understaffed under finance and have to deal with all this cybersecurity stuff. So how do you help them? So our free model obviously helped a lot with that. But when we saw the alignment, they sold exclusively through channel partners. Okay, so it’s like, Ah, this is like finally the missing puzzle piece that we tried to do. And now we’re able to merge those two and they have a huge reputation of channel partners across the world. And so it’s exciting, you know, that’s what we’re gonna see in the next stage here.
Matt Watson 28:26
So how long did it take you to go through the acquisition process like, you just decided that they were going to be the buyer. Till closing How long was our process?
Nick Santora 28:37
Um, we spent the whole beginning of the year talking to people so you know, I’d say it was from December November basically actually till when we started entertaining the concept and then till July so that’s a lot that’s 789 months, but from the time we got an LOI to muddy in the accounts, it was like less than it was like 45 days or something.
Matt Watson 29:00
That’s pretty fast.
Nick Santora 29:03
Yeah, that’s not bad once we got there and we knew what we needed to do very fast and honestly I mean, just dealing with lawyers is like someone’s gonna build some cool startup that can help people sell and buy companies.
Matt Watson 29:14
So my last company I sold recently and it took us like six months to go through the actual closing process right, like all the diligence, and it kind of happened over the Christmas holidays, which slowed it all down. And of course, I sold the company, we sold my company like during the pandemic, I never met the acquirer or any of their investors or anybody in person. The whole company never met a single person in person, which was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. But Same here 35 days sounds like a cakewalk compared to what I had to go through.
Nick Santora 29:45
No, we actually made a mistake. We actually did meet with them. They flew into Atlanta. And we met with them so other than that, and that was it. We met for one day and had dinner. Just we kind of felt it is like yep, this makes sense. And realistically to there There’s just not a lot of good inventory on the market. Like, we’re probably one of the few companies that have security awareness that’s not $100 million plus to invest in or acquire at this point. So it’s like, yeah, this is a company that’s growing, we had, I think by the time we sold, it was like 8000 freemium customers and like 12 to 1500 on the paid side. So yeah, we definitely have the engine spinning, but it needs salespeople if you want to grow the sales numbers, which we didn’t have.
Matt Watson 30:28
So a couple months after the acquisition, how things went, I mean, are they starting to ramp up getting you sold through the channel partners and all that kind of stuff? Or is it still kind of in a wait and see mode?
Nick Santora 30:42
It’s, it hasn’t been as easy as you could probably think, yeah, of course, most of the vent, because like you do it a deal. It’s just like, I wouldn’t call hostility, but it’s like everyone’s on guard the whole time. No one wants to give weird stuff on both sides. So like, you get to the finish line, everyone’s exhausted, it’s like, Alright, now we can start thinking about how to work with each other. And that sucks. But that’s reality. So now we spent the first couple months here, just kind of like learning about each other, the businesses who they sell to who we don’t sell to vice versa. And then probably should have done a little better job of just indicating that to people signing up. But we got a ton of people signing up channel partners that just like, sorry, we can’t service you right now. So which is nice, because it’s kind of like a big line of people waiting for this initiative. And the way we broke it down is kind of like phase one, which is basically helping channel partners come into the Huntress and or curriculum platform, use it, consume it, get billed for it, automate it, and it just works.
Matt Watson 31:45
Like so you have a bunch of stuff you have to build before that is all gonna work or what you mentioned, you got that line. So what’s preventing you from servicing all of them?
Nick Santora 31:55
Pricing changes infinitely like different techniques that we’re doing in the software. So we’re actually moving all of our billing into their billing system. So that’s a nightmare all than its own very tough, very tough stuff to do as the first thing to do. But it’s almost like ripping the band aid off on this one. It’s like, if you set this up, right, you can go bananas and scale this because you’re using your existing billing system, our system, great for direct customers, it wasn’t perfect for channel partners. So I think we’re gonna see a nice pump after we launch this first phase.
Matt Watson 32:28
I mean, that’s what sounds great, right? Like you mentioned, like going through the process of the acquisition, like it really puts each other at odds, right? Because you end up fighting about this, that or whatever. And some, there’s always an 11th hour disagreement, and they always want to pay you less than you wanted for some stupid reason or whatever, there’s always some shit that comes up, right. And it’s like you get past the finish line. But you’ve kind of created a hostile relationship in the process of it right? And then, and then now it’s like, you’re trying to make the marriage work, but it never sounds quite as rosy as it did that first day that you met.
Nick Santora 33:02
It’s hard. I think, like, if our product was very minimally used, or not used by a lot of people, and it was like, where we are today, I think it’d be pretty easy. But we’re used by 1000s of businesses across the world, there’s like so much stuff in motion, there’s a ton of stuff that it’s like, you can’t just like, turn that off. Like there’s tons of people to service currently. So I do see it as a challenge of trying to, you know, I think we have a good relationship with everyone. But it’s more of like, Dan, how do you get this thing? Go? And how do you feel like we’re all part of the same team? And I don’t know if that’s gonna happen overnight. But hopefully at some point, it becomes more merged.
Matt Watson 33:43
Well, the challenge you have, right? It’s like, hey, they acquired you. And all this sounds great. But it’s like, hey, now it’s time to actually do it. Right. And then you’ll have all these other managers at Huntress are like, well, we have all these other initiatives we’re supposed to do. I don’t have time for that shit. Like, okay, yeah, you’re acquired it, I don’t care. I have all these other goals. I have my own bonus structure and all these things. I have to sell this, do this, whatever. No, maybe in 2023. We’ll talk about that. Right? Like, I mean, you get to the reality of how corporations work together. And then you hit one of the biggest ones that is the hardest, like, Okay, well, how do we integrate our billing system? How do we actually sell this thing? How do we actually fulfill it? Like, you know, when you go into all that it all sounds easy? i Oh, yeah. Well, we’ll sell your shit. And we’ll make all this money. This is great. And then now you’re in the reality of it, like how the sausage is actually made? And you’re like, well, it’s not that easy. Like, how do we actually collect money?
Nick Santora 34:29
Yeah. And it’s, I think it’s just a learning curve for us because we were we were by the time we sold while we were 14 or something like that somewhere in the 13 to 15 range. But we’re used to just like, quick, right? Yeah, it’s like making a decision. If we know the market, do this, and we’re done. And then we can go work on it. Yeah. Now it’s, you know, obviously a little more decision makers, more more questions to bring up and it’s a learning process so I think like everyone’s trying to just learn as we do. I almost say it’s Sometimes they just wanted to like to do and then learn later. But it’s all part of the process.
Matt Watson 35:04
So how many employees work at Huntress?
Nick Santora 35:08
It’s over 200. Now. Yeah, we busted over 200. So yeah, they’re growing like crazy. And what they do if I haven’t mentioned it yet the endpoint detection response. So it’s basically a little piece of software that sits on the computer itself. And it’s an agent, and then remotely, the Huntress app can like, talk and listen to the agent. And when a partner has a business, or many businesses under them that are all running the agent. It scans for weird shit all the time. And, you know, obviously, I’m probably butchering the technique. Yeah, sure. Implementation, but ultimately, it says, Hey, I see ransomware on this computer, what do you want to do with it? And this is we’re talking about stuff that gets passed any virus sometimes like, like stuff that’s deep, crazy, weird things, and they go and hunt it down and kill it. And I think that’s so cool, it’s a cool thing for a small business that literally wouldn’t even know where to look for this stuff. And they’re getting taken care of remotely by this crazy software. So very cool detective control. And we’re more on the preventative side with education.
Matt Watson 36:16
So is there software also scan email and stuff like that to
Nick Santora 36:20
know just the device? Is it somewhere device based? Yep. So if there was an attachment or something that got executed via email, then it would probably find it. But I’m not too keen on how all that works on the hunters core platform right now.
Matt Watson 36:36
Well, so what do you see as next? What’s next for Curricula? And you, what’s next?
Nick Santora 36:43
So all the founders stayed, the whole curriculum team stayed. And really, for me, it’s snowing, when Curricula can be let go. And I think right now, like my meter is probably five 10%, without the founders kind of behind the wheel helping with some stuff. But the goal would be to get that to 80-90% in the next couple of years here. And, then we would feel comfortable knowing that Curricula is in a good home. It’s got the right routines, it’s got the right resources behind it, and it’s maintained somewhat of its image along the way, I would be happy to be a hippo.
Matt Watson 37:19
Well, it’s always hard when you sell your company, like people always ask me like, how does it feel to sell your baby? And, you know, I, you’ve had this company for a few years, and I had mine who had been like nine years now. And I was telling you, it’s like, I don’t feel like a baby anymore. Still feels like they, you know, grew up, they went to college, they dropped out, like, you know, now they work at Starbucks, and like, it’s not really my baby anymore. And like, I’m okay. Right, God, but it’s, it’s always hard. It’s your baby, you know.
Nick Santora 37:51
And I started looking at it as like cars, because I had a bunch of cars growing up. It’s like, Hey, you love them. When you get it, you’re excited. You get all this stuff, you work on it all the time you’re doing other than at some point, you’re like, I’m ready to let this thing go. You know, it’s like, this car isn’t what it used to be to me. And I think like, that’s when all the founders realized this when we were approaching these people reaching out to us saying like, Dan, and we get this thing, this sickness, where it’s like that attractive to people. And it’s like, yeah, we did. But the thing that killed us was that our sales numbers weren’t huge. And I think if we did go raise VC and hire a massive sales team, we probably will be having a totally different conversation, or not today. But hey, that’s what now we got fuel behind our big brother, Huntress that has the sales resources and the funding and let’s go. So yeah, it’s really exciting to be able to focus on what we’re good at, and let everyone else kind of do their sales and growth stuff.
Matt Watson 38:47
With our sounds like a really great fit and, you know, excited to see how that works out for you. If you do need to hire software engineers, testers or leaders Full Scale can help we have the people in the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit FullScale.io. All you need to do is answer a few questions and let our platform match you up with our fully vetted, highly experienced team of software engineers, testers and leaders. At Full Scale, we specialize in building long term teams that work only for you to learn more when you visit FullScale.io. So big congratulations again, on everything and being acquired, hopefully, hopefully, it all works out. And you know, I honestly couldn’t survive after the company that acquired us I couldn’t work for I had to get out of there. So I hope for you, it all works out. And you know, it’s always tough as you know, going from being the founder and being in control and all that to all of a sudden now like you work for the corporate overlord and you know, trying to navigate through all that. So, I hope all that works out for you.
Nick Santora 39:54
And that was I think why it was so important to pick the right strategy, I think, yeah, yeah, I had a couple of Those meetings where I was like, I would be so miserable. And it was just like, you know, in your heart. So why pursue it? There’s tons of other opportunities.
Matt Watson 40:09
There, right, a big enough check. You know, you just can’t take the money and you run at some point. But yeah, hopefully, you know, long term if you want to stay with the company. Yeah, you want to find the right fit.
Nick Santora 40:19
Yeah. And we really, I think, like the mission and ideals and everything along the way, it just, it matched up really well for what we talk like and act like and kind of our community, they have a really strong like Reddit community and just like people who just really enjoy them being themselves and that’s something that I guess shouldn’t be taking for granted today. There’s just too much masking during marketing and like all these weird cover ups and stuff, it’s like just be yourself as the business and stand out. If not, you’re gonna be everything to everyone and corporate yourself so much that you’re like diluting your core mission and business itself.
Matt Watson 41:00
Yep. Well, once again, this was Nick’s and Torah today with Curricula who’s now working at Huntress is one of the general managers there at Huntress. And thank you so much for being on the show today.
Nick Santora 41:14
Awesome. Thank you.
Matt Watson 41:16
All right. Take care.