Twenty years ago, we started Longwood Software. In June 1997 (when Netscape was the hot product), Andres Echenique and I had a jointly-developed idea for a software product. We spent the summer meeting with as many people as we could, to gather input on our product concept. Basically, we bought a lot of people lunch. It was exciting and fun, and a bit disorienting for someone like me who was used to a steady office job.
Our product concept was simple: provide a self-service database application to help marketers manage and share digital files and include a shopping cart for ordering print items. The key idea was to help marketers corral a growing volume of digital files and make it easier for salespeople to access digital and print assets. While not revolutionary, the concept was somewhat unique. The closest thing to our concept were client-server tools that let creative departments tag image files with metadata. The response to our demos was generally positive, so we kept going. I focused on marketing and sales while Andres coded a prototype.
In September 1997, we signed our first customer, and in October, we delivered a test version of the product to Kronos in Waltham. The first version of what ultimately would become RevBase used Microsoft Access as the database, had a Windows form-based asset manager, and a browser-accessible search/display interface. It ran on a single server that we rolled into the Kronos marketing department via a luggage wheelie and lodged under a desk. The first production version went online in December for the Kronos marketing and sales organization.
In 2000, we rewrote the application to be a hosted, multi-tenant, software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. We were one of the first applications for marketers to exploit this new approach, which of course has become the predominant model for software.
We’ve essentially been doing the same thing every day: developing the product, selling it, and supporting customers – for 20 years! Andres left active involvement in day-to-day operations in 2001, but through all of it, one of the most amazing things for me is that it’s still exciting and fun. We now serve some of the most respected companies in the world, and RevBase is a mission-critical piece of their marketing process and infrastructure.
The industry changes we’ve seen are obvious and well-understood: the explosive growth of the Internet, followed by mobile devices; the adoption of SaaS; the development of cloud computing; the enormous popularity of content; the widespread use of web video; and the huge growth of ecommerce. We’ve played and continue to play a role within those large-scale changes.
I’d like to share four things I’ve come to realize or appreciate more deeply after 20 years. I doubt these will seem profound, but they’re important to me.
First: having customers makes a business viable, but having demanding customers makes it rewarding. We’re fortunate to have great customers across a wide range of industries, geographies, and markets. While we value every customer, the ones who expect a lot from us, who spark ideas for product enhancements, and who relate to us as an extension of their department, make our business exciting. After 20 years, it’s still satisfying to solve a complex, real-world problem for a customer via our software platform. Although they increase the workload, our active and engaged customers make us better at what we do.
Second: working with experienced, mature, “been-there, done-that” colleagues makes it possible to weather storms. You can imagine that we’ve had a large number of people work at the company as full-timers, part-timers, interns, consultants, etc. Each of them contributed to our company, product, and/or customers. We’re fortunate that we made very few bad hires over the past 20 years. And we’ve helped a number of young people start their careers and been a place where people could re-launch their careers.
But the fact is, experienced professionals have saved our bacon multiple times. Having colleagues who’ve been through the ups and downs of the software and Internet industries allowed us to survive the dot-com meltdown of 2001 and the recession of 2008. They helped us navigate multiple crises – including ones caused by our own mistakes. Wisdom comes from experience, and it’s worth a lot.
Third: while we’ve succeeded at building and supporting an enterprise-class platform with over 2.1 million visits in 2016 and over 1.9 million assets (with a guarantee of 99.9% uptime) there’s still a lot more to do. I think we’ve fulfilled some but not all the possibilities of the platform. Certainly our product is bigger, more complicated, and more feature-rich than Andres and I ever envisioned, yet the goalposts keep moving. New ideas, new technologies, new opportunities are abundant and sometimes overwhelming. While we’re well-established as a company, there’s a lot that is fresh and new on a regular basis.
Fourth: it seems to me the most precious commodity that marketing managers have today is their time. Over these 20 years, the marketers we’ve worked with have had their workloads increase dramatically. And most marketing departments have gotten smaller or been able to add headcount sparingly. This means marketers are pushed to do more with less. Even though our solution increases productivity and saves time, I fear it often appears to be “another thing to deal with” for customers and prospects. Our customer care team tries to be surgically efficient in our customer support, but the fact is, some things take time and need to be thought through. So we keep looking for ways to save our customers time by using RevBase and in their interactions with us.
Twenty years into the mission, I’m happy to say Kronos is still a customer and running Longwood Software (on a good day at least) beats working for a living.
Looking forward to the next few years, I see three areas of focus:
1. Optimizing our customer solutions for smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Our new platform, RevBase for Mobile, gives us the ability to tailor the user experience across all screens. I expect we’ll be busy helping customers think through their ideal marketing and sales support functionality at the device level, and shaping RevBase solutions accordingly.
2. Developing additional automation and workflow functionality for marketing managers and content creators. We have a tremendous opportunity to help our customers be more productive, responsive, and certain regarding their marketing assets. Eliminating unnecessary touches, correcting content management errors, and supporting good marketing practices are now our primary considerations for new functionality. This will also include further integrations and expansion of our programming interfaces.
3. Capitalizing on the robust activity data within our repository, to help customers identify trends, measure impact, and optimize their investments in marketing and sales programs. I see us moving beyond reporting on assets, activities, and users, and into analyses and assessments. We’ll help our customers close knowledge gaps across their distribution channels, identify effective (and ineffective) programs, and anticipate the needs of their customers.
I’m looking forward to the next phase of the company, whatever that may bring.
Thank you to the customers, employees, investors, and service providers who’ve made all this possible.
Co-Founder, President, and CEO