We were starting up a new company in 2011. We had with very little money and limited business experience. However, we had a good team, a vision and a code. The experts would say that starting up a company based on engineering, with no sales, no marketing and no rich investors equals a suicide. Yet, a decade later, we are still here, more successful than ever. We have built up a sustainable business based on open source.
Back in 2011, we had the code and we knew that we want to develop it. However, three things are absolute requirement for sustainable long-term professional software development: money, money and money. That was the problem. We had some savings, but that was not enough to fund a long-term development effort. We we more than aware how “basic” our code is and how much work is needed to make this into a product. We were looking at years or even decades of development effort. The money we had in hands could hardly cover few months of development works.
Of course, as every self-respecting start-uppers at the times, we were considering venture capital. Slovakia was a business backwater at the time, investors were few and far between (unless you wanted to invest in organized crime, of course). Yet, we have managed to get in contact with few venture capital investors. Turned out, they were more interested in capital than venture, expecting unrealistic growth that we could not provide.
We were on our own. Bootstrapping was the only realistic option, and even that was much less realistic than we imagined. Fellow conspirators Katka Stanovská and Igor Farinič prepared a business plan for a bootstrapped company. The plan projected a break-even point in two years. I didn’t like the plan. It was too optimistic, too risky, there were bold assumptions and insufficient reserves. Nobody with their right mind could follow that plan. Then, of course, we did.
I’m not sure what persuaded me to go for it. It was perhaps trust in people in our team. Perhaps it was our best chance to develop a code, a code that we would be forced to drop otherwise. Perhaps it was just a momentary lapse of reason. I do not know for sure to this day. Yet, looking back, I’m glad that we have made that foolish decision, a decision that literally changed our lives in many unexpected ways.
In August 2011 we have formally established Evolveum. Of course, the beginnings were much harder than we had planned. There was no break-even point in two years. Instead, we have invested all our savings, borrowed money, went pretty much all in. It was quite a ride. But that is another story for another day.
The investments started to really pay back only after a decade. This was not the most profitable way of investing money. However, Evolveum was still a huge success, especially in ways that cannot be measured financially. We have secured a sustainable funding for an open source project. We have created intereting jobs, jobs that are desperately needed for the future of our country. We have developed a software that is a major enabler. It makes identity management deployment feasible for many academic organizations. It makes government identity management deployments much more transparent. It allows enterprises to use identity management software in ways that were not possible before. MidPoint is a game-changer for many organizations.
Starting Evolveum was a leap of faith. Evolveum grew from a crazy idea to an established and financially-stable company. We did it all ourselves, with a support from customers and midPoint community. We could not wish for anything better.