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One Developer’s Story Part 3: Finding an Industry Foothold

Software development can be an amazing gamble. In part 1 of this series, Nikolaus Kimla told the story of how Pipeliner CRM was conceived and researched. In part 2, he related the revolutionary story of how the goal of disruption was formulated. And now for part 3: finding a foothold in the industry.

The original company in which Pipeliner was created was an Austrian enterprise integration company doing quite well. We had a lot of success and knowledge—but we weren’t a vendor.

When I realized that I had, in Pipeliner, the beginnings of a real scalable product and not a service, I had to think through what to do. I didn’t believe I could compete against the CRM giants like Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce.

It didn’t make sense to me to try and build a big vendor organization. Americans may not fully understand this, but it really has to do with mindset: Austria is a small country, and I wasn’t thinking that I had a product that could bring in billions in revenue. How could I get this product to market?

The Overwhelming Surprise

As detailed in Part 1 of this series, we developed Pipeliner as a Hybrid product—working both in the Cloud and as an installed image on a user’s machine. We did this so that the CRM would be available whether or not a user had internet access. To accomplish this, we ended up developing on the Adobe Air platform.

Because we developed Pipeliner with Adobe Air, my first thought, once we had finalized it in its very first version, was to wonder how Adobe might help us. I flew to San Francisco and met with the Adobe Air team, and they were totally blown away by Pipeliner and what we had accomplished. They pledged their support, offering to place a download link for Pipeliner on their Flash site for a short period of time.

Bear in mind that Pipeliner was infantile in its development. We hadn’t even made it to the point of creating a way for someone downloading the product to register. But I didn’t think it mattered—this was just an experiment, really, and I thought that maybe we’d see 500 downloads if we were lucky.

Boy, were we in for a surprise.

On the first day the link was live, my lead developer called me and told me he couldn’t believe what was happening. In the first couple of hours, we had 30,000 – 40,000 downloads!

For the remainder of the time the link was live we had 67,000 – 68,000 downloads per day! By the time all was said and done—a very short time—we had 2 million downloads.

This was a very hard lesson in product registration, obviously. For all those downloads, we didn’t have a single identity and couldn’t follow up with any of them. But there was certainly an upside: we now had clear evidence that our fledgling product had serious potential. Besides the titanic number of downloads, we also got some incredible feedback on Pipeliner, too.

Where to Go?

Back in reality, I had to look at the fact that, great response or not, I couldn’t suddenly transform my development company into a sales company for Pipeliner. We were bootstrapping—funding everything ourselves.

I then had the bright idea of bringing Pipeliner to Microsoft and offering it to them as a plugin for their Microsoft Dynamics CRM. When we first approached them, they really liked the idea, and we ended up participating twice in their World Partner Conference.

But in the end, they told us that we had “programmed too much.” In their opinion, Pipeliner was well beyond being a “plugin” and much closer to a full product, and therefore a potential competitor to Microsoft Dynamics. I disagreed and listed out all the features that I thought Pipeliner was missing to be considered such a competitor, but they were unwilling to take it any further.

With the Microsoft deal now not happening, I found myself wondering, “What next?” I wondered if I should simply cease worrying about Pipeliner and chalk it up as a nice adventure? Or should I go ahead and program the features I’d listed out to Microsoft as missing? Should I change the development platform and go with Silverlight or HTML5?

I shortly decided to take the high road…and truly go all in.

Next up: Going all in—coming to America!

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This content is sponsored by Pipeliner CRM.

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