Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by former Plumtreevian and soon-to-be-graduate of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, John Osborne. Following the interview, he submitted this great write-up, which I have posted below. Enjoy!
Chris Bucchere grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and studied computer science at Stanford University. After graduating from college, he spent five years working for Plumtree Software as a developer and implementation consultant focusing on integration and customization projects at customer sites. In 2002, he founded Bucchere Development Group (BDG), an independent consulting organization focused on helping Plumtree customers with implementation, integration, and training. BDG operates out of the DC Metro Area and San Francisco. This past week, I talked with Chris about how he identified his market and got his company running.
How did you identify the market? And get your first customer?
Chris commented that he didn’t put forth a lot of thought toward identifying the market. He had just quit his job and was moving to Washington, DC. He started calling all customer contacts he had worked with while at Plumtree. Since Plumtree had more consulting work than it could manage, a number of customers asked Chris to fill in the gaps. Chris signed on to do a six month engagement at Merck in the UK.
How did you fund BDG?
Chris leveraged the money he earned consulting for Merck to get BDG officially up and running. He structured the firm as an LLC, hired an operations manager and another consultant. Since that time, BDG has generally been able to fund itself through revenue. In times of greater financing need, Chris has turned to credit cards which—when exploited properly—can offer a low 1% interest rate.
Chris also noted that customer funding is emerging as an interesting source of capital. At the moment, one of his customers is providing the funding for a custom add-on. The customer wants the add-on themselves, but also wants BDG to be able to resell the product to other customers.
What do you do to ensure continued growth?
One of Chris’ major growth opportunities came serendipitously when BEA Systems acquired Plumtree Software. Chris quickly ramped-up on the BEA suite and became a consulting partner. Being a BEA partner opened up more potential customers and projects. Now BDG is a value-added reseller for BEA, a position that provides BDG a new channel for income. At the moment, BDG employs seven full-time staff to meet it customer obligations.
How do you drive new business?
BDG has released a number of small products as open source. This strategy has help generate new consulting engagements and get the firm name out. BDG is also considering developing more closed source add-ons which it can sell to existing customers.
What were the biggest challenges, and what would you do differently now?
Chris identified staffing as his single biggest challenge. He commented, “For me, staffing is harder than selling new business.” Chris struggled to find seasoned consultants. He therefore turned to college campuses. BDG recruits new college graduates and then runs them through its own six month training program, leveraging the same training materials it sells to customers.
Generally, what characteristics make entrepreneurs different?
Chris echoed the conventional wisdom about entrepreneurship. In short, folks who want to start new enterprises need to be self-confident and passionate about their work. And, above all, they need to be willing to take risks.