Why Vontu Chose to Wait for the “Right” Early Customer

Michael Wolfe and his co-founders at Vontu had spent six months doing interviews researching various verticals to validate an opportunity in information security.

They wanted to target the enterprise and learn how to make large deals. They needed to figure out early what the ideal customer would be.

The co-founders did not have a product when they started selling, but they were able to quickly figure out that the early adopter profile for many new enterprise security products, including the one they were developing, were large financial services institutions. Those companies were IT leaders that understood the pain of losing information better than any other large companies. They could also come up with funding for projects that reduced their risk.

Vontu only had one corporate objective its first year: close a large, name brand, referenceable account. This had to be an industry leader.

Along the way, they took inbound calls from smaller banks, for example a small regional bank in Hawaii. Although the bank would have paid for the solution, the deal would have taken a lot of effort without providing what would be needed to grow the company. Vontu needed to learn what it took to sell to the big guys, and it needed them as reference accounts. They said “no” to these small companies and turned down the revenue they would have brought in.

It took Vontu until the end of the year to get the product ready and close their first $500K deal with Bank of America, but that deal validated the Vontu model and helped establish their credibility.

At that point, it had been 18 months since company formation. By being laser-focused on their ideal customer profile and being willing to wait, the co-founders found a true lighthouse customer to open the market for them. Four years later, Symantec, the security giant, acquired Vontu for $350M.

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