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I recently sat down with Dave Hersh, former CEO of Jive Software (NASDAQ: JIVE). Dave grew the company from its inception as a small open source project with no revenue to a $55M, pre-IPO company (and a $1.1B market cap as of today).

NH: What lessons can we take away from Jive's success?
DH: With Jive, it wasn't until 5 years into the company (2006) that things started taking off. We hit the sweetspot - with the product, with sales, with Facebook emerging. We thought: "this is a new category that's emerging, and we're not going to lose it." That's the benefit of bootstrapping. You can be patient for the right opportunity.  

"That's the cool part about B2B  -  there's lots of room for serendipity"
NH: What advice do you have for b2b/SaaS entrepreneurs?
DH: Find your hook -- what's your hook of value? Something that's unique to your product. For example, Demandbase's hook was "target specific companies" (vs. people). You have to have a unique hook to succeed -- it's noisy out there. The other thing to ask yourself is: "is it a platform?" It's always an issue: can it be useful out of the gate for enough people?

NH: Should startups be worried about competition during the early days?
DH: A lot of it comes down to solid execution. It really doesn't matter if two companies are starting in the same space at the same time.

NH: What can you tell us about Crushpath, which you co-founded after Jive?
DH: I co-founded Crushpath with Jive's former CMO, and currently serve on the board. Crushpath is doing really well, and offers an interesting lesson. The entire original premise of the company was wrong. Customers said they wanted one thing, but after we built the initial product, they didn't use it. But they really liked this one feature, which became the whole company. That's the cool part about B2B -- there's lots of room for serendipity and you can keep trying, keep trying, keep trying. And eventually, find the right fit. But if you raise too much money, you might not be able to do that.
4/5/2013 10:16:21

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