How Fred Shilmover grew InsightSquared by not going global2 min read


Focus on just a few things and do them really well, the old startup adage goes. And as often the case, it is a sentiment much easier said than done.

Fred Shilmover, CEO and co-founder of InsightSquared, has made it his prerogative to learn how to be disciplined and tame the appetite for doing everything he wishes he could.

Suffice to say, he succeeded.

It is the discipline and the calculated decision making that are central to InsightSquared’s success, seven years on the journey. It has been there since day -1, back when Fred applied for an MBA to figure out what SaaS company he wanted to create.

Surrounded by great minds at Harvard Business School, whose analytics skills fascinated him, he wondered if there was a way to productise this business intelligence knowledge. Furthermore, a summer internship at Salesforce showed him that even the SaaS behemoth used Microsoft Excel for certain analyses. This sealed the determination to put his business intelligence ideas in the cloud and start InsightSquared.

But not before proper research what would be of most value to people. During that time his mother would introduce him as her unemployed son. Eventually, he figured that to deliver the best value to customers and not have a bloated product, the focus should be only on revenue.

A lucky early sale to a cohort of similar companies showed a pattern that what they were onto made sense. Fred created a prototype putting together loads of spreadsheets and gave that to his co-founders to build a product. In the first year, he made all the sales. Somewhere there Fred made the decision that sales efforts would be focused solely on The North American market.

With that geographical focus, InsightSquared now has close to 1000 customers, has banked $27 million in funding and employs 130 people. And while Europe and other emerging markets will eventually be ventured, for the time being, Fred is keeping that focus.

In that, he is a prime example that to grow, SaaS founders have to do less.

Listen to learn how he has kept his focus on:

  • Why a CEO should do a tour of duty for all main functions
  • How to avoid building the wrong product at the start
  • What is the cost of defocusing
  • How to manage your appetite when you are hungry for many things
  • How the strategy of a company should change through its different stages

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