Five With: Tim Handorf, Co-Founder and President, G2 Crowd
Entrepreneurs make bets all the time. In Tim Handorf’s case, one of those bets involved his hair. When founding G2 Crowd, the leading source for business software ratings and reviews, in 2012, he vowed that he wouldn’t cut his hair until the team had revenue in the bank. Two years later, the site has 20,000 reviews, over 150,000 visitors each month, and Tim’s locks are more Jon Stewart than Fabio.
As President of the Chicago-based G2 Crowd, Tim’s a proven entrepreneur who was an early employee on the leadership team at BigMachines, a company that was eventually acquired by Oracle in 2013 for $400 million. This affinity for entrepreneurship, Tim claims, stems from his childhood spent on a farm, where he developed traits that make a good entrepreneur — things like versatility, efficiency and ingenuity (Tim talks more about those skills here).
After BigMachines’ success, the team had an itch to work on something new together and launched G2 Crowd. With a mission to disrupt traditional technology analysts by aggregating wisdom from real IT and business users, along with social data signals, G2 Crowd has been called a ‘“Yelp’ for enterprise software.”
We chatted with Tim about G2’s evolution, learning through mistakes, and prioritizing ideas, both big and small.
1) Why did you start G2 Crowd?
As founders with entrepreneurial spirit, we all enjoy building and creating new products and solutions, but we really wanted to start a company that could give us and other people an environment to find meaning and passion in their careers.
During my time at BigMachines I was responsible for Product Management and analyst relations. I was very passionate about customer success. We really strived to make our customers successful and didn’t feel that the analysts’ reports conveyed this. In addition, we believed that analyst reports were typically dated and didn’t reflect the latest trends in the market.
We believed that consumerization in B2B was taking place, and saw how sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor were changing the way consumers make purchasing decisions. We found it hard to believe that there was better publicly available information on a $100 hotel room than a $100,000 software, and set out to solve this problem.
We believe that solving this problem will change the way business software is bought and sold in the future.
2) How has G2 Crowd evolved since it started?
We started the G2 Crowd site thinking that we would develop an MVP in a few weeks, and shared it with a few friends to see if the idea would get any traction. We weren’t sure where revenue would come from, so I vowed not to cut my hair until we had our first revenue. Two years later, we have 20,000 reviews, over a 150,000 visitors each month and I have had a haircut.
However, we are not even close to done. Our culture is built around constant learning and how we can continually provide more valuable insights to buyers as well as the best methods to engage users of business software to share their experiences.
3) What is G2 Crowd doing that the other guys aren’t?
We are very focused on providing our users the most value possible. We believe that by providing a large number of high quality, trustworthy reviews across everything from search marketing tools to human resource management suites, we provide the most value to software buyers. With more reviews, buyers can trust the significance of the data as well as find users that are similar to them.
4) You’ve obviously had some success with BigMachines, another Chicago-based company that was eventually acquired by Oracle. What are some of the skills and lessons you learned from launching that business that have played into how G2 Crowd operates?
We made so many mistakes the first time through it would be hard to list them all! However, we like to think we learned from them.
For us, the most important thing that any company founder can do is hire a smart, passionate, motivated team, and then giving them an environment, responsibilities and accountability where they can have significant impact on the business.
We also learned a thing or two about how software is bought, marketed and sold, which hasn’t hurt.
5) What are the biggest challenges you face as a startup executive?
Priorities. We all have many ideas, but need to focus on the ones that will add the most value to our users and the company.
This seems straightforward, but it’s not always easy, especially when you are trying to make decisions on a disruptive technology with little data and no precedent. It’s challenging, but fun.