HUSTLE: Paul Cramer

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Paul Cramer

Paul Cramer, Cofounder, BarometerIT

[Thank you EO Accelerator MN for underwriting HUSTLE, enabling us to share the stories of those who make it happen!]

When Paul Cramer quit his corporate job in 2008 at age 40 he sought to break the 9-5 chains once and for all, to define his destiny.

Together with programmer partners Pat Josephson and Ben Swenka, the trio embarked on an ambitious goal of mapping every technology skill and standard in the world.  IT Genome, as they called it, would form the backbone of their new company.

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As the Genome app was coming into fruition, it curated 15,00 technology standards and skills, demonstrating the inter-relationship between it all in a way never before seen.

But what they considered to be a next level human capital marketplace wasn’t resonating with the Fortune 500 companies they sought to serve, a product-market reality all to common in business.

“Our idea had sparked some intrigue inside the tech departments, but after a while we realized it just wasn’t catching on,” Cramer recalls of the long sales cycles.  “Two years into things we had started a company and built a product, which was great, yet it wasn’t paying the bills.”

Barometer got a break in 2010 when Fortune 50 healthcare company WellPoint (now Anthem) agreed to fund a small pilot product, albeit in a different direction.  “After our pitch, they pulled us aside and said…we like it, but can it do this?

At that moment BarometerIT was no longer playing in the contingent workforce management space with IT Genome, instead looking into the abyss of enterprise architecture.

The slow realization that large orgs actually had more acute internal needs than external came at a tough time for the team.

All of Cramer’s emotional eggs were in the IT Genome basket and his personal finances were running on empty.  Meahwhile he had been puting every spare moment into IT consulting, self funding the venture while also supporting a family. Further complicating their situation was the departure of a cofounder, forced to move out and on.


“It was seriously an insane time for me, in all my life I knew nothing like it.”


 
Cramer and his remaining partner regrouped and questioned whether to just throw in the towel or reinvent.  They opted to follow the money and buy some time, giving Wellpoint exactly what they wanted: a dynamic custom map of all their technologies, systems, applications, people, and products.

They delivered this ahead of schedule and under budget, earning them the green light for more funding to support more features. During this period Barometer grew from 2 founders to 12 employees and picked up a second client, Ceridian, in that same year.

A few months later came a third big win: Allstate adopted.

From January 2012 through January 2013, Barometer reengineered their software platform into a true multi tenant SaaS, grew from a mere 30 seats to over 8,000, doubled staff to 25, and hit $2m in revenue.

“It finally felt like we were really in business,” he reflects. “It took years of sacrifice, developing, pitching, and major pivot — but it was finally working and it was awesome.”

That is until it wasn’t.

A key stakeholder at one key client had unexpectedly left — resulting in a major revenue drop that was poorly timed as Barometer hadn’t hedged income against the rate they were spending.

“We were growing so fast all of a sudden, developer-centric in a way that we didn’t pay enough attention to sales, marketing and new customer acquisition. We were spending as fast as we were making and then we suddenly found our entire existence in question — again!”

This time around, his remaining co-founder split and Cramer could see when the money was going to run out. It wasn’t far away, and the only option was to cut.

But Cramer himself didn’t run, instead he carried on…with one developer. He repositioned the Barometer’s value proposition and managed what he could of the remaining relationships with a skeleton crew. He focused more on marketing and continued moving in the direction the market was responding to.

“Barometer really became my midlife crisis.  I took a long hard look in the mirror and realized how it took an amazing amount of blind faith to start BarometerIT in the first place and furthermore a lot of soul searching to carry on as I did throughout that time.”

 
Throughout it all, Barometer became Identified as Gartner Cool Vendor and Visionary in their IIPA MQ (Integrated IT Portfolio Analysis) last year and picked up a Tekne Award nomination. An overdue vote of confidence came when co-founder Scott Josephson and Product Manager/CTO Douglas Fisher returned to the team. Revenue is back up over a million, and Cramer now has a team of 5 behind him. Allstate and WellPoint were retained as happy customers; the pipeline is flowing again and SaaS revenues are projected to record levels in 2015.

“Barometer is still an emerging company in an emerging market,” Cramer asserts with the confidence of a five year hustle behind him. “It’s about doing whatever it takes to achieve the goal that you, the entrepreneur, believes in. I’ve lived trial by fire…and my goal remains the same: best in class enterprise software.”

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