SBM ITB had the opportunity to present John Chisholm (President of MIT Alumni Association) as a public lecture speaker on 13 February 2018, held at Nemangkawi Auditorium SBM ITB. John Chisholm has been president of MITAA since 2015, and is a founder of 3 companies (GRiD, CustomerSat, and Decisive Technology), founder of John Chisholm Ventures, and book author of ‘Unleash Your Inner Company’. For 3 hours, Chisholm shared his business-building experience, how he maintained CustomerSat to stay strong during the dot-com bust period of 2000-2002, the stages of determining market needs and developing products, as well as how to prepare before meeting with investors. He also share his idea about how to create Silicon Valley in Indonesia.
CustomerSat was established in 1997 and showed steady growth until 2000, until the dotcom bust period caused CustomerSat to experience quarterly revenue drops by almost 20%. To cope with this incident, the company cuts salaries and management by 20% and fires 30% of employees within 90 days. The company made it to break even point in the third quarter of 2001 and made a small profit in the fourth quarter. In 2008, CustomerSat was acquired, and is now part of Confirmit, an online survey technology provider developed for market research agencies to collect business data.
Chisholm states there are 2 important points related to the success of CustomerSat through dot com bust, a period in which 962 companies closed or went bankrupt. The two points are (1) We cared more deeply about our business, and (2) We stuck with it longer. The combination of passion and perseverance in running a business affects each other and generates a positive feedback loop.
In starting a business, Chisholm suggested that the best way is to start from the needs of the market. Identification of needs can be done through three points of thought, namely (1) existing solutions can be improved, (2) Providers of such solutions have needs, and (3) Solutions generate new needs associated with it.
In Q&A session, one of the students asked about how young entrepreneurs adjust with the needs of the marketplace. Chisholm encourage every youngsters develop their skills that on demand, not just for self sufficiency. And he also said, “Different is better than better”, so every start-up must think that the ideal company for them must be unique to you, even discovered by you.
Compiled and translated by: Margareth Tobing, MBA