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The Fine Art of Bootstrapping Your Venture

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Oct 07, 2018

With huge amounts of venture capital sloshing around, it seems kind of counterintuitive to say “no” to this type of financing. But it could actually be critical for the success of your company.

This is definitely the sentiment of Kon Leong, who created ZL Technologies in 1999. The company was his third startup. Oh, and he also had a 10-year stint on Wall Street as an investment banker!

“The inspiration for creating ZL was to address the enterprise need to manage its digital information,” said Leong. “While the last 70 years of IT was focused on producing digital data via ERP and similar applications, the enterprise has not been so adept at managing such data after its creation. In recent years, the need to manage digital data for compliance, e-discovery, records-keeping, privacy, governance and analytics, has become a critical challenge, especially as it necessitates managing data across silos.”

So then why do a bootstrap? According to Leong, a big factor was finding the right alignment. “The problem we addressed was a very difficult one,” he said. “The software requires very complex engineering which takes well over a decade to design, build and mature, and this does not fit well with the investment time horizons of most VC funds. Also, the extreme scaling required to manage tens of billions of documents means that we must have control over every line of source code – again, this results in hard choices and long development cycles, which is usually difficult for VCs to accommodate.”

All in all, things have turned out just fine.

ZL Technologies has built a leading enterprise system that both manages and analyzes unstructured content (emails, files, IMs, social media) to ensure that it adheres to government and compliance regulations. Some of its marquee customers include biggies like Toyota, Dole, The Home Depot, and Oracle.

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