June 2010 marks the 10th birthday or anniversary for Paperhost as a company! Our owner, Jim Coyle was interviewed and asked to reflect on the past, present and future of Paperhost, and here's what he shared...
What made you decide to start this business?
I wish I could say that PaperHost was the product of a well crafted business plan supported by copious amounts of market research and careful product development. But the reality is that its genesis is more evolutionary than revolutionary. Having spent years in the business of selling and supporting document imaging systems, we simply suggested to a few customers that this new-fangled thing called the Internet might be a way to expose business documents to the many people that needed access to them. One in particular said "Build it and we will come". That encouragement, coupled with a small amount of angel investment, started us down the road of exploring web-based document management delivered as a service rather than a system. The geek side of our development team just wanted to prove it could be done. This was before Enron and 911 raised our collective consciousness about security, compliance and redundancy. So PaperHost started with a closet and a couple of servers. But it was the rush of starting something new that pushed us to just get started.
When did you know you were going to "make-it" and what was the determining factor?
PaperHost started in June of 2000 just months before the dot-com bust. Even though we called ourselves "PaperHost.com", we were not modeled after the traditional dot-com company. The mentality of the time was to get a wad of venture capital, determine a burn rate, grab market share and worry about how to turn a profit sometime in the future. PaperHost grew organically. We already had a book of business and clients willing to take a chance on this new service. We turned a profit 10 months into starting the service. We have grown the business ever since, without any venture capital.
What was the number one lesson you took away from the earlier years of operations?
When we had a sales and service business, we could only upset one client at a time. Once we launched a centralized ASP model business, we could upset them all with one major screw-up. Thus, it became critically important to learn how to build highly redundant systems with monitoring capabilities to let us know when any component was unhealthy instead of waiting for an irate customer to call. This idea of redundancy had to extend to the human talent pool as well. We quickly had to focus on making sure there was no single point of failure in either our infrastructure or our staffing.
What has been the biggest milestone achievement for you/the company thus far?
The first time a dollar arrived from a customer that I did not personally sell to was huge. If a business cannot get past the passion and energy of the founding entrepreneur, then it cannot grow. Once I was surrounded by talented and dedicated people that could feed on my dream and grow the company without me micro-managing that growth, I knew we had a path to success.
What does the next 10 years look like?
As Enterprise document management becomes more of a commodity, PaperHost will need to find new niche markets where our customers value the experience and the high security and compliance levels we offer. Anyone with a big disk drive and an internet connection can claim to be our competition. We will differentiate ourselves by being a top tier company that sells to those customers that will pay a premium for our services. To that end, we are making a play into the healthcare space where PaperHost will be the back end platform for our sister company MediStreams as we host all transactions associated with remittance processing.
Congratulations to the team at Paperhost for 10 years of successfully serving businesses, and all the best on at least 10 more! Please let us know if you business recently had a birthday or any other milestones you and your team achieved in the comments below.