By Angie Chang
It’s rare to hear the stories of slow-and-steady grown, bootstrapped businesses. Fortunately, the tide is turning – with talk of a Series A Crunch, the media spotlight turns to home-grown revenue-positive businesses. It’s enough to make us wonder if we’re starting to root for the steadfast tortoises of startup success stories instead of venture capital-hungry hares.
Few startups today have bootstrapped their way to viable businesses success the way that Femgineer did. Today, Femgineer offers an 8-week long Lean Product Development course, business and technology workshops, and forums with the overall goal of getting women into science, tech, engineering and math.
Today, let’s highlight the success story of another woman-led, bootstrapped and education-focused company, lynda.com – Lynda Weinman started the company in 1995 with her husband, earning over $100 million in revenue in 2012 and for the first time evern, securing $103 outside funding just last month! Fun fact: this is the most money raised by an education company in a single round dating back to 1980!
Who is this woman? The eponymous Lynda authored a web design textbook, then started the website as a school in Ojai, California (5 hours south of Silicon Valley) that attracted people from all over the world who had come to learn about web design and other Internet skills.
A few years later, the joint effects of the dot com bubble burst and 9/11 hit both their customer’s desire to learn tech skills as well as travel budgets. So, the team at lynda.com took the training videos that they had made for the physical school, and began to sell them online as a publishing business. All this work was no walk in the park. In Bruce’s own words, growing at a steady rate was “painful” and his gut instinct was to “cut it, cut it, this is gonna kill us.”
After years of slow but steady growth driven mostly through word-of-mouth marketing, Lynda and Bruce brought on Eric Robinson as CEO in January 2008. Eric’s business acumen combined with Lynda and Bruce’s hard fought dedication to building great products really paid off. Since 2009, lynda.com’s revenue has more than doubled from $39M to $70M in 2012.
The secret to their success? Lynda says that they “never built a company to flip it,” as many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs do. Their vision was to build something great – which they did. Lesson learned: as Eric Robinson put it, “The best time to take money is when you don’t need it.”
Get inspired by Lynda Weinman and her founder story at the Women 2.0 Conference (February 14, 2013 in San Francisco). She is delivering the keynote “Doing it Right: Taking Growth Financing after Profitability” on Valentine’s Day at the annual Women 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. The conference’s theme, “The Next Billion,” covers a wide range of topics including your first billion users or views, the coveted billion dollar exit, and the next billion users in emerging markets.
The conference will feature other rockstar Femgineers like Selina Tobaccowala (who founded Evite.com, then joined Survey Monkey in October 2009 and runs their product and engineering department) and Paula Long (who sold her company EqualLogic to Dell for $1.4 billion in 2007 – known as the largest cash payout for a venture-backed company to date, and she is now working on her second startup with just received $30M in Series B funding last week). Women 2.0 welcomes powerhouse women in tech, business and entrepreneurship on February 14 and you! Sign up for the Women 2.0 Conference today, and save 15% using the discount code FEMGINEER.
Angie Chang is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Women 2.0, a media company offering content, community and conferences for aspiring and current women innovators in technology. Our mission is to increase the number of female founders of technology startups with inspiration, information and education through our platform. Previously, Angie held roles in product management and web UI design. Angie holds a B.A. in English and Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter at @thisgirlangie.
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