168. AJ Raised 9 Rounds in 10 Years for 2 Companies, He’s Not Building the Plane While Flying It

VC Minute
AJ Bruno, QuotaPath's CEO has raised $70 million for QuotaPath and had a successful sale of TrendKite for $225 million, after multiple rounds of funding. He's also a father of three and a pilot who does not like the idea of building the plane while flying it.

VC Minute – quick advice to help startup founders fundraise better

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Rich Maloy:

This is Rich Maloy with SpringTime Ventures, bringing you the VC Minute, quick advice to help startup founders fundraise better.

I have a bit of a cold, so I’ll keep this short. We’ll go from Curt, who was all about bootstrapping and not about raising venture capital, to AJ, who has raised quite a bit of venture capital. I’ll let him tell you the rest.

AJ Bruno:

Thanks, Rich. Hi, I’m AJ Bruno, founder and CEO of QuotaPath. QuotaPath is a sales compensation platform, handles end-to-end, from design to payouts. We work with thousands of companies and help them with this commission tracking problem, mostly to help align their company objectives to incentives.

Prior to that, I was founder and president of a company called TrendKite. TrendKite was based in Austin, Texas in PR attribution. We raised around 40 to $50 million at that time from some great venture capitalists and successfully sold the organization to Cision PR Newswire in 2018 for 225 million.

With Quota Path I’ve raised $70 million. To date, we did our Series B successfully last year. And so I have a wealth of experience over the last decade, plus as a founder operator, raising capital, pitching to VCs, getting a lot of no’s. Gotten lots and lots of no’s over that time. And so I’m excited to share what I’ve learned during that time.

Between trend kites and quota path, I’ve done nine venture capital rounds in 10 years. That’s right. Nine. A lot of sleepless nights, a lot of pitches, a lot of door knocking and rejections. I had the list of hundreds of venture capitalists that no, no, no, no, no, maybe. Maybe no, no, no, no. And so glutton for punishment, you would say in the venture capital world.

In my personal life. I have 3 daughters. I have a 10-year-old and twin girls that are 8 year olds. They are everything you could expect for the father of 3 girls.

And I also am a commercially rated pilot. I own a Beechcraft Baron 58. It’s a six-seater airplane that I fly all around the country. I really enjoy it. I am from Pittsburgh. Yes, Rich, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My father was a pilot for USAir. My mom was a flight attendant. And we grew up flying the airplane. We were not building the airplane as we flew it.

The analogy that lots of founders like to say is that they’re building the airplane as they fly it. That’s a tough analogy to say, because as a customer, how would you like to hear that? Hey, you’re about to get into this airplane and we’re still, we’re still building it. So don’t mind that seat back there. If you look out the window and you see a wing with a bolt missing, that seems problematic. I would say that that analogy is a challenging thing to both say at an investor pitch and both to your customers.

And the way I like to think about that is, Hey, we look at our market, here’s where we’re finding our ideal customer profile. Meaning like we see an SMB that looks like this, they’re using this technology, maybe they’re using Salesforce or HubSpot, and this is the high-expectation customer where they’re asking for these things. We have a clear value prop that we found right here. That’s what we’re focusing on, focusing on fewer things. But at the same time, we’re looking at other opportunities. Maybe we’re upgrading parts of the airplane instead of building it. And that’s how I think about building the airplane as we fly it.

About QuotaPath
QuotaPath brings ownership and accountability to your compensation process by automating sales commissions. Rally teams around shared revenue goals by building comprehensive sales compensation plans and providing visible earnings. Feel confident you’re paying commissions correctly on every deal.

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