Friday, July 26, 2002
Interview with Marco Pinter, CEO of Sanity Software
Marco Pinter, CEO of Santa Barbara-based Sanity Software (www.sanitysoftware.com), recently sold the company to software giant Broderbund. I spoke with Marco to see how he took this year old company from birth to sale in little over a year.
BK: What's the history of Sanity, and how did you end up selling the company to Broderbund?
MP: I founded the company in April of last year to address the need for digital media management for consumers. I put together a team with some technical and business development resources in house, but most of the technical, art and design resources being out-of-house contractors. I was focused very much on interface design, and making the experience of categorization and searching of images, music and video files as simple as possible. We came out with version 1.0 on 12/04/01, which we sold over the Internet with a 30 day try-and-buy program.
The next few months saw two more improved versions of the product. However, at the same time, we were having some challenges selling the product exclusively through online distribution mechanisms. In March I received a call from a VP at Broderbund with interest in licensing or purchasing the technology. Over the following weeks we negotiated the terms of an acquisition of the assets which would be mutually beneficial.
Following this, we did additional work on the product for Broderbund, bringing it to its current version known as The Print Shop Media Manager.
BK: Are there any reviews of your product the readers can see?
MP: A favorable c|net review appears at the address below, describing the interface as "blissfully easy to use", which is a great validation for the product design effort. Note that our largest, most successful competitor is ACDSee, and there c|net review rating is a 6 whereas ours is a 7.
BK: What's your background, and how did you decide to start Sanity?
MP: I have an MS in Computer Science from UCSB, and spent some time teaching. I later went on to create and sell two other companies prior to Sanity Software. The first was a technology acquisition by a Paul Allen company of our digital video editing product. The second company was in the area of game development, and it was acquired in 1998 by NetLojix. I worked as a VP there for a while, then consulted for a couple years before seeing the untapped market for digital media organization products.
BK: How did you fund the company? VC? Bootstrap? Angel?
MP: There were four angel investors, three of them based in Santa Barbara, the fourth in Florida. All of the angels were founders of technology companies, so they have been a great asset and wealth of experience.
BK: You mention you had some difficulty selling exclusively online. What was the biggest challenge you had in selling the product?
MP: Perhaps the biggest challenge was attaining visibility of the product in a short time frame and on a modest marketing budget.
BK: Seems like you had a great turnaround time--a year from start to sale. Do you think this is usual for software, or were you just lucky?
MP: I don't think it's unusual. The Paul Allen acquisition several years ago, which I referenced earlier, was on a similar timetable.
BK: What's your next project--another company?
Not sure. I have just finished a prototype on an exciting new product, and am interested in finding a CEO to take charge of funding a company around it, where I could act as CTO and manage product development. But I am also looking at interesting opportunities around Santa Barbara, and may take a technical management position with an existing company.
BK: Finally, what's the one piece of advice you'd give other entrepreneurs that helped make your business successful?
MP: I've always said: Hire only the best people, especially at first. A great programmer can be worth five mediocre programmers, and the right marketing and business development person can make all the difference to success.