If there’s one thing Metova proves, it’s that with the right idea and the right service, a tech company can make it without venture capital.
On average, tech start-ups launch with nearly 70 percent of their investment coming from VC. For Metova’s Kevin Ross, his original $8,000 investment came from a credit card.
In tech, bootstrapping is unusual, unconventional and risky. The New York Times reported that bootstrapped tech companies often fail simply because their VC-backed competitors force them out of the market with their millions.
But for Metova, it’s a strategy that has worked and is still working.
“Our competitors have a lot of VC behind them,” he said. “They are in the position of being forced to grow. We don’t have that pressure.”
But grow Metova has. From that initial $8,000 charge, the Cool Springs company has evolved — in fewer than six years — into one of the top bespoke mobile app developers in the world.
An advantage of such a small seed? Astronomical growth.
During the past three years, the company has grown 689 percent and with that number, cracked Inc.’s Top 500 list of fastest growing companies in America in 2011.
With the ability to develop apps on all the top mobile platforms — iOS, Android and Windows 7 — Metova has worked with traditional heavy hitters like Barnes & Noble and the Associated Press as well as 21st-century dandies like Yelp and eHarmony.
Bootstrapped tech companies often have a reputation of being risk-averse, which makes sense: People are often more careful with their own money than they are with other people’s. Entrepreneurs who opt for that model are often seen as simply marking time until a high-dollar offer comes along.
Don’t tell Metova. Ross remains committed to his model of “debt-free, bootstrapped, profitable and proud.”
In fact, last year was one of relatively modest growth for the company: going from $2.75 million to $3.55 million in revenues. Because he never felt pressure to grow, Ross didn’t think much of it, but his people did.
“We grew less than we had in the past. Culturally, we had people that said we wanted to start growing. We want to grow the company because we want to stay here. The desire has come from people within the company to grow it,” he said. “It was an exciting moment.”
Whereas most tech companies have high turnover, Metova prides itself on grooming its employees, and its employees have returned the favor by staying on.
It’s not the only way Metova rejects the tech company stereotype. Ross focuses on agility and transparency. Metova’s Web site includes a detailed explanation of the company’s development methodology.
It turns the conventional model of outsourced software development on its head.
Traditionally, client involvement during the development process is minimal: Client asks contractor for software, contract developers develop the software and then deliver the product to a client who has had little insight into its nuts and bolts.
Metova gives its clients — who can contract with the company for as little as $10,000 — access to a system in which they can see any level of detail they choose, including the name of the developer. Personal interaction is a cornerstone of the business model, as well as the roadmap for future progress.
This allows Metova and its clients to make changes quickly and on the front end, rather than the costlier alternative of reworking an already completed product.
“We deliver every single week,” Ross said. “It scares some of our customers. But it builds confidence. It builds a good relationship. It creates a better working relationship. We are able to give more of our value to them.”
Ross says it also creates a better environment for his employees.
“People want to see that they are valued and not just by us saying, ‘Good job,’ but by their customers saying, ‘You guys kicked ass.’ ”
Already recognized for its fresh approach to a still-evolving industry, Metova is turning the “old” model for mobile technology on its ear.
“We are free to make the best decision possible,” Ross said. “We don’t have any pressure from the outside to go one way or the other.”