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Building a successful software startup involves many aspects. At the core of it all, though, is the technology itself. Many times, the process of starting a software company begins with an abstract concept of a product or service. But will it be viable? Will it resonate with potential users? The technology’s job is to realize that validation.
RFPIO is a Saas company based in Beaverton, Oregon. Their RFP response automation software streamlines the proposal process for RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, and grants—basically any proposal document that is used to solicit a new opportunity.
The company’s founders came up with the idea because they had experience responding to RFPs. They were aware of the productivity challenges that RFPs present, and set out to develop a solution that would help organizations save time, collaborate more efficiently, and drive more revenue.
AJ Sunder is one of the founders and serves as Chief Technology Officer at RFPIO. He answered a few of our questions about the company’s recent success and his approach to developing the technology behind it.
Q: How did you know that there was a need for automated RFP response?
A: The other founders and I used to respond to RFPs, so we understood that bid proposals are mission-critical revenue drivers for many organizations. But the management of that process can usually use some work.
As we were developing our RFP software, we knew that it needed to address the inefficiencies we had faced, and do it better than anyone else on the market.
Q: It’s been an exciting year of growth for RFPIO as a company. How has this growth informed the vision for RFPIO’s automated RFP response technology over the last year?
A: We have picked up a lot of momentum over the past year. RFPIO now has over 3,000 users, which marks a level of growth that has exceeded our expectations. We’ve gotten a lot of positive and insightful feedback from customers, which reinforces our dedication to making the RFP response process smarter and more efficient.
What that means for the technology involves a couple things. One important consideration is scalability; we have to make sure that the software is equipped to support an ever-growing number of users.
The other big priority is security. Our customers, like most companies, have critical business processes that rely on their data being both accessible and secure. From the very beginning we made it a major priority to build security into RFPIO’s technology, and that will always remain an area of focus.
Q: How specifically does RFPIO address security as a cloud provider for your clients?
A: There are a few ways we address security for clients, from smaller companies to large enterprises.
One way to address it is to build security right into our design and development processes. As a best practice, we build layers of security and constantly monitor and reevaluate as the threat landscape changes.
We aim to always use industry best practices, and this area is always evolving, so we are plugged into the latest developments in the space. Our employees have access to a comprehensive security training and awareness program.
Q: What is RFPIO’s technology focus for the year ahead?
A: This coming year, we want to put added focus on incorporating agility into our product development and delivery processes.
Also, since our business has grown internationally, RFPIO’s infrastructure will expand beyond the U.S. to where our customers are located. This gives them improved service and keeps the data local to their respective regions. We plan to keep up with the quickly evolving cloud technologies to make our services faster, better, and more secure.
Q: What are some things you would advise for people who are deciding between a cloud-based application or not?
A: As I mentioned, cloud technologies have grown and matured a lot just in the last few years. The benefit of cloud solutions for a company is that they are easier to evaluate quickly, with very little upfront investment.
When they can delegate software services like responding to RFPs or security questionnaires to a third party, that lets our customers focus on their core business.
Q: What are some challenges that you’ve faced as CTO of a startup?
A: One of the main challenges I face as RFPIO grows is prioritization.There are so many things we want to do, but we have to face the challenges that come along with growing. My advice to anyone in this position is to understand how to make the most of the resources you have available, know when you need to bring in more help, and pick your battles.
Q: Any other advice for startups?
A: My advice would be to carefully think through the architecture of your software so it is flexible, modular, and scalable. Oftentimes scalability ends up as an afterthought when you’re just starting out, and can become a challenge with the potential to disrupt your technology roadmap.
Q: Do you have some successes related to the technology that you’d like to share?
A: Our vision from the very beginning was to build RFPIO as a scalable, customizable model. And I think we’ve succeeded.
Speed is a huge priority when you’re starting out, so you can get feedback that helps you develop the technology and validate your product or service. But sometimes startups find themselves in a situation where the prototype becomes the product.
What we did was build our RFP software with the intent of putting the code directly into production. We factored in design, security, and quality on the front end. It took us a little longer to get the official product out to the users, but in the long run it paid off.
Now we can support stronger integrations with CRMs and other collaboration tools, and put out new releases in a more sustainable way.