If ever there was a company which tracks the history of start-ups from the late ‘90s to date, it is Bullhorn. Their highs and lows (they are a software solution for recruiting employees) were traced by Art Papas, CEO and founder, at the December 11th breakfast meeting of the Association for Corporate Growth held on the Boston Fish Pier.
In quick summary: Bullhorn was a dot-com start-up, which took $4,000,000 of venture capital in 2000, at the height of the market for dot-coms when the company had no customers, not to mention profits.
Along came the dot-com bust, and the company’s $235,000 a month burn rate, combined with inability to garner sale during the bust, became unsupportable. Raising additional capital to retool the company came at a huge price in terms of management dilution; the original investors had a full ratchet anti-dilution provision which almost wiped out the founder group’s equity position.
Rebuilding the company over time, in 2008 the original investors were taken out by Highland Capital and General Catalyst. Shortly thereafter, there came the 2008 crash — a bad time for a company whose sweet spot was facilitating the filling of job positions.
Sufficiently resilient to continue to grow at a reasonable pace throughout the “great recession,” in 2012 Bullhorn was acquired by a private equity firm which provided guidance for growth, supported another complete retooling of the software suite, and further encouraged growth through facilitating four acquisitions during the following twelve months.
Bullhorn now claims $67,000,000 in gross sales for the year 2013, a positive trending year for 2014, plans to greatly expand both the size of the enterprise and its top line, and an optimist future which includes going overseas to non-English speaking economies.
While not demonstrating the explosive growth shown by some of the social media or internet giants, the Bullhorn saga is a story of survival and success of a B-to-B enterprise spanning the highlights, and lowlights, of a turbulent economic period. It is stories like this which remind us of volatility over the last fifteen years.
If there is any takeaway, it is that flexibility and receptiveness to rapid change are the key elements for survival in the economic world into which we seem to be thrust.