Practical Founders Podcast

#7: From consulting biz to serious SaaS exit in Silicon Valley – Luke Hohmann

Luke Hohmann was an engineering and product management leader at Silicon Valley startups before he became an acclaimed author and speaker in the enterprise software development world. He used funding from his consulting business—plus revenue from his first big customers—to build a new software product called Conteneo.

Conteneo was enterprise collaboration software that enabled the biggest companies to engage their leaders in new ways to make much better decisions about product portfolio investments. Started in 2010, this idea came out of several of the gamified collaboration exercises Luke used in his consulting business. Conteneo software customers include Adobe Systems, Cisco, Emerson, HP, Rackspace, and Reed Elsevier.

As the Conteneo software business grew, their consulting business shrank. Eventually, Conteneo was acquired by a strategic partner who was also a leader in enterprise software development and innovation, Scaled Agile. Conteneo was rebranded as SAFe Collaborate.

“One of the important lessons for any practical founder is this: Instead of thinking of investors as your first source of funding, look to your first customers,” Luke says.

In this episode, Luke explains:

  • How his biggest consulting client asked him to build their proven collaboration process into a SaaS software product.
  • How he funded the initial development and subsequent features with creative customer contract commitments.
  • Why his little, bootstrapped company was successful in selling to the largest software companies in the world in the heart of Silicon Valley.
  • The bet he won with a funded founder friend about who would end up with the biggest prize when they sold their companies.
  • The crazy story of how a well-known business author offered to invest in his company over a handshake at a conference.
  • Why he thinks founders should have a structured advisory board and pay them instead of just having informal advisors.

Conteneo Company Facts

  • Founded: 2010
  • Software Type: Enterprise collaboration software
  • Funding: Self-funded with proceeds from his consulting company, with one minor investor, then revenue-funded
  • Acquisition: Sold to Scaled Agile in 2019 for an “inter-generational wealth” exit, not just a life-changing wealth exit, according to Luke
  • Number of Employees: Almost 20 at the time of acquisition
  • Location: Sunnyvale, California (Silicon Valley)


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Greg Head recorded this on episode on August 5, 2022 for the Practical Founders Podcast see all of the episodes.

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