In 2003, Scott Krager worked for Blockbuster. This was his last time working for someone else.
In his first incarnation as business owner, Scott ran a mobile notary service signing mortgage documents for Countrywide and other lenders. With the collapse of the housing market in 2007, Scott very nearly lost his business and learned one of his first big lessons—focusing on one industry and having only one client leaves you vulnerable to downturns. Business development has to be a daily effort or a company risks going out of business. Fortunately, Scott was able to morph the business into something different and launched a website-building company in 2008.
For several years after the collapse of the housing bubble, Scott successfully built up a portfolio of domains, making his living as a competitive Webmaster. While managing this collection of websites, he started mapping out a piece of software that was to become the foundation for his current business, SERPs (search engine results page). This web-based software enabled faster analysis of keywords, organic search traffic and better search engine optimization (SEO) without the hassle of “spreadsheet hell,” says Scott. In the process, he found that he truly loved visualizing data with software.
Rather presciently, Scott purchased the domain serps.com while still managing his portfolio of websites. A year later Scott and CTO Joel Bradshaw launched SERPs.com for select users and their business was born.
The idea behind SERPs is to provide the best software for SEO professionals, like in-house marketers or digital agencies. SERPs.com enables customers to track daily keyword rankings, test tactics and monitor keyword volatility from a single dashboard. Despite the seemingly narrow target audience, Scott doesn’t see the market doing anything but growing. “The number of websites keeps expanding while search engine results will only list 10 results per page and every website wants that real estate. Competition for search rankings will become even more competitive with time.”
After providing SERPs to a closed group of customers in 2011 the product was opened to the public in the spring of 2012. (Full disclosure, CareerFuel has used SERPs since early 2013.) The majority of their customers have found them through word of mouth, organic search and industry conferences. They have been successful enough to add a total of eight employees and contractors--a point of pride for Scott, “I really enjoy running my own company, watching people develop skills and creating jobs.”
To get SERPs where it is, Scott has invested ~$150,000 of his own money into the company. SERPs was also fortunate to receive $25,000 in seed money from the Portland Seed Fund (a convertible note, not equity) last year and, most recently, an influx of angel investment.
Like a lot of entrepreneurs, the path to commercial success has been a zigzag. What is consistent is his willingness to learn from mistakes, his push to succeed and an ear for customer demand. For those college students out there who are trying to decide whether to work for him/herself or someone else, Scott says, “You don’t have to work for a large corporation. Live frugally and start something on the side. Success comes down to getting it done-- do the grind and do it well.”
For more on search engine optimization (some practical tips!) read "An Intro to SEO for Small Business." For more on what its like to run a tech startup, check out "Startup Revealed," our new web series!