"We originally raised a friends and family round, and then used a ton of sweat, went without salaries, and then accessed the best investor a company can have - great customers - using the revenue created to fuel growth."

Coggno is an online training marketplace and learning management system (LMS) that brings together content creators, HR organizations, and employees in a single, cloud-based ecosystem.

Meet Tod Browndorf, founder and CEO of Coggno as he shares the startup story behind his company.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about your company – what is Coggno all about?

Coggno is a sort of ‘iTunes of corporate training’, a marketplace of primarily corporate training curriculum, much of it either mandatory due to state or federal legislation, or relevant for mitigating risk in corporate environments. We have thousands of courses by many experts, both individuals and large organizations in their given fields. Coggno delivers the curriculum, and can measure performance, and report results to both the trainees and the administrators inside companies. We also issue certificates of completion on courses completed.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?

I started my career in finance and ended up eventually in a consulting business placing instructors who both created curriculum and delivered it in person, in the late 90’s and early 00’s. I eventually conceived the idea of Coggno and began developing a Learning Management System which resides at its core in the late 00’s.

Q: Quickly describe what an average working day is like for you?

Our company goes 24/7- so I start early, primarily checking emails (responding later in the day) and tasks that have been assigned to both our development team around 6.30 – 7 am. We communicate via online tools, and I check in with heads of departments usually first thing, checking for any fires, or interesting opportunities.

Q: What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur, and why?

  • I think you need to be a good communicator, both internally and externally so that you can convey your message to your clients, as well as to your staff.
  • Second, I think you need to have emotional intelligence, and need to be able to accept challenges as they appear, and they will: financially, socially, and intelligently.
  • One also needs to understand the tradeoffs, both personal and financial, that you will likely face.

Q: What are your plans for the future, how do you plan to grow your company?

We continue to grow by raising brand awareness. We have a very clear understanding of who our target audience is, and seek to be identified by them as their ‘go-to’ resource.

Q: How are you funded? What is your best advice to entrepreneurs when it comes to raising funds?

We originally raised a friends and family round, and then used a ton of sweat, went without salaries, and then accessed the best investor a company can have – great customers – using the revenue created to fuel growth.

Q: How many users or clients do you currently have, and when do you consider your company a success?

We started to track paying customers about 2 years ago, and have delivered almost 1 million courses to paying customers since we started tracking. So, I would realistically put the total in the millions.

Q: What were the top 3 mistakes you made starting your business and what did you learn from it?

  • Set my expectations too high on how long adoption would take.
  • Almost sold too early.
  • Some bad hires that wasted money and time.

Q: What was the best business advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?

“Invest first in yourself and what you know.” –  (I forgot who)

Q: What’s your definition of success?

Happy healthy home and work environment for myself, our employees, and a great relationship with our customers.

Q: What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?

I have one that I love that probably can’t be printed.