The road less traveled
Henry Schuck opened his bedroom door and padded down the hallway of the two-story home in the Short North Arts District. He followed the telephone lines and wires snaking through the house to the master bedroom, where a handful of college students were busy starting their work day at the worldwide headquarters of DiscoverOrg. Two more employees camped out at the kitchen table.
“I would schedule my classes so I wouldn’t start until 3 or 4 p.m.,” said Schuck, a 2009 graduate of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. “There were five people in that bedroom from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. It stayed that way until I finished law school.”
Schuck, senior vice president of sales and general counsel for DiscoverOrg, has watched the company he helped found in 2007 grow from seven employees to 50 and its revenues skyrocket from $172,000 in 2007 to $2.8 million in 2010. The company is on track to hit $5 million this year, Schuck said.
DiscoverOrg builds, maintains, and sells access to a database of information technology decision-makers in a variety of markets. Sales representatives for hardware and software vendors subscribe to the database in order to target their pitches specifically to those in a position to spend money on IT services. Unlike its competitors, DiscoverOrg also provides an organizational chart for each company.
“That way, if I’m a sales person, I know I’m not wasting my time with someone who has no decision-making authority or budget,” Schuck explained in a telephone interview from DiscoverOrg’s offices in Vancouver, Wash.
The company has more than 400 clients mostly based in the United States, but its footprint has extended to China and India. By all measures, DiscoverOrg has grown considerably since its beginnings in the Short North.
Three weeks before the end of spring semester during his first year of law school, Schuck was doing as most students do: studying for finals. He received a call from Kirk Brown, a friend from his undergraduate years at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“I want to start this company that provides IT contact data. Do you want to do it with me?” Brown asked.
“No. I am absolutely not interested,” Schuck recalled saying.
He was doing well in law school and intended to keep it that way as he crammed the next three weeks. But he offered to consult on the project in the summer before taking off for the Oxford Study Abroad program.
Brown came to Columbus in June 2007, and the two sketched out a plan for the website – what it would say and how to market it. They began working on a data set and constructing a database. A marketing and sales list took form. While in London, Schuck kept in touch and worked with Brown via Skype.
In November, they sent their first email marketing blast. DiscoverOrg immediately found a foothold in the market. The company sold $100,000 in service contracts in the first month.
“I didn’t share those numbers with people while I was in law school, but it gave us confidence that this was going to work,” Schuck said.
He was going to need a bit of swagger as he pursued his law degree and helped run a fledgling company simultaneously. The greatest challenge for the young entrepreneur was having the courage to take a nontraditional path.
“It was really tough, from an ego standpoint, to not sit through on-campus interviewing or take summer internships,” he said. “It’s difficult when you’re just starting off and your friends are getting offered $100,000 a year. But if you believe in your idea and block out some of the outside comments – people who try to poke holes in your idea – you can make it work. There’s not just one route after law school.”
Schuck said his law degree has been a critical part of DiscoverOrg’s success. He looks over red lines of contracts, obtains copyrights, ensures their products are trademarked, and deals with unauthorized use of service. “Basically, I’m protecting our intellectual property,” he said. “Having a law degree helps almost every day.”
As for what’s next, there hasn’t been time to consider the possibilities, Schuck said with a laugh. He and Brown plan to continue growing DiscoverOrg and pushing it to its fullest potential. After that, he might make use of his license to practice law in Nevada in another unexpected way.
“Ten years down the road, if DiscoverOrg has had this run and doesn’t need me doing what I do every day,” he said, “I think it would be a lot of fun to take on some criminal law opportunities to see if that road would be interesting.”
This article was written by Monica DeMeglio.