CEO Sundays: How I Turned a $10 URL into a Multi-Million Dollar Business

By February 22, 2015

Free CEO David Erickson



By CEO David Erickson

More than a decade ago, I decided to purchase a $10 URL that would change my life – and my customers’ lives – forever. Throughout the process of growing a start-up without private equity or venture capital, I learned a lot about bootstrapping and mentoring strong talent. Surrounding myself with industry leaders has always been the key to my success. My company grew partially because the recipe was right for success and partially because we started a movement. I knew back in 2001 that word of mouth was absolutely imperative when trying to turn an idea into profit. I was always an “idea guy” and as I began putting those ideas in action and seeing results (especially making money), it created a strong desire to do it again and again

A Movement is Different than Marketing

While other companies were spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to educate people about teleconferencing though marketing and advertising, grew organically when people started to use our services. We created what I call a Movement. I believe you can actually grow a Movement, especially if you have clients signing up simply because they love your business. quickly gained momentum, providing direct, in region numbers Daveinternationally in more than 200 countries and offering its free audio conferencing services in 55 countries in the U.S, Canada, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The company is continuing its steady growth trajectory. In fact, the service is used today by employees at 490 of the Fortune 500, Presidential and other political campaigns all over the country and organizations all over the world. The company is connecting thousands of people at a time, for many hours and days. With its obvious brand recognition, generating call volume has never been an issue, and the name is still responsible for almost 80% of our new customer sign-ups.

Hire Experience and Do Not Try to Teach Inexperienced People

My journey into free teleconferencing began after watching someone use a computer to
make a video call thus sparking my interest in the telecommunications industry. My next
step was to hire a programmer and develop vDesk, a program that allowed users to make voice calls, hold video conferences and share their computer screens. Market interest was low and I realized that a competitor was offering the same service at no charge. That began my quest to enter the competition for “free” services that do not sacrifice quality. The lowest point of entry for a high-quality service turned out to be just the idea that the market needed. was born the day I went online and grabbed the available URL.

Find a Market Need That Isn’t Going Away

There is a large market need for teleconferencing. As we know, meetings dominate our work life today. In fact, according to the National Statistics Council, 37% of employee time is spent in meetings. There are 11 million business meetings each and every day. Unfortunately, for most of us, that isn’t changing anytime soon. Studies have proven that a five-person meeting conducted in-person (involving plane travel for four of the attendees) is seven times more expensive than a meeting conducted by audio conferencing. Organizations continue to use conferencing technologies to meet more often, saving time, money, and the wear and tear caused by travel. Enterprises using conferencing technologies can expedite problem-solving and get products to market at a faster rate.

Conference call providers typically make money in two ways: By charging customers a fee for the call and by sharing toll revenue collected by the phone companies. I figured if I cut out the customer fee and just shared the toll revenue with the phone companies, it could turn into meaningful revenue. Free Conferencing Corporation, best known as, is now considered the leader in the free conference calling industry.

I created the company built on the mission “to redefine one-to-many communications by providing quality, innovation, excellent customer service and the best pricing available.” And, we’ve been successful at it since my first year in business.

Become An Expert at Delegating & Keep Innovating

Once the California-based company took off, so did my responsibilities as CEO. The way I view my role is: 1) Keep the business model alive. 2) Do the big deals. 3) Hire good people. 4) Try not to do everything. This formula has served me well. What was started as a one-man band now has more than 100 employees worldwide and handles 2.4 million calls a month. The service counts as its customers small businesses, nonprofit groups, government agencies and religious organizations. It also was used by then-Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain to coordinate their 2008 presidential campaigns. We recently decided to grow our enterprise strategy and expand Internationally as well. If my projections go as planned, this year will see a significant increase in revenue from 2014.

Free audio conferencing around the globe is clearly an industry differentiator, but also offers other attractive enterprise-grade solutions, including web and video conferencing, voicemail and voice messaging solutions, toll-free conferencing, mobile phone applications, and event services.

Conferencing is big business these days and a growing trend. According to reports, the global market forecast for audio conferencing is expected to reach $4.3B by 2015. My biggest challenge now is to keep innovating. Technology moves fast and our company needs to move fast, but we can’t – and won’t – lose sight of what brought us here: our loyal users.