This story is part of CNBC Make It's The Moment series, where highly successful people reveal the critical moment that changed the trajectory of their lives and careers, discussing what drove them to make the leap into the unknown.
Just ask Spenser Skates and Curtis Liu. Today, the two MIT graduates are known as co-founders of Amplitude, an analytics software business with a market cap of $1.35 billion and more than 2,300 corporate clients. A decade ago, they were on a completely different track — running a voice recognition startup called Sonalight.
It was "a version of [Apple's] Siri before Siri even existed," Skates, Amplitude's 35-year-old CEO, tells CNBC Make It. The duo created Sonalight in 2011, earned a coveted spot in Y Combinator's startup accelerator program and even reached 500,000 downloads of their app.
Internally, Skates and Liu saw that people were using the app once, but not re-engaging with it repeatedly. "Sonalight was a 95th percentile idea," says Skates. "Most ideas are terrible. It was pretty good, but it's not the bestest best. And it was like, we should probably go for a 99th percentile idea and go find that."