I know it's not fashionable to be this blunt--but do you truly want to be rich?

If the answer is yes, you can learn something from a startup that was nothing five years ago and is poised to end 2014 with $100 million in revenue.

At that scale, companies have been known to sell their shares to the public and enjoy valuations that enrich their founders--assuming that they can hold on to 15% to 20% of the stock.

A case in point is Rodney Rogers, CEO of Virtustream, a 300-employee Bethesda, Maryland-based company that charges a subscription fee for software that lets businesses run older applications like SAP SE on modern cloud-computing infrastructure.

Rodgers thinks that his shareholders--it has raised $119 million in funding from Intel Capital, Columbia Capital, SAP and others--will make more money for its investors than some of its rivals that have sold out to bigger companies.

For example, Hewlett-Packard bought cloud startup Eucalyptus Systems for less than $100 million earlier in 2014, Cisco Systems acquired cloud company, Metacloud in September, and EMC paid $50 million for Cloudscaling Group in October.

VirtuStream offers four ideas for how it was able to get big fast.

1. Pick the right partner

Success depends heavily on figuring out what skills you will need to prevail in your market and putting together a founding team with those skills.

It looks to me like VirtuStream is like many technology companies that need a great engineer and a great salesperson at the helm. Rogers is the sales person and Kevin Reid is the technologist.

Rogers can sell--he was Chairman and CEO of Adjoined Consulting, an IT Services firm that was bought by Kanbay in 2006 of which he became COO until France's Capgemini bought it in 2007.

Reid was Adjoined's Chief Technology Officer, went to Kanbay with Rogers and continued on with Capgemini as the North American practice leader for Business Intelligence and Enterprise Architecture.

It looks like they have a solid track record of complementing each others' skills and building companies to be sold fast. Their team offers a compelling lesson in the importance of a powerful team for growing your startup fast.

2. Go against the grain

If you are afraid of a little adversity--you might want to stay away from the startup game. Rogers and Reid found that at the time of greatest adversity, most people were scared away from the startup scene.

That meant that if they jumped in to raise capital then and succeeded, they would get a head start on rivals who waited until times were better.

Thanks to their success with building and selling companies, they were able to raise capital during the darkest hours of the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

Their ability to raise capital at a dark time in the capital markets enabled them to move faster than rivals who were hunkering down and trying to keep from running out of money.

3. Make money for your clients

In the business of business technology, victory goes to the companies that can provide their customers with a return on investment.

If you can persuade a company that you will give them, say, $10 back for every dollar they invest in your product, you are likely to make the sale.

But those companies are not just going to take your word for it. In fact, it's critical to have a customer who has already taken a chance on you and is willing to talk to potential customers about how well they've done by using your product.

Indeed, Rogers explained, VirtuStream found just such a reference customer in Domino Sugar--which he claimed is the largest SAP user in the Unites States. And by running Domino Sugar's SAP application on its cloud platform, VirtuStream was able to do something that no rivals could--guarantee the speed at which Domino would be able to get a response from its application.

This customer performance led VirtuStream to be designated as a leader in its market by Forrester Research.

Getting there depended on technology that gave customers more of what they wanted than did rivals'.

Now VirtuStream looks to be less than a year from a big payday. Follow these three steps and you may be able to get there too someday.

Published on: Dec 9, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.