Today is the five year anniversary of iGoDigital’s acquisition by ExactTarget. Time moves quickly. The company is now part of Salesforce, via their acquisition of ExactTarget in 2013. I’m now business partners with Scott Dorsey and Mike Fitzgerald at High Alpha. And I have the fortune to be able to continue to work with many of the amazingly talented leaders from iGoDigital. I’ve learned more than I can even recount. But on my drive in today, I was reflecting a bit and thought I would share. Time gives you a healthy dose of perspective and here are some of my thoughts looking back…
What We Did Right:
- Culture. Like most successful companies who reference culture as a differentiator, our culture was unique and it proved to be part of our secret sauce. Every new employee spent their first day on the job building their own desk. We gathered monthly for a company meeting, but rather than focus on the leadership team sharing metrics and goals, we spent most of the time going around the room 1 by 1 to recognize another member of the team who had excelled. This affirmation was incredibly time consuming as we grew bigger and bigger, but it proved to be worth every minute. We created an environment of trust, selflessness, and accountability. We were fortunate to have a group of extremely talented individuals operating within an environment that rewarded teamwork above individual accomplishments. In looking back, I’m more proud of this than anything.
- Focus on Two Things: Making and Selling. We were obsessive about customers — Acquisition and Retention. We served large enterprise customers and therefore had massive expansion opportunity within each account. As such, our client success to sales ratio was 3:1. While on paper this was odd, it represented a massive advantage to our clients and our ability to grow large accounts quickly. So many early-stage companies get distracted as they grow. I’m proud of the way we remained focused on these two critical areas.
- Big ACV. We served large, enterprise customers from day one. Best Buy was our first customer, Walmart our 5th. Ultimately, we worked with 8 of the top 10 online retailers and lots and lots of large, consumer brands from all across the globe. It takes just as much to sell a $10k deal as it does a $100k deal. We had $100k and even $1m deals very early on in our company history. Having a large ACV (Average Contract Value) allowed us to scale our resources very quickly and do things our competitors were not able to do.
- Blurry Definition of Product vs. Services. Enterprise customers want to buy solutions, not software. In the software industry, we are hyper focused on the percentage of a company’s revenue that is derived from software versus services because we know the software line is completely scalable while the services line requires people, which are often expensive. The irony of this is enterprise customers could care less what percentage of their problem is solved by software vs people. They just want their problem solved. To play into this, every iGoDigital customer had a dedicated client success manager with unlimited ability to utilize them.
- It’s OK to Blink First. After our acquisition, I expected a rash of our competitors to also be purchased. It didn’t happen. We had decided not to raise any outside capital while many of our competitors were incredibly well funded — some of them raising $50m+ at $500m+ valuations. Despite the attractiveness of those numbers and many smart VC’s telling me they were justified, I never thought the market was big enough to support multiple winners. After our deal, I watched over time as these good companies struggled to find exit opportunities for their investors. Meanwhile, as part of Salesforce, we captured significant market share, grew our business by 350%, and served as the foundation for Salesforce’s AI strategy. Shortly after our deal with ExactTarget, the CEO of a competitor said “now that iGoDigital has been declared the winner, the rest of us are playing for second place.” In looking back, I’m glad we blinked first.
Life moves on and people forget companies over time as they get folded into larger ones. That’s how it’s supposed to work. I’m now focused on High Alpha and thrilled to be working to make a large and lasting impact on Indianapolis and the future of Enterprise SaaS. Many of my colleagues from iGoDigital are doing the same. Some are still working at Salesforce, which is awesome — and some have ventured out to start their own companies.
I hope all of them look back at our time at iGoDigital, what we accomplished, and more importantly, how we did it, and smile. I sure do.