Welcome to Episode 191! Kyle Porter is the Founder & CEO @ Salesloft, the leading sales engagement platform delivering a better sales experience. To date, Salesloft have raised over $75m in funding from some of the best in the business including Emergence, Insight Venture Partners, Techstars and even LinkedIn. As for Kyle, he has led the team from 4 employees in 2014 to over 320 today where they have also been awarded Atlanta’s No 1 best place to work. Prior to founding Salesloft, Kyle was the Founder @ B2B camp, a conference focused on B2B revenue generating professionals. Before that he was Vice President of Marketing @ NanoLumens.
In Today’s Episode We Discuss:
* How Kyle made his way into the world of SaaS and came to found Salesloft.
* Kyle made the decision to pivot the product when it was at $7m in ARR. What was the thinking behind that? How does Kyle think about pivots more broadly? How does one know when it is truly not working? How long did it take Kyle to get the core Salesloft product to $1m in ARR?
* With the pivot, what were Kyle’s core learnings on migrating from a prior product and platform to a new one? What were his big lessons on seeing the change in buyer persona? What does Kyle mean when he says, “Selling is hard but buying is even harder?”
* Does Kyle agree with many CEOs the most important role of the CEO is “management upscaling?” What elements does he find most challenging? What have been Kyle’s big lessons in the building out of his exec team? What is the fundamental element for a successful exec team to function?
* Salesloft is in an immensely competitive space. What would Kyle’s advice be in standing out in an intensely competitive space? Where do many go wrong? What are the pros and cons of being in Atlanta and not SF? What advice would Kyle give to founders operating their HQs external to the core hubs?
Kyle’s 60 Second SaaStr
Is it important to have early champions? How does one get them?
How has having kids changed your perspective on work?
Tell me a moment in your life that has served as an inflection point and changed the way you think?
When I say success in SaaS who is the embodiment of this to you?
What does Kyle know now that he wishes he had known at the beginning?
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Harry Stebbings: All right, we are back. Welcome to the official SaaStr Podcast, with me, Harry Stebbings. I would love to see you on Instagram where you not only see behind the scenes of the show, but you can suggest questions and guests for future episodes. However, speaking of episodes, what a show we have in store for you today as we welcome Kyle Porter to the hot seat. Now, Kyle is the founder and CEO of Salesloft, the leading sales engagement platform, delivering a better sales experience. To date, Salesloft has raised over $75 million dollars in funding from some of the best in the business, including Emergence, Insight Venture Partners, Techstars, and even LinkedIn. As for Kyle, he’s lead the team from four employees in 2014 to over 320 today, where they’ve also been awarded Atlanta’s Number One best place to work.
Prior to founding Salesloft, Kyle was the founder of B2B Camp, a conference focused on B2B revenue generating professionals. Before that, he was VP of marketing at NanoLumens, and I do also want to say a huge thank you, both to Jason Lemkin and Jackson Corn for the intro to the Kyle today, I really do so appreciate that. Okay, but it’s now time for the show and I’m very, very excited for a special one here with Kyle Porter, founder and CEO at Salesloft.
Kyle, it’s absolutely fantastic to have you on the show today. A big hand to Jason Lemkin for the intro, but thank you so much for joining me today, Kyle.
Kyle Porter: Thanks Harry, it’s an honor to be here. Congrats on an incredible podcast, I know these are hard to pull off. You’ve done it right and for those listening today, you’re in the right place, we’re gonna have some fun and you’re gonna hear some ideas you haven’t heard before.
Harry Stebbings: Well, you are far too kind. I promise to pay you a huge amount later, but I do want to kick off today, Kyle, with a little on you, so tell me, how did you make your way into the world of SaaS and come to found Salesloft?
Kyle Porter: I’ve loved sales ever since I was a kid, I sold everything you could, baseball cards, comic books, Pogs. I might have been the best beanie baby sales kid in my hometown, but most importantly, I loved doing sales right. I loved leading with empathy and sincerity, seeing the look on someone’s eyes when I brought them value and made their life better, just got to be so exciting. So, after college, I started using technology to help my sales, so I was hacking around for the first five years, scrapers, crawlers, news engines, checking the jobs companies were posting, using all of these improvements to deliver a better experience to customers. That got me excited to start entrepreneurship, so I started a little club in 2005 here in Atlanta and we’d bring folks who wanted to be entrepreneurs in the room and talk to them. I’d look around the room and see all these capable people that had all these ambitions, and goals, and opportunities, and I decided that I wanted to start a company to change lives and create a journey for other people.
So, I started interviewing, kinda like what you’re doing. I started interviewing entrepreneurs, reading every book I could, meeting everyone in the venture game. I had met a gentleman named David Cummings, and David’s a founder and CEO of a company called Pardot, which eventually became acquired by ExactTarget and is now the marketing automation arm for SalesForce. David had this different outlook on starting a business, so I knew he was the guy that I wanted to start a company with. So, we sat down for lunch, and this is how I opened up the meeting by the way. We hadn’t ever met before and I said, “David, I want to start a company and I want you involved.” And his answer was, “Okay, let’s do it.” That was the beginning. We didn’t have a full business plan, we didn’t have a business name, I just started working in the Pardot office with a laptop and we started the company.
We launched the first iteration of Salesloft in late 2011. I joined the Techstars program the following year, we ended up a year later, starting the business over from scratch, we can unpack more of that. Then we built a data product that we took from one to seven million ARR in about 20 months, and then we scrapped that product completely and built what is now Salesloft and that’s grown even faster. We’ll end this year near 40 million ARR with over 120% net expansion, and it’s been a wild ride.
Harry Stebbings: I mean, there’s so many things for me to unpack there. Absolutely, as you said about discussing the transitions, I do want to take you into a couple of different segments today. I’m gonna call it PPS, being products, people, and space, does that sound good?
Kyle Porter: Yeah, fantastic.
Harry Stebbings: Starting on the product itself, it’s easy to look, as you said, at Salesloft today, 40 million ARR and think it’s all up into the right, but I spoke to Nichole at Techstars and she mentioned maybe some of the earlier pivots, and the elements that weren’t working so well. I want to start with that, and with the benefit of hindsight, how do you think about the pivots today?
Kyle Porter: Well, we made some big mistakes, and by we, I mean me. I made some big mistakes early on, so a year into the company, we had gone through the Techstars program. We had won some awards, we had some notoriety, the blog was successful, but we hadn’t built a product the companies would pay for and that was adding significant value to the problems they had. So, I started the business over from scratch, actually went crawling back to David Cummings after burning through a quarter of a million of his money and I said, “Hey, this thing’s still real.” But we had to let go of the entire company and start over. So, really, I think the big three things that I learned in that first reboot, is what I called it, was the importance of organizational health and aligned values.
So, we had people that were part of the team that didn’t see life the same way that I did, they didn’t see how to treat people the same way that I did, they didn’t care about the customers the same way that I did, they had great resumes and great experiences, but we just didn’t match up. These journeys are tough and you gotta be in these journeys with people that you want to be working with and aligned with, so that was the first thing. The second was is that I had come from marketing and sales my whole life, and that had taken precedence in the time that I had allocated to the business, the intentional investment. So, I realized that product and technology needed to play equal, if not a more important role in the business, so we had to make that shift.
Then the last one was, I had David as a mentor, and advisor, and investor, but no one in the trenches executing the business with me, and I wanted a partner in there. So after the reboot, I ended up hiring a gentleman named Rob Forman, who is really a co-founder of the Salesloft as it is today, and he is my partner in this business, and it’s just been an incredible journey putting values first, making sure that product and technology are at the same level of investment that marketing and sales has, just doing everything with a shared vision in values.
Harry Stebbings: I do have to unpack a couple of elements there, in terms of that organizational alignment. I think it’s very easy to say with a hindsight, but it’s super tough to say in the moment. I saw your tweet about, “It’s easy to measure IQ, it’s easy to measure data”, but how do you measure that internal courage, that internal culture fit with a candidate when you’re interviewing them? Are there any kind of indicators or questions that you like to ask?
Kyle Porter: Well, I’ll tell you, first it was interesting for me ’cause as I was going in this journey of becoming a CEO, before even starting Salesloft, the entrepreneurs who were most impressive to me, the ones that I learned from and I cared about the most, were the ones who kept saying, “Values and organizational health are the most important things in your business.” And ironically, a year in I still hadn’t put it to play the way that they had said because it’s so hard when you’re trying to build product market fit, you’re just going so fast and you’re trying to solve these problems along the way. So, the first step was like I knew it and I still didn’t do it, so it’s just that important. Every day since that day, really, I’ve learned that it’s more important than I thought it was yesterday, so tomorrow I’ll wake up and it’s going to be more important to me tomorrow than it is today.
That’s important I think, but then the next thing is you just have to really codify it because a lot of entrepreneurs, especially founders, they’re not super process driven, they’re the Wild West gun show, right? And for me, I’m a variety is the spice of life guy, but what I’ve done is I’ve had to put frameworks in place to keep me in the motion of routine will set you free. So, we put in frameworks around organizational health and it starts with a purpose. Purpose is, “Why do we exist?”, it’s this giant transformational idea of what we’re even here to do in the first place. The next question is, “How will we behave?”, and that’s what values are. When I’m out of the office, how does my staff behave? Values are when someone on my team will tell someone else on the team, “Hey man, that’s not the way things are done around here.” Right?
So, we’ve codified that, we’ve codified what the business definition is, we’ve codified what the strategic anchors are for the company and what we plan to do this period. So, I think putting a system and framework around it is really important. One framework that works really well, is the simplified one page strategic plan. If you just google search that, you’ll find it. I think that’s the most important element of it.
Harry Stebbings: I love the elements of codifying it there. You did mention obviously the pivot, and then also the search for product market fit. Your investor and mentor, David Cummings, asked me a question the other day and it’s, “How long do you really think it takes to find product market fit? Is it two years, Harry? Is it four years?” I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on this and how long it really took you to maybe get to a million in an ARR and have that realization of product market fit?
Kyle Porter: Yeah. If we started the company late 2011, the first million dollar product was launched in mid 2013, so it took over a year and a half to even get it launched, but then that product did hit a million the next summer. So, what is that, two and a half years from founding date? Good long journey, right? Then we launched a brand new product and we hit a million in less than a year after that one launched, that’s now what the core flagship of Salesloft is. But if you take the core flagship product of Salesloft, it took three and a half years to get to a million ARR. Three and a half years later, it’s where it is today.
Harry Stebbings: Can I ask you a question, that you mentioned getting to seven million in ARR and then pivoting. What’s the thinking behind that? ‘Cause that seems like a storming runaway success at seven million ARR.
Kyle Porter: Well, we did have a lot of growth but it was on a product that didn’t match up with the vision for the company. We built a data product and many of your listeners might’ve been customers of this product, and I bet you they’re customers of products that are like it today ’cause it’s had a lot of offshoots. But we built a platform that would allow you to build accurate and targeted lists of contacts from the internet, but what we didn’t like is that companies were using those big lists of contacts and dropping them in the marketing automation spam blaster and just hammering out their customers. It wasn’t the way to sell with sincerity. So, what we did is we built a platform that basically mimicked the best sellers in the world.
The best sellers were taking their target accounts, they were identifying the right contacts at those accounts, and they were laying out a cadence or a rhythm for all their communications, phone calls, emails, social touch points, other types of communications. They were executing on that cadence and then they were converting those customers over, and it was a better way to do things. The first version was not aligned with values as much as the second version, it was a product that we didn’t fully own, the technology part, ’cause it was using internet data to source information. It didn’t have the same stickiness, it didn’t have the same retention, so we decided to make a big shift. I think we announced the shift when we were about four million in the old product and it got all the way up to seven before we just said, “Hey, it’s over.” And then we put all our eggs in the basket of what is now Salesloft today.
It was a tough decision. We ended up doing a tombstone and playing that song, “Dust in the wind”, it was awesome, but big company-wide communication, some sales people didn’t make it to the next level, but all-in-all, it was a wonderful decision for the business and I’m glad we made it. I don’t think we would’ve been able to build the platform that delivers so much value for the customers today, had we not killed the old one.
Harry Stebbings: Now I mean, speaking of the transition, I was actually chatting to Jason Lemkin just an hour ago about the transition for you and he asked, what were the core lessons learned from migrating from a prior product and platform to a new one?
Kyle Porter: Yeah. I think it starts with communication. We talked about the purpose and vision of the company, and it was very important for me to make sure that everyone in the company understood that, “This is why we’re making the decision. We’re not making the decision to try to hit a number next quarter, we’re not trying to hit a number next year, we’re not trying to raise a round of capital. We’re trying to build a business that’s gonna be a legacy company, we’re trying to make a big, big impact and revolutionize the sales industry and if we’re gonna do that, we have to look out long term and here’s why this makes the right sense for the business.” That was the biggest, most important piece. And then there’s a lot of logistical things that followed that, but all that process stuff can come when people are motivated, energized, enthusiastic, and see the vision.
Harry Stebbings: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, speaking of the change in product and platform there, another change that’s subsequent is the buyer and the buyer persona change. What were the takeaways from seeing that change with the change of platform?
Kyle Porter: Yeah, there’s a little bit of the buyer change but I think what happened is, if you go back, I want to say five years ago, our profession of sales realized that sales was changing. So, companies bought all this technology, they bought power emailers, marketing automation systems that would blast the universe, they bought these dialers that would call 20 people a second. They put this technology in place, but what happened was reps weren’t getting any better, it still took reps the same amount of time to onboard, they were still hitting the same percentage of quota. When you look back on it, of course there were some changes happening in sales, but what was even bigger was the change that was happening for buyers. Buyers today, they’re more educated, they’re more informed than ever before, they’ve got big problems that they need solved and sellers hold the keys to those problems, but there’s so much noise, destroyed inboxes, insincere messages. What we saw was that the best sellers were rising above that noise to deliver their customers with a better experience.
They did that by harmoniously blending the science of sales, which is the repeatability, scalability process side with this empathetic side of human first, understanding of value, solving problems. So really, that’s the whole key to great sales. I saw from your notes before you talked about the message of buying is hard, and that’s the truth. Selling is hard, but buying enterprise solutions is even more difficult. We like to say around the office things like, “Running a marathon is hard, but buying enterprise solutions is even harder.” So, we focus on that, that’s really what the pivot was all about is, “How do we enable our customers to deliver a better experience to their customers?” Then that became the place where we focused our product attention, not just on our users, but on the experience they were having with their customers and that’s what we built for.
Harry Stebbings: Absolutely. I mean, I do want to slightly transition away from the product to the team behind the product, ’cause Salesloft has seen this phenomenal growth over the years. So, from intense scaling of team to a change within the exec team, I’d love to start on the core exec team, how you thought about David Cummings as the mentor, and the hiring of your co-founder alongside that, and what was that decision making framework around that?
Kyle Porter: Yeah, like I mentioned, in the first version, I was really at it alone. I mean, David was a great mentor and advisor, but in the trenches alone and I wanted someone there with me. So, Rob has just been incredible and he is really the Yin to my Yang, so where I’m focused on the longterm vision in sales and marketing, delivering values for customers, organizational health and clarity, he is just such a process oriented, framework driven, intentional executive. He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever known. So really, that is the foundational elements for the leadership team at Salesloft. Rob and I pretty much operate the executive team, almost like a two in the box model. He’s the COO and I’m the CEO, and then we then have a leadership staff. I’ll tell you that the number one session of extraordinary executives is having cohesion at the leadership team.
People always talk about strategic differentiation here, and better marketing, or better innovation on the technology side, and all those things are important and they’re right to focus on, but they’re not near as valuable as some of these organizational health elements that really drive the business and continuity. So, we say, “Okay, this leadership team is gonna be cohesive. They’re gonna work together with deep levels of trust, we’re going to a set direction together. They’re going to develop plans, we’re going to entrust the ownership of those plans to them. And then they’re gonna execute faithfully on these plans.” For us, that’s just been the biggest piece, focusing on that cohesion, I mean, and it goes down to these really interesting areas. My executive leadership team, every single one of them knows about the childhood insecurities and fears that each other has, and it makes it where it’s really special because we can get into these difficult conversations where we want to run fast and overcome all these hurdles, and we can have these conflict situations and we can get past them because of the relationships that we have.
Harry Stebbings: Can I ask you a question? In terms of the transition, I’ve had many founders on the show say that exec teams churn continuously every two to three years, and Aaron Levie’s supported that statement. Do you agree with the management level churn throughout a SaaS company’s life cycle? Or do you think actually, some people can really scale with the company throughout?
Kyle Porter: I think there’s both. I mean, if I look at the leadership team, the first important thing is to separate the people from the challenges. We have boxes at Salesloft that represent things like sales, things like marketing, and technology, or operations and services, or people, and those boxes are filled by a leader. Then my job is to make sure that the right person’s in that box, and to make sure that the people that are in that box today are developing. So, I’m developing executives or I’m putting them in the box. I think that’s the biggest thing, some develop, and some grow, and some scale, and some do need to be leveled up, and we’ve done both.
Harry Stebbings: Can I ask you a question? In terms of assembling that core exec team, when did you think, “Now is the right time”? Often founders have this question of, “Is it at 10 million ARR?” How did you think about the right time to really professionalize that top level structure?
Kyle Porter: I think we’re always building on it. I mean, from day one there’s a team there and is it the same team as today? Absolutely not, but it’s just always getting better, it’s always getting more clarity around it, it’s always getting more attention from me, it’s always getting more higher level executive leaders that are either developed to that level or hired to be at that level. I think it’s just the continuous focus, but the different today is that we have people in all those places that are better than those things than I am, that have way more experience than I have, that have way more wisdom and confidence and recall than I do. I think that was a shift, when that happened.
Harry Stebbings: The other super interesting element, I’m sorry, I’m so getting off schedule, but there’s too many interesting things for me to touch on, but you mentioned the developing talent versus filling the box, how do you think about internal promotion versus external hiring? And how do you approach that today?
Kyle Porter: Yeah, there’s gotta be a blend of both. One of the things that we do, Rob particularly does an incredible job of it, is we created a leadership program here at Salesloft and it’s in its third year already. This leadership program is professionally managed and professionally driven through the organization for folks to come in and develop as leaders. It’s got all sorts of programs around delegation, empowerment, listening, planning, there’s just all these elements of it and we execute on that pretty aggressively. So, that’s one piece and then the other is just it’s a little bit of both, then when you’re recruiting you want to go out and get great people. A lot of that is punching above your weight class, finding people who would be attracted to the organization in 12 months, and showing them the vision of how you’re going to get there. So, we spent a lot of time recruiting and recruiting is selling, and it’s evaluating, and so that’s been part of the fun as well.
Harry Stebbings: When you do bring in that external candidate, and do you recruit them in for that box, how do you prevent existing employees who maybe feel that they were ready for the role, how do you prevent them from being disengaged or disincentivized? It’s a tough balance.
Kyle Porter: Yeah, absolutely. I think we’ve done a pretty good job there, I think we’ve certainly learned along the way and I don’t know if you can totally prevent it, but I think what is important is to show what is necessary of that functional area and what is expected of it in the future. Then as an executive, it would be hard to have someone in each of those functional areas that all needed to be developed and it was their first time doing it. So, I think that communicating that and showcasing how the wisdom and recall of a leader who’s been there and done that is going to not only be best for the organization, but also would be best for them, to help them level up and take their career to the next level.
We recently hired a CFO and have had a VP of Finance for a long time, and it got to the point where I said, “Hey Derrick, I can’t take you any further. I have no more CFO knowledge and experience, so let’s bring a champion here who’s been there and done that, and not only will this company go to the next level but so will you.” He took it well, he’s taken it very well. It’s difficult, I think the more the person puts ego in the equation, the more challenging it is, but the way we set up our core values, ego gets squashed out pretty quick here.
Harry Stebbings: Absolutely. I do want to discuss the broader team itself, ’cause obviously Salesloft has grown immensely. Question from Nicole at Techstars, “What was the biggest difference to you leading a small team versus a large company for you?”
Kyle Porter: There’s this book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, and it’s got these incredible elements of the things that you’ve done before that if you keep doing them, you’re not gonna achieve your goals. It’s things like winning too much, it’s things like an excessive need to be me, and for me, it’s always been who I am today and what I do today, is different than what I did yesterday. Actually, I’m going through one of these right now where, we have this incredible executive leadership team and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, you guys don’t need me anymore.” And if I sat and wallowed in that, it could be really difficult, but what that means is now it gives me an opportunity level up and exhibit what’s my best and highest use of my time.
Now, instead of jumping on as many sales calls as I used to before we had a CRO, now I’m working to make sure that the CRO and CMO are in a cohesive relationship, and that they’re aligned, and that they’re also aligned with finance, with product. And that now I can go speak to a different executive, or a different customer, or go swing for the fences on a prospect that we normally wouldn’t have got a shot with. So, I think that’s what’s important is, never being set in your own ways, or the things that you drive value from, or the things that you get your confidence from, and just always stretching and challenging yourself to be better.
Harry Stebbings: Can I ask, in terms of … you’d mentioned the word challenge there, many founders say on the show, that the hardest challenge of being CEO of a rapidly scaling firm like Salesloft, is having to scale their communications. Would you agree with this? And what was your biggest challenge to you as you’ve been scaling?
Kyle Porter: It’s interesting, I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t always a person of routine, and I put some communications routines in at Salesloft that I’ve just held so strongly to, and they’ve been really, really valuable for the growth of the business. I’ll give you an example, I’m actually looking on my desk right now and I’ve got a bounded copy of a book that says, “ExactTarget, five years of Friday notes, from 2009 to 2014.” It’s an email from Scott Dorsey, who was the CEO and founder of ExactTarget, every single Friday for five years to the company. And I actually had been sending an email to the entire company, and the investors, and our mentors every single Sunday since 2012, six years, I’ve never missed one. Every single time I email the company and I say … I open it up with a little vision, “Here’s where we are, here’s what’s happening in the marketplace.” I get into some specifics about our customers are doing, and congratulate them on their successes, talk a little bit about our staff, who’s exhibiting the core values of the company, show some metrics, and then end with a challenge for us to be better.
I’ve been doing that for, like I said, six years. That’s been a great medium to communicate with the entire company, people look forward to seeing that and understanding that. We also do a weekly all-hands meeting, and the weekly all-hands meeting has a rhythm, has different presenters, it has a customer spotlight, it has a Salesloft star who’s been recognized for their core values, it’s got a product show and tell, and it’s got an “ask me anything Q&A” with me and Rob at the end. We do it every week. So we do that, and I have a stand up every day as well, so 9:45 am for 10 minutes, the executive leadership team comes into my office and we talk about what we did yesterday, what we’re doing today, and what roadblocks or challenges we have. Weekly leadership meeting, we really have this stuff queued in and that’s been one of the things that, if we didn’t have it, it would be really difficult.
Harry Stebbings: Can I ask you, so communication, you’ve already seemed to have nailed there, in terms of that framework and structure, what is your biggest challenge with the scaling for yourself?
Kyle Porter: It’s the processes that make their way all the way through the organization, so I think that’s communication but there’s even deeper levels of communication. For example, we hired a strong sales enablement leader at the beginning of the year, and when he came in, the difference between the sales staff’s education, before and after, was night and day. So, we’ve got all kinds of things like that. One of the things we’re working on right now, is empowering the whole organization to hire and recruit like we hire and recruit as executives. Hiring has always been really important to me, but now I’ve got levels of managers that are super involved in hiring, do they know the same things that we’ve learned? Have they been through the same experiences that we’ve been through?
That’s a big area of focus today is bringing that, just like when we brought sales enablement in and now when a new message goes out, it gets distributed to the team really successfully, we’re doing the same thing with hiring right now. That’s an area that we’re working hard on.
Harry Stebbings: We’ve covered the product, we’ve covered the people within the organization, I do want to take a step out a little bit and talk about the macro and the meta landscape before we move into the quickfire round. And it is an intensely competitive space that Salesloft has successfully stood out in and made a name for itself in. So Kyle, what are the lessons to winning in an intensely competitive space? And where do you think many go wrong?
Kyle Porter: Yeah. It’s difficult to speak broadly, but I can speak about our own experiences. I think one, we’re happy that it is a competitive space because that means it’s a giant market that cares a lot about what we’re doing. So, the TAM is incredible and that makes for great opportunity. The thing that I think we’ve found that’s been really helpful is, I mentioned that DNA of sales from day one, and that was just … I couldn’t even help having that, that was just something that I was born with and I’ve been thinking about selling … I mean, 1996 Olympics came to Atlanta, I was selling Olympic pens to everybody. It’s just a part of my DNA. So, from the founding of the company through the whole journey, that just tight connection with the seller, that tight connection with the revenue generation team has been really helpful as the DNA that has set us apart. I’d say that’s number one.
Number two would be, like I said, these organizational health and values. In his book, The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni interviews the CEO of Southwest and says, “You’re crushing your numbers, you’re doing things with values at the center of everything, why have your competitors not done this? It seems easy, why have your competitors not done this?” And he says, “Frankly, I think they believe it’s beneath them.” And I really believe that. When we talk about alignment, values, cohesiveness at the organizational level, the values of customer first, of team over self, of biased action focused on results, glass half full, when we talk about those, I don’t think anyone else cares about them like we do. It makes a huge difference for the customer, and it makes a huge difference for being able to innovate, to deliver them value. I think that’s a big one.
Then you gotta have this ability to always evolve, and always get better, and better, and better. The relationship that I have with my COO, the relationship we have with our investors, I couldn’t imagine any better investor team or investors, they never tell me what to do and they’re always there to help and they always think big. I’ve got this guy Tom Noonan on our board, he sold his company to IBM for a couple billion dollars and every single time I’m in a meeting with this guy, I walk away thinking bigger than I ever thought before. So, I think we’ve got some great people around us, we’ve got great DNA, we’re focused on the right things and that’s been really helpful for us to win in the marketplace. And just staying so close to the customer really means innovation and means that we can solve their problems.
Harry Stebbings: I mean, that is a unique set of ambassadors, not telling you what to do and always helping. I mean, you shot gold there, Kyle, I tell you. But I do want to finish today, and before we move into the quickfire, I have to discuss the location element, not based out of Silicon Valley, but based out of Atlanta. Tell me, what are the honest pros and cons of being in Atlanta versus San Francisco.
Kyle Porter: Great question. Well, I love Atlanta, born and raised here, went to school here, Georgia Tech, lived in other places, been to other places, been everywhere that I can, but this is home for me. Atlanta’s incredible. We’ve got just amazing talent, I look out my window and I see Georgia Tech, which is one of the best engineering schools in the world, we got big brands here Coke, Home Depot, UPS, Delta. I don’t know if you knew it, but the New York Stock Exchange is actually owned by an Atlanta company. CEO’s a friend of mine, he spoke at our conference, so there’s a lot of good stuff happening in Atlanta. I would say that for sales people, engineers, designers, product managers, customer success managers, is probably one of the best places in the world to hire. Now, for executive leaders, especially in SaaS and especially in high growth, there’s not a lot of those.
Our head of marketing, our CMO, our CRO, our head of services, they all live in other cities and they travel here all the time, and they go to some of our other locations. But of course, we love New York, so we have an office in Bryant Park, we love San Francisco so we have an office downtown, right next to LinkedIn. We’re growing this thing to be a global business, it’s not like we think about, “Hey, we want to compete in the Atlanta Olympics.” We’re competing in the global Olympics. I think that, that would be pros and cons, is it’s tough to get exec leaders, it’s tough to get financing, all of our financing is remote. The only two institutions we took money from are not in Atlanta. In fact, I mean, Jason Lemkin is one of the first investors in Salesloft and I cold emailed him because of just how special he was and the things he was doing, and I wanted to be involved and around it.
So, when he invested, Emergence Capital invested, so that was San Francisco, our Series C was Insight Venture Partners out of New York. Yeah, I mean, we don’t consider ourselves locked into Atlanta from an operations perspective, but headquarters is definitely here and our heart’s here.
Harry Stebbings: I love that, and I didn’t know about you emailing Jason, that’s great to hear. But I do want to move into my favorite element, I have to admit, of any interview, being the quickfire round, Kyle. So, I say a short statement and then you give me your immediate thoughts, how does that sound?
Kyle Porter: Perfect.
Harry Stebbings: Okay. Is it important to have early champions? If so, how does one get them?
Kyle Porter: Absolutely. You gotta pick the right ones, the right ones are the ones who share your audience. And then, I believe the best way to get champions is to show them one dimensional value without expecting anything in return.
Harry Stebbings: Love it, what an answer. How’s having kids changed your perspective on work?
Kyle Porter: Got a four year old and a one year old, Brooklyn and Clark, shout outs. Having Brooklyn and Clark, makes my work more important. So we’re on a mission here and I want my kids to see the importance of intentionality and purpose. I believe we were built by our creator to work hard and serve others, and so I want them to see that.
Harry Stebbings: Tell me a moment in your life that served as an inflection point, and maybe changed the way you think?
Kyle Porter: Well, I was born with a rare blood disease and wasn’t expected to live past infancy, all my childhood I was fighting, in and out of ERs and it taught me a deep level of resilience and how to fight. So that was born into me from the earliest days and I couldn’t talk about a moment in my life that changed me, without talking about that moment.
Harry Stebbings: Wow, I didn’t know about that. That’s incredible. When I say success in SaaS, who is the embodiment of this to you? Who’s the first person that comes to mind?
Kyle Porter: Scott Dorsey. He was the founder and CEO of ExactTarget, they took the company public, they were acquired by SalesForce later in the journey. I mentioned that I’ve got a book on my desk that talks about notes that he wrote to his team, and he’s been an incredible mentor and just someone I really, really look up to. When they filed for IPO, they said the core differentiator of the company was their values and I can relate to that.
Harry Stebbings: Yep. No, I had Scott on the show, he’s fantastic. I do want to finish then with, what do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of the Salesloft journey? A tricky one.
Kyle Porter: I think I would’ve wanted to know the characteristics that I have and the positives and negatives that those can have on others. So, being very driven means I can drive too fast sometimes and those kinds of things, working on myself has been some of the biggest evolution of running this business. And if I had the maturity that I have today back when we started the company, who knows what would’ve happened.
Harry Stebbings: Kyle, it’s been such a pleasure to have you on the show, I’m so excited for the coming years for Salesloft, so thank you so much for joining me today.
Kyle Porter: Oh, thank you, Harry. Send Jason my best. I really appreciate what you’re doing and it’s been an honor.
Harry Stebbings: I mean, such an incredible guest to have on the show there in Kyle, and such exciting times ahead with Salesloft. If you’d like to see more from Kyle, you can on Twitter, @KylePorter, likewise I’d love to welcome you behind the scenes here on SaaStr, you can do that on Instagram @HStebbings1996, with two Bs, that really would be awesome.
As always, your support means the world to me and I cannot wait to bring you a very special episode with Michael Katz, founder and CEO at mParticle next week.