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Bootstrapping a Billion Dollar Unicorn with Services from Utah: Dave Elkington, CEO of (Part 7)

Posted on Sunday, Apr 12th 2015

Sramana Mitra: Are you building the whole organization in Utah?

Dave Elkington: Yes. Here’s why. I’m maniacal about that. I drive everybody crazy. So much of a business, especially in hyper growth, happens ad hoc. It happens in the hallway. It happens in ad hoc meetings. If you distribute your leadership team, you impair them. That strategy is so fluid. It’s so quickly evolving that if you don’t cluster your key strategic leaders, you can’t be successful.

Sramana Mitra: I don’t want to get into this discussion but we have a completely global organization because of the nature of what we do. It works perfectly for us.

Dave Elkington: There are scenarios where it doesn’t work. There will be a day when I don’t need all of those key leaders here in Utah.

Sramana Mitra: I think the downside of building a startup at Silicon Valley these days is the talent war is crazy. That is not an easy game to play.

Dave Elkington: Frankly, recruiting people to move to Utah is also not necessarily a trivial thing. I would argue I’ve got a stronger leadership team than any Silicon Valley company. I’ve done it here in Utah.

Sramana Mitra: It looks like you’ve hired some very strong leaders and moved them to Utah. I imagine you hire your engineers and salespeople from Utah, right?

Dave Elkington: That’s right. I’ll tell you the thing that I love about the Utah culture and area. As you’ve probably talked to a lot of these firms, being outside of Silicon Valley, I don’t have the maturity of leadership like you would have in Silicon Valley. What I do have are brilliantly engaged employees. It is absolutely fabulous.

Sramana Mitra: I’ve heard that. A lot of people who are doing organizations in Chicago or Montana have been through this. I’ve talked to many of your peers who have done this. We’re fully with you on that one. Does that mean that you have hit the billion dollar valuation already?

Dave Elkington: I’ll be evasive but answer it. If you look at the Wall Street Journal last Thursday, they’ve included us in their billion dollar club.

Sramana Mitra: Based on the numbers that you were quoting in terms of your revenue and revenue growth, I did the calculation in my head that you are getting to the hundred million revenue range, which means that, if you were to raise money today, you would get the billion dollar valuation.

Dave Elkington: The Wall Street Journal ran some numbers. I’m not confirming or denying. They announced that we did our round at over a billion dollars in value. Our team’s goal is to change the world. I don’t want to sell the business. With our growth rate, there’s always people talking and interested. My objective is to build a really large, very impactful business that adds value to every stakeholder. I want to build something that changes the lives of everybody. We’re building an artificial intelligence learning platform that helps people sell better, helps people be more successful and helps buyers buy what they want in a way that’s more appropriate.

To give you a sense of where we’re at today, we have over 2,000 companies who use our platform. I’ve 40,000 users. As they use our technology, we’re aggregating all of their identified anonymous data. We have over 110 billion unique North American profiles. That’s over half of the US adult population and about 70% of the buyers in the US profiled. More importantly, I’ve got 14 billion sales interactions with those 100 plus million people. If a sales person interacts in any way, I’m not just profiling that, I’m profiling all the context around that. If you go back to what I was trying to build in the first place, I’m looking at weather, sporting events, political events, and stock market. If the stock market is high in Portland, you should be selling in Portland more than in any other areas. All of these things triangulate to give you optimal engagement capacity.

I’m adding roughly a billion sales interactions a month but there are several thousand contextual data points. I’m adding well over a trillion contextual data points a month. About three to four years ago, my data got rich enough for me to predict who is going to buy from you, what they’re going to buy, how much they’re going to spend. We’ve built a platform that delivers all of that. What’s interesting is there’s a sort of networking effect in what we’re providing to our clients. It’s passive crowdsourcing. Every new customer that my client sells to is helping every one of my users and it’s getting better and more effective.

At this point, I can’t hire salespeople fast enough. I had 30 salespeople this time last year. I’ve about 120 today. I’m hiring anywhere from 50 to 100 people a month right now. I opened another office in Salt Lake City. I have probably 120 plus there. We are opening an office in London and Dublin also. You’ll see us move into Japan and Australia. Right now, I’m selling revenue to a VP of Sales.

Sramana Mitra: That’s a very compelling value proposition. Way back, I did a company in sales lead generation. Anything to do with sales lead, if you can prove ROI, it’s very easy to sell.

Dave Elkington: Because you’re so close to revenue. Our average uplift in revenue is roughly 25%. It’s an operational and scale challenge for me.

Sramana Mitra: You’ve basically got the formula. You just have to get it sold. Perfect. Thank you so much for your time.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Bootstrapping a Billion Dollar Unicorn with Services from Utah: Dave Elkington, CEO of
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