Hackernoon logoourney to $1 Million ARR in 9 months — A Startup Story of #HustleMuscle by@sangramvajre

ourney to $1 Million ARR in 9 months — A Startup Story of #HustleMuscle

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@sangramvajreSangram Vajre

Terminus hit $1M in ARR last week. We went from $0 to $1M in ARR in nine months! This post is dedicated to all the “Terminators” (that’s how we refer ourselves) and all of our collective hard work. I also share my personal experience along the way to reflect on all the good that has happened in 2015. Here you go!

As some of you might know, I ran marketing at Pardot from 2012 to 2014. I always thought that I couldn’t have joined Pardot at a better time. It was a rocketship! We were growing by 100% year over year. I was there through the acquisition of ExactTarget and Salesforce.

The acquisition process taught me how to do things at scale and think big. I remember Kevin Bobowoski, my boss at ExactTarget and now VP of Demand Generation at Act-On, telling me something that truly changed the way I think about marketing.

He said to think of marketing at Pardot was at 1X when I joined, and then with ExactTarget acquisition, we took it to 10X, an exponential growth. And when the Salesforce acquisition happened, he said:

“Remember our 10X conversation? Now make it 100X.” That blew my mind!

The marketing team at Pardot was and still is a badass team that kept cool and took the company up and to the right. All along, it felt fantastic to lead this team. We were one of the hottest startups in Atlanta.

But a part of me always felt that I faked it at Pardot

It’s because I wasn’t a co-founder of Pardot or even one of the few 10 to 50 employees who struggled all the way and braved through the amazing journey filled with ups and downs of a startup. Those early team members are the ones who should embrace the glory, not me. I couldn’t shake this guilty feeling as the years passed by; yet, I always stayed true to my goal of building and leading an incredible marketing team.

So when I had the chance to build a company from the ground up, I had to take it. This is where Terminus story begins.

Terminus: an account-based marketing journey begins

In late 2014, I met Eric Spett, the CEO of Terminus, along with his amazing co-founder and CTO, Eric Vass. These guys are two amazing co-founders. Neither of them are marketers by trade, but interestingly enough, they were building really cool marketing technology. Terminus was just eight months in the making, functioning more like an agency assisting B2B marketing teams with targeted, automated advertising. We didn’t have a product. Our vision couldn’t have been more blurry. The future of the company with just two employees (i.e. the co-founders) was totally uncertain. That’s why I felt like it was perfect opportunity to join as a co-founder and pivot. Spett is all about hustle, operational excellence, and hiring the absolute best people. Vass loves building great products that people love and creating relationships that last. I felt at home coming in as a super goofy marketer with a big vision, unwavering optimism for the future, and an audacious goal to challenge the status-quo of B2B sales and marketing.

I know it sounds crazy, but that’s exactly what I felt. I knew instantly I could make a difference in every aspect of this company. From setting the vision, building a completely new category called Account-Based Marketing (ABM) which I passionately believed in for years, sell a product we built from the ground up, and to be part of something bigger than myself. It was so refreshing, and still is today.

Here is the timeline of my journey at Terminus in 2015

January to March: I acted as an advisor to Terminus to build the first self-service account-based marketing product. I recall saying that account-based marketing is the future of B2B marketing, and both co-founders looked at me like I was nuts. Their famous words were: “What is account-based marketing?” so here is a blog post for anyone who still has no idea on what (ABM) is all about.

March to May: I officially joined Terminus as a co-founder and CMO in March and hit the ground running evangelizing the benefits of account-based marketing. We closed a few deals instantly, and I proclaimed that we have a product-market fit. Spett and Vass had already done the heavy lifting on the tech stuff , and all I did was came in and put the lipstick on this very beautiful pig (as I recall it). The day the product was ready, I said we have product-market fit. Of course, everyone laughed at me. Per the prophets out there, you need to have close to 50-plus paying customers with a repeatable business model to call product-market fit, but I didn’t care about what anyone said. I felt it in my gut that we are on to something big.

I knew that account-based marketing is a “product-category” fit. Everyone talked about it but not from a product perspective. So we built it.

Here’s a video interview with Gretchen from Avere Systems, our first customer at Terminus, discussing why they wanted an ABM platform. She had no idea that she was our first customer and you can catch her reaction when I told her. It was amazing! Check it out here.

This brings me to the next chapter in the story.

LinkedIn blog post that started a revolution — #FlipMyFunnel

May: In some crazy day, we ended up flipping the funnel on its head. It was all about how marketing technology (#MarTech) makes it easier than ever for B2B marketing professionals to identify their best-fit customers, or accounts, flipping the traditional lead-based sales funnel on its head. This started the first #FlipMyFunnel revolution leading us to do three events in Atlanta, Chicago, and Boston. We launched a completely separate website at FlipMyFunnel to keep it independent to Terminus in the spirit of building a category and community around challenging the B2B Sales and Marketing community. Here’s the graphic that flips the funnel on its head, literally.

June to September: We continued to sell our new product by creating a ton of buzz, as well as writing a ton on the topic of account-based marketing. We would talk about ABM to anyone whom would listen to me, at any hour of the day or night. Here are links to a few of my favorite articles on some amazing publications:

Our customers and modern marketers talked about #FlipMyFunnel so much that we decided to really turn this into a movement.

The first-ever #FlipMyFunnel conference

We held the first #FlipMyFunnel on our home turf in Atlanta. At the time we hosted the event in August, we had about 40 customers. We were able to bring together the best and brightest thought leaders together for one day to challenge the status-quo of B2B Sales and Marketers and flip some funnels.The keynote speakers included Megan Heuer, Joseph Jaffe, Jill Rowley, Kyle Porter, Meagen Eisenberg, Allen Gannett, and Jeffrey Rohrs. Much to our surprise and delight, more than 300 B2B sales and marketing professionals from all our United States attended our event. We even outranked Kim Kardashian that day with all the buzz! The #FlipMyFunnel movement was really starting to turn the spotlight towards account-based marketing.

With all the buzz, we’re about to create another first for the B2B marketing industry.

The first-ever book about account-based marketing

September: I signed a contract with Wiley Publishing to write “Account-Based Marketing for Dummies”. The book is already available to pre-order and will be out on April 18, 2016! This is for my father who I lost in 2015 and I know he would have been proud of me for writing a book and the Terminus team for hustling. He was one of the finest professors on economics in my home town and this book is dedicated to him.

At the end of Q3, the Terminus team had already grown our ARR to more than $600K and about 60 customers. Our growth was tremendous considering where we started from at the beginning of the year. We entered into Q4 optimistic and ready to flex our #HustleMuscle even harder.

October: We raised our seed round of $1.8M round with Hyde Park Venture Partners (HPVP), Knoll Ventures, Arthur Ventures and Atlanta Ventures. Our investors recognized we were early to the ABM party. Shortly after our announcement, our partners at G2 Crowd recognized the first-ever product category for account-based marketing. Our seed funding allowed us to hire the employees we needed, plus we could take #FlipMyFunnel on the road! We started planning our roadshow for more cities!

A few other firsts happened in Q4. Terminus hosted the first-ever #ABMChat on Twitter. We published the first-ever ABM framework going beyond the typical B2B purchase decision to a comprehensive customer experience and a FlipMyFunnel stack that allows you to create your own #MarTech stack on the #flipmyfunnel philosophy. You can download it flipmyfunnel.com

December: We hosted #FlipMyFunnel events in Boston and Chicago. Here’s the recap of our whirlwind tour. Man, it was amazing! We met so many great people along the way who simply wants to challenge the conventional wisdom of B2B sales and marketing.

Jay Baer (who doesn’t know him) sent an email to his followers titled, “An absolute must for B2B”, writing about how “Our friends at Openview and Terminus have created a spectacular, free ebook called ‘ The Complete Guide to Targeted B2B Advertising.” You can download it here.

Now, just before the year’s end and the close of Q4, I had another first. This is the last, but probably my greatest “first” of 2015.

Terminus went from Zero in ARR for our product to $1M in ARR in only nine months!

This isn’t a one person accomplishment. It’s a team effort. A team, that is ridiculously awesome to work with every day. We call ourselves Terminators because we truly are fearless.

We are building a new category called account-based marketing and leading the way. As I reflect on all these “firsts”, here are a few things which I believe contributed to our success to-date.

  • Our Mission: Challenge the status-quo of B2B Sales and Marketing
  • Our Vision: Build the best account-based marketing platform
  • Our Mantra: #FlipMyFunnel
  • Our Team Slogan: Get sh*t done!

Congrats to our amazing team on becoming one of the fastest growing,most innovative companies in Atlanta.

Thank you to all our customers who gave us a chance even though we are only getting started. 2015 was the year of #HustleMuscle. 2016 is going to be another year of tremendous growth, pains, fun…and many more firsts. Watch out everyone, Terminators are here!

Oh! One last thing. If I didn’t put a call-to-action (CTA), I wouldn’t be a real marketer, right?

So here it is. Our next big #FlipMyFunnel conference is going to be in San Francisco on Feb 25, 2016.

Use the code FlipMyFunnel50 for a 50% off promo code to join 350+ B2B sales and marketing professionals for a day full of learnings, case studies, and go from rookie to an expert in account-based marketing and account-based selling.

  • Originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse

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