Big news (at least for me): I stepped down as LeadCrunch’s CEO and resigned from the board of directors on January 6, 2021.
Every sports team eventually needs a new head coach. Now is the time for me to move on.
Founding and leading LeadCrunch as its Chief Executive Officer was the most rewarding experience of my career. I am incredibly grateful to all of my colleagues, investors, and customers. Hard work has never been as much fun.
The board and I are very proud of my accomplishments at LeadCrunch. The credit for any company is more about the team’s hard work and getting lucky than it is about the CEO. That said, we worked hard and got very lucky.
In the past four years, LeadCrunch helped more than 500 enterprises around the world grow by finding and engaging more than 1 million prospects that ideally fit their customers. Along the way, we became one of the fastest growing marketing technology companies in history. I am happy to report that I leave the company in fantastic shape after navigating challenges that were beyond my imagination.
In our first three years after raising our first institutional investment, our revenue grew by 7,248% growth between 2016 and 2019 — ranking us #35 on the 2020 Inc 5000. In 2020, Covid hit hard. Revenue plummeted in March through July. And we successfully refocused the business — making changes in weeks that would normally take quarters.
What happened next surprised me. Our team made the sacrifices necessary to get through the recession. We became monomaniacally focused. Our business stabilized during the pandemic. Revenues rebounded in the second half of 2020 and we achieved results that I hope the company will make public soon.
Our team was the key to our success. It started with recruiting the best and retaining them with a steady stream of challenges. In our interview process, I promised every new employee that:
“LeadCrunch will be the most valuable stepping stone in your career.”
It was an audacious promise that pushed both our employees and managers to trust each other as we worked towards mastery and invested into our development. In return, we built an amazing team that far outperformed our competitors in almost every measure.
Some companies are run like a family. We were not. We were a professional sports franchise. Like a great basketball or football team, we won because we played to the strengths of each employee. The composition and culture of our team evolved as we matured. Early on, we were can-do generalists who poured our hearts and souls into discovering product-market fit. As we grew, we added specialists who brought much needed industry-specific expertise. LeadCrunch emerged from the efforts of more than 150 employees, both past and present. Take one person away, and we would have a different (and probably worse) company.
My greatest regret is that changing players is an inevitable part of the physics of a rapidly growing business. If you see LeadCrunch on someone’s resume, you can be certain they are in the top percentile of any candidate pool in terms of grit, curiosity, and getting things done. Of the 150 or so people we hired, I can only think of 3 that I wouldn’t hire again. And those mistakes were entirely my fault.
My greatest lessons came from the many mistakes we made along the way — especially in the early years. The dumb stuff that didn’t kill us is now hilariously funny. Luck played a big part in our survival stories. Although I’d love to think hard work and commitment also helped. Those stories might get told later…
One thing is certain:
LeadCrunch was certainly the most valuable stepping stone in my career.
Ultimately, my vision for the company differed from the board’s.
That said, I am a major shareholder and very much want the company to win. LeadCrunch is ideally positioned to continue to develop into a category-creating business.
What’s next? I’m at the peak of my career. I love taking new products to market — and want to apply what I’ve learned running LeadCrunch for the past 7½ years. It took us 4½ years of pivots to find the right problem to solve. Looking back, it seemed like a decade. No doubt, that experience taught me to to spend more time thinking about my customers’ problems than working out algorithms. As I’ve often said, “When artificial intelligence works, we call it software. When it doesn’t we talk a lot about A.I.”
Once we nailed the right problem to solve, it took us less than 3 years to grow from near zero to well past revenue and financial metrics that landed our Series B. Some call this product-market fit which is usually attributed to someone’s brilliance. It’s makes for good press. But in reality, I found that a better way to think about product success is getting teams into “the flow” of executing rapid learning loops with confident humility.
In the past couple years, I also learned a lot about how to scale revenue even faster than we did at LeadCrunch. That’s what I want to keep doing: Scale growth. Our highest calling is to bring the best out of others. I want to end my career knowing that I did something that will put me on the right side of history.
If you’ve read this far, let’s keep in touch. I’ll continue to post irregular updates about my journey on Twitter, Medium, and LinkedIn (but NOT Facebook). To keep my skills sharp while I find an opportunity to scale revenue past the $50 million mark, I’m providing go-to-market advisory and executive coaching. Check out my website here.