July 6 by Kevin Phelan
I remember a great post from then Apttus CMO and now Chief Revenue Officer Kamal Ahluwalia that talked about one entrepreneur’s path to Startup Success. It read: “When we started Apttus, we were motivated in large part by a simple, but at the time seemingly revolutionary idea – that enterprise software should deliver on its promises and make customers successful, rapidly. When we saw Salesforce’s original logo, with a big, brash red line through the word “software,” we knew we had found a like-minded company.”
For many of us in the Apttus and Salesforce communities, we know the exact emotion that Kamal captured in his post. It’s connecting with like-minded people that inspire us and motivate us to more. I had a similar founder’s experience and rereading his post made me want to share (for the first time anywhere), my personal journey with what I considered a “seemingly revolutionary idea” that lead me here. I hope you enjoy.
Five years ago, I was having lunch in a funky restaurant in Cambridge, MA with the CEO of a new curation startup. He was fresh out of MIT with a vision, passion and focus that made me take notice and he talked about how it could be used to build digital communities. I was a recovering enterprise software sales and marketing professional itching to try something new. By the end of the meal, I had somehow agreed to become a new beta customer for him and quickly set my sights on building a new breed of media/digital community. Unlike others media outlets that covered entire industries, I became obsessed with building a media property around just one company. It was one of those obsessions that I had read about where you can’t stop thinking about the idea and just needed to build it. Next, I had to find a company that would have enough interesting content to support our full, daily attention. Having spent close to a decade prior in Enterprise software and generally enjoying the topic, I decided to choose SAP & Salesforce as my initial targets. At the time, SAP had been making a lot of exciting claims around their new powerful database called HANA and Salesforce.com was this fun, fast-growing company with a CEO that I always enjoyed reading about.
I bought the license of the curation software and 2 domains: AllHANA.com and AllSalesforce.com and off I went. Within the first 24 hours of launching, executives from both companies started pounding on my LinkedIn profile to see who I was. Within days, I had received a letter from SAP HQ asking me to stop what I was doing and to “immediately shut down the site”. No call, no conversation, nothing but a cease and desist letter. To be clear, all I was doing in the early days was simply aggregating the global news coverage about SAP HANA. It was kind of like a Google Reader for SAP HANA. It didn’t matter as they didn’t like it and I didn’t like the letter so the site went away.
Salesforce took the opposite approach. They reached out and asked to speak with me. On the call, they were curious about what I was doing and soon responded with a “How can we help?” attitude. They had this like-minded approach that I was building something 100% digital for their community and told me I should come to Dreamforce to learn more about what they were doing. Soon the community (especially the MVPs) started embracing what we were all about and began sharing our content. Flash forward 5 years and we’ve now curated over 10,000 articles for the Salesforce community, attended 5 insane Dreamforce conferences and are proud to be the #1 source for all things Salesforce. We’ve watched approximately 20+ copycat blogs pop up and then quit after attempting to do what we do. We still use the same software (now the #1 curation software in the market) with a news algorithm that has been human trained for over 60 months (just ask the folks at Facebook Trending News about how important/valuable that human-in-the-loop news AI training is).