August 18, 2021

Powering Product-Led Sales: Alex Bilmes, Co-Founder, Endgame

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Powering Product-Led Sales: Alex Bilmes, Co-Founder, EndgamePowering Product-Led Sales: Alex Bilmes, Co-Founder, Endgame
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Editor's note: 
Welcome to the Unusual Founders Spotlight series! The goal of this series is to introduce the founders in our portfolio who are currently building the future across categories and industries.

Product-led growth dates back to the eighties with the GNU Project and AOL’s free internet minutes ISP offering. However, in 2012, the first B2B SaaS company with a product-led growth model, LogMeIn, went public. This event kicked off a massive shift in SaaS, moving from a traditional top-down enterprise sales cycle (i.e. an era where deals were finalized over steak dinners and whatever else sellers could woo their customers with) to a user-driven, adoption-led sales era.

As companies like Slack, Zoom, Calendly, and more embraced a product-led GTM motion, the impact was noticeable. Product-led companies trade at higher multiples than companies with traditional top-down sales motions—one of the latest being, trading at a 40x EV/ARR trailing multiple. The reason? Product-led companies are able to create happier customers with faster and more efficient revenue growth. Like every big shift, a new normal was created: The Modern GTM. However, this bottoms-up motion doesn’t mean sales is obsolete—it means it has a new way of delivering value. With no sales technology built for the product-led era, companies were using inadequate custom built internal tools with a lighter mix of other tools in an attempt to glean data insights, resulting in a loss of millions in potential ARR.

Alex Bilmes, Co-Founder of Endgame, was all too familiar with this challenge. Alex built the internal platforms aimed at harnessing PLG data at his first startup, Reflect, while advising  other companies with the same issue. Recognizing he had essentially built Endgame at several companies, Alex knew he needed to solve this problem for product-led companies for good. Alex turned to a trusted former colleague, Graham Murphy, and the two founded Endgame, the first product-led sales platform that helps every customer-facing team in B2B software take immediate action on prospective and current accounts to drive more revenue, faster. 

We recently sat down with Alex and discussed why he’s excited about the role of sales in PLG,  Endgame’s potential, leadership lessons learned during the pandemic, and more.

Unusual: Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

Alex: Well, first off, I grew up a bit differently—I was homeschooled as a kid, so I spent a lot of time learning things on my own. I came from a family of artists, which of course meant I wanted to do something more commercial. At the tender age of 13 I went to college to become an attorney and to get out of my parents house, but ended up being more attracted to making things with computers. 

I started my career in tech as a designer and before everyone used the term PLG, I called it building products that don’t suck. That meant making products easy enough for people to use and interact with before interfacing with salespeople. I joined a company called Cloudability as the first hire and then founded my first company, Reflect, after. Reflect was acquired by Puppet in 2018 and during my time there, I came to the realization that I had built Endgame not once, but multiple times by that point. I decided to start Endgame to make sure nobody else had to go and solve the problem again.

Unusual: Give us the elevator pitch for Endgame and the problem you are trying to solve.

Alex: We help product-led companies like Figma, Retool, Algolia, Clubhouse, and others, better understand which accounts are the most worthwhile from a sales perspective to engage with and which users within those accounts they should be following up with. Put another way, Endgame connects the dots between user behavior and sales opportunities without needing data scientists and/or engineers.

Unusual: Can you walk us through your “aha” moment that led you to start working on Endgame?

Alex: I spent a lot of time building customer data systems at Reflect and Puppet. We would take data from a data warehouse or database to try to determine behavior and product usage. Then, we’d have certain accounts and opportunities in a CRM and we’d try to join those different data sources in order to take action. We’d use integration tools like Zapier to run workflows that would do things like send emails. A lot of time was spent building those tools internally to help us better serve our customers, which was an incredibly painful process. My engineering team was constantly annoyed with me for asking them to build these systems in addition to the core product we were selling. After going through this process multiple times and having advised various companies on how to build those systems, it just felt like I was well positioned to help others avoid struggling with this pain. I was leaving Puppet and was in the process of advising several different companies going through this specific challenge. I worked with them to better understand their specific needs and that turned into Endgame.

Unusual: Endgame has an all female SaaS board. Was that intentional?

Alex: I wanted to work with the best investors who had the most context on our space and I was most aligned with in terms of vision. It just so happened that they were all women.

Endgame Co-Founders Alex and Graham with their all female investor SaaS board

Unusual: What has been one of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur that either you weren’t prepared for or no one warned you about?

Alex: Nobody cares as much as you do. I think that’s probably been the hardest thing for me to come to terms with. I care a lot. As a founder, I think it’s hard not to care a lot. You put your heart and soul into something and it can be really difficult when a customer, potential hire, investor, or anyone really, doesn’t care quite as much as you do. I have to continuously remind myself that not everybody should care as much as I do.

Unusual: What excites you the most about the potential of Endgame?

Alex: We have the opportunity to fundamentally change the way software is sold. Historically, customers have had a pretty poor buying experience. Meaning, death by slides, people lacking the opportunity to access the products to make a decision on their own, being forced to use a tool that they don’t want, etc. Consumer behavior is changing and building a tool that will enable companies to support that type of behavior is really, really exciting. 

Unusual: PLG has become a hot topic, but there are a lot of different interpretations of what it means and where it’s going. What do you think the future of SaaS GTM looks like and how should startups prepare for it?

Alex: Terms like PLG are great in that they explain a concept pretty simply, but there’s a lot of nuance there. On one side you have companies like Calendly, which is a product anybody can use. They have massive funnels. On the other side, you have these very traditional businesses that have teams flying out to different countries with servers they have to install in data centers where customers own the land underneath. And then there’s this huge area in the middle. I think companies will have a number of motions and segmentation will be very important. You’ll have certain parts of the business that will require bigger sales teams with enterprise sales reps to close those deals. Within the same company, you’ll also have self-serve funnels where users can come in and try things out. You’re seeing that already in a number of PLG companies who have a free, trial, and enterprise version. I think the future will be truly understanding that you need to blend a bottom-up motion with a high-velocity sales motion. In many cases, you’ll also need to add an enterprise sales motion. There’s a difficulty of doing that, which creates an opportunity to help companies better understand the connection and how to run different GTM motions simultaneously. 

Unusual: How did you meet your Co-Founder Graham and what is your relationship as Co-Founders like?

Alex: Graham is wonderful. He and I met at a previous company and I tried to hire him at Reflect, but we couldn’t make it happen much to the disappointment of the team. When I started to think about Endgame, I approached Graham and we began to work on ideas early on together. Personality wise, we’re very different. I’m a bit more aggressive, fast moving, and probably too opinionated. On the flip side, Graham is really great at listening, thoughtful, and  super considerate. He’s fantastic at making people feel welcome on the team and ensuring our customers are happy. I’m honestly really lucky and working with Graham is a lot easier than working with me, so you may want to ask him that question. 

Unusual: What’s your biggest piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who are early on in their journey?

Alex: One that is broadly applicable is to narrow the focus and increase the quality. Focus is probably the most underrated thing in business building, particularly earlier on in the entrepreneurial journey. As founders, we get distracted with so many different things. A previous board member of mine once said, “Alex, there’s a thousand things you should do and there’s 10 things that you have to do. There’s three things that if you don’t do, you die. So only focus on those three.”

Unusual: The past year plus has been insane on multiple fronts. As a leader, what has your biggest learning been about running a business during a time like this?

Alex: Things take longer than you want them to and that’s okay. I think during the particularly trying times we’re living in, it’s important to remember that people have families, personal lives, and are dealing with all sorts of difficult situations. It’s important to consider those things and not be overly focused on just speed, which is honestly really difficult for founders—myself included. So for me, the biggest learning has been the importance of patience.

See how Endgame fits into the Modern GTM’s User/Buyer journey here

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