Journey to $1 Million ARR in 9 months - A Startup Story

March 23, 2016

This post is written by the very awesome Sangram Vagre, Co-Founder and CMO of Terminus, a Village startup.

Terminus hit $1M in ARR last December. 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.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, 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

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. And thank you to all the Terminus customers who gave us a chance even though we are only getting started.

March 23, 2016
Karen Houghton