A Q&A with LevelEleven co-founder and CEO Bob Marsh. The Detroit-based company was founded in 2012 as a spinoff of ePrize and just raised $500,000 in Seed funding in early-April. Investors in the company include Detroit Venture Partners, Hyde Park Venture Partners and The First Step Fund.
SUB: Please describe LevelEleven and your value proposition.
Marsh: LevelEleven develops enterprise gamification and CRM solutions to help managers get their sales and service teams focused on key behaviors by tapping into their competitive nature. Our flagship product is an easy-to-use app within the Salesforce.com ecosystem that creates high-impact competitions around any data point that can be tracked within a company’s CRM system. LevelEleven uses gamification to help organizations across various industries motivate employees to achieve their fullest potential, in a simple yet meaningful way.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Marsh: Since our product is native to the Salesforce platform, our key users are companies with sales teams who use Salesforce.com as their CRM system. We’re looking for managers within that sphere who would like to motivate their teams. While these companies range from airlines, to insurance providers, to an NBA team, the majority fall under the ‘software and other technology’ category.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Marsh: Other companies focusing on gamification technology for CRM like Bunchball, Hoopla and Badgeville. That being said, we’re unique in comparison because we focus specifically on gamification in enterprise sales and services and motivating key employee behaviors.
SUB: What differentiates LevelEleven from the competition?
Marsh: We made the decision to create our app as a native Salesforce app, which definitely gives us an edge, as it makes it that much simpler for user adoption. Since we focus specifically on Salesforce, we take pride in being the number one gamification app in its AppExchange. LevelEleven is also incredibly simple to use; from download, to getting users familiar with the app, to everyday utilization, our app makes for an easy and seamless user experience.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Marsh: We officially spun out of ePrize—the leader in digital engagement for social, mobile and web campaigns—in October 2012. For about a year leading up to that we were fortunate enough to have the ability to incubate our startup within ePrize. Since we had already created our product and measured its success, our first steps in establishing LevelEleven were fairly measured and calculated compared to other independent startup ventures. After recognizing that there was a clear market demand for our product, LevelEleven seized the opportunity to become its own entity, and we’ve never looked back.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for LevelEleven? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Marsh: As mentioned, LevelEleven grew organically out of ePrize, where I was on the executive team and trying to come up with a way to motivate our sales team to focus on certain tasks and use tools within Salesforce that they weren’t utilizing. When we saw the benefits of using gamification as a CRM tool, it became clear that this was not only a great way to get employees to focus on the right things, but there was also a market need for our product. It was only natural at that point to expand, until we realized the time was right to spin off into our own company.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Marsh: Are you a movie fan? The story behind LevelEleven begins with the cult classic This is Spinal Tap. The name LevelEleven riffs off that one extra step that gamification provides to get your employees to go the extra mile. It basically reminds you that by tapping into employees’ innate competitive characteristics, you can take your business up a notch. ‘One louder,’ so to speak.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Marsh: We focus on a narrow part of the CRM industry so it’s been harder to maintain our status amongst the Badgevilles of the world, which cater to a broader audience. When we first started looking for customers—and were within ePrize—it took us 12 months to find our first 25 customers. After that, it took three months just to get the next 27. To date, within six months of officially launching, we’re up to 75.
SUB: You just raised $500,000 in new Seed funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Marsh: We’re planning to use our newest funding to further accelerate product development and invest in sales and marketing since we’re seeing such momentum for the company. We want to make sure we’re on the forefront of innovation, and make sure our app is the most user-friendly one out there.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise more outside funding?
Marsh: We’ve made huge strides this quarter in establishing our brand, further developing our software, and acquiring new customers, so the timing was perfect.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Marsh: We market ourselves to businesses who already trust and are invested in Salesforce. We’re able to offer customers a natural extension of the work they’re already doing on Salesforce, plus that added one degree—our app. The app is currently available with a one-year commitment priced out affordably per user. However, we’re looking to change that payment model a bit in an effort to make our services as convenient as possible to customers. More to come on that next month.
SUB: What are your goals for LevelEleven over the next year or so?
Marsh: From a technology standpoint, we’d love to broaden our offerings over the next twelve months. The functionality of our flagship app is right on target, but of course we’re always thinking about what’s next. In terms of development elsewhere, we’re looking to continue to grow our team and our company.
Finally, when it comes to our bigger picture goal, I think there are still a lot of misconceptions of gamification as a gimmicky buzzword, but we’ve seen meaningful, thoughtful gamification programs—note: this does not mean just slapping on badges—really transform the way sales reps handle everyday tasks. Over the next year, hopefully we can continue to educate this industry on the value of tapping into employees’ competitive nature and additionally expand into new verticals.
LevelEleven – www.leveleleven.com