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What makes a start-up a start-up? And when do you move on from that definition? Marc Murphy, the CEO of Atlatl, is currently trying to answer that question. Atlatl is changing the sales process with AR and VR and the company is selling to top tier enterprise companies looking to transform digitally. On this episode, Marc explains how he’s grown as a CEO and used the lessons he’s learned to bring Atlatl to the point it’s at now.
Best Advice: “Surround yourself with a team that really supports your gaps and be super critical about where your gaps are and you’ll find teammates. Find people on your team that can cover those. Be as transparent as you can be with yourself on where those gaps are and shore them up with trusted teammates, and your life and your path to success is going to be much better.”
Why do what you do?: “I love building things and I loved the process of building something and I think building a company — even a software company — is a very tangible, process and it’s something where you can go to work, you can see this place building. You can see other people contribute to it…. in our work lives that opportunity, not a lot of people get to do that. And it’s certainly not easy, but I think it’s about the opportunity to build something that’s so tangible and hopefully, you can point back on value or some kind of accomplishment. They are just really very rewarding for me.”
- Building Atlatl
- What Marc learned as a CEO
- Finding the right alignment when you’re selling
- The importance of integrations
Marc’s decision to serve
Marc enlisted in the Army in 1993 after graduating from Bucknell. He chose the Army because that was the only ROTC program offered at his school and he felt the call to serve somehow. He rose to the rank of captain in his four years in the service then left the military to pursue a career in technology.
What is Atlatl?
Atlatl Software is a tech company that provides visual configuration and CPQ tools to enable a better, more efficient sales process. The way Marc and his team are hoping to do that is through the use of VR and AR. According to Marc, very few companies are working to boost sales using visual configuration, so they are trying to set the pace in the industry. Currently, Atlatl is trying to sell to the top 10% of companies looking to do digital transformation. The Atlatl team approaches those companies and shows them how technology can create a huge ROI and efficiencies when you move manual processes onto software that visually shows you your product and sales process.
“We’re moving the sales process for B2B complex and industrial products outside of brick and mortar and into a virtual and augmented reality space. And we really believe that as our consumer lives change and we become more comfortable operating in a virtual space and buying and selling in a virtual space, B2B is going to move in the same direction as it has for other technologies. We’ve spent time creating a really unique enterprise-level capability to do B2B commerce.”
“We believe we’re probably still slightly early, but we’re all feeling like we’re on the edge. What we think the indicators is we’re starting to get one or two customers in every vertical we’re going into. And that’s creating demand for other customers. So the excitement comes when we start seeing the market leaders, even if they’re using one of our competitors’ tech, it helps us give a use case to point to that’s driving demand for our customers when they come to us. So I think that paradigm exists for any new tech is you’ll get the market leaders, the market leaders will be successful. And they start moving the needle in their revenue with your software. We feel like we’re right on the edge of that moving in the market and which is tremendously exciting.”
Experience as a CEO
Prior to becoming the CEO of Atlatl, Marc served as a Director/Partner with Deloitte and as the CEO of SPARC, which was acquired by Booz Allen Hamilton. With SPARC, Marc learned that there is no playbook for being a CEO. All you can do is learn as you go and apply those lessons to your future endeavors. While with SPACR and Booz Allen Hamilton, Marc wrote down all the things he did and how he’d do things differently if he ever became a CEO again.
“There’s just so many unknowns in this role. I think a start-up CEO is probably the best job you can get as far as excitement level and the pace of the activity, and the pace you have to learn. But there certainly isn’t a full playbook to execute, but you benefit from lessons, and I definitely have learned significantly along the way.”
Where does the tech stack and business stack come together and where are they at odds?
Marc believes that there are two key drivers to look at. When a company or enterprise has formally said they are embarking on a digital transformation, the decision-makers understand the direction of that transformation is to move the organization into industry 4.0. In those cases, the CIO is involved which naturally aligns the tech stack needs with the business stack needs. Marc also looks for alignment with the sales and marketing teams to implement the software successfully.
“We’re selling into the real alignment between sales and marketing because when our software is really used most effectively is when those two business units are aligned. What we’re finding is we are a sales acceleration tool, but the power of these visual assets becomes a really powerful marketing experience as well. So when we see that alignment it really helps the investment case, the business case and then the adoption really driving it through the organization.”
Is Atlatl still a start-up?
The term start-up gets thrown around in different occasions where it really doesn’t fit. According to Marc, Atlatl has an enterprise product that is well beyond the value of a true start-up. We have an enterprise platform, serving public companies and we have the platform and processes in place to scale at that level. However, Atlatl is still operating in start-up speed and is very flat like a traditional start-up.
All about integrations
The ability to integrate and give the confidence you can integrate is table stakes when you’re trying to sell into the enterprise. You’re always going to have to integrate with an ERP or CRM, so you have to go to the table in the sales process with your plan and confidence and give the confidence to the CIO or CTO that you can fit into the existing stack and you can operate in their system no matter how they change.
“There needs to be efficiencies if you’re going to scale in enterprise and being able to do repeatable integrations and keep those integrations well maintained. It’s so important to get right, particularly as a startup, if you have an interest in going into high or mid-market enterprise, and you have to have a plan and be able to execute against it because you will get asked, you will get those requirements and you have to be able to execute on it efficiently.”