Ebsta's Founder and CEO: How forward-thinking leaders profit from breakthrough innovations

In this interview series Richard Richie, Managing Partner of Alcon Maddox, gets some of London’s most forward-thinking tech leaders to spill the beans on what is making their companies so successful and what innovations the future has in store.

In this week’s interview Guy Rubin, Founder and CEO at Ebsta - a revenue intelligence platform that drives predictable revenue growth - unpacks what revenue intelligence actually means and how it can really change the playing field for an organisation looking to squeeze the revenue lemon a little harder in such a demanding market. He also outlines the role of product lead growth and the importance of being able to think big, beyond what’s immediately obvious when growing a business.

RR: Guy, tell us a bit about what Ebsta is or does.

GR: Well, look, before we talk about Ebsta and what we do, let's talk about the wider scope, right? So, there's a revolution happening in sales, and finally, after banging a drum for far too long, we see that the world's waking up to this idea of revenue intelligence, in other words, understanding all the signals around the organisation that influence revenue. Some of those will be in your CRM, some in your phone system. Others could be in your mailboxes or your calendars. Maybe you've got a free trial, so there's some product data that you have. You could have a whole host of signals coming in from your marketing stack, telling you the propensity to buy.

Trying to not just identify your ideal customer profile (ICP), but actually trying to understand intent as well. When you start bringing in all these disparate signals from across the organisation, into one place, and try and understand the influence historically those signals have had on revenue, you start to build up a picture of what good looks like - the DNA of a good deal when you're trying to sell product X or product Y.

We now connect to over 50 different data sources when we onboard a customer and have a unique service that delivers what we call our revenue insight reports. So, within 30 days of someone signing up to Ebsta, they get a report that covers every deal closed won and closed lost, showing them all the signals that led to revenue. Clear benchmarks are then created to deliver pipeline insights for every live opportunity which ultimately rolls up to more accurate revenue forecasts.

RR: Guy, you’ve been running this business for almost 12 years now. What are you most proud of?

GR: Well, there’s been lots of challenges I think it's fair to say. Maintaining the business bootstrapped is something as a leadership team we've always been very proud of. It means that we make all the mistakes ourselves and we thrive on our own merits. We’ve been banging the drum about sales teams being more data driven now for a decade. Marketing teams really adopted it a whole lot quicker than sales. Especially in the boom times, everyone's hitting target, the attitude has been very much ‘why do I even need to bother with being data-driven?’ It feels like we've been at the forefront of that journey, and people are really starting to wake up to this now. Not just SaaS, either. We've got customers in logistics, energy, consulting, all sorts. We've really branched out and spent a lot of time in industries and markets that perhaps aren't as obvious.

RR: What’s been the best advice that you've been given over the years, if we specifically talk about the idea of breakthrough innovations?

GR: Oh, that's interesting. Focusing on a big market. We spent our early days in the recruitment tech space. We knew everyone in the market that we were ever going to sell to, which at the time was around 250 companies, and felt that it was an easy market to own. Then we stepped outside of it. I remember, I had a mentor figure at the time who took me for lunch and almost picked me up and put me against the wall and said, you know, there's this whole world out there called Salesforce and these other ecosystems, perhaps I didn't know very much about.

Having spent three years winning 50 customers, to then step into the Salesforce ecosystem and have 50,000 businesses kick off free trials in the first two and a half years honestly still blows my mind. So, I think, you know, the human brain really struggles with scales, really trying to understand the size of the prize and the bigger market.

It obviously comes with its own challenges. There's more competition in the space, and so on. But it's a whole lot more fun playing in a market that's a whole lot bigger and aiming at a much bigger prize.

Product-led growth has been a big contributor here, encouraging people to move that route. Understanding that people want to do more of the buying cycle on their own, so helping them with a full free trial experience or a freemium model, has been a big, big step for us. The same with our new cool AI product, you know, taking that to market on a kind of product-led growth approach and a free trial. I've been astounded by the way it's been received by the market.

RR: If someone was starting down this path, setting up their own SaaS business, what would be your advice to them?

GR: Look, we started in what we call relationship intelligence, which is all about understanding the relationships that lead to revenue and scoring relationships and engagement and so on. And then we went down this road of forecast and pipeline insights and so on. Building this fantastic engine, but the way of getting onto that engine was quite difficult for customers.

They had to go through a sales process and then they had to buy from us and then we had to implement and then, a month down the line, they’re using our product and now they see how great it was. I think in hindsight, maybe we could have done things a whole lot lighter.

Maybe we started off with something very simple, maybe for free, you know, maybe our cool AI product or some of our insights where the customer can get people addicted to what we do and maybe not paying anything or paying just not very much but get them. Get people onboarded and working with us, taking advantage of what we do for them, in the lightest possible way.

One of the challenges we had was we spent three years building this amazing product before telling anyone it existed. In hindsight, we could have done a whole lot less, and delivered and had customers coming on board a whole lot quicker, funding our product’s evolution. 

RR: Fantastic. I'm curious, what's the next level of success look like for you guys?

GR: The next line in the sand for us is to hit 10 million ARR as quickly as possible.

We're continuing to invest in the partner ecosystem which accounted for about a third of our new business revenue last year and expect that to be more than half next year. We’re really doubling down on this product-led growth.

We have a call intelligence product we want to get to the market. People are spending a lot of money on call recording right now. For us, we think call recording is really important, but it’s just a feature as part of a bigger revenue intelligence play.

If people are just paying a lot of money for call recording and transcripts, you know, number one, there's so much more you can do with the transcript now. Take away the admin burden of logging the qualification methodologies and helping to understand whether people are qualifying well enough or not. The AI is there, right, so lean into it. If a year ago you'd asked me if we were going to play in the call AI space the answer would have been no, because why would we? The incumbent suppliers have spent tens of millions on AI and we'll just plug into it. It's just another data source for us in the wider world of revenue intelligence. If you're trying to build a scalable revenue engine, we need to understand what's going on in the call, but just work with a vendor that's already done all the AI bits. With AI now democratized and available to all of us, rather than being held hostage by these businesses that are charging hundreds of dollars per license per month for AI tools, we can now use the latest AI. Which is frankly, from what we've seen, better than anything else that's out there anyway. We can deliver it for pennies in the dollar too.

So, yeah, very excited about that and where that's going to go over the next year or so.