February 20, 2024

How Hockeystack’s Media House Strategy Fuelled Its Growth With Emir Atli

Join Alper Yurder as he chats with Emir Atli about building HockeyStack. Dive into B2B startup growth, LinkedIn marketing, and the power of data-driven strategies.

Meet our guest

Emir Atli, Co-founder and CRO of HockeyStack

Emir co-founded HockeyStack, an analytics & attribution platform for B2B, and is currently on a mission to build the next big SaaS IPO. 

Key takeaways

  • Emir's choice to leave college shows the dedication needed for startup success, despite initial challenges.
  • The strong bond between co-founders is crucial, akin to a marriage, sustaining them through the startup journey.
  • YC acceptance relies on factors like long-term vision, product-market fit, and team cohesion, as Emir highlights.
  • Emir stresses the importance of data analysis in decision-making for aligning marketing and sales efforts effectively.
  • Utilizing LinkedIn for audience building and targeted ads proves effective, especially in B2B sectors.
  • Emir advises starting with LinkedIn, then progressing to Google ads and offline events, ensuring a balanced and strategic growth trajectory.

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College dropout to Y Combinator

Alper Yurder interviews Emir Atli, co-founder and CEO of HockeyStack, delving into Emir's background and the journey of building their analytics platform. Emir reflects on his childhood in Istanbul, noting his early inspiration to become an entrepreneur, influenced by his father's entrepreneurial journey. He shares his decision to drop out of college to focus on scaling HockeyStack, highlighting the challenges faced in the initial stages of building the company and the eventual breakthrough with their revenue attribution tool for B2B.

"Yeah, I dropped out of college to scale HockeyStack. Before, during college and before college, we used to build HockeyStack. It wasn't like we didn't have any customers, but we were building, testing the things, and just like trying to get customers without success. And then after that period, I think, after pivoting a bunch of times, we landed on a great idea, which is the tool right now, revenue attribution for B2B, especially B2B SaaS."

Emir attributes their success in securing a spot in Y Combinator's prestigious program to key factors such as the strong relationship between co-founders, a clear dedication to building HockeyStack for the long haul, and early signs of product-market fit despite limited resources. He emphasizes the importance of these elements in YC's evaluation process, showcasing how their cohesive team dynamic and product validation played a pivotal role in their acceptance into the program.

"We got this angel investment from one of the partners at Y Combinator. We met in Palo Alto and then we were raising a seed round back then. So we were raising a, like an average seed round. We didn't really have any traction. We were still really, really small. And then we wanted to apply to Y Combinator, and then we applied and then got in."

Building for the long haul

​​Emir and Alper dive deep into various aspects of entrepreneurship, marketing, and sales strategies. Emir highlights the importance of long-term vision in startup endeavors, emphasizing the necessity of a strong founder relationship akin to a marriage to weather the challenges ahead. They discuss the evolution of HockeyStack, a platform that integrates various marketing and sales tools to provide comprehensive data analysis, enabling better decision-making for marketing and sales teams.

"Yeah, I like what you look at in terms of what it takes like, like the next 10 years, it was clear that you could build together. That's really important because a lot of people jumped to start up a story thinking in two, three years, there'll be the big shots, but you know, this takes on average quite a long time. And in that time, it's a bit like a marriage, isn't it? That founder relationship has to be intact."

Emir elaborates on HockeyStack's role in bridging the gap between marketing and sales, aligning them around common goals, and providing actionable insights based on data-driven analytics. Additionally, they explore the significance of content marketing, data-driven storytelling, and the shift towards un-gating content to reach broader audiences, especially within the tech and enterprise sectors.

"So if you're just using last touch or first touch, you're gonna make decisions based on the front data set. That's the first thing. The second thing is... We have a really high user adoption, because the tool is really easy to use, and it's completely flexible. So you can build any type of report with our dashboard builder, which is unique to Hockey Stack and the space."

Overall, the conversation underscores the critical role of data analytics, content marketing, and alignment between marketing and sales functions in driving business growth and success in today's competitive landscape. Emir's insights shed light on emerging trends in marketing strategies, emphasizing the need for a balanced approach that combines traditional tactics with innovative methods to effectively engage and convert target audiences.

Navigating B2B startup growth

They delve into various aspects of building and scaling a B2B startup, focusing particularly on effective go-to-market strategies. Emir emphasizes the importance of building an audience on LinkedIn, engaging with potential customers, and utilizing LinkedIn ads to target specific audiences. He advocates for a gradual approach to marketing investment, starting with LinkedIn before moving on to Google ads and offline events as the company grows. 

"Yeah, what I would do is I would start building an audience on LinkedIn, and share posts every day. What we did earlier, really, really early days is we made a list of like 100 people and then we DM'd them one by one to like talk to them for 15 to 20 minutes, ask for their advice kind of thing, just like meeting people. That really worked well. So I would make that list. I would start posting on LinkedIn, engaging with people, meeting new people, and then start running LinkedIn ads.”

Additionally, Emir discusses the advantages and disadvantages of building a SaaS business in San Francisco, highlighting the proximity to key players in the industry and access to top talent, while acknowledging the challenges of high costs and geographical distance from family. Despite the pragmatic advice shared throughout the conversation, Emir's candid and direct manner, coupled with Alper's engaging interview style, makes for an insightful and practical discussion on navigating the complexities of startup growth and marketing strategies.

"Even if something increases my chance of success, even like 1%, and this is something that I've been telling, I'm managing our marketing and sales team at HockeyStack, as CRO, and this is something that I remind them every day. Even if something increases our chance by 1%, I'm willing to do it."


Full episode transcript

Alper Yurder: All right. So today in the Therapy Chair, we have Emir Atli, who is the co-founder and CEO of HockeyStack, a go-to-market analytics platform for B2B companies to analyze, forecast, and optimize their marketing. You might be seeing HockeyStack and their media platform all around LinkedIn and all social channels. They are the talk of town lately. They're rightfully so. So we'll talk about that. And they also recently raised around to enable their growth, which is really… interesting in the middle of the sugar storm. So maybe we delve into that a little bit. Anybody looking to raise, maybe they can get some tips from me today, but we'll talk about his success, the joy, the pain and the journey. Welcome to sales therapy. How are you feeling today?

Emir Atli: Thank you so much for having me on. I'm feeling great. This is still early in San Francisco, so it's my first podcast, but I'm feeling great. How are you?

Alper Yurder: Excellent. I'm doing great too. Actually, this is the end of my day. So you are the fourth of my podcast today, which I mean, I had some really amazing guests and I think I'm ending it on a very high note with you. So that's a good day for me.

Emir Atli: Thank you.

Alper Yurder: Okay, my pleasure. So you said it's 10:13 in San Fran? Is that correct?

Emir Atli: 9am.

Alper Yurder: Ah, nine, okay, okay. So it's around 5 p.m. here in London. And on a Friday evening, we're recording this. So I think it's about time I go get a drink, but I'll do my best to stay through the end of the day. So Emile, generally I love understanding my guests a little bit. Obviously I gave a brief intro, but did I miss anything major there? Do you wanna do your own intro for our viewers, our audience?

Emir Atli: Yeah, it was a pretty good intro. I am one of the co-founders and CRO of Hockey Stack, a GTM analytics platform for B2B. I was born and raised in Turkey. Right now I live in San Francisco with my co-founders and a few members of our team and scaling Hockey Stack and recently I think, yeah.

Alper Yurder: Fantastic. Where in Turkey were you born and raised? Ah, you're okay. We're both Istanbul, it's you. Good, good, good. Excellent. So I ask that, I'm glad that you delve into where you grow up because the good therapy starts with childhood and growing up memories first. We learned the person that you became through the growing experience. Can you tell us a little bit about that? How was that growing up experience for you in Istanbul?

Emir Atli: Istanbul. Yeah, I think I had a great childhood from when I was 10 years old. Um, my parents asked me to come to the United States with them. Um, they showed me all around the East coast. We visited a lot of top universities there because they always wanted me to study, study here for college. And then from that time to now, I always wanted to start my own company because of my dad who inspired me and motivated me to do so. Yeah, it was always my dream to set a company here and I was a really good student because I knew that was what I had to do to get into a good college here. And then I got into Williams, Williams College in the East Coast with a 110% scholarship. They covered my flights and everything else. And then I moved to the US that way. And then once we got some traction for Hockey Stack, we got a pre-seed investment. And then with that, I had to drop out to move to San Francisco. It was a part of the deal. And then when I moved to San Francisco, about two months after that, we got into Y Combinator as the first company to enter the batch. And then just things started happening after that.

Alper Yurder:I love that. We'll hear about the magic right after that. But I don't want to skip to the Y.C. just yet. I want to hold you a little bit in my childhood. And I'm going to ask you about whether your dad is also an entrepreneur?

Emir Atli: Yeah, man. Yeah.

Alper Yurder: Ah, okay, I was sensing that. Okay, so you kind of had that inspiration from that side.

Emir Atli: Yeah, yeah. He became an entrepreneur when he was like 30, in like late 30s. It was something that he regretted, I think. So, yeah, I wanted to start earlier.

Alper Yurder: Okay, so fresh out of uni actually dropping uni if I understand correctly, you started hockey stack.

Emir Atli: Yeah, I dropped out of college to scale Hockey Stack. Before, during college and before college, we used to build HockeyStack. It wasn't like we didn't have any customers, but we were building, testing the things, and just like trying to get customers without success. And then after that period, I think, after pivoting a bunch of times, we landed on a great idea, which is the tool right now, revenue attribution for B2B, especially B2B SaaS. And then with that, we started getting a few customers, I mean like small customers, but we thought it was gonna work. There were initial signs of it. And then with the pre-seed investment, we had to drop out.

Alper Yurder: Okay, so in 10 years when they make your movie, you'll have that classic founder story, I guess. The classic college dropout and okay, fine, fantastic. So we started talking about the YC journey. I mean, a lot of people always aspire to YC. How did that start for you? Did you just apply out of nowhere? Did you have some, did you know anybody? Tell us a little bit about that.

Emir Atli: Yeah, we got this angel investment from one of the partners at Y Combinator. We met in Palo Alto and then we were raising a seed round back then. So we were raising a, like an average seed round. We didn't really have any traction. We were still really, really small. And then we wanted to apply to Y Combinator and then we applied and then got in. And then as we got into Y Combinator, we didn't do the seed round, waited until summer. This was like last year, March, I think. So we had to wait until summer and then we did YC and then raised a small extension round and then skipped serious A.

Alper Yurder: Okay. So how was all that raising the experience for you, especially now that times are a little bit difficult?

Emir Atli: I think it was a different experience for us because we were like middle of, we were not a seed company, we were like a serious A company but we were fresh out of YC. We had the most revenue in our YC batch and we wanted to, we didn't want to dilute so much. We didn't want to give out-of-stock shares to investors for this round especially. So we raised it to really like a higher valuation. And it was, I think it was a different experience than other YC, especially YC companies, because they usually just like to build the MVP and get their first one, two customers and one raised a seed round at like 15, 20 million. And it's really easy for us. It was a little bit more difficult because they treated us as a YC company, but we were like further along than all of them. So it was a little bit more difficult. I think it took two weeks longer than an average YC company, which is usually like, I think three weeks. Ours took five weeks to complete, which is still really good. It was a really good experience, and we got a lot of tier one investors and really good angels, which is helping a lot right now. So yeah, it was a great experience.

Alper Yurder: Mm-hmm.I love that. It's so funny like that, that advantage then you had to combat the perception that we're not just young kids from the block, we're actually generating revenue. That's really good. And you said you were one of the first to enter the batch, right? Or if not the first.

Emir Atli: Yeah, I think first, yeah, first or second.

Alper Yurder: Why do you think that is? Like, is it because of the problem you're solving? Is it the team? I mean, it must be a combination of things, but.

Emir Atli: I think it's mainly because if you check out any kind of like YC resources, the first couple of things that they're looking for is one, the relationship between co-founders, two, if you want to do this for the next 10 years, and three, if you're building something that people want. I've known my co-founder, Seeya Bhura, for seven years. We built a ton of things together and we have been best friends for the last seven years. And we met I met with Arda four years ago and we have been really good friends since then, so it was clear that we didn't meet like six months ago to build HockeyStack. We have been together for a long time. Average co-founder relationship lasts four years. We were in year seven as best friends once we started building Hockey Stack. And then second thing is it was clear that we want to build this for the next ten years because even without traction, we continued building Hockey Stack for two years. We built a product analytics tool at the beginning for ourselves. It was our challenge with another startup that we were building. We built a web analytics product, a Google Analytics Alternative for SMBs. We built a lot of stuff before it worked. So it's clear that we were going to build this for the next 10 years. And the other thing is, once we were applying for YC, we didn't have any money to spend on marketing or anything like that. We had a few customers that really loved the product as it is. And the product was a terrible product because we only had two engineers, no resources, but still people loved it. So it was a really clear early sign that if we had the resources to build a really good product, people would love it as well. So I think those three signs were really important for YC.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, I like what you look at in terms of what it takes like, like the next 10 years, it was clear that you could build together. That's really important because a lot of people jumped to start up a story thinking in two, three years, there'll be the big shots, but you know, this takes on average quite a long time. And in that time, it's a bit like a marriage, isn't it? That founder relationship has to be intact.

Emir Atli: Yeah, exactly. Every time that during the batch, during the YC batch, every time we were stressing out over something or like, I don't know, a customer, a big deal, product churn, anything that we were stressing about, even though there was nothing or like we were sometimes stressing about the feature every time we were dealing with something like that, our partners were saying that, we're asking, are you going to build this for the next 10 years? We were saying yes. And they were saying, yeah, then you can figure out, you still have time. It's a really good, really big relief that you know that you're gonna build this for the next 10 years.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, that's really lucky. Great. I read today, I think it was a sifted article that I read today from a founder friend here in London, the founder of Calda, Daniel Watchaby. He talks about founder therapy between co-founders. It's like marriage or marriage counseling, that sort of thing. Because it can be a really intense relationship. You have to find the right people to jump on that. All right. Let's talk a little bit about, we keep saying HockeyStack, HockeyStack, but what is hockey study in a nutshell without boring people with too much pitching? Can you explain to us what is in a nutshell and why did you start doing it?

Emir Atli: Yeah, Hockey Stack in a nutshell connects all of your platforms. Think about the tools that you're using day to day in your marketing and sales tech stack. So your CRM, marketing automation platform, all of your app platforms, Intent, GT, everything. Hockey Stack integrates with all of them, cleans and enriches the data, centralizes it, and it allows marketing teams to understand what's working, what's not working, what has the highest ROI. And then… We sync that data to the sales team so that they can reach out to their concepts, show intent, and then we allow them to see the buyer journey so that they can customize their message. And yeah, if you're mainly selling to marketing and sales teams in B2B mid-market enterprise, from like mid-market to some of the largest software companies today, use HockeyStack to make better decisions.

Alper Yurder: I love that. So I think the marketing side is very intuitive, but can you maybe explain like when you talk about the marketing use case versus the sales use case, or if they're together, like how do you explain it to those different roles, the benefit they can get from the product?

Emir Atli: Yeah. Sales is something that we have been working on for the last two months. Um, and we are, we have, um, our customers are using it for sales, but we don't direct the sale to sales right now, but we will start at the end of Q1. Uh, for sales, we have a really incredible data set because we can basically see the entire customer journey from the first impression to close one with all the marketing and sales edge points. So once you start using Hockey Stack, we get all the previous two years of data. With machine learning, we understand what is prompting buyers to contact sales or schedule a call or move through the funnel. And then we use this data to score new accounts for SDRs. Even though there is no deal with an account, if you can see that there is a really high chance of booking the deal, we sync this data back to SDRs with buyer journey highlights through Salesforce and HockeyStack. That's the SDR use case. And we also have third-party intent, as well as first-party intent, to create that intent score. For AEs, if you're working on 30, 35 deals, you can see all the buyer journey highlights. Get notifications whenever any content you're working on is on the website, checking out any resources or anything like that. And then you can also see buyer journey highlights to customize your message on the account that you're working on.

Alper Yurder: Okay. So if you say, for example, I am an HR tech founder or I am the, you know, CRO of an HR tech tool series, AB, whatever. Um, how would that conversation between us happen? Like, so for example, if I'm trying to sell to enterprise companies, how could I use HockeyStack in my, you know, workflow?

Emir Atli: This is Bush Sales.

Alper Yurder: Could be both let's just say for the whole revenue team

Emir Atli: Yeah, we usually sell to the marketing team. And then the first month, we set up everything. They get used to the platform. Second month, they start building their own reports, customized reports, and use it in day-to-day life. And then in the third month, usually at the end of the first quarter, they want their sales team to see the data as well. That's the usual pattern for all of our customers. And at that point, they want their sales team to see the key highlights in their buyer journey. And then we send properties back to Salesforce so that they can see those properties, kind of like this account has I intend, this account has I engaged with on LinkedIn ads, this account has been checking pricing pages, kind of those properties, so that when they filter out companies or build account lists on Salesforce, they can use those properties. That's the first way. Second way, we have sales buyer journey highlights on HockeyStack, so they can see all of their accounts one by one and then see the key highlights for your last day or last week to customize their message and see who is an active buyer and not. And then the last part is for account-based motions, especially on the enterprise side, we can see contacts visiting the website, both identified and unidentified, and then see like the whole buyer committee with their actions and then all the intent signals from third-party and first-party sources for them to reach out, customize their messages, and prioritize accounts.

Alper Yurder: I hear a lot of different futures from different products in there. There's a bit of revenue intelligence. There's a bit of, I guess, I'm not sure what's the category of, but lead feeder that sort of like analytics, there's elements of flow, which is like which content people engage with. So you're building a holistic machine for anything that is intent data. So you can make better decisions. I guess, from what I understand.

Emir Atli: Yeah, so our approach was, and this is the first time that I'm talking about this, but our approach was, we saw a gap in the attribution space, but from the very first days, we knew that an attribution platform is the end goal. But there's a really big gap, there still is a really big gap in the attribution space. So we entered the space, shook things a little bit, and scaled from zero to seven figures in a year, um, raise some capital to build further. And then our goal is to expand into sales and then feed the signals that we have and to sales workflows. And then in a year, next year, maybe like towards the end of the next year, um, sell to the customer success teams as well. That's product insights. So we want to build that revenue, um, decision-making center for the entire revenue team.

Alper Yurder: Okay. Well, welcome to our already very crowded space. So where are we going to be competitors at some point? That's great to hear on the show. So I have a few questions from all that conversation, which is really interesting. Actually, generally in the flow of the podcast, I go into your, you know, your success journey, your career journey a little bit more, but since we delve into these questions already, I have some specific questions from our users, which I generally connect in advance, collect in advance. And I want to shoot a few of them, like rapid-fire questions, if you don't mind. And feel free to take any of them, leave any of them, whatever. So the attribution problem, since you started talking about it, which is very real, all my, you know, decade of sales leadership fights between sales and marketing where it goes, blah, blah. Where do we stand in the attribution problem with, with companies today? Is there still a major problem and how are they fixing it?

Emir Atli: So how HockeySack is fixing it.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, how hockey stake is fixing it. I think we heard a little bit how HockeyStack is fixing it, but in general, like what are people doing to, when you ask them the question, your discovery, like what have you done before coming to HockeyStack or et cetera? Like what do they tell you to combat that attribution problem?

Emir Atli: Yeah, even the biggest, most enterprise B2B software companies, they're still using Lost Touch or First Touch. So if the Lost Touch is an email, the Alpon team is getting the entire credit. If the Lost Touch is a direct visit to the website, the marketing team gets the entire credit. So they're still using that model. And, and or they're using Salesforce campaigns plus a Looker Data Studio. And the Looker Data Studio is really hard to use, so it's not like a day-to-day thing. It's just used when there's a port meeting coming up. They just create a report, show it to the port, and then no one takes action. How Akisek is using it, how Akisek is fixing this problem is we're tracking the entire buyer journey because there are hundreds of touch points. So if you're just using last touch or first touch, you're gonna make decisions based on the front data set. That's the first thing. The second thing is… We have a really high user adoption, because the tool is really easy to use, and it's completely flexible. So you can build any type of report with our dashboard builder, which is unique to Hockey Stack and the space. So any type of question that you want to ask, you can use Hockey Stack to do it, so that you're actually optimizing for the right things. And the third thing is, from the day we started, we have been told that deals, by definition, can't have a source, because a deal has I know dozens of stakeholders, hundreds of touch points. So there's no source, really. We allow customers to understand what is working, what's not working, so that they can optimize with the same budget, do more with less. Everyone hates that, but do more with less. And then within marketing and sales, we allow them to align around the same KPIs, same goals, same metrics, and same accounts, which is really important. What I've discovered, by working with dozens of our customers we sync data from Salesforce, so the accounts that Salesforce has been out bonding and working on, there's a really big gap between those accounts and the accounts that marketing is advertising towards. So they are working on two separate account lists at the same time with two different budgets. There's like really low overlap between those accounts. So Akisac's other kind of goal is to align these two teams around the same KPI, same metrics, same accounts with a unified dashboard.

Alper Yurder: So more on the all bound motion and you work towards a common goal, like a revenue goal. Okay. I think that seems to be kind of the norm. I've been having these conversations, especially the last two, three weeks. A lot of people are, you know, somehow ditching the outbound, inbound or the attribution discussions and just trying to align the whole team across a common goal. And at the end of the day, it's the revenue you bring in or not. So, that's, that's really cool. Um, I have a question a little bit about maybe your, yeah, your preferences as you so now you're a CRO, but you're a CRO of a, um, product or a company whose main audience, at least in the beginning, now you're going to sales, but it was marketing. So within marketing, which areas of marketing, is it growth? Is it content? Is it outbound or whatever? Where do you see the most gap or the most space for development? Like which of those things within marketing can be really improved to have a revenue impact?

Emir Atli: Yeah. Is it like if I wanted to build a new kind of SaaS product where I would build it in or where in three? Yeah.

Alper Yurder:  Maybe.

Emir Atli: I think there's a really big gap. So I'm going to answer from our perspective and then what I see, because I have done marketing for Hockey Sag for a long time. From my perspective, with a tool like Hockey Sag, this is something that we are building right now, and I think with every single marketing product as well, most of the marketing products get the data, turn it into something new, and then ask marketers to analyze that and then make actions and make decisions. And there's a really big gap between analyzing the data and turning into decisions because most marketers are afraid of The decisions that they're making because they're they have a budget and they need to turn that budget into something So if they get one million dollars, you need to turn into the three million dollars if you ask them to Make a decision. They're afraid that it's not gonna happen and they stick to the old playbook They're saying like we have been spending this much on LinkedIn should be continued. We should continue spending that much on LinkedIn because I'm not going to be punished for that. But if I make a decision, shift the budget from LinkedIn to connect to TV, if it doesn't work out, I'm going to be punished. So I think from the analyzing to actioning piece, there's a really big gap. I'm still, we're still working towards it, but there's a really big gap for all the marketing tools. So that would be something that I would be working on. Another thing is, I think LinkedIn is still in the early days. If you look at Facebook's journey, LinkedIn is probably what Facebook was five years ago. So there's still a couple of years of development on the LinkedIn side. Then LinkedIn, like I think six months ago, six, seven months ago, reached a billion users. So it's still a green space for a lot of creators, especially in B2B. I think we will see a lot of more SaaS products that will make it easier to create. Um, content on LinkedIn and track its influence. And then also the other thing that I want for myself is figuring out the algorithm because it changes so much. If there was a tool that would analyze daily and like today, 7 a.m. Pacific works, so LinkedIn kind of does things and schedules my posts automatically. I would get it no matter what the price is. So yeah, those are the two things.

Alper Yurder: Wow. Yeah. Figuring out the algorithm. I can't believe you said that. I think you've just given us the teaser for this, for this episode. I think that's something that everybody wants to figure out. But in terms of your go-to-market marketing, as far as I have been following Hockey Stack from afar, you brought in like a superstar head of content and your content, I think a lot of people view it even before I met you. I heard about the company. So how did that thinking shape? Like why did you dwell on content so much? Where did that come from and how are you evolving it?

Emir Atli: Yeah, it was something natural for us. When we first started, me and my co-founder, we thought like probably everyone in B2B spends time on LinkedIn. And this was like a year ago. And there were still a lot of creators, but I think a lot less from what we see today. And we thought that if we can get people to see our content over time, they will, what I know, what we do. And over time, they will check out Hockey Stack and once they check out, if it's interesting, they will book a demo. So it's the same thing with email. You send an email, people who are interested, they read the email. If they're interested enough, they check out Hockey Stack. And if they're interested enough, after that, they book a demo. So it's the same thing, but you're like on a social platform with content. And then we start testing it for four months. Me and my co-founder, we post it every day, like once at 6 a.m. Pacific, once 12 a.m. Pacific. And then over like three or four months, we started seeing the early results and we got our first four customers from LinkedIn. And then it was a clear sign that if you can figure this out, it would work well. And then after that, we kind of developed a content machine for LinkedIn and then turned it into a media company with the Flow which is our Netflix-style content page. And then it was like, it was like, I don't know, it was something different. I really fell in love with LinkedIn and how you can actually kind of like a network and make people wanna see your content. And then over time, it turned into something that if I didn't post for two, three days, I started getting messages of like, that's what happened kind of thing. And it's just really… made me feel like people are actually reading your content. It's the best feeling in the world. And then it turned into our best revenue stream. And then we scaled with, and we built a good content team. And then recently, we started getting into the next level with research reports, OcciStack Labs, our own templates, OcciStack template library product marketing thing. If I'm gonna be honest, the thing that we really failed at is we wanted to keep it at like 50% entertainment, 50% product marketing. And then we just couldn't figure it out. Sometimes we do 100% product marketing, everything is about the product. Sometimes we do 100% entertainment.

Emir Atli: And this is something that we are still figuring out. But I think we are getting better at. So.

Alper Yurder: Absolutely, you are. And I feel very much on this very same journey as you. And I think 200%, I agree with everything you said, apart from the fact that I think LinkedIn is unfortunately lately with the algorithm becoming Facebook ever faster. I don't think it'll take five years to be Facebook. And I see it in a negative way, meaning people just posting.

really boomer stories and I can't put up with it and the algorithm punishing some. And I completely agree. And I was just next week, I'm going to be talking about LinkedIn and how to grow and exactly the things that you mentioned. And I'm writing about it, wrecking my brains about it. When I see great research and data driven posts from the likes of you guys, I'm just driven to it. I mean, I want to read it. That's free research, which is of value, but there's so much dumb shit as well, don't you think?

Emir Atli: Yeah, my thinking process around that was, so I thought like the hardest to reach audiences is founders and CISSWOOD and VCs. Founders don't really have time to read anything or watch anything if you post a video of founders and not gonna watch it. CISSWOOD, busier than ever, and VCs, they are smarter than everyone else and they're really busy as well. So I thought like what,

Who are these people watching and like what is the content that these people are consuming and I made a list Jason Lemkin 20 VC Nathan Latka and a few others and I kind of saw the pattern in this content That these people the business people smartest people in the world are actually taking time and watching and reading And all of this is the unique content that you can never find anywhere else

because they're doing something unique. For example, Jason Lamkin, because of his network and the companies that he invested in and things like that, he can have people to share things that you would never hear anywhere else. For example, he has Box's CEO sharing their revenue and then what they did. And then from the early days, what they did. Nathan Lutgen to interview his founders and they'll ask them to share their revenue, transparently on a podcast. And then...

gets them to a database. And these are the content types that you can, it is unique to them. So I felt like what can we do that no one else can do? And then we have a really big data set from dozens of companies that we work with from their CRM, to marketing automation, to how much they're spending on ads, how much they're getting out of it. And I thought if you can turn this into content that people actually wanna read and...

if you want to know what this average CTR on LinkedIn is so you can compare for benchmarks what is the, I don't know. January was really slow for a lot of companies in SaaS and if they want to know why or is it normal they would go to Hockey Stack. So I thought that we have a chance to become something unique so that people can actually take time out of their really busy day and read it.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. And thank you for sharing so generally today on this chat, because I think a lot of people are trying to crack these things and you just shared the formula, which is wonderful. And one more thing I'll add there, I think data-driven fact-based storytelling is still the most powerful thing that I get driven towards on LinkedIn. And if you kind of figure out a formula for doing that, even better with all that data that you have. It's a bit like fortune tellers or oracles of the ancient world.

They get the data, they tell it to the people and people are just treating them as superstars. So if you do that with your content, then, you know, telling them about this, this inside about January, you know, if you're a marketer thinking like, oh, why is my January shit? And then you see this content from hockey stack, January is shit because it's shit for everybody. Then it's, it's a very strong proposition.

Emir Atli: Yeah, and I mean, you don't need to have all those data points to make your content unique. I'm sure every company, every founder, every marketing team has something to share that no one else, or even a few people can share. In a very worst-case scenario, if you can't find anything, there are the third-party data points that you can use and craft a unique story as well.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, but at the end of the day, you need to know who you are writing for, like who's your audience properly and try to drill down on that, you know, and make sure that it's the, again, the ICP, the persona problem, like, who are you writing for, who are you trying to approach, are they relevant, et cetera, et cetera. One question I have for you, obviously these things started SAS and tech and all these early adapters, how do you see this trend spreading from tech to other industries, like all these Grow through content or LinkedIn. Do you see that happening for other industries as well?

Emir Atli: I think there's a small circle on LinkedIn. It's like talking about dementia and LinkedIn social and things like that. But every day we have at least a dozen sales goals with mid-marked enterprise companies. And other than that circle, no one is talking about dementia and no one is talking about LinkedIn social. All the enterprise companies are still doing eBooks, white papers, and lead gen tactics. And I don't think they will stop.

Um, so I think, I think now there's not really a change. Um, but what a trend that I'm seeing is, especially on the enterprise side, they're saying kind of like they don't say dimension, but they w what they are saying is they want to un gate content. They say that we don't want to ask for emails to view our content, but they're afraid that they wouldn't be able to track the influence. So they come to us.

But they don't really say Dimension, but I think there are some early signs of like they're trying to see What else is out there? What else can they do? but I think there's like 0.1 percent of marketers and overall SaaS companies are talking about Dimension and LinkedIn social so it's Still very early days

Alper Yurder: I don't know what to do about that. Do you think it's a good thing that it's so small or is it a...

Emir Atli: I think, I don't know if it's good or bad, but I think there's still early green space. But the other thing is also sometimes I see founders and marketing leaders like directing everything towards LinkedIn social and dimension and like leaving everything behind. I think again, same with our LinkedIn content that we discussed earlier, there needs to be a mix. I think you still need to be on traditional channels.

Emir Atli: to do traditional tactics to reach the audience. And LinkedIn social and this is all this dimension tactics, growth tactics that I mentioned earlier, they're still attracting 10, 15% of the overall market, which is still valuable because not many people are doing it. So you have a chance and a good chance of reaching that 15, 20% of the market. But for the 80%, especially if you're targeting enterprise, you still need to be on traditional channels.

Alper Yurder: Which are?

Emir Atli:  Offline events are huge. Dinners, trade shows, even like booths at events. They're still huge if you're targeting enterprise. If they go to Sassler, B2B, MX, whatever, if they are a vendor of theirs, they want to see their booth so that they know you're still doing good. You still have money to spend on that. It's not really like scanning badges and things like this. Like, yeah, I can still afford this booth kind of thing.

Alper Yurder: credibility.

Emir Atli: Yeah, webinars, a lot of our enterprise customers are still doing content syndication. I've never done it, so I don't know, but everyone is doing it. But for me, it's offline events, more like smaller dinners, boots, being at events, like more offline things, I think are still the way to reach enterprise.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. So you already mentioned like what other than content, how are you judging up your go-to-market motion? And I think that's going to be really powerful for people. Um, we are required to try to reevaluate what we're doing and starting. Okay. Long story short, I'm going to ask you this question. Would you be able to say by investment level or something like that, which channel makes the most sense if you were to start now as a

founder, pre-seed, seed, series A, B of a B2B startup, where does it make sense for you to invest in? Is it content? Is it outreach? Is it an event?

Emir Atli: Yeah, what I would do is I would start building an audience on LinkedIn, share posts every day. What we did earlier, really, really early days is we made a list of like 100 people and then we DM'd them one by one to like talk to them for 15 to 20 minutes, ask for their advice kind of thing, just like meeting people. That really worked well. So I would make that list. I would start posting on LinkedIn, engaging with people, meeting new people, and then start running LinkedIn ads.

Emir Atli: with a small budget, maybe like two, three K a month. Cause you can really target the audience that you want on LinkedIn. And then I just do LinkedIn ads and LinkedIn social until I get a milestone and until I reach that milestone, I would do LinkedIn ads and LinkedIn social. And after that milestone, I would get into Google ads and like branded keywords, competitor keywords, as I'm more expensive, but really high intent.

And the most important thing there is if you're like, when you advertise on a competitor name, you shouldn't stop at advertising and letting people book them on your website. What we do is every time someone enters the website from a competitor keyword, we reach out to the company. If you have a company identified through your site, if you have the email, we reach out in like 10, 15 minutes. I asked my team to reach out within an hour if possible.

if not possible within a day. Really like I saw that you were researching what visible Occizac does X, Y, Z, kind of asking for that, calling them, everything. So really squeezing the juice out of those signals. And after Google, I don't know what the budget is, probably I would get into those offline things that I mentioned earlier. So probably like.

Google and Google LinkedIn and LinkedIn social. Any SaaS company with a good product can get into a few millions in the RR. And after that, you probably have data to look at to see what makes sense. And after that, you can do offline events, ABM, set up an odd motion, whatever you want to do. But those three would be enough to get to a few millions in the RR.

Alper Yurder:Hmm. Okay. This, this, this episode has been so different from my usual flow, but it's also been like full of gems you've been throwing in the sense that like, I think we're going to make a million shorts from this conversation because it's so much practical for people who are trying to achieve things, but I'm still going to end on a sales therapy note. I have one or two questions, which are a bit more personal. Uh, the first one is you're building a hockey stack in the U S. Um, do you think so?

Every B2B SaaS business has to be built in the US. What are the pros and cons of not building in the US?

Emir Atli: I think every SaaS company needs to be in San Francisco. Pros, like there are a ton. Every single day you are surrounded by this community. It's like, for example, I live in South Beach in San Francisco. If anyone knows San Francisco, it's close to Oracle Park.

Alper Yurder: Yep, clearly.

Emir Atli: So whenever I leave my house, if I walk to the other street, Anderson Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, Excel, peer VC, everyone is on the same street. So every single day when I'm getting my coffee, I'm surrounded by these VCs, Figma's office is here, GitHub's office is here, and all the SaaS companies are in San Francisco. So it's really good mentally.

Anyway, it's a mental challenge too, because you're started by these companies and you're reminded to be working all the time, which is a really good advantage. And then it's just, if you're in San Francisco, it's, I think, an unfair advantage because, in my opinion, and shouldn't be the case, people, prospects, VCs, everyone kind of like, not like respects you more, but I think cares a lot more. When you're in San Francisco, New York.

especially in those two cities. Disadvantage is really expensive. It's probably the biggest one. Then the problem is if there, there's not much going on in terms of social life in San Francisco. Those are the big two disadvantages, but the advantages are huge. And then also the hiring market. It's worse than probably what it was two or three years ago, especially before COVID, but still the best engineers are in San Francisco.

And I am still a really big believer in in-person work. So if you wanna have an engineering team in person with your tech lead or CTO, it's a really good city to be in.

Alper Yurder: Okay. Oh. Listening to you, meeting you is really interesting and fun. I'm an extrovert, so sometimes I struggle with people who come off as introverts. You're just dropping gold, but in a very direct way, you know? You're not sugarcoating any of it. You're not cutting corners. You're just saying the facts, the data. These are the things that you should have to do. And the funny thing is I'm going to have to tell my co-founder, Adam, to move to San Francisco because I'm not moving. Anyway, I'm too old for it. I made that decision. I don't want to be living because my family is in Turkey and a lot of my, you know, all my relations are in Europe, et cetera. So I, for me, I worked in New York for a year and at Bain. This was on my consulting date. And it was, I was waking up in a different time zone where everyone else that I loved was sleeping or not there, you know.

So that psychological distance for me was a bit hard to bear, which is why I never considered living in the US for a long time.

Emir Atli: Yeah, that's true too. All my family is in Turkey, but I'm moving them in six, seven months. It's gonna be better, but from the time that I moved, it's probably one of the biggest challenges, someone from Europe. It's a big challenge, especially if you're loved ones. And with New York, we have a three hour difference. So with Europe, we have an 11 hour time difference. So it's a huge one.

And it's another disadvantage, but probably for people that are from Europe. Yeah, that's a big one that I missed. But for me, if something increases my chance of success, even like 1%, and this is something that I've been telling, I'm managing our marketing and sales team at Akisdeck, as CRO, and this is something that I remind them every day. Even if something increases our chance by 1%, I'm willing to do it. Sometimes, Nate, our he, though, someone from our sales team that I really love. Sometimes he is not afraid, but like, he doesn't ask me for some things. And he thinks they're really small things like our sales process. Um, our live demo instance on our website and things like that. This is something that I say, I tell them every day, even if it decreases our chances by 1%, I'm willing to spend time on it and San Francisco is something like that for me.

Alper Yurder: Shit, I should have started with this. Now you're opening up as we come to the end of the show. I love it. But I, that means I have to have you as a guest again. This was a great chat, Emir. Thank you so much for dropping all those gold nuggets for our listeners. I think there'll be lots of shorts coming from this conversation with very practical tips, but they will be in our media hub. Maybe we will share this time. It will be in both of our media hubs.

Emir Atli: Sure. Thank you so much for it was a great chat.

Alper Yurder: My pleasure. Any closing remarks before I say our final words?

Emir Atli: Um, no, start doing content on LinkedIn. Um, do everything to increase your chances. Move to San Francisco. Yeah.

Alper Yurder: Okay, love that. Great. Now, Emil, our time is over and I need to cut it on the clock just like any good therapist, which is a lie because we're clearly over time, but it will be an editing job now. That's a wrap on this episode of Sales Therapy. If you enjoy the show, subscribe to us on YouTube and your favorite podcast platform. I thank my dear guest, Emil, very much for this episode and we'll be joining you again in the next episode soon.

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