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Exclusive Q&A: G2 Crowd CEO Discusses Rise Of Peer Reviews, Return Of Co-Founders

abelIn June, the B2B software and services review platform G2 Crowd announced that three of its co-founders would be returning to their original roles at the company.

Godard Abel returned as CEO. Tim Handorf moved from CEO to President and Matt Gorniak left Salesforce to reassume his role at G2 Crowd as CRO.

In an interview with Demand Gen Report, Abel shared details on the company’s new leadership team, discussed the rise of B2B review sites and explained how he and the other co-founders plan to build on G2 Crowd’s rapid growth.

Demand Gen Report: Why are you and the other co-founders returning to G2 Crowd and why now?

Godard Abel: I think the main reason we’re coming back is this growth at G2 Crowd over the last couple of years. We have about 200 employees now, whereas two years ago we only had about 50 people in the company. Our key metrics have been growing tremendously and so has our revenue over the last two years. The company is starting to grow, and we really believe in that and want to scale the leadership team.

As entrepreneurs, we did end up building another company in parallel. But now we’re back to really take the company to the next level. Over the next couple of years, we see the opportunity to keep growing the company and, ultimately, get to the point where we could take it public. That’s one thing we haven’t achieved as entrepreneurs. My first two companies were acquired and both with good outcomes, but we really haven’t taken a company all the way to ring the bell. We feel like the opportunity is there this time, so we decided, “Hey let’s go back 100% and do what we love doing and what we do best.”

DGR: What value will you each bring to the company in your roles?

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GA: I think what’s sort of unique in this situation is we’re kind of going back to our original roles with Tim focused on the product and the research, Matt focused on the revenue engine and myself focused on the leadership. Our investors are really excited about this because they see that this really positions us to build a winning company.

I have been the CEO of a couple of companies and really helped with the external relations, strategy, investors and recruiting. Tim and I also worked together in our last company, BigMachines, which was acquired by Oracle. At BigMachines, Tim led the product team and that’s what he did when we started G2 Crowd. He’s really focused on the product, platform and reviews and he’s going back to that. Frankly, our engineering team and our product team is getting much bigger. With him being able to focus on that 100%, we believe we’re going to improve our review content and make our platform even faster.

Matt and I have worked together now across three companies, going all the way back to 2004. He’s done a great job of building a revenue engine at BigMachines and SteelBrick and now he’s going to be doing the same thing here at G2 Crowd.

DGR: What is your first order of business returning to the CEO role?

GA: The first order of business is to make sure we have that alignment on the company vision and plan, so that the whole leadership team can work with each of their teams to achieve our goals over the next couple of years.

We actually just had a leadership meeting here in Chicago and we used something called the V2MOM, which I learned from Marc Benioff at Salesforce when I worked for him. It’s a way to define our vision, values, methods, obstacles and measures and decide how we’re going to achieve this vision that G2 Crowd becomes the go-to source for all business technology decisions.

DGR: What do you attribute G2 Crowd’s recent growth to and how do you plan to continue it in the coming years?

GA: I think the growth and revenue is all driven by this digital transformation in the world and businesses being really hungry for advice from their peers. More specifically, it’s about how they tend to find us. A million and a half business buyers are coming to us every month and most of them discover us through Google. We have a lot of review content, so we now rank very highly on Google. Our goal in the next couple of years is to build up our brand, so that people don’t only discover us through Google.

We also want to double all of our metrics every year. So, double our revenue, double the number of reviews and double the number of business technology buyers we’re helping.

Ultimately, we want anyone working in business to think of G2 Crowd and come to our site when they need technology advice. We want to be a part of their decision-making process when they’re buying new technology or undergoing a digital transformation initiative. Over the next couple of years, we want to get to where we’re helping all businesses make better technology decisions and reach their full potential.

DGR: What is the role B2B review sites in the shift towards B2C?

GA: I think there’s a big need for businesses and buyers to get better advice on what technology will allow them to win. I’ve been in enterprise software already for about 15 years and I did see that a lot of our customers were confused and were struggling to figure out what the best product is to buy. That’s really only gotten more challenging because there’s so much innovation in the cloud and there’s so many more applications out there. Every day there are new categories of technology and new products. It just gets super confusing.

In our consumer lives, we go to Amazon, Yelp or TripAdvisor and use reviews to buy products. Our goal [with G2 Crowd] is really, “Hey, let’s bring that same concept to businesses and allow them to find the best services and technology for their business based on peer advice.”

When we started in 2012, it didn’t exist. But we thought intuitively that the way we purchase in our consumer lives is going to come to the business world. It’s going to come to our industry, and I think now, we have pretty good proof that that’s happening. Every month, we have a million and a half business technology buyers coming and getting advice from their peers. We try to help them make sense of it all and pick the best technology so their business succeeds.