Major Drumroll: We’re excited to welcome Jim Smittkamp as our Chief Revenue Officer as we embark on the next phase of our growth journey!

Jim joins us from Fivetran, one of our esteemed partners, where he was their Chief Revenue Officer and notably helped scale the company’s ARR from $5 million to $250 million. His profound impact at Fivetran underscores his exceptional capability to drive substantial revenue growth and foster significant strategic partnerships. 

But that’s not what makes Jim special. 

And in this blog post, we want to share with you what does. As founders, this might have been one of the most difficult searches we’ve ever conducted. When we began our search for a Chief Revenue Officer, we were acutely aware of the heavy weight of responsibility that came with the role.

At Atlan, we have been incredibly fortunate to build a product that people love (and want). We achieved nearly 3X growth in 2023, exiting the year as one of the few companies to accelerate growth despite a challenging macroeconomic climate. Our competitive win rate stands at 75%—a testament to our product’s value, as three out of every four data leaders choose Atlan when compared to competitors. Not to mention that, 85% of our customers try Atlan before they buy.

The former Chief Revenue Officer of ServiceNow, Dave Schneider, once said to me,

When you have lightning in a bottle and customer traction like you do—it is your duty to take your software to every single potential prospective customer, so they make the right buying decision.”

This advice crystallized the importance of finding a leader who could help us fulfill our duty to data teams around the world. 

“Duty” is an evocative word at Atlan, one we hold with the utmost seriousness. In our search for a Chief Revenue Officer, it was crucial to find a leader who not only resonated with but would also preserve the unique DNA that defines Atlan. Starting out as a data team ourselves, we penned a manifesto even before selling our first product. This manifesto wasn’t just words—it was a commitment to be the kind of partner we ourselves had needed during our early days as a data team.

This commitment has shaped every facet of our operations—we stayed in stealth for far longer than most companies do, till we were sure that we had the right product — one that drives genuine adoption in data teams. We have a larger customer experience team than a sales team, which is virtually unheard of in SaaS companies. We think of our job as helping customers be successful with their program, not just sell them software — leading to the launch of Atlan University, Atlan Community and even leadership programs like the DataOps Leaders program. 

Our approach to measuring success goes beyond conventional metrics and we track organic “love moments” on our #wall-of-love on Slack. And these core beliefs: do what’s right for your customers, and they will help you build a great business, are coming true.

When we surveyed our customers last year to discover what truly sets us apart, the response was unanimous and clear: “Partner, not vendor.” Over 90% of our customers come to Atlan inbound (yes, they find us and want to buy Atlan).

Not Just a Leader, but a Steward of Culture

Throughout our extensive search, I personally spoke with over 30 revenue leaders, each with an impressive background. However, from our very first conversation, Jim stood out distinctly.

Why? Because Jim is more than a sales leader; he is a seasoned business leader and a true company builder. Yes, he belongs to that elite cadre of revenue leaders who have not only demonstrated world-class operational rigor but also led revenue organizations through various go-to-market phases—from scaling teams in early stages to leading complex partnership motions in mature enterprises, as evidenced by his impactful tenures at Fivetran and Gigya (acquired by SAP) — across a variety of business models, from PLG to enterprise sales — and consumption based pricing to SaaS subscriptions.

But what truly sets Jim apart is his extraordinary emotional intelligence. He has cultivated a unique sales culture that is founded on trust and empathy. During our reference checks, the accolades were overwhelming.

Have your back type leadership.”

I would go work for him again in a heartbeat.”

This feedback came not just from his direct reports, but also from account executives and front-line managers. 

Moreover, Jim extends his influence beyond just leading revenue teams; he builds companies. His direct reports shared insights into his leadership style, a testament to his ability to foster trust and growth within his teams

He gives us reading assignments before our offsites.”

Jim has a book recommendation for everything.”

And most importantly, Jim champions a first-principles approach and he’s ready to change his mind when he’s wrong. At Atlan, one of our core values is “Problem first, solution second.” This philosophy compels us to thoroughly understand the challenges before proposing solutions, setting aside industry norms and past biases. This rigorous focus on the problem can lead us to overhaul our product roadmap or even challenge our customers’ perspectives if they aren’t addressing the core issues effectively.

Just last month, Bryan and Andrew from our team advised a prospective client, who had completed a proof of value with us and was ready to purchase, to hold off on buying Atlan. They pointed out that the client's users didn’t face significant enough challenges to warrant our solution at that time. 

The immediate consequence was a loss in revenue, but the long-term outcome was far more valuable. This client now trusts us implicitly, knowing that our commitment is first and foremost to their success, not just to our bottom line. And someday, they will become a life-long customer. 

We needed a leader who’d preserve that culture. Jim is precisely that leader. 

The “A-ha Moment”

I still remember the moment when it all clicked for me—that Jim was truly meant to be at Atlan. It was March 12th, during a customer dinner at the Gartner Summit, and it was far from ordinary. At one table, a group of data enthusiasts were engaging in a spirited “data brawl,” laughing loudly as they debated the definition of “customer.” Amidst this, a CIO I had never met before pulled me aside.

We generally avoid vendor events and dinners, but you aren’t just a vendor to us; you’re a partner. Your team is exceptional, and we will go anywhere to support you.”

Another leader took aside my cofounder, Varun, and me, expressing his concern,

I am really paranoid that you are going to screw this up. What you’re building is truly special. Don’t screw it up.”

As I looked around the room, taking in the passionate debates and the sense of community among these leaders, I felt a profound sense of belonging. This “special” thing we had built felt like home. In that moment, I was certain—Jim would fit perfectly into this picture.

Welcome home, Jim! Let’s build the home that data teams deserve.

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