LevelEleven Spins Out of ePrize With $1 Million in Seed Funding

10/30/12Follow @XconomyDET

A new enterprise gamification company called LevelEleven officially launched in Detroit today, backed by $1 million in seed funding from investors like Detroit Venture Partners and ePrize, and fueled by the hope that the company’s software will transform the way managers keep salespeople motivated.

The relationship between LevelEleven’s CEO Bob Marsh and DVP’s CEO Josh Linkner is a cozy one—they worked together even before Linkner founded ePrize, where Marsh spent 13 years in various sales and management positions. In fact, LevelEleven was originally conceived as a sort of division within ePrize until Marsh and current ePrize CEO Matt Wise began to see that it had potential as a stand-alone company. “I feel so blessed that it wasn’t just me starting out on my own,” Marsh says. “I was able to develop my idea within the insulation of a great company.”

ePrize is the Pleasant Ridge, MI-based digital marketing and engagement company that grew to become the largest interactive promotions agency in the world before it was acquired in August by Catterton Partners for an undisclosed sum. It was while implementing Salesforce’s enterprise software at ePrize that Marsh got the idea to develop LevelEleven’s flagship product: A sales gamification app called Contest Builder. He had chosen to bypass consultants and instead learn the ins and outs of Salesforce together with his sales team.

“When a company buys software like Salesforce, it’s about changing habits,” Marsh explains. “They’re buying into the ability to measure sales activity and motivate sales people.”

Marsh realized that what was missing was a Salesforce-integrated way to rally his team. Since ePrize is “all about motivation”—it was an early pioneer in the gamification of digital marketing—Marsh saw an intersection between the abilities and talent already within ePrize and his idea to turn the classic speadsheet-heavy sales contest into an automated, software-driven affair.

“The question was, how do I keep salespeople focused on the right things?” Marsh says. “Our mission is to help sales managers through that.”

Marsh went to Wise with his idea and Wise agreed to allocate company resources toward exploring the idea further. “I grabbed a couple of ePrize engineers and spent the summer building it out,” Marsh says.

The Contest Builder Salesforce app was officially launched in September 2011 at Dreamforce, the annual Salesforce meeting that Marsh describes as “the Super Bowl of enterprise software.” (There were 80,000 attendees at this year’s Dreamforce meeting.) Marsh says he set up an unassuming booth to test the appeal of their concept. “We got all these leads,” he says. “People came by and we got amazing feedback. We signed our first customers. Clearly, it validated our concept.”

The decision was made to not give the product away for free, and, in January, Wise agreed to continue to invest ePrize resources in Contest Builder. About 20 more customers signed up to use the software and, as of July, Contest Builder became the top gamification app in the Salesforce AppExchange. “It’s amazing how quickly it happened,” Marsh adds.

Wise and Marsh decided to spin the app into a separate company, LevelEleven, partly to take advantage of the growing tech scene in Detroit. Last week, LevelEleven moved into the downtown, Dan Gilbert-owned Madison Building space that is home to a growing roster of tech startups, VCs, and anchor firms. LevelEleven’s team consists of six people, but Marsh expects to be hiring very soon.

Marsh says he feels good about the parallel paths of LevelEleven and ePrize. “This category [Leveleleven is] in—clearly, we’re in the very early stages,” he notes. “ePrize rapidly became a dominant player, and we see this doing the same thing. The concept is validated and we have many more ideas we’re going to come out with.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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