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Visions of IPO Dance in His Head: Q&A With Xactly CEO Christopher Cabrera

When Christopher Cabrera, president and CEO of Xactly, says his Software as a Service sales performance management company began 2009 with a big bang, he didn’t — as one might assume in this economy — mean it in a bad way.

In January, the company acquired Centive, its primary competitor. In February, it lured a new CFO on board — Steve Cakebread, who had served as CFO at Salesforce.com for many years, guiding it through its IPO process.

Both of those events, Cabrera told CRM Buyer, will shape Xactly’s future path.

CRM Buyer: How is Xactly weathering the economic downturn?

Christopher Cabrera:

We are doing well, all things considered. We are seeing the same struggles out there that a lot of vendors are seeing — but we are in a space where companies are looking for ways to improve sales performance, which is good for us. We had a good Q4 last year, and 2008 was our third consecutive year of triple digit growth — about 140 percent growth over 2007. We also saw growth in subscriber accounts and customer base along the mid 80s. So by all measures we had a great year. And we are seeing similar activity in Q1.

CRM Buyer: What are some of the cost-cutting measures you’ve taken?

Cabrera:

We are certainly looking at every penny we spend — and cutting areas where we can, such as travel. But we are still in growth mode — we see this time as opportunity to gain market share.

CRM Buyer: How can your products help your customers’ bottom lines in the near term?

Cabrera:

What is key to our products is that not only do we automate manual tasks, but we also help in the behavioral science aspect of getting salespeople to sell more. We integrate directly from all the leading CRM applications. … That, coupled with our application, gets the reps to focus on the right deal in the pipeline.

CRM Buyer: What are some of the brightest spots for your company right now?

Cabrera:

Our acquisition of Centive and our hire of Steve [Cakebread]. I would add to that the fact that we are in a space that is a natural for companies to spend more on in a downturn. Also, we have a strong balance sheet position, and we are in an enviable position to roll up other opportunities.

CRM Buyer: How will your company look a year from now?

Cabrera:

We will have fully integrated Centive, and we will have completed another year of triple digit growth. We will also have begun to look to other types of opportunities out there for the company — whether it is building new products or [forging new] partnerships.

CRM Buyer: It sounds like you may be making another acquisition.

Cabrera:

We will look at them, but we won’t do one just because a company is available or cheap. It would have to be because it fills out a need for us.

CRM Buyer: What product areas are those? By that I mean, what type of functionality would you be willing to acquire or want to build out?

Cabrera:

I don’t want to tip my hand that way. All I will say is that everything we do is about empowering sales and improving behavior. So we will stay consistent around that message in our activities.

CRM Buyer: Not one hint?

Cabrera:

Well, we do want to expand what we do from a price analytics standpoint — you can expect to see some enhancements there.

CRM Buyer: When will you be announcing your integration road map for customers?

Cabrera:

In the next 30 to 45 days, we will be talking about the road map and milestones. We will be supporting both applications for a long time, so Centive customers don’t have to worry about that.

CRM Buyer: What does Cakebread’s hire mean for the company? Conventional wisdom is that you brought him on to go public.

Cabrera:

Steve has no peer with respect to financial experience in the SaaS world, and building a SaaS company to a billion dollar run rate. When he joined Salesforce.com, it was not much smaller than Xactly is today. So we want someone who has been down that road and has the answer sheet to the test. And we think there will be a lot of opportunities for SaaS providers over the next few years.

CRM Buyer: Are you planning to go public at some point?

Cabrera:

Clearly, we are.

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