The Idea that Led to an App that Led to a Company

light-in-dirtIf you keep up with sales gamification news, are familiar with or read this blog from time to time, you’ve likely heard of Compete. Maybe you use it. But have you ever wondered how it all began? How an idea sparked that led to the creation of an app and eventually the birth of a company? Those of you who have will be happy to learn that the full story follows. Those of you who haven’t should still keep reading. The story really is a good one.

It all started when Bob Marsh was working in sales management for ePrize, a Detroit-based organization that focuses on motivating consumer behavior through digital engagement for major brands including Coke, P&G,  and Microsoft. At that time, ePrize’s 75-person sales team signed on with, and Bob began to develop a plan that would result in them using the new CRM software on a daily basis. Then he realized it needed to be bigger and more engaging for the salespeople. His plan had to result in more than team members simply logging data into Salesforce; it had to change habits.

So Bob consulted with his team. As a group, they decided to apply their experience of motivating consumers to motivate their own team and encourage adoption of Salesforce along the way. It only took the realization that CRM software measures and monitors all kinds of activities for them to figure out how: They would develop internal competitions – revolving around any task from booking meetings to making calls – as some of those measurable, monitored activities. Just like that, Compete  — then known as “Sales Contest Builder” — was born. If you can track it in Salesforce, you can create a competition around it.

Bob and his team built the app entirely on the platform, and was made available on the Salesforce AppExchange at the end of August, 2011. The timing couldn’t have been better. It was just five days before Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce event, the world’s largest enterprise technology conference. When Bob and his team attended the event, they gained a number of leads and a wealth of product feedback.

Four months later, ePrize saw so much traction from Compete that it created a specific unit for the app’s team. By October of 2012, the unit obtained $1 million in seed capital from Detroit Venture Partners and ePrize. This is where the whole “birth of a company” comes in: The funding allowed Compete’s ePrize unit to evolve into its own organization, LevelEleven. The group moved from ePrize’s offices in Pleasant Ridge, Michigan into the emerging technology hub in downtown Detroit. Bob became CEO.

Today, although LevelEleven offers a range of gamification and CRM software solutions, its front-running product remains Compete. The app allows managers across all industries to turn nearly any sales task into a competition, developed around key behaviors that the company chooses to motivate. It’s grown to become one of the top 10% most popular apps on’s AppExchange. And LevelEleven continues to refine its capabilities, both for clients and for themselves – because Bob and his team use Compete, too.

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