If you are a CEO ready to bring your product to market, you are probably thinking about bringing in someone to head up marketing for your company. If you are lucky, maybe you’ll land someone with the track record of Bernd Leger.
Leger has built out the early foundation for the marketing organization at companies like CloudLock, Localytics, Rapid7, Veracode and others. As you might notice, three of those companies have all had successful exits and Localytics is still going strong.
Growing up, Leger’s family moved around quite a bit, as his father was a member of the German military. This included a three year stay in Carmel, California where he got a taste of America. Although his family moved back to Germany due to his father’s military commitments, his stay lit a passion for the US that would ultimately lead to him returning years later.
While he attended college in Germany, he made the decision to study abroad back in the US. He applied to Georgetown and realized how difficult the application process was as a foreign student. Since the education systems are set up so differently, concepts like getting your SAT done or having your grades converted into the US system don’t compute easily. This required him to jump through hoops to complete the application. The end result was a success, as he was accepted and transferred to Georgetown, before ultimately completing his MBA in Germany.
The difficulty of the application process turned into a passion project. He ended up writing two books while still in college about studying and living abroad in the US. His first book ended up becoming a top 10,000 best seller on Amazon in Germany. He remembers how he would receive emails and letters from students about how his book helped them get into their dream schools in the US.
“Regardless of what I do for work,” said Leger. “I always want to give back in one form or fashion. In college, it was helping others land their dream university, now I write a blog on marketing best practices."
At the time he graduated in Germany with his MBA, most graduates wanted to work for consulting firms or investment banks. Leger chose a different route selecting to work at German startup Point Information Systems before there was really a startup culture in Germany. The CEO’s sales pitch to Leger: “Be my executive assistant for a year, attend all of my meetings and then tell me which group you want to work in after that”. After having been exposed to multiple aspects of running a business at Point, the decision what to do next was easy for him.
“I wanted to be in marketing, I loved the engagement with sales, partners, customers, prospects and analysts,” said Leger. “I was able to drive the go-to-market strategy for this company just one year after receiving my MBA.”
Point was an international company with over 200 employees from 26 different countries. When Goldman Sachs came on board as a strategic investor, the company moved headquarters to Boston. This was the opportunity he was looking for in terms of moving back to the US. After convincing his wife to make the move, which included trips to Vermont and Nantucket, the two of them moved to the Boston area in 1998 and have lived here ever since.
In the next years, Leger continued his journey as a global marketer in a number of startups based in Boston, including Surebridge, an ASP (application service provider… the term used in the pre-SaaS era), NaviSite which ended up acquiring Surebridge, and Oblicore, a rapidly growing Inc. 500 company, which started in Israel. At Oblicore, Leger led both corporate marketing and product management and ran teams across the U.S., Europe and Israel. “I loved my time at Oblicore, I really relate to the Israeli style of doing business, which is very direct and less top-down. Israeli companies foster a culture where ideation from anyone in the hierarchy is strongly encouraged, which is one of the key reasons why there is so much innovation coming out of Israel.”
Leger then joined Veracode as VP of Marketing. The company was just coming out of stealth mode, looking for someone to help build a brand, a marketing team and help create a new market. Veracode was providing a solution which was new to the industry. It’s SaaS solution helped companies secure their software based on analyzing software binaries.
After a year-and-a-half at Veracode, he built out the initial foundation of the marketing strategy and starting to build out a team when the financial crisis of 2008 hit. Veracode worked with a lot of financial institutions which resulted in a very difficult time and he parted ways with the company (side note: Veracode was acquired by CA in April 2017 for $614 million).
Sometimes the hard times turn can lead to great opportunities. Leger ended up connecting with Corey Thomas at Rapid7, who at the time was running sales, marketing & products before becoming the company’s CEO. Rapid7 had just raised funding and they were looking for someone to head up marketing.
“When I joined Rapid7, the company was largely an unknown in the industry and didn’t really have much in place for marketing,” said Leger. “However, they did have a phenomenal inside sales team, so if you add in marketing, the upside potential was tremendous.”
Over the next four years, Leger built out a fifteen person marketing team and helped take Rapid7 from an also-ran to the market leader in the vulnerability management space, with 100% growth year-over-year.
“We punched above our weight at Rapid7, we were bold and audacious, doing things that other companies typically don’t have the guts to do.” Leger helped drive the company’s freemium strategy, created a stand-alone security conference, “UNITED” (Using New Ideas to Empower Defenders) and built an inbound marketing strategy that went hand-in-hand with the company’s inside sales model. Rapid7 also became known for its legendary RSA parties at the Ruby Skye nightclub in San Francisco, helping to drive the company’s brand awareness in the security industry.
As Rapid7 started to think about going public, it was time to move on and find his next early stage opportunity.
Leger connected with Raj Agarwal, the CEO and co-founder of Localytics. Leger liked the company from the start and it was starting to gain traction in the mobile analytics and marketing industry.
He joined when the company was only twenty people and it was a situation where he not only built out marketing, but he also helped out with fundraising and some of the strategic aspects of their business. During his tenure at Localytics, the company grew from 20 to 150 people, sales increased tenfold and they signed major customers like Disney and ESPN.
While at the Mass Technology Leadership Awards event, Leger ended up sitting next to Gil Zimmermann, CloudLock’s CEO & co-founder. The two of them instantly hit it off and it was this chance meeting that helped lead him to his role as CMO at CloudLock.
CloudLock checked all of the right boxes of what Leger seeks in a company - a differentiated product offering, strong VC backing, a massively growing market, a great culture and the opportunity to lead a marketing team that can fundamentally impact the trajectory of the organization. Most importantly he was impressed with the people and the leadership team.
“Gil is an amazing leader,” said Leger. “He’s very trusting and he knows how to hire people who can compliment him well.”
Leger quickly went to work by building out a high performing marketing team across all functions like product marketing, demand generation, events, etc. He took over organizing and MC’ing the customer user conference and also built out a data scientist function in his team, focused on publishing industry reports. Part of his goal was to help build a brand and a name for CloudLock, as they were flying under the radar.
“Sometimes it’s a good idea to give the perception that you look bigger than you actually are,” said Leger. “We pivoted the company into a new market, focused on analyst relations and brand awareness and then let the sales team loose after we had clearly defined our message to the market. We went from an unknown to a Top 3 vendor in our space, doubled revenue year-over-year and increased our share of voice from 5% to 35% as compared to our top competitors in less than 2 years.”
CloudLock’s growth and market presence didn’t go unnoticed and the company was acquired by Cisco last year for a reported $293M. It ended up being a great fit, as it was a strategic acquisition for Cisco. Now the team at CloudLock has the Cisco sales and its partner engine behind them, while remaining as a separate group within the Cisco Security Business Unit. It has allowed them to accelerate the growth much more quickly.
Leger has largely been a startup guy, but is enjoying being part of Cisco since the acquisition. “Cisco is giving me the opportunity to apply all of my learnings as a disruptor and outside-of-the box thinker in startups and applying that at a much larger scale. We’ve gone from having 30 salespeople to now 17,000 Cisco sellers and more than 200,000 partners. Enabling those teams for success has been lots of fun.”
So, how has Leger been so successful over and over again? He obviously has the marketing know-how, but it goes beyond just the marketing a company’s product.
“Almost every company I’ve worked at has been recognized and awarded as ‘a best place to work’ by different publications,” says Leger. “It all starts with a great team and I’ve made it my mission at every company to help build a great culture and employer brand.” Prior to its acquisition, CloudLock was recognized by Glassdoor as one of the top three best places to work in the U.S. Leger has made somewhat of a name for himself in the talent branding circles and has spoken at the annual LinkedIn Talent Connect conference and other events on how marketing and recruiting teams can work better together.
The Cisco CloudLock team is based out of the Watch Factory in Waltham. Leger viewed this as an opportunity to promote the company’s open office environment and culture in the suburbs. Plus, their location on the water where they employees have access to kayaks and paddleboards. The company’s unique culture was all captured in CloudLock’s chicken llama video:
Outside of work, Leger is a certified yoga instructor and an avid runner, as he’s completed multiple full and half marathons. At Localytics he organized the team’s participation in a Tough Mudder, at CloudLock the New England Ragnar 200-Mile Relay Race. He and his wife have two boys, and enjoys taking the family on a trip to Europe every year.
“I’m appreciative of everything, especially the family time,” said Leger.