Kelly Berg, Ambition

Vice President of Customers at Ambition

Chattanooga-based sales coaching platform Ambition is growing quickly and expects the bulk of future growth to come to its Nashville team for the rest of the year.

Ambition takes a tech approach to improving client businesses’ sales team performance regardless of the industry. It is one of over 3,000 startups launched by Silicon Valley tech startup accelerator Y Combinator like Airbnb, Instacart or Twitch. The 2021 World Series-winning Atlanta Braves, Automatic Data Processing Inc., DocuSign Inc., FedEx Corp., FreightWaves and Kenco Logistics all use Ambition’s product to optimize the efficiency and growth of their sales forces — the latter two being Chattanooga companies also.

Kelly Berg, a Franklin resident and Ambition’s vice president of customers, classifies that product as a “culture tool,” and big tech is renowned as an industry rife with unique and sometimes bizarre workplace cultures. In this case, the tech startup helps client companies create cultures that drive sales or broadly generate revenue by providing a personnel platform that turns sales or revenue-generating tasks into what amounts to an online game that incentivizes achievement in many of the same ways modern videogames or fantasy football do: drafting teams from among colleagues, competing against each other, tracking activity scores on a leaderboard and awarding the most improved players, so to speak. Berg’s role is to manage a department that facilitates the use of that gamified sales platform to ensure clients see the results they hope to see from the product.

“My teams, we take the responsibility of helping our customers be successful with Ambition’s tools,” Berg said, “so everything from training them on how to use all of the features of the product, giving them best practices, supporting them and rolling this out to their teams. So it’s that side of things and then helping them grow, so we see a lot of our success stories with companies using Ambition relate to things like their employee retention may be going up and they’re hiring new team members and we’re helping those team members ramp more quickly.”

Berg assumed her position at Ambition in August 2020 at the height of quarantine culture and the throes of pandemic economics. She had previously worked for Eventbrite for over six years, a job that brought her from the company’s San Francisco headquarters to its growing Nashville office in 2019 amid the ongoing California exodus. She left Eventbrite as vice president of sales services, meeting the founders of Ambition immediately prior to the quarantine in February 2020.

It has only been in recent months that Berg met the teams she oversees in person, running operations from her home in Franklin. She used Ambition’s product to maximize efficiency from those teams, too. Her role is vital to Ambition’s growth as she drives customer retention by ensuring that businesses see the success for which they pay. Ambition currently employs over 70 people with some 25 of them being in Nashville and more to come.

“We’re about 70, 75 employees today, but we expect to hire another 25 employees throughout Q4,” Berg told Home Page. “Although we will hire remotely, we do have new candidates and employees coming onboard in Nashville, so this office will be probably our biggest growth center for sure.”

That growth is partly contingent upon the startup’s Series B funding, spearheaded by Cleveland, Ohio-based Primus Capital in tandem with Nashville Capital Network. The latter was already an Ambition investor to the tune of $3 million as of 2018. The whole point of expanding into Nashville was for Ambition to bring new leadership talent onboard amid Nashville’s tech growth, hence Berg’s hire last year.

Ambition recently hosted at its Nashville office a networking event for local sales development representatives, a common use for Ambition’s offices since the pandemic chased staff to their home offices.

Nashville’s emergence as a tech hub has also generated considerable optimism for Berg and Ambition. It excited her to make the move for Eventbrite back in 2019, and her move two years later to Ambition exemplifies the kind of tech talent pool movement pundits have said will benefit Nashville as a whole with the advent of Amazon and Oracle.

“Knowing that we are in this grape hub where there is so much talent coming out of the universities here, there’s so much great experienced talent interested in moving here clearly — this massive relocation of so many people from the coasts coming into Nashville and all of the growth with Oracle and Amazon,” Berg added. “I think we all feel really excited about what the future holds and we’re seeing that too with our inbound applications for jobs and through customers who are really excited that we're located in Tennessee. We have a lot of customers in the south and the southeast, and they love that our roots are here."