From 💼 Top-down Sales to 📈Bottom-up 🔬Product Led Growth

Shimon Tolts
5 min readApr 20, 2021

The cookie-cutter

As we started our startup (Datree) in Israel aka the startup nation, the most successful go-to-market models were done by Security companies such as CheckPoint, Imperva, CyberArk, and more. The cookie-cutter path for a technological startup was mainly built for the Security space and was very much top-down like so: 1️⃣ Get design partners 2️⃣ Convert them to paying customers 3️⃣ CEO relocates to the US 4️⃣ Hire Sales and Marketing team in the US. 5️⃣ Build a Top-down, sales-driven organization.

As we started Datree, we didn’t really think much about the GTM model and mainly used the cookie-cutter way, we were just eager to help engineering teams. So we started with a handful of design partners, they gave us access to their source control, and we started mapping the manifest files and identifying misconfigurations (mainly) in infrastructure as this was a pain we felt in our previous job.

After seeing downtime due to human errors, we thought how can we help engineers make the right decisions while working with systems like Kubernetes, a sort of guard-rails without reading endless emails and internal wikis and remembering to make the right configuration decisions? We felt it has to be done in an automatic way, inline during the development process.

The top-down way


Getting Demos

We did lots of groundwork, met with many companies, went on meetups, and did conferences. Last AWS re:invent I remember we had 70 demos in just 4 days, we were 3 people doing the whole thing! One would go down with a whiteboard and write the person’s name, then he would lead them to the meeting, while the other person would do the demo, the 3rd would get a 5min rest from the last demo and be ready to greet the following person.

Shimon Tolts at AWS re:invent Dec 2019

We were able to sell our product top-down, we got dozens of customers paying tens of thousands of dollars each, but it was always strange to me, as the platform itself is fully self-serve and we don’t have to do any manual configuration for the customer, yet the solution is still gated and we have to hand-hold the Engineering leader though DEMOs, who clearly doesn’t really want any hand-holding.

At this point everywhere I look, I hear founders are leaving for Silicon Valley and establishing their GTM headquarters there. During that time we got accepted to YCombinator and flew to participate in the W20 batch. YC and Michael Seibel helped us with lots of introductions to amazing companies 🙏 But still, it was hard, people just wanted to give it a go, and not sit through demos and write POC scope documents.

Then COVID-19 came along, killed conferences and any chance of face-to-face top-down sales meetings.

The harsh realization

🤦🏻‍♂️ All of this was nice until it HIT ME. I would never click the “schedule a demo” button for our product, I would just want to try it. I knew something had to be done differently!

In my previous job I was an Engineering Manager for a 1000 employee company, I never actually bought software top-down. I would go to expos, hear about software from friends or simply stumble upon products while browsing the web.


I never wanted to speak to sales reps, I just wanted to try the software for my department and if it made sense, I would reach out to the sales team to close an org-wide deal. I would only speak to sales after I (my team) would try and use the product.

Product Led Growth

And then I read about this thing called Product Led Growth, and It hit me! This is it, this is how I would like to buy software, this is how I’ve always purchased software.

The Mandalorian

So we started writing content, things that WE would want to read and would bring value to organizations facing the challenges we are so eager to solve. Provide use cases and examples to solving direct problems as opposed to scheduling demos. It worked! We were able to achieve a 20% Month-over-Month growth in traffic and getting lots of interest from Engineers (all Organic).

Monthly visitors to

🚀 Now we are providing the product we’ve always needed the way we would like to try and buy it.

🤖 For the first time since our founding, we are now offering a fully self-served solution, in which the Engineer can simply run a set of tests to identify misconfigurations like the usage of the “:latest” tag in containers or missing resource quotas such as Memory/CPU and resource labels. The Engineer is free to choose which projects they want to integrate our check-in during their development process in their CI/CD or laptops.

🤩 I am eager to hear from other founders who face the same challenge of flipping the GTM model and running PLG organizations. We had to make many changes in our workforce and way of thinking and operating in order to accommodate the shift, but that’s a topic for another post :)