Anchor List: Kelly Breslin Wright, Former EVP Sales at Tableau

The Anchor List recognizes extraordinary operators in the startup ecosystem. Learn more at anchorlist.com

In our highlight reel of top startup operators, Kelly Breslin Wright deserves special mention for both her service as EVP of Sales at Tableau Software, where she grew the company from its initial product launch all the way through its IPO, and for her ethical accomplishments since leaving Tableau. 

“People are central to everything.”

During her 12 years at the data visualization company, Kelly ran worldwide sales and field operations, expanding the company’s employee count from 10 to 3300 and top-line revenues from $0 to $850 million. Now, having left Tableau, she has turned her attention to teaching, advising, and philanthropy, including service as a board director for multiple public and private companies as well as regular speaking engagements on go-to-market and sales.

From her time as Tableau’s first salesperson, Kelly’s prowess in building an organization shines through. By the time Tableau went public, Kelly would lead more than 1800 people (over half the organization reported to her), and the workplace would regularly receive awards for its exceptional culture. Reflecting on this thriving culture, she highlights the value of focusing on people when she says: “People are central to everything. After you start with mission, vision, and core values, you must know how to emotionally connect with people, leverage storytelling, hear others' stories, and lead with empathy. We ultimately don't only sell to companies; we sell to people.” 

This mission- and people-driven approach helped Kelly build both an operationally efficient sales engine and make challenging choices, such as those that balance the urgent with the important.

In addition to her impressive work with Tableau, Kelly has leveraged her mission-driven desire to create profound impacts through philanthropy. Having herself been the first female board director on five different technology boards, she is now active in multiple organizations that promote women in executive roles and on boards, in addition to teaching an MBA course on go-to-market and sales strategy at the University of Washington.

At Floodgate, we’re especially impressed by Kelly’s drive both to achieve great things for her business and give back. For most people, growing a company from no revenue to more than $850 million would be sufficiently satisfying. Kelly, however, clearly feels the desire to give back through teaching, sitting on boards, and supporting women-in-leadership organizations. We’re proud to see people like Kelly building companies to great heights while also contributing to improve the greater business ecosystem.