The Business Intelligence Group announced the winners in the 2019 Sustainability Awards program. The Sustainability Awards honor those who have made sustainability an integral part of their business practice. For-profit and not-for-profit organizations of all sizes submitted nominations to reward team members and gain exposure for the organization, its initiatives, and the exemplary accomplishments of its leaders as they work to reduce their impact on our environment.
The Business Intelligence Group today announced the winners of the 2019 Fortress Cyber Security Awards. The business award program sought to identify and reward the world’s leading companies and products that are working to keep our data and electronic assets safe among a growing threat from hackers. Working executives from the cyber security and information technology fields volunteered to judge the program using a proprietary scoring methodology.
The Business Intelligence Group named 40 companies, executives and products as winners of the 2019 Excellence in Customer Service Awards. This annual business awards program recognizes those who are helping companies better communicate with their customers to provide a differentiated level of customer service.
There are a plethora of business awards in every industry -- some are highly coveted, while some are pedestrian. But no matter the category an award belongs to, winning such an award signals tangible value. It communicates something vital about the recipient and what the recipient has to offer. In this article, we’ll focus on the marketing value of winning business awards and how they can activate trust to your prospects and customers.
When we started the Business Intelligence Group our goal was truly to help recognize great accomplishments and to leverage that success to help others. This month we have surely met that goal.
Today my 11-year-old son asked me "Who was more successful, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?"
I didn't know how to answer. Gates' work at Microsoft changed the way we work and communicate, but the same could be said about Jobs and his work at Apple, especially considering the iPhone.
So I asked him, "How do you define success?"
Luckily for me, my mother was in town for U.S. Mother's Day and she looked at my son and said, "Take it from an old lady, do what you love and you will be successful. The money will come if that is what you want."
What would we do without mothers advice!
Over the course of the last few weeks we have published interviews (video/audio with transcripts) of some very successful leaders running very successful companies. Three of these interviews stood out as phenomenal examples of how to define success.
Three commonalities stood out within each of these discussions and these commonalities are surely the drivers of their success.
3 - Narrow/Laser focus on a single uniform issue or challenge in their market 2 - Unwavering energy and passion for that issue and market 1 - A willingness to share their knowledge for the betterment of others
As you start your week, remembering these "keys to success" will help you refine priorities, renew your own focus and allow you inspire others as you look to lead your teams in the hopes of changing your own world.
SYNC Interview with Cream.hr Cofounder and CEO Caitlin MacGregor
UPDATE: Since our interview, Cream.hr has rebrabnded as Plum.
When the world went paperless, somehow it didn't stop people from continuing to create resumes that were meant to be printed. And without a real standard, recruiters and managers looking to hire still have to digitally sift through endless reams of files, page after page, down arrow after down arrow, searching for that one special person who is "just right" for the position. Cream.hr looks to change all of that with their science-based filters that comb through resumes for you, looking for that needle in the haystack.
We recently featured Cream.hr as one of the 4 must have tools for a start-ups and we'll talk live with CEO and Co-founder Caitlin MacGregor to get her insights on the marketplace and hear how they are managing the explosive growth from the cloud.
Russ: Today we’re with Caitlin MacGregor from Cream.hr and that is a software as a service platform designed to help you hire and recruit talent better. Caitlin, thank you for joining us and welcome to the Big Awards SYNC.
Caitlin: Thank you very much for having me.
Russ: Your Company’s got a very interesting model. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about kind of what you guys are offering and then I’ll ask you kind of about how you founded the company and how you guys started it up.
Caitlin: We help companies hire better quality people in less time for less cost. We’re able to that because we actually assess all the job applicants as they apply online and we can predict which ones are going to be the most productive as well as provide a really important intelligence as to what the applicants’ priorities, strengths and weaknesses are.
Employers are no longer fooled by the contents of a resume and when they actually bring somebody in for an interview they really know who those candidates are-their priorities, strengths, weaknesses and ultimately they’re armed with the critical data necessary to hire the cream of the crop.
Russ: You’ve got some secret sauce in there I’m sure it sounds like the marketing wizards who write resumes often are going to be you know left by the wayside there. Tell us a little bit about the secret sauce and how you guys kind of you know came up with it.
Caitlin: There’s a good decade or two of research in psychology that has been able to identify what top performers have in common and our co-founder is Dr. Jordan B. Peterson-he’s a tenured professor at the University of Toronto in [inaudible 0:01:46] Harbor and so his research has been published in leading scientific journals under peer review and he has developed a fake-proof assessment that can particularly identify top performers that have those traits that are in common with top performers and deliver results that are six times more accurate than resumes and interviews combined.
What we do is focus on measuring those qualities in the applicants and then also because it’s fake-proof we’re able to really ask the candidates to prioritize their strengths and weaknesses-they can’t say that they’re good at everything so it’s ideal for a competitive hiring environment. We’re able to provide the employers with that critical data but basically this is commercializing academic research-proven scientific research and bringing that to the mass market.
Russ: Tell us a little bit about how you guys got started and how you all found each other.
Caitlin: This is my third start-up. I was running a company in Toronto and I was running this entire company at a pretty young age so I started seeing an executive coach who was this professor of psychology, Dr. Peterson and then I moved to the United States to New Hampshire to start up and run an educational software company and Dr. Peterson informed me that if I was to mess up my first hire it would be a loss of $300,000 on our company so he let us use his assessment to assess all 80 applicants that applied for this position and two candidates really stood out for different reasons so we hired both of them.
Joel, he was amazing on paper. He had a Master’s in Education, five year’s work experience, had previously worked at a software company; his scores showed that he was going to be just an average worker though but you know he was just too good on paper so we decided to hire him and then there was another applicant Christine and she scored ten points above everybody else.
She ranked in the top 3% of the workforce in terms of her productivity and so we hired her and within three months we fired Joel-he was sitting around playing fantasy football and clocking out early and only doing 10% of the work, whereas Christine was doing 90% of the work and we kept her and after five months she was running the entire operations of the company.
Within a year and a half I had groomed her to replace me when I went on maternity leave and the punch line is Christine had a BA in Fine Arts and seven years waitressing experience. She actually didn’t even know how to use excel when we hired her and yet you know if we had gone by the resume you know no president in their right mind would have ever short-listed her to interview her let alone put the time in to groom her to run the company.
We could have missed a huge opportunity if it wasn’t for the assessment. We used this for two years to hire the rest of our staff. The next hire was a 17 year-old high school student who saved our company a quarter of a million dollars. Literally he would go on to YouTube and teach himself how to do something in half the time it would take us to get a quote back from an outsourced company.
After using this and seeing all these amazing people we decided that we needed to bring this to mass market so just over a year ago, Christine, myself and my VP we started commercializing this full-time. We’ve been working with customers over the last year who has constantly been validating that. They’re hiring people that are three times more productive than their average worker; constantly finding these diamonds in the rough that they normally wouldn’t have found and that they’re saving a lot of time and a lot of costs and ultimately consistently getting top performers by using our assessment in their recruitment process.
Russ: Out of all those customers do you see any trends among them? Are you finding that small customers, large customers, US, Canadian-otherwise? What do you see and who’s latching on to this?
Caitlin: Early adopters-what’s been interesting is that there’s early adopters in all fields. We have helped hire for mechanical engineers that are planning the daily operations of the Mars Land rover on Planet Mars so robotics companies out of California that are looking for not just mechanical engineers but ones that are incredibly entrepreneurial and very out-of-the-box thinkers and so we were able to identify three in a pool of 180 applicants. All the way to publishing companies that are hiring for analysts and sponsorship positions and editor-in-chief positions.
There seems to be you know we’re also helping chain restaurants hire front of staff and bartenders because they’re looking for a particular personality for that and they want to reduce their turnover to large other software service companies that are growing rapidly; that are doubling and tripling in size and you need to hire 400 people within nine months so we tend to find that the thing that these companies have in common is that they’re absolutely committed to best practices when it comes to hiring.
They’re really interested in using science. One of our companies who are full of engineers say they really like the idea that they can engineer their recruitment process. They can use actual data to improve their outcomes. These are companies that are committed to using big data, committed to using science and committed to using technology and aren’t scared about going away from the status quo.
We still use resumes but only on the short-listed candidates. After you’ve seen a short list of top performers that’s when you check resumes to double check for skill sets. You still bring them in to interview but you’re armed with more intelligence than ever before in that interview process so you have to be committed to moving away from the status quo and adapting into something new. The resistance in the industry is that there’s a lot of conservative behavior when it comes to Human Resources but there are across the field a bunch of industries that are trying to be more competitive by adopting innovations like ours.
Russ: I think it’s interesting that you put a number on it which is its going to cost you; it’s a $300,000 mistake. People don’t often think about that about what are all the costs involved in making a mistake. It’s not only that you’ve paid this person over a period time but it’s also the replacement costs of going out and finding that individual-the replacement as well as any other kind of software costs on your business. Did the doctor study that number before he knew that obviously?
Caitlin: There’s a lot of research. The great thing about academia is that they don’t try to reinvent the wheel at every single step. What they do is they go out and find really credible research and build off of that. The assessment is using the big five personality model which is already really well respected and supported by the community-the psychological community but keeps adding innovative twists in terms of how you get the results.
Same thing with the data on the costs of bad hire; there’s a lot of data out there that shows the cost of bad hire. SHRM which is probably the most respected body when it comes to HR has come out with statistics saying that the one bad hire is the equivalent to 90-200% of that person’s base salary. There’s lots of statistics out there and it’s whether or not you want to do it based on that or if you want to talk about the recruitment costs alone-the latest studies are saying that companies spend on average $3,000 per position.
Then you can get into soft costs-if you’re actually talking about the manager’s time of being in those interviews and then the loss opportunity of any damages they could have done or lose of sales. You have to then go through the recruitment process again. I mean there’s a lot of ways to calculate. Whatever you come up with-it’s really, really big.
One of our return-on-investment calculator will calculate for 50 hires in a year using Cream.hr can save a company $1.1 million dollars so that works out to about $22,000 a week. If a company was to use Cream.hr to help them with their hiring of 50 people for the entire year it would cost $25,000 to use Cream.hr for the entire year; unlimited testing. A company would have the return-on-investment in just a little over a week and that’s a 50 times return-on-investment for the entire year. The costs of bad hires and the time wasting and the loss of competing with competitors is just astronomical.
Russ: Tell us about your business model on about how you guys have grown. You’ve got this per hire model right?
Caitlin: Basically psycho-metric testing over the last 20 years has been used on a per test basis and typically at the very end of the hiring process. Often they’ll use it on high level managers, they’ll spend the time going through all the resumes, even maybe do a round or two of interviews and then they would test maybe three candidates and those tests can be very, very costly.
What we’ve done is taken that same level of research but made it so that it’s fake-proof so that lots of applicants take it and we’ve moved it to the beginning of the hiring process. As an applicant applies online they’re actually taking the assessment and employers are seeing the data before they even read a resume. The more people that take the test the more likely they are to find some top performers with the skill sets and the strengths and weaknesses that you’re looking for. We want to encourage as many people taking the assessment as possible so we needed a pricing model that wasn’t per test basis to encourage best practices. The outcome-what the employers benefiting from is that hire. We moved to an unlimited testing, you pay per hire-it ends up being about $500 per hire but it drops based on volume. If a company is hiring 100 people actually works out to be more about $400 per hire.
We create an annual license so sometimes people will start with a few hires at the beginning. Ideally because they’re such a small investment, committing to an annual contract when they pay monthly seems to be what’s working best for our clients.
Russ: Very interesting, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned kind of going into this? What are some of the mistakes and kind of early steps that you took to kind of correct yourself? It sounds like there’s got to be a few things in kind of the initial launch of this where you were like oh I didn’t expect that. What sort of issues did you guys run into and how did you solve them?
Caitlin: I think that the thing that surprised us the most because we were our own customers for two years because we used it ourselves and we used it with a lot of other clients that had consistently given the same feedback that yes the science is accurate that this is actually providing them with better quality hires. I think what surprised us was how difficult it was to get more clients onboard and HR is a very, very conservative mind space and brining something in to the market that disrupts the status quo-the resistance to it and the fear of adopting something new and realizing that even with medium-sized companies it’s a complex sales cycle so you have to get the buy in from HR but they often don’t have the decision making power or the budgets. They’re not necessarily willing to put their neck out there for something they feel is unproven.
The social proof component of making sure that we had the resources available to show look our customers really do believe in this and I want you to hear from them directly so we’ve made sure that we have just under a dozen testimonial videos from our clients talking about the real savings and the real benefits that they’ve received through this. That’s realizing that we needed to put that front and center and so those materials are being launched in the next week on our new website that will be launching.
Really making sure that our customers, our current customers are speaking to our future customers. Realizing that there’s a lot of misinformation out there; a lot of people don’t recognize how ineffective resumes are that whether or not you went to Harvard or you went to the University of Waterloo-it’s not going to tell you if somebody’s going to be more productive than the other. If somebody worked for a competing company that doesn’t mean that they’re actually going to be successful for you. If somebody was great in Sales that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be a good Sales Manager so the information on a resume is incredibly ineffective and so having to educate people and change their minds that the materials that they’re using to base their decisions are flawed, I didn’t expect as much resistance in the market and as much fear of science and fear of innovation that we’ve experienced and so just understanding that we have to really try to-instead of disrupt the market but speak to what people already know and try to show how we fit that seamlessly into their existing process and also making sure that when we do talk to companies we get to a Senior level of decision maker as possible.
Sometimes that’s not even HR, sometimes that’s a Chief Operating Officer, sometimes that’s directly a CEO, sometimes that’s even a CFO and realizing that they often don’t want to start the conversation if they think it’s HR so it’s more a bit of marketing. The biggest lesson we’ve learned is that it’s not the product we have to focus on because it works–it’s the marketing and figuring out that code of how do we crack through and get people to listen and be like I need to have this and understand how valuable it is.
Russ: In a lot of spaces you’re talking about that kind of consultative sale and going up into the upper chains of management to kind of get that executive sponsorship and get pushed down into the HR team so that they’re using it. Are you going after that in a direct sales model or strictly through marketing or with partners? How are you looking to get into that kind of C suite?
Caitlin: There’s been-we’ve kind of been trying a lot of different things. One we do direct sales, two we have a big inbound marketing contact creation push so our blog is syndicated by Business Insider. About once a week-sometimes twice a week so that brings us quite a bit of readership and traffic. We’ve been trying to do the inbound marketing, social media and things like that. We’ve also been doing the direct sales.
A lot of businesses come in through referrals, but then we also started to engage with some partnerships of other software in the HR space as complimentary as well as resellers. Recruiting firms-some recruiting firms don’t want to use this unless it’s coming directly from their clients. Other recruiting firms are recognizing that we can save them time and increase the quality of the people that they’re delivering.
We’re talking about kind of a reseller model through that and then there’s very large companies that already service the enterprise clients and so building our technology into their suite of offerings is something that we’ll be focusing on over the summer is building into an existing suite of products being offered through a company that already deals with the fortune 2000.
Russ: You’re obviously a busy CEO and my guess is your productivity levels are pretty high-in the hour that you get off a week or a month, what are you doing for fun and how do you kind of wind down?
Caitlin: We’re starting our family-so first of all my husband is my co-founder. We already worked together three years before starting this company and we function better working together so we can cheat a little bit in that we see each other all the time but when we started this company I had just given birth to our now two year-old.
When we started working full-time on this our son was seven months old and he just turned two 2 weeks ago so when we’re not working it’s about trying to give some family time to our two year-old and now he’s just hit the terrible twos so realizing that it’s going to take even more time and attention but we’re really lucky that we’ve had the support of our families so he hasn’t had to suffer too much.
If he doesn’t see us as much as I’d like he at least is surrounded by a great support system. That’s pretty much what we do when we have some down time. If he’s asleep, I love TV and movies. There’s something about the alternative reality of being able to escape into cinema and theater and movies and things like that so that’s my personal and we’re also big foodies. We love going out and trying new food or cooking new food at home. On a personal level I think that’s how we recharge and then on a family level it’s about making sure that we’re doing things on the weekend with our son and that he’s getting the interaction with us and the community.
Russ: That’s great; I really appreciate your time Caitlin. This has been Caitlin MacGregor from Cream.hr. You should definitely go out and check out their offering-it’s Cream, C-r-e-a-m.hr-sounds like an interesting tool, sounds like the ROI is there, it’s definitely something that could help our business audience recruit better, get the right people on your bus and make you go faster. Caitlin thank-you very much for joining us and I really appreciate your time.
Caitlin: Thank-you very much. It was great talking to you.
We recently interviewed Jonathan Gebauer, the CEO and founder of ExploreB2B, the content marketing, social media platform. Their goal is to help companies find other business partners through sharing relevant business content. Jonathan likens it to a dating site for businesses. Having started in Germany, Jonathan shares his thoughts on starting up, growing the platform and working with family. This is a great interview with a real "David" taking on the "Goliath" likes of LinkedIn and others ion the market.
Russ: Good afternoon, everyone. This is Russ Fordyce from the Business Intelligence Group. Today, we've got Jonathan Gebauer on. Jonathan is the CEO and co-founder of ExploreB2B. Jonathan thanks for joining us.
Jonathan: Thanks for having me.
Russ: You developed this platform that is a content marketing social network platform. Tell us your vision for the platform and how you got started.
Jonathan: The initial vision for the platform was basically to create a dating site for businesses, which sounds weird, but in my opinion, makes absolute sense because what you really need in business is new contacts, get out of your own area and get your business into the minds of other people.
Get corporation's going, just as you and me actually right now. That was the initial vision. What we've developed is basically a social network where you can publish your content, your ideas, your product and connect to others and interact with others about your content and about their content and find, basically, the perfect match for your company.
Russ: Yeah, so we've actually published a lot of articles on this site. We've got interaction with other like-minded professionals. How do you go about enabling those relationships between companies? How do you help others find each other?
Jonathan: First, we've got this system of basically everyone can reach the status being an expert on Explore B2B, which gives himself more credibility and makes others want to contact him. Then, the second thing is basically … a main thing probably is to show everyone the content that is actually relevant for him.
Basically, you publish in your industry or in the industry you want to connect to. Then, anyone in that industry is actually given that content, but only those people who actually subscribe to the content. You always get the content you actually want on Explore B2B. We try to limit them as much as possible …
Jonathan: Again, what we want to achieve is them to get a lot of content and them to get a lot of readers, but actually get those readers that are interested in your content and will then connect to you.
Russ: Yeah, it makes perfect sense. It's like a more refined and more focused LinkedIn type of discussion and type of content platform.
Jonathan: Exactly, it's a content platform, while LinkedIn is not really a content platform. You can use it distribute content via groups and via sending out status updates, but it's not an actual platform for the initial content. What we do is we put all those concepts together in one and so it's a content and distribution platform.
Russ: You initially started the site in Germany. I think you're based in Germany. Now, you've expanded to the US and other markets. Tell us what it was like starting up in Germany and how you guys got started.
Jonathan: Actually, starting in Germany was … looking back on all the big mistakes, plus starting in Germany. Actually, with all things in the new economy and all things, social media in Germany is actually far behind in the other markets and kind of a black box because [inaudible 00:04:17]
Every new social media startup from the US gets copied just for the German market, so we’ve got all those small social networks that are really closed down. Our vision was actually to connect globally. It's going to make more sense when it works globally. From the German market, it's really hard to get out.
The language barrier was a problem, so we had to basically start again with the [NTE news 00:04:50] platform. [Inaudible 00:04:52] also running and it's actually running quite well right now. The news platform started again with an empty platform because we never wanted to buy content.
You can do that. We never did that because we wanted to achieve is that every piece of content has its own person behind it so you can contact the person who wrote it and get in touch and … yes.
Russ: How do you go about managing those profiles? How do you really try to quash the spam bots and the other guys that are just looking for links? How do you try to manage that?
Jonathan: Actually, it turned out that it actually manages itself quite well. We've got a writing system on the side so that people can write good articles that are interesting. Whenever a spam, obviously of course, happens, but it happens very few times, [Inaudible 00:05:54]. Actually, receive emails, I have a look at that that [inaudible 00:06:00]
Right now, we are really, really surprised, actually, at the quality of content we get. We actually expected to get much more content in the beginning, but we have to teach people, “Please, only post interesting stuff,” but that actually didn't happen.
Actually, the really surprising thing is that even people who know use other platforms like LinkedIn for spam actually find really good content on Explore B2B.
Russ: Well, that's great. The site's been going tremendously. Every day, I look at it and it's growing by leaps and bounds. How do you manage through that growth? You guys obviously have a technology platform that's got to scale. How are you guys managing through those growing pains?
Jonathan: Actually, we have some really partners in the technology department. CDL has been extremely great at managing the scale of the platform. In the end, it basically comes down to its how often [inaudible 00:07:14] work and much too little people so we don't get much sleep.
Russ: You’re just pouring man hours in, it sounds like.
Jonathan: Right now, we are, because … ask any [inaudible 00:07:29] actually we are tremendously understaffed. In the end, we manage and we manage really well right now. Then again, I think we’ve dropped, I don't know, a couple of hour’s downtime in the last year or so. Yes. I'm actually surprised how well we actually manage to keep the platform going. Sometimes we are [inaudible 00:07:59] but it works and we are happy.
Russ: Good. Now, you've also developed the platform to have a premium model that allows for experts and users to … I guess the initial subscription model there is for, I guess, analytics and to see who's viewing your articles and to get some analytics about it. How's that going? I see you have other tiers in stage. Are you guys working towards development on those? How is the overall subscription model going?
Jonathan: The subscription model is actually developing well. It's developing slowly, but it's developing well. What we have right now on site is, as you said, statistics. Also, what our premium users get is … in case their reader is coming directly from [inaudible 00:09:02], we get them the exact person who's interested in their content.
That is basically something that no other social platform can really give you. Who is the actual reader of your content? LinkedIn can show you whose been visiting your profile, but once it comes to the content itself, the stuff you post in LinkedIn groups, they can tell you who read your article. That is something we can do and that is of high interest for people who actually marketing things on Explore B2B.
That is the [inaudible 00:09:42]. We are actually working towards relieving a lot of new [inaudible 00:09:49] I can’t really tell you when it’s coming, but it’s coming soon. That would go in the direction of … We are basically having more interaction points and more options to actually get in touch with the readers and be proactive there.
Russ: We’re going to have to keep an eye on the site and keep an eye on the news for that. You, actually, started the platform in an hour working, I think, with your sister in developing the platform. How is that family relationship working out for you?
Jonathan: Family relationship, yeah, everyone wants to know about that. Founding a company with your own family can be really stressful, but founding a company is always stressful. Actually, known stories of friends founding companies together and in the end they turned out suing each other. Actually, when you found a company with your sister, you’re much less likely to sue each other, basically. There’s always that family bond that is much stronger than just friendship. That really is a plus on that side.
Russ: Both of you have studied mathematics extensively. I think your sister holds a PhD in mathematics. How has that helped you in that startup world? Has it given you stronger algorithms? Is it giving you more analytical skills? You would think that a content marketing social media site would be more marketing people, less mathematics. Tell me how those mathematics degrees and studies have helped you.
Jonathan: It helps a lot in understanding technology and Explore B2B still a technology company. I have to say my sister holds a PhD mathematics, but after that she spent five years in strategic consulting and that’s where the actual business idea and the actual problem we want to solve originated. My role, actually the more technology oriented one because I not only studied mathematics, but computer science as well.
While I’m not a developer on Explore anymore and I’ve actually never developed Explore B2B itself, I happen to develop it before and it helps a lot in talking to technology people and [inaudible 00:12:42]. I’m basically the product manager of the company. It really helps when developing a tech company but it’s not that important for the business side of things. Apart from giving more analytical approach on solving problems, I guess.
Russ: If you could wave your magic wand, what challenge are you having right now that you’re struggling with that you’d like to go away? What’s your biggest challenge in growing the platform in the community?
Jonathan: If I had a magic wand I would probably just … basically, encourage growth. Basically, it’s still hard, because we are now on a global market, it’s still hard to reach out to all smaller markets that you’re actually trying to transform into one market. I’m not sure I know how to do that with a magic wand or how to make that quicker with a magic wand. This is something we are facing and that is what we’re working on and that is what I would improve with a lot of small things. To be honest, if I had a magic wand I would just speed up development time. Because we have so many ideas that we want to fix on the platform and want to improve on the platform. Basically, development takes time and money and things are always much too slow.
Russ: You mention time a couple times here. You’re putting in 120 hour weeks and you get an hour off. What do you like to do personally? What are you doing with that hour other than sleeping and the other stuff?
Jonathan: We are both a huge fan of dogs. I, actually since my girlfriend’s got another dog, I now have two dogs and one is a family dog, which we share with our whole family. We found that you can actually [inaudible 00:15:16] if we have an hour, we call him our data security watchdog. Apart from that, I take a lot of liking in photography and videography. Sometimes I like to do that in my scarcely available free time. Apart from that, I’m actually kind of forgetting what I used to make my life [inaudible 00:15:47] before I founded this company.
Russ: I appreciate you taking the time with me this morning. This has been Jonathan Gabauer from Explore B2B. Jonathon, I really appreciate you jumping on with a big award [inaudible 00:16:02]
Jonathan: It was fun that you had me and I’m liking your project a lot, actually. I’m happy that we met.
Russ: Yeah. It’s been great working with you. Thanks, Jonathan.
Dane Atkinson is a serial entrepreneur, having grown SenseNet and SquareSpace into significant leaders in their respective markets.
Now Dane is taking the world of big data and business intelligence head-on as CEO of Sumall. The mission seems to be simple, give companies powerful business intelligence tools to help them better visualize and understand their analytics data so they can make better decisions and more money.
Russ: Good afternoon, everyone. This is Russ Fordyce from the Business Intelligence Group. Today we're doing a SYNC interview with Dane Atkinson. Now Dane is a serial entrepreneur. He started a company called SenseNet when he was 18, then went on later to found Squarespace, and now he's got a new project called SumAll, and we're going to talk to him about SumAll. Dane, thanks for joining us and welcome to our SYNC interview.
Dane: A pleasure. Happy to be here.
Russ: So you've had a lot of experience in kind of being an entrepreneur and developing companies. What really drives you into these kind of new markets and developing these new companies?
Dane: Well, the lifestyle is relatively addictive. One of the better quotes is that it's sort of a pirate life. It's less about the treasure at the end and more about the experience of trying to change the world and do things interesting. So I've been infected since youth and can't imaging a different way to go. I think the thing that's also missed is, there's a lot of choices in life, but the entrepreneurial style actually gives you the best way to personally develop. When you work at a large organization, you can usually insulate your decisions by the team around you. So if something goes wrong, it's not necessarily your fault. It's the manager's fault. It's the organization's fault. When you're an entrepreneur, if you don't get people to buy your product, it's pretty much your fault. And that's a really harsh lens to look at yourself with it, but it's also a great way to evolve. Yeah, differently.
Russ: We were talking right before we started about failing, and about failing fast and failing often and making sure you're failing quickly. I would imagine that you've done a lot of failing, trial and error. How do you deal with the rejections and the failing?
Dane: I think that you have the right perspective that failing isn't as classically defined a failure. It's an investment. It's an education. So if you look at it in that fashion, that this is a long-term path, and there will be battles won and the wars, hopefully you'll be victorious, but many of the battles lost. It's a little less rough. That said, my first company got to be pretty big, my first major company. We had hundreds of people on different continents. When it tanked due to a lot of different variables, it was a very hard experience to go through. It's gotten a lot easier to deal with that kind of emotion afterwards. But I think the first time you build a company, you get more of your soul imbedded in it, and it's a rougher failure. But if you can get through that and come out the other side, it's pretty good.
Russ: Yeah. So you're now helping companies realize where they're failing on their social media and analytics and all their online platforms. Tell us a little bit about SumAll and kind of the origins of that and what you're looking to do.
Dane: So the origins. We feel that data is a better way to inform your decisions. Big businesses have certainly used information to optimize their plans. There seems to be a growing gap, though, between what small businesses, even what medium-size business have compared to those big guys. As the information multiplies literally every year, there need to be ways that humans can actually access their information in a smart fashion. So we started out creating an experience where you can link up all of your cloud data that you don't normally see into one environment. That's your Google analytics or your Braintree or Authorize or Stripe. And actually look for patterns amongst that data without having to be an engineer or an analyst or any of those sort of heavy lifting jobs. It's deployed against everybody. It seems, obviously we're on a rising tide. Big data's a big tide. But our application is definitely, even though it's far from perfect, we hit some chords. It's growing very nicely.
Russ: I would imaging you're going through that hockey stick growth period right now. You're getting good exposure in the marketplace, mentions everywhere. How are you dealing with that growth, both from a systems perspective, and also how are you dealing with that growth from just time and family and even employees.
Dane: We've been to the hockey stick before, so we're as a team better oriented around the family and organizational structure. What we got really slammed with was the amount of data we ended up onboarding. In the last quarter, we added almost a half trillion impressions. So if you consider your website having 100,000 visitors, we're tracking a half trillion, or 500 billion of them now, across all our customers. And that made us a very big data company and really slammed our infrastructure. So we spent the last quarter somewhat unplanned putting more investment there. It's all slowed down our customer onboarding, which has all been fixed. But it was harder than we expected. Growth can be a lot of fun.
Russ: Now you are famously known in the tech community as the CEO of Squarespace, and I think your value proposition there is really helping companies to avoid that slam, or avoid the effects of the slam. So are you eating your own dog food, drinking your own champagne with the Squarespace platform, or are you leveraging your knowledge there and building a new platform.
Dane: We love Squarespace, so we're still using their platform for our blog. And obviously the expertise of building a scaled infrastructure deployed across everything. I think that Squarespace has had its own hockey stick of growth. We sort of modelled around that kind of environment, but we didn't anticipate sort of the Fortune 1000 enjoying our system as well. So when you get mega sites putting their traffic against us, that was even more than we had initially anticipated, but you're right. One of the secret sauces for Squarespace is that it never goes down, and that it always provides a stable environment for people to look at their sites on. And that's what we're trying to bring over here is that reliable environment where your data is always there, and we've been able to maintain that. It's just been a very sharp hockey stick.
Russ: You said something interesting, which is the Fortune 1000 or fortune 500 are adopting your platform. I think there have been a lot of statistics coming out that the marketing departments will outspend the rest of the company for IT budgets, in their own IT budget. And you're definitely playing into that. Even small guys and large guys that are looking for better or faster or more nimble tools. But you've got an interesting pricing model with SumAll. Why don't you tell us a little bit about that pricing model and how it will evolve.
Dane: So we believe that your own information should be free, because it's yours to start with, and all we're doing is letting you see it. So for most of our lifespan we've been entirely free. And we'll persist with having some affordable application always available to everybody. And now we're trying to figure out how to intelligently price it. We've been doing price testing this last quarter. The trick for us is, to your point, the marketing departments are very heavily engaged now trying to find tools, and we were stunned that giant companies would push all their data towards a little unknown company like us. But it just shows that the frustration is almost universal. Even in big organizations, there's still a lack of visibility, particularly inside the organizations that don't have the engineering analytics around them. So our struggle will ultimately be how do we provide a pricing model that supports a billion dollar business down to the person in scarves. But it's sort of how ad words or analytics or any of those kind of things work, if you adopt that same kind of flexible structure.
Russ: You're also kind of taking on the big gorillas in this space. There are large-scale corporations, some in the Fortune 500 themselves that are interested in this space and trying to deliver, pardon the pun, business intelligence into these organizations. How are you adapting or evolving the market based on what you know about those big gorillas?
Dane: We are very much the antithesis of the big gorillas. Their installations are heavy, deeply integrated, tied into a lot of data points unique to those organizations, very costly. They do provide insights that we don't get to. So they're much better at determining a single individual customer that's scaled through your shopping cart, or in this case through your overall process. We are extremely lightweight, very fast to get going. It's minutes to get all your data into our environment. And provide a more transparent view of everything you're doing, which turned out to be useful to the big companies as well, because I don't think we have that same sort of overview. Even people using tools like Omniture and IBM look to us because they can get a better overview than they can with those tools. We are almost a market opener. So I think the thing that's exciting for the industry is it's obviously growing, but our piece of it is, we're getting people to appreciate data and recognize patterns across different data sets earlier. So they'll see things like weather's impact against sales, or an understanding of how some social traffic actually draws revenue behavior, where other social traffic does nothing. That may not get down to the post level or the atomic level, but it at least encourages the customer to figure out what's going on, and that will drive them to other tools out there. We see tons of our customers getting excited about how to figure things out, and then going to sort of vertical applications to get a deeper dive.
Russ: Do you see yourself evolving the product to bring more business intelligence to the data? Meaning, are you going to look to spot trends for your customers and try to give them alerts, or are you leaving all that kind of analysis up to them?
Dane: It's tricky. We've been looking at algorithms that apply across all of our customers. But the problem is when you have tens and tens of thousands of businesses, they are so varied that it's very tricky to have the same level of intelligence that a customer has about their own information. So what we're doing is, we provide guidance where things are headed. So we do trend analysis, sort of projections of where things are. And we're starting to do pattern recognition against your different data sets to really illuminate patterns. But it's always going to be to a degree up to the customer to cipher out what's really happening. We just want to provide the best practices or the guidelines of what they should be looking at and where insights might lie, what other people have discovered. But no, the customer is going to, hopefully through a nicer experience like ours, be able to determine things that would be very difficult for an application to do on its own.
Russ: I would imagine your tool, like others in the marketplace in various arenas, is very ripe for developing a community that can kind of self-serve. You've seen it with Marketo and SalesForce and others that are providing these very powerful, rich, flexible, fast platforms. Do you see yourself growing into that kind of community model.
Dane: Absolutely. That's another lesson we learned from Squarespace is, you really want to make sure you have enough velocity before you turn the community switch. We're very lucky to have an extremely active population. We're at the point now where with 30,000 active sites, it's pretty easy to turn on a community and expect them to sort of support each other. We're only a year and a half into our application, so we didn't want to do that, but we just had several thousand there. We think that historically the best way to improve your business is to get support around you, that is to get other people to give you their insights and help you drive towards behavior change. So it's definitely part of our road map.
Russ: Speaking of your road map, what else is in the road map? What are you looking at in that three to six month, nine month window?
Dane: Well, nine months in our world is very long. We push a feature pretty much every second day. So the big thing that we're coming out with is we're going to constantly continue to update the amount of streams that you can get, so we have Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, SCO [inaudible 0:12:16], Tumblr, another 10 or 15 expected to come out over the next month and a half, which obviously broadens what you can see in our tool and understand. From a features side standpoint, we're trying to help illuminate what's in there and make it easier for people to get their data out of the system, make it easier for people to analyze what's happening in real time. Even though our graph is in real time, it's ideal looking at it in full time series. We're trying to eliminate what's happening in that moment for folks. Detail out their reports they're getting. There's a lot of features. It's pretty crazy.
Russ: Well, I can tell you from a personal perspective, we've been using the platform. It's very easy to get into. I would encourage everybody to give it a try. It's remarkable how easy it is, and how quickly you can bring your own data into it. Kudos to your team for that, for making it that easy.
Dane: Thank you. Thank you. That's the trick really.
Russ: So you gave me a little bit of hint as to why your studio there looks so goofy with the black tiles. Can you tell us again the history of that room?
Dane: Yes. We're in Soho, which is a great place to have your office. This room was, at least according to Wikipedia, the original recording studio for The Beastie Boys and a lot of other bands. So you can't really see it here, but the ceiling of this whole area is dropped about 2 feet from the ceiling in general, and the floor is also raised. So we sort of reinvigorated and added in a podcasting studio where they do some shows out of here. It's good vibes. It's good energy.
Russ: Have the boys come back to party or anything?
Dane: No. But we'll be sure to send them an invite. We should get them as our background jingle. See if we can [inaudible 0:13:54].
Russ: Now, you're still CEO of Squarespace, correct?
Dane: No. I'm no longer CEO of Squarespace. The original founder is now CEO of Squarespace. I am just the CEO of SumAll. I'm pretty much dedicated to this entirely.
Russ: Obviously, you guys are running at a very, very fast pace. In the hour that you get off a week to focus on other things, what do are you doing personally to kind of relax and have fun.
Dane: That's tricky. These entities at this stage are really very demanding babies. There's not much down time, much at all. I think for my brain, it's usually best to do things that are highly different and much more physical. So either sports like scuba diving, or building things with my hands so I feel a material change, versus just the [inaudible 0:14:47] ones that we play at all day long.
Russ: That's great. I appreciate you taking the time. We've been talking with Dane Atkinson of SumAll. You can find his new application, business intelligence application for small and apparently large-scale businesses at SumAll.com. I do have to ask you one last question. Is the SumAll name a hearken back to the geeky days.
Dane: I'm glad you get it. Not everybody does. It absolutely is. It's the Excel equation, the sum all.
Russ: That's great. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate your time.
Dane: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Russ: This has been Dane Atkinson with the Business Intelligence Group for another SYNC interview. Thanks, Dane.
We recently sat down with Rene Lacerte, CEO of BIll.com to discuss how he differentiates his product in a crowded and complex market. Rene shared his secret which includes his passion for managing bills from both sides of the billing equation - the customer paying a bill and the company generating the bill. His other secret is having a strong foundation in how employees treat other employees and customers. Unlike other platforms, Bill.com is laser focused on helping companies collaborate on the bill so decision making about payments is more efficient. No more searching file cabinets!!! Listen to the interview
Russ: Hi, this is Russ Fordyce from the Business Intelligence Group and today we’re going to do a Big Awards Sync with René Lacerte from Bill.com. You may remember Bill.com. They were a 2012 Big Awards winner, and I’d just like to thank René for agreeing to do this and welcome to the Big Awards Sync.
René: Well, thank you Russ. I’m looking forward to the conversation and thank you for the award last year. It was great recognition for the team and everybody has been excited with all the great stuff you’re doing, corralling the learnings from all the different entrepreneurs and founders that you’re talking to, so thank you.
Russ: I appreciate that. Yeah, absolutely! Tell me a little bit about how Bill.com got started, especially in this online space with … You’ve got all sorts of hungry jackals out there and big gorillas. How did you guys get into this space?
René: It really came from a personal opinion that I felt and experienced when I was running my first company, a company called PayCycle that did online payroll for businesses, but it really goes even back further than that. I am a fifth generation entrepreneur. My dad and grandfather used to teach me all the time that cash is king. Stretch out the payables and pull in the receivables.
When I started running PayCycle in 1999, none of the tools that I had built had Intuit, and I had worked at Intuit on bill payment and bill presentment and I looked at the competitive landscape. None of the things I’d seen or built enabled me to really do what my dad taught me, which was to stretch out the payables and pull in the receivables, and so I had this very cumbersome manual process to do it.
I realized that the web was so much more than just anytime anywhere. It was really all about collaboration. I started thinking about why is it that I’m not using those tools and it always got back to I didn’t have the collaboration that I needed to be able to manage my payables and receivables in an automated fashion. That was the Genesis. I started thinking about that and had a couple of big ‘ah-ha’s’ around how the web enabled that.
Russ: It’s interesting. You have a lot of guys, it seems like, that are in the transaction business and then you have other guys that are in the collaboration business and don’t do the transactions. Is that the sweet spot for you guys, doing both sides of the house?
René: Yes, a big part of it is that in one of those ah-ha moments for me was that the transaction that you might see in your accounting software or your banking system, that’s the tip of the transaction. All the process and the collaboration with people, which might be your employees, your customers, your vendors, with documents, which might be your contracts, your checks, your bills, your cleared check images, all that stuff or systems, which might be your accounting system and banking system, all those things are the collaboration process that is far more critical for making decisions about payments.
We handle the transaction in its entirety and we help you make that decision. We help you collect on those payments that are owed to you and then we integrate with your accounting systems or your banking systems to be able to make the money flow, but it’s everything before you make that decision is where we’re focused and where our expertise is.
Collaboration is key to how businesses manage their back offices that they really are working with lots of people and lots of different systems and lots of different documents to make these decisions. That was the ah-ha moment: the web gave you that ability to share that collaboration instantaneously with the people at the right level.
Russ: You guys actually work both sides of the house too, right? You work on the company side of the house, helping those companies to pull in that data and to do bill presentment. You also work with banks, right?
René: We do. We work with both the accounting systems and the banks and the way we work with the banks is that we enable electronic payments. We enable all the security and fraud measures that typically, they tell me, the Fortune 5000 would get. We make it available for everybody so that their account is protected and more secure than you could ever really do on your own.
We enable all the benefits of an integrated treasury and management solution, which again, the Fortune 5000 companies would have. Most small businesses just don’t have the time to synchronize all that data, upload those types of files, download those exports from the bank.
It is really a contributing factor to our growth is that we are able to make electronic payments a reality. At this point, over 40% of our payments are electronic, and we’ve taken our customers from 0% to 40% in a relatively short period of time.
Russ: You guys are actually unique in that you’ll actually send checks and invoices either U.S. Mail or the electronic method, right?
René: Exactly, one of the ah-ha, again another ah-ha moment, was realizing that paper doesn’t go away overnight. You have to have a bridge to the paperless world. The way we do the bridge is that we will mail a check and we will mail an invoice, if you are a vendor or you are a customer that is not capable of receiving an electronic e-mail or payment. From our perspective this is critical to create that transitory vehicle to help businesses migrate into the 21st century and become, for example, the No-Check CEO, which we have done a lot of talking about.
Russ: What percentage of transactions … I imagine it’s going steeply down towards electronic. What percentage of your transactions today is paper versus bill versus electronic?
René: A little bit over 40% of our transactions are electronic. The typical business is probably at less than 10%, and over 80% of the payments in a typical business are made via check. There are probably another 10% or 15% that are being made via credit card.
We’re moving over $5 billion a year now and 40% of that is purely electronic-to-electronic. The other 60% is electronic to paper and the trend’s improving every month. It is quite interesting just to see if people adopt and really people want to be the No-Check CEO . They want to get rid of their paper. They want to get rid of all the filing cabinets in the office. They want to be able to manage their business from anywhere and make sure their customers and vendors either pay them faster or get paid faster.
Russ: I like your phrase, the “No-Check CEO.” We’ve also been talking a lot about the remote control CEO, and I think that plays into this, where CEOs and management want to be able to manage from anywhere and it sounds like you guys have a great tool to do that.
René: There’s a phrase that I use that I’ve heard some VCs say a while ago, which is that, “With the Internet the noose gets looser, but the leash gets longer.” When I think about my dad’s experience in work, he worked his butt off and then when he got home, he was home, right? He missed a lot of things because he couldn’t do work anywhere but the office.
Whereas, I work my butt off, but if there’s a swim meet, I go to it. If the kid has a play, I go to it. That flexibility, that remote-control-ness of managing your business, whether it’s using your e-mail to give some direction to team members or you’re using something like Bill.com to actually manage the funds flow and the customers and the payables and the vendors that you have. That’s one of the beauties of the Internet. I think you get to do what you want when you want and that’s a lot better than being forced to do what you have to do, when you have to do it.
Russ: Now, you guys really try to sell across all sizes of business. Have you found any one clear trend in what market you’re serving? Is it a very small business or is it the medium-sized or large? Have you honed in on that or is it still widely across all sizes?
René: It definitely is a wide adoption. Thirteen percent of the customers have one employee and 3% are over $100 million in revenue, but we would say that our sweet spot is probably that half a million to $50 million.
What we see is when people start to have more than a dozen, 10, 15 transactions a month that is when they start feeling the pain of managing the the collaboration across the documents and the people in the systems. That’s when we really start to create a tremendous amount of value.
Our average cash customer tells us that they save 50% to 75% of the time it takes to manage their back office and that they get paid two to three times faster. You wouldn’t see that if you only had three bills a month because it’s not that big of a back office, right?
René: When you get to 10 or 15, you start to really feel that pain of the filing and the collaboration with your accountant or whatnot. We do think it’s really anybody with a business can use it. We just think that the sweet spot is half a million to $50 million.
Russ: With this change, you guys have really been growing tremendously over the last several years. How do you start to manage that growth and what does it look like? Are you guys doubling every year? Are you in that kind of hockey stick growth mode still?
René: We definitely are. We have been doubling or a little bit more than doubling every year, and the way you manage at first is you’ve got to have a great management team. There’s no way I can do everything that I used to do. You have to give the responsibility out and do the best you can to give them the direction, and then every now and then you have to stick your finger in and say, “Hey, I’d like to have a little change,” but you have to have a great management team to be able to manage the type of growth that we have.
You have to have started from the beginning with a vision that we were going to grow this way and build a platform so that we could actually add the customers at the rate that we’re adding, move the money at the rate that we’re moving. Those two things, I would say, are the most important for growth is that you have great people. They hire great people and if you have the right vision from the beginning, you’re building a platform that scales and that’s not easy to do. It was actually expensive, in the beginning, to do.
Russ: I guess part of your growth is scaling your infrastructure. Part of it is scaling your team. How do you go about scaling that team? It’s not a linear growth like it is with probably your servers or your customers, but how do you go about growing that team in an efficient way?
René: You have to have confidence that you’re going to grow. Then you have to hire the right person for where you think you’re growing into. I think one of the things that we do at Bill.com is, in addition to hiring, there’s a number of core values that I identified before starting the company and the original founding team got together and made sure everybody was on the same page. Those values are painted on the walls around the office, and we give awards out for those people that represent those values on a monthly basis.
Some of those values really involve communication. We want people to be proactive in their communication. We want them to be dedicated to listening. We want them to be committed to the success of each other and our customers. We want them to be passionate about what they do. We want them to be eager to try and learn new things.
Many of those values are really around how the teams work together. If those core values are in place and you hire to those values, then conversations become easier. It really becomes the growth of the employee and the hiring and the conversations about how to make the team more effective become easier, because people are willing to stand up and be vocal about what’s not working and what is working.
As a result, one of the results of the values is I think people are working here and customers love our products and our support teams so our net promoter score after customers interact with us is high. It’s somewhere around 65 to 70 in any given month. People really do value the openness and the transparency that we provide and that goes back to the core values. I would say at the core you’ve got to have the values because if you don’t somebody else places them.
Russ: What are those core values that are painted up on the walls there?
René: It’s passionate about what we do and the way we do it. It’s dedicated to listening to each other, committed to the success of each other and our customers and our investors, proactive in our communication with each other and our customers and then eager to try and learn new things.
Really, they’re dedicated to listening, they’re proactive in communication. Those two go hand-in-hand, and when you practice them at a management team level or a company-wide level, you do get more openness and transparency and more opportunity for everybody to grow and reach their potential, and that is a core part of what I’m trying to get done here.
Russ: That’s great. Well, I think you’ve passed your presidential moment. You’ve reeled them off without looking at the walls, so congratulations.
René: Okay good.
Russ: It’s the price of milk. We were talking about it earlier. This is a space that is highly competitive. You do a lot of things where folks are coming after you. You’ve got FreshBooks and PayPal and then you have bigger guys out there? How do you stay ahead of all these guys? What are you doing to keep your eye on the trends and what trends are out there that you’re seeing?
René: The interesting answer to me on this is having the right vision from day one. I happen to be cleaning out my desk to make room for more chotskies because we had some more chotskies come through the office, and so I found some old business cards. The original business card that I made at Kinko’s six and a half years ago. The name of the company was CashView then, but it said “Automating payables, receivables and cash management.”
When you mention FreshBooks or you might think about an Intuit or a NetSuite or anybody else, none of them have that as their vision. FreshBooks is all about invoicing. Accounting software companies are all about accounting software and we’re all about that process of automating those things, which have not yet been automated through back office.
When you focus on that from the day that you start and you build a product and a management team and servers all around that vision, there are different competitive advantages that we have that others don’t have because that’s not their vision. When we talk to our bank partners this is something they’re craving having the ability to be involved in the cash management decision with their customer, and they can’t be involved unless you automate payables and receivables and they’re late.
That’s actually why I ended up buying the URL Bill.com is because the word Bill can both mean “Go bill somebody because they owe me money.” and “Did you pay the bills?” Right? It’s an interesting word in that it is spelled the same way but it means different things, depending on the context and so that’s why I wanted the URL and it’s why we feel like we have competitive barriers that we had that original vision that others don’t have.
Russ: What are the trends that you see coming on the horizon? I assume that the paperless world is rapidly approaching, even though Dunder-Mifflin would hate that, but what other trends are you seeing that you’re looking out 12, 18, 36 months, saying “We’ve got to start paying attention to that, maybe start investing in that.”
René: The first I’d say is this 80% of B to B payments are checks. That’s going to change. You’ve got to believe 10 years from now, and it was probably a 10-year process for consumers to adopt online bill payment, but you’ve got to believe 10 years from now that businesses aren’t going to be paying most of their payments via check, right? There are still checks that are going to be around, but there’s going to be a better solution that makes it faster for businesses to pay and get paid. I believe that trend is a really popular one.
I think mobile is a popular one, being able to really capitalize and manage your business from any device. As one example, I don’t log in to my accounting software ever. Maybe once or twice a year because the controller or GP finances out, but I do log in to Bill.com all the time, and if I happen to be on a plane on the runway it will be on my phone. If it’s in a taxi, it’ll be on my phone. If it’s at a dinner restaurant and I’m actually negotiating with a customer, I might want to look at the contract, it’ll be in the bathroom. That mobile thing is really important.
Then I would say the third trend is this notion of social, right? Everything that is social out there on the consumer front is really focused around consumers sharing their personal lives to the level that they’re comfortable sharing.
In the business world, why do businesses do business? They do business to interact and basically exchange money and goods and services, and the collaboration around businesses is all around the bill and the bill. I think that one of the big trends is that vendors and customers are going to want to be able to collaborate with each other with disputes, with additional services they want, with payment timing and payment information.
I think that’s a big trend because as consumers get more and more comfortable with the social media that they’re doing at home, they’re going to expect to have a similar social experience at work, and you just have to translate to that. We’re building a business payments network and we’ve got over … I think we’ve announced, we have over 175,000 members in the network, but that number is growing very fast, and we think that a year from now it’s four or five-hundred thousand. We think two years from now, it’s a million, and at some point when people are in the network and they can exchange and share information whether it’s payments, remittance data, invoices or notes that becomes extremely collaborative and extremely powerful.
We think that’s the trend. I think it’s just going to be different played in the business world than it has been in the consumer world.
Russ: I agree. This mobile and social world is really dynamically changing everything that we do and it will be interesting to see how you guys evolve, as well as everybody else.
René: I appreciate it.
Russ: The million-dollar question I love to ask CEOs like you is … You get an hour off a week usually. What do you do in your off time? Where do you spend your hour off other than the bathroom reading contracts?
René: What’s great about technology is I probably have a little bit more than an hour off, but I do work all the time, but I can do it anywhere, so my priorities at home are being with my kids. I have 10-year-old and an 8-year-old. They are both avid swimmers, and so I go to their swim meets. It’s actually more than … on average it’s probably about an hour a week, but some weekends it’s 16 hours of going to a swim meet.
I like to run. I’m a runner. I play Ultimate Frisbee. I try to take advantage of getting the exercise in because it does give you the energy for the late-at-night work that you end up getting to do.
Russ: That’s great. Well, we will wish your swimmers well.
René: Thank you.
Russ: I spend eight hours a day at swim meets too. I wouldn’t call it a great experience, but you get to see them for about a minute in the pool and that’s great.
René: It is amazing that you’ll go for all day and you’ll see a minute of swimming, but it is a social experience. That’s one thing I do like about it. There are a lot of parents you get to know and so that ends up being a social outlet, and a lot of times I’ll be sitting in the car working with my MiFi, between races.
Russ: What did we ever do without it?
René: Yeah, exactly, you didn’t go to the swim meet. That was why my dad did not see me swim nearly as often as I’ve seen my kids swim.
Russ: That’s great. That’s quality of life for sure. That’s absolutely true. Well I appreciate you taking the time with us. This has been René Lacerte with Bill.com, and hopefully we will see you in the 2013 Big Awards as well.
René: I appreciate that. Thank you for a great interview and lots of great questions. Let us know if there is anything we can do to help.
Russ: Thanks again and everybody keep an eye out for the next Big Awards Sync. Thanks René.
Modern companies need modern tools to stay in touch with customers. With the list of communication tools consumers use growing, "staying in touch" gets harder and harder.
LiveOps CEO Marty Beard knows a thing or two about staying connected with customers. With over 300 companies and 30,000 users using his products, the company serves as the tip of the spear in the explosive growth of multi-channel (cloud, social and mobile) contact centers. Join us as we SYNC up with the 2012 Big Awards Product of the Year winner.
Russ: This is Russ from the Business Intelligence Group and today we’re with Marty Beard of LiveOps. Now, LiveOps was a 2012 winner for their Insight product for Product of the Year of the Big Awards 2012. So Marty, I appreciate you joining me and welcome to the Big Awards Sync.
Marty: Thank you, look forward to being here.
Russ: So you guys have had a tremendous year. You’re in a great space in this kind of contact center that’s emerging with mobile and social and everything. How has it been going in general?
Marty: Awesome. So, you’re right, I mean the market that we’re focused on is really being disrupted by a lot of trends. So call centers sit right in the middle of consumers and brands and they get all the interactions. What’s happening is traditionally those interactions were primarily through voice. Now, it’s also e-mail, it’s web chat, it’s Twitter, it’s Facebook, it’s text, it’s a whole variety of channels that are coming into that, into that call center.
So if you’re in the technology industry and you’re focused on a space that’s really being impacted by these trends, it’s a great place to be and we have a great product addressing that.
Russ: Yeah, and you guys said in between basically the customer and the company, but I guess you described it well. You have all these different channels of communication that the customers are using. Then you also feed into all the channels that your customers are using, you’re using the web, Salesforce, Twitter, all of those things that you mentioned.
Marty: That’s right.
Russ: How do you deal with all the complexity, with all the new channels and new tools being launched literally daily?
Marty: Yeah, no, you’re right. What’s happening is you can think of the end user, they have a customer issue. They’ve got something that they need some kind of support that they’re reaching out for. What’s happening and just increasingly and growing very, very fast is they’re interacting in a variety of ways. One person might call. They might send an e-mail. They might Tweet about their experience. So, really when all of that is coming in at once the complexities around the business intelligence, what do we know about that consumer and also the routing. So you want to make sure that you’re routing that interaction to the right agent. So the agent can actually help this person in the most efficient manner.
So a lot of the complexity, to answer your question is, it’s in the software. It’s in the routing software. It’s in the analytic capability that needs to happen right away in real time. So you understand what the interaction is about and you get that to the right agent so that agent feels like they can help that person have a happy interaction and then move forward.
Russ: So, you came out of the, I guess, the oracle side base, you’ve been in the mobile space for a long time. How did you get roped into this? How did you get roped into call center?
Marty: You’re right, I was in enterprise software for many, many years and also read a large mobile business for many years. The thing I like about call center is it’s one of those very practical environments where everything that we read about in the press about social, about mobile is actually playing out. So this isn’t a theoretical impact or kind of a new buzzy segment. Call centers as I said, they’re right in the middle of tons of interactions on a daily basis. So I could see that cloud technologies we’re going to have a big impact. Obviously mobility, people are on their mobile phone, they’re tweeting about their experience or on an iPad they want to be able to see an agent. All of this was playing out very dynamically.
That was really attractive to me that has a very practical lab, if you will, where these trends are actually playing out and then be with a company like LiveOps to consult that problem.
Russ: Yeah, I would imagine you guys really sit at the forefront of knowing, I guess, the consumer’s choice for their communication path, right? You know exactly--well, I don’t know. I’m sure you do, you’re an analytics company, but you know exactly how many tweets are coming in and how many calls. Mobile and landline might be a little more difficult to determine. What have you seen in overall trends? Obviously mobile is exploding. Where are you seeing that gross curve literally erupting?
Marty: Yeah, it’s a great question. I mean the biggest change is only two, three years ago 95% plus of the customer support interactions were through the phone, mobile or landline, it didn’t really matter. Voice, let’s just call it voice. We’re seeing environments in some of our customers where that has dropped down to 50% and it’s been replaced by tweets, posts on Facebook, a lot of web chat, e-mail, text messages. So you’re seeing this new channels, let’s call it that, growing incredibly rapidly. So you’re not necessarily seeing voice go away or voice decline, you’re just seeing the overall pie of interactions continue to increase and get more complex.
One example is Twitter has had a huge impact on call centers. People grab their mobile device, they tweet very quickly about whether they’re happy or unhappy about an interaction that they have. That’s been growing just at a phenomenal rate, so more interactions, more complex interactions, voice becoming a smaller part of the overall pie.
Russ: So, we’ve talked about Twitter and I’m sure it’s Facebook and Twitter and mobile. What’s on the periphery? What are you seeing on the outside that’s starting to grow? Six months ago or a year ago you would have been like, “There’s no way.”
Marty: Yeah, you hear a bit more and a bit more questions about video. I actually want to see the agent that’s helping me. I want to have a very similar to the interaction that we’re having right now could be somebody, more of a video interaction with the actual agent. In some cases that can be really efficient. So if it’s a question that requires a visual element where a person might actually be able to hold up a device or let’s say show a picture of their TV set or something that’s broken or wrong.
You can imagine that video can be a very efficient way of dealing with that problem. So you hear a bit more about that. Then you hear about other social channels that are coming into play. So for example, LinkedIn be an example or Instagram be an example, just new ways that people are interacting in addition to Twitter and Facebook in the more dominant social channels.
Russ: So as a company, how do you determine when that channel has reached, I guess, maturity enough to bring it into your toolset? Your business development folks are saying this is something that’s on the edge or is it your customers demanding that you start taking pictures from Instagram?
Marty: It’s a good question. One of the challenges when you run a company sometimes if you just wait and tell your staff a whole bunch of customers are saying I need this, maybe you’re a bit late. Sometimes you do have to react to it and you see it in your hotline, your Salesforce is saying, “Hey, we really need this capability.” Also in the case of for example SMS or Twitter, we were really early on that. We just made a bet that social channels and particularly mobile as the device used to create that social channel, like I’m twitting from my cellphone that that was going to really have an impact. We just made that bet and I’m glad we did. Because when we came out of our product notice LiveOps Engage really good timing because it was hitting a need that had already grown.
I think to answer your question, sometimes you’re trying to get out in front of it and you’re making a bet. Other times you’re reacting to things in the pipeline. If it’s becoming big enough you’ve got to react and you need to move.
Russ: So most of your companies or most of your customers you publicly exposed are pretty large organizations with mega call centers. Are you guys looking to bring that market down into the mid market or down even into the small and medium sized business channel? Are you really kind of focused on that enterprise engagement?
Marty: I would say in almost all cases they’re what you call enterprise, but I would say the vast majority of our customers are midsized. By that we define it not so much by the size of the company, it’s the size of the contacts are. It’s the size of their actual customer support organization. So, customers of ours like Symantec, they’re going to have a very large customer contact center, very complex. We deal with all kinds of midsized companies that might have 50 agents, 75 agents and they just happen to have fairly complex interactions, maybe more than just voice. Also, the other thing is they’re just cloud. Like a lot of midsized companies that have already made the decision, they’re not going to do anything on premise they’re going to go cloud. Obviously, we’re a pure cloud provider so that’s a place that we’re going to play very strongly.
Russ: It would be interesting to see how, I guess, the cloud channel kind of takes off in that SMV world to leverage those tools. As you guys have been out there and adopting and moving quickly and really expanding your portfolio quite significantly in products, what are the real challenges for you as CEO to kind of manage that growth and manage that explosion?
Marty: Yeah, that’s a good question. In 2012 we grew almost 80% of this business. We had just explosive growth. I would say this year we’re approaching that growth again. Our pipeline has been expanding very quickly and just our business so that one of the biggest challenges I have is just installing our new customers as quickly as possible. So this is a professional services and operations challenge where you’re having huge success in the field and you want to make sure that you really provide awesome service to those customers. So one of the challenges is just getting business implemented as quickly as possible and then the other challenge is scaling up the infrastructure to handle this new capacity that’s hitting our cloud platform.
LiveOps is just now starting to go international so we’ve been primarily a US focused company. So of course as soon as you start going international that brings new complexities. So it’s a good problem to have. I mean it’s a growth problem that’s kind of like we’re growing. It’s putting pressure on professional services. It’s putting pressure on the infrastructure. We just need to move as quickly as possible. It’s still a problem.
Russ: Yeah, so the infrastructure is an ensuing problem because it generates a linear scale. You add X number of customers you add X new servers. On your operational side how are you dealing with that? Are you optimizing processes and are you just adding heads or are you doing a little bit of both. What’s your mindset on that?
Marty: One of the things you have to do is just preplan for more capacity than you think you’re actually going to need. That’s more of a capital expenditure. Let’s put in more servers that we think we even need right now, because if things keep going this way, we’re going to end up having to need that capacity. There’s that and then obviously, you need to scale up the actual operations team to build a handle on that. LiveOps has been really focused in the last 12 months on building up our sales capability, because again, the demand that we’re seeing, I think we’ve hit the market at a perfect time with the right product. We just needed more feet on the streets. So some of it is capital expenditure and some of it is getting the right people in the right slots and trying to scale up your human capital.
In going international as any CEO knows who starts doing that, you need to be really targeted methodical. If you start spreading too quickly and every market looks good then it gets a little too complex. So we’re trying to be pretty disciplined about which countries we go into so we could be really successful.
Russ: I guess the question I have on that is when you look at that growth and you look at that curve, are you looking six, 12, 18 months out or are you looking at, “Oh my God, I’ve got my pipeline filled and it’s three months?”
Marty: One of the good things about being a SaaS company is you really get very good visibility into your revenue growth and kind of your capacity growth. So you look at your install base and you can project that out pretty accurately. Then you’re looking at your pipeline and what you think your conversion rate is going to be up with those customers etc. We’re at least looking out 12, 15 months in terms of planning for what kind of impact to capacity that is, a company that we need to have to be able to manage that growth. It’s an ongoing process.
LiveOps has been around for ten years. We’ve had a lot of experiences. Like every company, you did some things well, you did some things not so well, you’ve learned a lot. I think we’re pretty lean and pretty efficient on the way we go about those.
Russ: So you mentioned scaling up your sales operation. I did notice on the website and reading through the material that you’ve got a reseller offer and a channel offer. Has that been around since the inception and how that’s going and kind of what percentage of sales are you expecting out of the channel?
Marty: We’d like to get to the point, to answer your last question, ideally we see getting to where maybe 50 to 60% of our revenue is direct and then 40 to 50% is indirect or channel. The company has not been that channel focused in the past. Clearly there’s a huge opportunity for us to do that, so we’ve been working really closely with partners like XO Communications which is a big Telco partner, Telecommunications partner. It’s been very successful for us. We’re just now starting to really put a lot of focus on our channel organization.
The end of this year, I think I start bumping into maybe 20% of my revenue coming through the channel and then I can see going into next year that gets up into the 30 plus percent range and we just keep moving forward. I think I’m always selling direct, but I think I’m also selling indirect over the long term.
Russ: So the XO relationship is interesting because I think the large carriers have been pretty dominant in this space since the inception. They’ve been delivering the systems and the platforms to these call centers. How do you deal with that complexity? I mean I’m sure XO has their own call center product. How do you deal with that? You’re up against the likes of AT&T and Verizon and XO.
Marty: Like in the case of XO, so if you’re a telecommunications provider, your challenge is you’re trying to find value above and beyond just your connectivity services, right? In the case of LiveOps I’ve got all the software and I’ve got the application suite, but I need really strong connectivity. So it’s a no-brainer partnership, no-brainer marriage. XO is great because they’re very aggressive and they’re very focused. So they see us as their contact center partner. We see them as kind of a great small to midsized connectivity partner and we just go to market. We do many, many deals with them per quarter. So it’s been very successful.
I also think unlike maybe Verizon or AT&T they just move fast. The market’s moving fast. As we started this conversation call centers are going through a lot of change, SaaS and cloud companies are experiencing high growth, we’re no different. We just need to move very, very fast because the demands are. So I think we would love to have a variety of partnerships very similar to the XO partnership and maybe don’t need to have those super big partners. Maybe we can just focus on that faster moving more nimble partnerships.
Our software and having a cloud delivery model makes it pretty easy to partner with us. There’s not a lot of training. There’s not a whole lot of--it’s fairly easy for them to understand what we do and to be able to demo it. It’s kind of like, “Do you have a browser?” “Yes.” “Okay, I can demo it.” It’s a very easy product to sort of describe and sell, so that helps.
Russ: Yeah, I always wonder what a contact center manager 20 years ago would look at the systems we have today and head to head would pop up.
Marty: No, it’s funny you say that. The install base of technology from for example Enovia or like a Genesis and some of the more traditional on premise players, it’s out there, right? It was invested in, like you said, 15, 20 years ago. It’s good. It does a good job, but the problem is that it’s primarily voice oriented. It’s expensive. It’s on premise. So all the reasons in the other technology segments companies are looking at cloud applied here. Cloud can get moving faster. We can upgrade our software faster. We can release quicker.
So for example, if I want to add video or let’s say I want to add LinkedIn, it’s a lot easier for me to do that than it would be for Enovia to try to update some on premised gear to be able to handle that. I think having said that, it’s out there. It’s installed. It’s doing its job around voice, so there’s a way to go for this migration to go all the way to cloud, but it’s heading that way.
Russ: Yeah, there’s definitely something to be said for that second mover’s advantage. I look at it in lots of industries where you get the benefit of time and you also get the detriment of time that you haven’t been earning that revenue. You definitely get the benefit of time to make those improvements. If XO is not your competition who is? Who is out there doing similar things if it’s not the carriers?
Marty: So, I think, like I said, if the competition is a customer that just won’t get off their on premise old gear, then that would be a company like Enovia. For companies that have said, “Look, that’s not going to work for me. I need to move cloud and you’re just going into pure cloud,” there are companies like inContact is a competitor of ours that tries to come at it in a somewhat similar fashion. They don’t have near the multichannel strength that we do, but they come from a telephony background, so they’re good on the connectivity and some of the traditional voice software. So that would be a cloud competitor that we would go against. Again, in that case we’re going to focus on our multichannel capability and our understanding of mobile and social and so forth.
Russ: Yeah, this seems like one of those things that you could cobble together three or four or five different services and kind of have a solution. It makes perfect sense to bring it all into one dashboard frankly.
Marty: Right. Correct. So what we try to do is say, “Look, let’s have one code that is focused on an integrated suite of applications for the contact centers.” So we want to the agent who is sitting in front of the screen to be able to see all of those channels, voice, e-mail, chat, Twitter, Facebook, SMS very cleanly on one screen and be able to navigate and pivot between those screens as necessary. So that was the view we took, because if you ever watched an agent in action, they’ll have one screen for voice, and then they’ll try to launch another screen to deal with an e-mail interaction and then another screen to be able to do Twitter interaction. In some cases they’ll have 15 screens in front of them. It’s just way, way too complex.
So we’re very focused on if you make the agent experience good and they feel empowered and they feel like they can do their job well, then the end user or whoever it is and whatever channel they’re on, they’re going to feel well taken care of. That’s a good thing. That’s good experience. So that’s very much the vision we’ve taken is let’s make the agent really powerful and make it simple easy to use. That’s what we’ve done.
Russ: Yeah, and I’ve seen all too often that scenario that you’re talking about. Usually there’s a yellow pad or a spiral bound notebook on the desk which is getting all their notes too and that’s no good either.
Marty: Yeah, we did a survey recently with a company called Harris Interactive was our partner in this, the Harris pool and so forth. We went on and we interviewed a bunch of agents and one of the conclusions we came to is something like 25% of their time is spent navigating those screens that you just mentioned. If you quantify that, you’re getting into the tens of thousands of dollars of just kind of wasted time.
The other thing that was interesting is we interviewed end users. If the end users perceive that an agent is “unhappy” then they start having negative associations with the actual brand and they feel, “The agent is not happy. They’re not feeling good about their job. I’m not feeling good about my interaction here.” Agent happiness is very much perceived by the end user. So you want that experience when you’re talking to an agent they know you. They feel good. You can tell they feel good. They’re providing you good service. All that actually translates into a better ROI for everybody. So it’s very fascinating when we do these interviews and these polls. You can learn a lot about what people are actually experiencing.
Russ: Yeah, it’s great to hear companies like yours that are doing that kind of primary research which is fantastic. I applaud you for that. I know you’re a busy guy. I imagine you’re spending 80 to 100 hours a week at the office trying to figuring all this stuff out and figure out where you go next. That hour or two that you get off a day or a week or a month what are you up to?
Marty: I try to pretend that I’m a good tennis player. My place to go concentrate on stuff that’s not work is out on the tennis court. I kid myself that I’m better than I actually am. I love doing that and spending time with my family, just trying to be focused on having some fun and just getting some exercise and so forth because you’re right. In today’s world it’s always there.
Russ: Yeah, well, unfortunately I think you’re one of the guys making it always there.
Marty: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. I’m enabling my own, yeah, good point, good point.
Russ: Well, Marty, I appreciate you spending the time with us today. We really enjoyed having you. We wish you all the luck in the 2013 year. It looks like you guys are really off to a banner year.
Marty: Okay, great. Thanks so much.
Russ: Thanks for joining us. This has been Marty Beard from LiveOps. He is the CEO and 2012 Big Awards winner for product of the year for their LiveOps in site product and we’ll see you next time. Thanks everyone.
Our SYNC Interview with Scott Knoll, CEO and President of Integral Ad Science
We sat down with Scott Knoll, the CEO and President of Integral Ad Science. The company works with advertisers and publishers to improve the quality of the overall user experience by better matching ads to quality content. It is not just about targeting ads, it is about making sure that the content the ad is shown on is both relevant and meets the criteria set by the advertiser. Scotts example is: you would never want to see a car ad, next to a story about a car crash!
Russ: Good afternoon everyone this is Russ Fordyce from the Business Intelligence Group. Today we’ve got a really exciting interview with Scott Knoll of Integral Ad Science. They were a 2012 Big Awards winner for Product of the Year back when they were known as Ad-Safe and they’ve recently done a rebranding so we’ll hear from Scott about that. Thank you Scott for joining us and I appreciate you taking the time out of your day.
Scott: Thanks for having me. I look forward to chatting.
Russ: Tell me a little bit about how you guys started Ad-Safe and kind of the origin of the company. What was the original mission?
Scott: Sure, first of all I joined a couple of years into the company so I wasn’t part of the founding team so I can’t take credit for everything that was done. Certainly, the early work is what interested me in joining. The concept from the beginning of the company was-there was industry awareness around the problem with ads ending up on pages that were not intended to. It’s the car ad next to the car crash or your ad ends up on a pornography page and the brand is upset and the people associated with that placement are upset.
The reality is in the marketplace as we’ve shifted from buying by traditional media buying television show or tickets or magazines or a website to targeting audience; we’ve kind of lost control of where our ads are ending up. At the time that this awareness was generated in the industry around this it was all just after the fact awareness.
It was a report that pointed out the problem. What Ad-Safe recognized was that it was a problem for not just the buy side, but the sell side as well. A lot of times the sell side would be selling inventory they didn’t have control over and therefore had the same problems that everyone had. The original solution was let’s instead of just reporting on the problem, let’s come up with a way to stop it from happening.
The original technology which still exists today and is increasingly important on a daily basis is technology that before that an ad is served actually looks at the page and makes sure that the page is appropriate under the definition of what the advertiser wants and then only delivers it if it’s appropriate.
Russ: Yeah, so that’s kind of the secret sauce, right? Is getting I guess the quality and the audience right so that the ad performs for the purchasers …
Scott: Yes, although with the safety it’s making sure that the page itself is reflective of what the brand is looking for so if it’s an illegal download site for example most brands don’t want to be associated with something illegal so regardless of whom that person is they just don’t want to be next to something that’s illegal.
Scott: There’s profanity-certain brands-family brands in particular want to make sure they’re not next to some article with hate speech or profanity.
Russ: Yeah, I imagine you don’t have a team full of quality checkers that are in New York or in the Philippines.
Scott: I laugh because a lot of times that was the original approach to it and it’s …
Russ: I imagine.
Scott: The scale is just too big and you need to be so granular looking at every single page because even with a big portal that has lots of inventory-some sections are on celebrity gossip and there might be some moron-you know young hip-hop music and there might be some profanity used or racial slurs used that you don’t want to be associated with so you have to have a machine learning type technology that can scan billions of pages and to date we’ve scanned almost like 10 million pages and [inaudible 0:04:09.3]
Russ: Are you doing that on a real-time basis or are you doing it kind of-are you indexing those pages –aka-Google and storing those results so that you know that’s a friendly page?
Scott: The story that I haven’t talked about yet is we do more than just ad safety now and some of the new stuff we’ll do on a real-time basis. In terms of ad safety we pre-score everything and it’s constantly updated so inventory that changes on an hourly or daily basis like a news site will continually call it to get the latest information. There’s no way for us to look at the comprehensive information that we do and do the complicated analysis that we do in time during an ad call to make that decision. So it’s something that we look at in advance.
Russ: You’re no stranger to this space-you’ve been in kind of advertising and technology for a long time-how long have you been with Integral?
Scott: I joined about exactly two years ago, but your point-I was at DoubleClick in 1998 and before that I was at Time, Inc. during some really early days on ad stuff so I’ve seen this industry go through a lot of changes. Most recently I was at a company that I had started called Aperture where we focused purely on audience targeting and trying to gather as much data as we could on the person based on purchase behavior, surfing behavior-some offline data that we could bring on anonymously online. What I learned in that was a couple of things-one is-it’s really hard to scale with data like that-particularly in some of these exchanges. Also I learned that it can be really inefficient to pinpoint just on the audience if you don’t know where the ad is ending up. Not only is it potentially dangerous where your ad ends up on a pornography page-which by the way when I was selling media as part of Aperture-I ran into those issues and they’re not fun to deal with when you get a call from the CEO of a company very angry particularly when you had no idea that that had happened either. I understood the problem but also what I understood is that a lot of ads are well-intended where you have the right person and you’ve done a lot of analysis ahead of time to note exactly the browser that you want to focus on but a lot of ads are just completely missed because they’re one of 30 ads on a page, they’re on a page with all kinds of other bright graphics and movies and other stuff going on or they’re just-you know it’s not a page that people necessarily spend a lot of time looking at or trust, therefore well-intended ad but totally misses the mark because it’s not in the right environment.
Russ: You mentioned that you’re working with ad buyers are you also working with the content providers in the site themselves to make sure that you’re calling appropriately? Are you working both sides of the equation there?
Scott: Yes, some of it is the quantities but more of it is just helping them solve these same issues. As I’ve said from the beginning with Ad-Safe before I joined recognized that this was a problem for both the buy side and the sell side. Half of our business is on the buy side and that’s working with agencies or direct with marketers. The other half of the side is the salespeople were selling inventory and so half our business comes from that side to help them. Its helping them understand to keep away from areas like unsafe inventory, fraud is another issue that even the sell side struggles with that we help them with. Also just understanding like what parts of their inventory works better based on where the layout of the page is and helping them understand how to value that and sell it more appropriately.
Russ: You guys are obviously in this kind of leading-edge technology. You’re developing this technology, how many other competitors are out there that you’re looking at or that are doing similar things either on the buy side or sell side. Are there other guys gunning for you?
Scott: We don’t know of any. I kind of joke but certainly there are-when we look at the playing field and we look at what we do we essentially compete in four areas and we see some competitors who do some of what we do like we’ll compete against one area or another but it’s interesting when you look at those four different areas and they’re essentially high-level-it’s measuring, it’s attribution, it’s the analytics decision and then the targeting decision. Of those kind of four areas there’s no competitor who we compete in each of those four. We think we’re very unique in how our approach to the marketplace. Even where we compete on people say in the real-time bidding or data for programmatic buying which I call targeting; everyone else’s approach is very much context-based. Let’s look at the words on the page and figure out what they mean and should we target based on whether it’s appropriate or contextually relevant. That’s one part of what we do-we combine so many other elements to the page, where the ads are, was the ad in view, how long was it in view, what was it in view, were there other images on the page, is the html code professional, was it written by someone in a garage with some sort of automation tool-all this data that we bring in decides the words-are so important to understanding-is this the right ad to target or not.
There’s no one else who’s looking at it from that perspective. I think it’s changing a little to be honest with you because I think the sentence market has been so focused on cookie data-which essentially is audience data that all the investment you look at from-you look at the lumen chart-almost all the investments are on people who are trying to aggregate more data or bring more data into play around an audience.
There’s almost nobody doing what we’re doing-which is the other piece of it-which is where an ad is going to be and from what we see in every single test we’ve done, every single kind of engagement we’ve done-that’s actually the most important piece-which is the actually have to see the ad for enough time in an environment where it gets their attention and they trust in order to have any impact at all. If you don’t get that right I don’t care how granular your charting is, I don’t care how much you pay for this cookie that has the exact history of buying you’re looking for. In a skin market absolutely, if they’re not going to see it-it doesn’t do you any good.
Our whole industry has been built on just trying to find the right person-we’ve forgotten about the fact that most of the time this ad is actually not seen or not seen in the right environment. That’s a big piece of-big, big important recognition that this industry is waking up to right now and realizing.
Russ: I guess that you’ve been in this space-I won’t say so long-but 1998 is pretty long-I guess we’ve lived through the banners, we’ve lived through kind of this-you know the text-based ads that Google has gotten into and others. How do you view the ad market changing in the next three to five years? Obviously mobile’s at play here-but how do you view it changing? I think we-I would imagine over time that the banner click through rate has either declined or stayed the same so how do you see that evolving over time?
Scott: It’s interesting when you put it that way because I looked back to the early days and some of the stuff that we’re talking about then are becoming a reality now so I think the vision was always there-it takes a long time to get there from a technology perspective-from an execution from a proliferation perspective so everyone’s using it. In general what we’re seeing-if you look at from a high level-what we’re seeing is an industry that started out with a little automation is becoming very automated and it’s really important that this happens because one of the challenges with online advertising is it is so complex in terms of the choices. Forget about the technologies you can use to understand whether it’s working-just starting with your choices. Television, even with cable, you’re limited in the number of choices you have.
Obviously print-the same thing and these are where the big marketers are used to spending. You go online and even if you say alright I want to buy women between 30 and 40-there’s still a hundred thousand websites that probably reach that sector-so let alone mobile versus whether you do a video ad versus other social and other ways to reach people in digital. There’s this big amalgamation of things we call digital-it gets more complicated every year as there’s new ways of reaching people and new ways of selling it.
It’s so hard to make decisions that if we don’t automate that-we’re never going to move this industry forward. The automation is really important-what we’re starting to see and where we’re going to change over time is initially the automation that runs around simple things that we can measure. Click-through-as you mentioned, the big automation now is around Last Touch. We have to find a way-we realized that click though isn’t a good measurement to get credit on. Most people don’t actually go to an ad click on it and go buy. It takes a while to sink in that they want something so how do we give credit?
We come up with this idea that’s called a view-througher or last touch credit where you try to go through the path that someone went to before they actually bought something and give everyone some credit along the way. In order to do that in a simplistic way or a way that you can make it work in the industry-you essentially you just sprinkle credit around or give the most credit-most people do-to the last place they saw an ad before they went to Google and converted it.
Whereas in that makes sense because it’s simple and you can anchor decisions on it. It’s really easy to gain and it’s a partial view of what’s actually happening. We’ve automated-but we’ve automated around the wrong things. Automation around the wrong things can create all kinds of problems-one in particular-like fraud-the reason for fraud is because we’ve automated around the wrong thing-that’ll ask people to game and creates this nefarious activity that hurts the industry.
I think as the industry moves forward we’re going to see more automation-I think that’s really, really critical for the reasons I stated earlier. But then automation around more than just one thing-automation around more holistic viewpoint of what’s working and more data sets to better automation. That makes sense.
Russ: Do you see the format of advertising changing at all?
Scott: I think in part of this it does. Again, the reason the format or the reason someone has an interest in moving from one format to another is because they look and see did it work or not? If you don’t-getting that right-did it work or not-you’re not necessarily going to move into the new formats that are working better. Again I use the example that we work with some clients or you read articles in the industry and there’s a very simple conversation going on right now on the surface- yet very heated debate-does an ad in view matter or not.
There are people that will vehemently argue that an ad doesn’t have to be in view to work. In fact ads that aren’t in view actually work better and on the surface you listen to that and you’re like what? That doesn’t make any sense yet their adamant in their argument and they show that their conversion rates and ultimately their ROI goes up when they buy inventory that’s not in view.
Until we recognize that there’s a measurement problem not a targeting problem or not just a targeting problem but also a measurement problem in deriving whether someone’s successful or not is going to be hard to figure out exactly what works the best. We say banners don’t work-we actually don’t know that-we just know the way we’re measuring it-a lot of banners don’t work.
Ultimately though I do think that as we’re looking at new things like what we’re talking about-the right environment-we’re going to find an equilibrium between the reach and the right environment where an ad is definitely seen in the right format that’s actually going to persuade someone to purchase something in the future.
I don’t think we know what that is yet. I think that there-again it’s so easy-unlike television where you essentially have one choice; you take up the whole screen and it’s just a matter of how long it’s in front of them-we have so many infinite choices right now-we’re still trying to figure out how to do that and how to standardize it but absolutely it will change.
Russ: I appreciate that. We’ve been focused on I guess talking with CEOs like yourself-a kind about it that the explosive growth curve that a lot of the companies are going through-especially the startups and I imagine you guys as well-how do you manage that kind of hockey stick growth as you guys get to run rate.
Scott: It’s a great question in one that you think you master and then-cause I’ve been through some heavy, crazy startup times-like DoubleClick-I was there from 150 people to 2,000 people in a two year period. It’s always challenging-we’re here-I joined when we were 15 people-we’re now 80 something people-we’ll have over 100 people soon and it’s-and we’re in the US now we’re in multiple countries-Europe and Asia and it’s never easy-it’s exciting, it’s fun to be part of; at the same time-you know quickly people are stretched and you realize that a lot of times you have people in roles who have never taken on responsibility managing-you are now managing big teams. I think that you know from my kind of experience and lessons I’ve learned part of it is just you can never communicate enough and even if you think you’re communicating enough it’s probably not nearly as much as you need to.
I think it’s just also trying to simplify the company’s message-not just externally but internally and just continually reinforcing that because as you’re growing one of the dangers of you’ll get into as a company is becoming unfocused because there’s like so many shiny new pennies out there that you could go after and so many new businesses that you can pursue because every conversation you have with a client or potential client leads to oh could you also do this for us, can you do that for us. You can’t focus and make sure that if you are doing something it’s not far from your core-that’s when you lose control of everything …
Russ: I imagine for you guys that’s even more of a problem for most-you’re working with some very large brands and the types of revenue I would imagine you’re getting from a few customers is pretty significant so I imagine they’re bringing you kind of adjacent to your core pretty regularly.
Scott: Absolutely, not just brands but also data technology companies who are helping power some of their solutions so it’s true and I think it’s also again-it’s not like you’re never going to do something that’s out of your core but you got to be very careful with your bets and what goes into that criteria-part of it is strategic, important part of it is revenue and part of it is just what is the opportunity cost of if we’re going to do this what are we missing out on.
We’re constantly looking that and evaluating it and I got to say something its gets harder-you know a year ago it was hard now it’s even harder because now we have triple the number of conversations we had a year ago and then triple the number of opportunities on top of that. It’s a constant struggle but you know at the end of the day that’s what keeps me excited and keeps me going. If I don’t think I had that-If I didn’t like that I wouldn’t be in this role. It definitely takes a certain personality to want to do that.
Russ: You guys have expanded your product portfolios significantly over the last two years and as you mentioned before it was Ad-Safe a security product to begin with and now you’ve got those other three arms that you’re talking about. Were those largely inspired by client engagements or did you see a need in the market or how did those come about?
Scott: That’s a very good question. It’s both-it’s inspired by everyday conversations we have with clients and seeing the challenges. It’s inspired by all the data we’re collecting and we’ve got a big data science team who’s looking at data saying oh my God only 20 percent of these ads are in view-how come-and digging into the details to figure out like what are the factors-to give you an example-view-ability-that’s a symptom of other problems. We dig into those problems to see what those are. Then part of it is just understanding at a very high level what are the challenges of this industry. What’s holding his industry back and then figuring out based on what we see-the data we see and what we do-how we positively affect that?
Part of that came from my old job when I was at my old company Aperture I was frustrated by scaling issues, I was frustrated by how inefficient exchanges were. I thought ultimately cookies are not the way to go. We got to find another way to target-we have to find another way of making advertising decisions that aren’t relying on a small sample of the inventory out there.
Our big vision is-what we’re probably-using a baseball analogy in terms of what we’re doing-we’re probably in the second inning of a nine inning game that might go into extra innings. We’ve got so much we want to do. That goes back to your challenge of you said about growing fast and making decisions. I can’t go fast enough in terms of more stuff we want to put out but at the same time we got to make sure that what we have out works and is successful.
Russ: You’re a pretty motivated guy-we’ve seen that here today. In the hour you get a week of downtime what are your interests and what are your passions?
Scott: Also that hour depends on what’s going on but I’ve got two little girls so they definitely take up a lot of that time and more than an hour as if you have children you’ll know. I’m told by my wife that I should do more age appropriate things but I’m also trying to do an ultra-marathon in two weeks from now which I’m behind in the training. I’m a big flat fisherman and the season just started so I’m trying to get out in the water. Can’t get everything I want done but certainly that’s on my wish list.
Russ: I wished you a nice unplugged weekend in Montana somewhere then to get the rods out.
Scott: I appreciate that.
Russ: Scott, I appreciate you taking the time. We’ve been interviewing Scott Knoll of Integral Ad Science formerly Ad-Safe. They were a 2012 Big Awards winner for their product of the year. We wish you continued success and really appreciate you joining us today and thank you for your time.
Russ: My name is Russ Fordyce, and I’m here today with Jon Miller from Marketo. Jon is the VP of Marketing for Content and Strategy, and we are going to talk to him today about his experiences in the business world, and building on a SAS platform. Jon, I appreciate you joining us today.
Jon: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Russ: You guys started in 2007, when you and Phil Fernandez started the company. How did you guys first meet?
Jon: I’ve been in marketing software for pretty much my entire career. I originally was an undergraduate in physics, and decided to give a try to the whole business world. I got into management consulting, which ultimately over a series of jobs led me into software, and I ended up at a company called Epiphany in 1999. Epiphany was one of the leaders in, originally analytic software, marketing software, and CRN, through kind of the internet bubble. I was there from ’99 until the company got sold at the end of 2005, and that’s where I met Phil. He was the President and Chief Operating Officer of Epiphany.
When we sold the company in late 2005, he and I just started talking about the fact that we knew there was an opportunity for marketing software, because we’d been doing it at Epiphany, he’d been doing it at Metaphor, I’d been doing it before that, but that the category had never taken off. It has always been essentially too expensive for most companies; too hard to buy, too hard to use. Back in ’05 marketing software was only in the hands of some of the largest organizations in the world. When we left the company we started saying, “You know what? There ought to be a company, a solution that provided the marketing software and the power that we were doing at Epiphany, but that was easier to buy, easier to own, and easier to use.” That’s sort of what ultimately led to Marketo.
Russ: You guys took on a big gorilla in the market, which was Eloqua at the time. They were by far the leader in the market. It was kind of like taking on one of the other big boys like Microsoft today. Did that intimidate you at all?
Jon: I would disagree with that characterization, that they were a big gorilla in the marketplace, especially in 2006. I’d actually think they were the perfect size of competition to have, because they were big enough; I think at the time maybe they were 15, 20 million of revenue. They were big enough that they had started to help define the market and to evangelize that there was a need for this kind of technology. They did a great job of evangelizing it in Silicon Valley high-tech companies, but they weren’t a massive, dominant company, and frankly we could build a better solution because we were able to build something that was easier, more affordable, and delivered a faster time to value.
If I were to speak to anybody about starting a company, I would say that’s almost the perfect market, where there is a competitor big enough to define it, but not so big that they’re hard to beat.
Russ: That’s a good analogy. You guys actually use your own platform to generate revenue. From speeches I’ve heard from you and from Phil, you guys are eating your own dog food. Tell me what you guys are doing to bring in the leads using the platform, and what’s working and what’s not.
Jon: Well I hate the expression, “Eating our own dog food”, because this stuff tastes a lot better than that. I like to use the expression, “Drink your own champagne”, so that’s what we do. We are probably the most sophisticated user of Marketo, if not marketing automation, probably on the planet. I could go into lots of detail about all the different things we do, but I think probably the most interesting and salient point is that we never stop in terms of building, evolving, computer rating, adapting how we use the technology. In a lot of cases the technology gets better as our friends in engineering develop more and more functionality, but at the same time we are always tweaking that lead-nurturing campaign, adding another track, testing out a new email, trying a different lead-scoring rule -- you name it.
What we have today is the byproduct or the result of six years of evolution, and adaptation, and agile development of our use of marketing automation. I think that’s just the way to go. Don’t try to build everything upfront. Start with some(thing) small, and then evolve, and iterate, and adapt. Does that make sense?
Russ: It makes perfect sense. Are you guys one of the main product developers of the system? Are you putting those inputs back into the product development shop, and kind of giving them the tips and tricks, and new pieces of technology that you want?
Jon: Certainly we as a group, and me personally, are highly involved with the product management team to help kind of specify what the functionality should do. That’s a real luxury. Most companies don’t get the luxury of being core users of their products, and having the ability to just go talk to a customer any time, and therefore kind of get that direct input and real-world usage data. We certainly are the data tester for everything that Marketo does, which helps.
It is important to point out that we are not the only customer, and our needs are not the only sets of needs out there. We have over 2,000 customers, so the product management team’s job is to certainly listen to what a sophisticated user like us needs and wants, and make sure that we’re delivering on that high-end of the market, but at the same time recognize that there are a lot of other customers that are not as sophisticated as we are, and making sure that we’re delivering their needs as well.
I think a lot of vendors only listening to the sophisticated customer, and that results in building a product that is more, and more, and more complicated over time. Yes you want to serve that high-end, but you’ve got to recognize the fact that if you don’t keep that laser focus on usability at all times, then your customers just won’t get there.
Russ: That’s a good comment. Your platform is really designed so that really any size business can use it. Where are you guys finding your sweet spot? Is it small business mid-market enterprise?
Jon: I think one of the things that makes Marketo special is the fact that we’re able to serve multiple markets. If you look at the competition you tend to see competitors that focus only on very small businesses in the low end of the market, or you see other vendors that really try to compete only in the large end of the enterprise. Marketo has customers that are fewer than ten employees, and I think we are as easy to use and as affordable as anybody as a server of that low end of the market. That’s what we were founded to be: a fast, easy, affordable solution.
Then we also have some of the world’s most sophisticated, complex organizations as our customers. We have many, many multi-billion dollar revenue companies. We have the power and sophistication to serve their needs. What great about that, as I sort of alluded to earlier, it means that we can get a small company -- any company -- up and running quickly, but then evolve and adapt as they grow in their usage and maturity.
There is a floor in terms of how small is appropriate for us. I don’t think that has to do with the technology, I think it has to do with what you put into using the technology. If you don’t have the resources on the staff to use this stuff, it ends up being like a Ferrari that you never take out of the garage. It ends up being overblown email. I would say that the smallest company that would use a technology like ours is a company that has at least one full-time marketer on staff. Somebody who wakes up and thinks, “My job is marketing for this company.” That’s not going to be the corner store or the deli or the florist, because they typically are owner-operators and don’t have that kind of full-time marketing person. Once you get up to a company that has at least a little bit of scale to have a full-time marketer, that’s where we start being appropriate.
Russ: How do you manage that complexity? I know over time a lot of systems go from being that simple, kind of easy-to-use platform, and over time they get more complex because you have larger customers with more complex needs. How are you and the product shop managing those balancing acts between giving that uber functionality and then keeping it simple and pure? Kind of iPhone and Android.
Jon: I think that is one of the core competencies of Marketo. We like to say, “Making everyday tasks really easy, and making the more complicated tasks possible.” Probably the most important thing to say is when we started the company the first person we brought in from the outside was a senior user experience architect from Intuit. Intuit knows about making complicated stuff easy: your taxes, your accounting. We applied those same ideas and same principles that they’ve learned over the years of doing rigorous user testing, and applied that to our own user experience. Making sure that we’re always thinking about, “Is this learnable? Is this discoverable? Is this easy to use?”
Russ: For companies that might be watching, your core product is really kind of an email marketing platform. As companies like yours grow even more popular, and as new entrants come into the market, the kind of proliferation of email is even expanding. How do you deal with the critics that kind of say you’re just spam; you’re another spambot or enabler of spam?
Jon: First of all, I wouldn’t describe us as an email solution. We are a marketing on a [inaudible 00:11:46] solution, which means that we are at the core, come with a rich marketing database that really knows who all your customers are, integrates with CRN if you have it, but more importantly connects in that behavioral history and marketing history. You know what campaigns people respond to, what pages they visit, what links they click, what keywords they use, and what kind of content they share socially. You have all this data to then build this rich view of who they are, and what they want, and where they are in their buying cycle. As a result I think you actually get from this kind of technology a much more powerful way to create interactions that are actually relevant and engaging with your prospects, much more than you get from traditional email. It lets you align your marketing to where they are in their buyer’s journey. If they’re not showing any buying signs, don’t send them promotional contents about your company. Send them early-stage education. They’re going to find that more interesting. Marketing automation lets you do that, and therefore you’ll have a better relationship.
Because you know the content they like and what they download, you can send them more relevant content based on their interests. You can get the timing more accurate with real-time messages that respond as soon as they do something, as opposed to setting it upon a batch-and-blast based upon where you are in your campaign. Perhaps at least for B-to-B segments, one of the things that’s best about it is it keeps the salespeople away when they don’t want to get called. Spam is when a salesperson nails me, saying, “Hey, you don’t know me but I’d like to talk to you about our product”, as opposed to what marketing automation lets you do. You build that relationship over time, then sales only hooks up when it is ultimately relevant.
Russ: I think that’s a good differentiation.
Jon: Maybe the problem is the word “automation”. I think it connotes images of factories and machines that are very impersonal, but in reality this is a technology that is about making your marketing more personal and more relevant. The trick is to do it at scale, right? Because you’re not building a relationship with one person or ten people, you’re doing it with thousands or millions (depending on your database). That’s the trick. That’s why it’s automation and technology; to let you be relevant and personalized to a very large group.
Russ: Kind of following on with that, you guys started in 2005, 2007 when the web was coming of age. We’re now seeing this massive shift to mobile platforms, texting, IM, and everything else in the world -- Google hang-outs like this. How are you guys evolving a platform and evolving a business to bring in those communication channels, and what are you doing on that side of the house?
Jon: Again, to us email has always just been a channel. The way we think about this is that at the core we have a database -- the marketing database I talked about -- so that we know who the customer is and what they’re interested in, we have the workflow engine that lets us architect-out the dialogue, the conversation, the process with the customer. We have the channels. Email is a channel. A social referral campaign is a channel. SMS is a channel. A salesperson making a phone call is a channel. Lastly we have the analytics so that you can measure across all those things: what’s working, what’s driving revenue, and so on.
To answer your question, as marketing evolves, as new channels become popular, as new techniques come online we have to do two things. The first is we need to make sure we have data and insight from that channel in our marketing database. For example, we build something so that if you tweet something out that has a relevant keyword that we might be interested in, we can see that, pull that in, and use that maybe to change your lead score, or to adjust what marketing you’re receiving in a nurturing track. That’s just an example.
Similarly, when social media was becoming popular we said, “Okay, we already have a webinar functionality that’s going to let people run webinars.” What we added is social referral capabilities. Now when you sign-up for a webinar you may also get prompted to share that sign-up with your friends. Or [inaudible 00:17:12] when you sign-up for Google hang-out, you can get prompted to share that with your friends or your social network so you get more people coming in. That’s just an example. The follow-up being that core database, that core workflow engine, that core analytic engine just to take into account new techniques, new channels. But because we’re not an email system, we didn’t build ourselves as an email system, that’s a very natural evolution for us.
Russ: Yeah, it absolutely does. You mention there that there is this kind of linkage between the Marketo platform and other channels, one of them obviously being the salesperson picking up the phone and making a call. You guys initially started with integrating with sales force, and have expanded and made developments with Microsoft CRM and other platforms. What do those relationships look like over time, and how have they evolved?
Jon: We think that it’s an advantage that we’re independent of any of the major CRM players. At the same time it’s important that we integrate in a deep, deep fashion with all of the CRM players. We did start with sales force, because they are the largest player in [inaudible 00:18:53] as a service market, which is what we are playing in. It just makes natural sense to continue to serve more and more potential customers with more and more integrations that are as deep as what we have with sales force.
Russ: If you go back to those early days and you reminisce, what do you look back on now if you were going to give a tip to somebody starting a company today, what tip would you give them about how you started and what you would do differently?
Jon: I think by far the biggest mistake we made was trying to go out and raise venture capital too early in the process. We spent a lot of time in 2006 going up and down Sand Hill Road pitching the idea because we believed in it so much. We knew there was value there, so we spent a lot of time and energy going to these [VC meetings] and trying to convince them. “Hey, there’s a lot of value in this idea.”
At the time marketing automation was not a hot category. People sort of felt like they’d been burned on investments in the first earlier generation of technologies, and we had a hell of a time getting that first investment off the ground.
First is what would have happened had we gone out and maybe gotten just a little bit of angel funding, and built-out our first [platform] based on that; gotten further along with our proof points. Because ultimately when it came down later in our cycle it was obvious to investors who wanted to invest in this. We’d proven just how valuable that product could be once we built it to be easy to buy, easy to own, and easy to use.
The main advice I have to anybody is don’t go for venture money too soon. Put your own money if you can, get angel money if you have to. The more you’ve got before you go to Sand Hill Road and the over VCs, the better off you’ll be.
Russ: You guys have filed for an IPO. Obviously you’re making that capital move for a reason. Is capital an inhibitor of your success, or are you raising money to expand the platform?
Jon: I really can’t comment on anything related to the IPO.
Russ: Fair enough. What does inhibit your success other than capital or money issues? What in the marketplace is inhibiting you?
Jon: I think there’s still a lot of marketers out there who probably don’t know that there’s a better way to do this kind of stuff. That’s probably the simplest thing to say. Who still are thinking that the right way to communicate to their customers is with traditional email service providers, and haven’t hear the news, if you will, that they can actually grow revenue faster and build deeper customer relationships with a different kind of approach. I think technology companies, especially in Silicon Valley and so on, get it. There’s no CMO in Silicon Valley who is going to start a new job without immediately saying, “What’s my marketing automation platform”, because they get it, they see it. Meanwhile there’s hundreds and thousands of businesses out there who are probably still thinking about doing it the old way. The biggest inhibitor is the market needs to keep growing, and people need to keep hearing that this is the way to build revenue in the future.
Russ: So you’re going out after those guys trying to build the awareness of your brand, and at the same time you’ve got all sorts of new companies sprouting up, and the old guys getting better. How are you staying one step ahead of those guys?
Jon: Which kinds of companies are you referring to?
Russ: If you look at Eloqua, and Constant Contact, and those kinds of companies, and then you have other platforms that are coming up that are the geniuses of the world in the other platforms. How do you stay relevant?
Jon: At the core Marketo’s always been about innovating and executing. We started by building a better product, and I think we continue to add functionality that is exciting, that our customers are going to like. At the same time we have always been a company that has been on the forefront of modern marketing. We raised content marketing very early. I think we are very good at how we use social as a way to reach out and connect with people. We’re transparent and highly communicative. We keep putting out good, solid leadership and good content. We keep building the right product, and stay ahead.
Russ: Earlier you were talking about the minimum size requirement for a company that wanted to use Marketo, and that you have to have a dedicated marketing professional on staff. Tell us a little bit about your team that you’ve got. You guys obviously pour out content. Tell us a little bit about your staff and a little bit about your management style.
Jon: That’s probably two questions. On our staff we do have people who are dedicated to social, people who are dedicated to producing contents; I produce a lot of content myself. I think part of my job is as the executive editor for Marketo; just like a publisher would have an executive editor. Working with people, “Hey, we need to write about this idea, we need to [inaudible 00:25:31] content, we need to push the story forward in this direction or that direction.” I think that is a key aspect of creating a contents engine. That answers one of your questions.
Your other question was about my management style?
Russ: Yeah. How many people do you have in that group, and what’s your style like?
Jon: Actually the second part of the question got cut off. The first part, the number of people in the group, I think about 70% of our marketing department is allocated to essentially content and social. That is probably more than some companies, but you can potentially see companies that do even more. The point is we make a pretty heavy investment in it.
Russ: How are you managing those folks? Are you breathing down their necks every day? Are you guys working in teams to develop content? What’s the strategy for you guys?
Jon: Style-wise, personally I’m a pretty detail-oriented person, and I have a very high energy around execution. My bias is always a drive to get stuff done, check the box, move that project down the field, and making sure that we’re being highly communicative about it. My style is to let people run with it. Know that they need to get this stuff done, create this kind of content, but then make sure we’re executing it, and make sure we’re moving them all down the field. If somebody is getting their deadlines done and checking their boxes, then I’m happy and I stay out of their hair. Besides the role as executive editor where I will review what we do before it goes out there and make sure that meets our consistent levels of quality. If something isn’t executing in terms of getting the ball down the field and driving the company forward, then I might get more involved and a little bit more detailed with the project management.
Russ: I wanted to thank you for joining us today. I do have one final question for you. If you could work anywhere other than Marketo -- let’s imagine Marketo doesn’t exist -- where would you want to be right now, and what company are you finding exciting these days?
Jon: I’ve had the opportunity now to work at two companies that went from small to big. I joined Epiphany as the 30th employee, and I was there up to 1500 employees -- down to 400 on the other side of the bubble bursting. Now at Marketo obviously as a founder, I’ve been here, and now we’re up to close to 350 employees. Through both those experiences, one of the things that I personally learned is that I have the most fun when the companies are very small and growing; that almost zero to 100 type phase [inaudible 00:29:00] [audio distortion]. That’s not for everybody. I’m not saying that’s a universal truth, but personally that’s what I like the best. If I weren’t at Marketo I would be looking at my next business [inaudible 00:29:07]. What’s the next big thing to start?
Russ: Anything you’re looking at specifically? I mean, what’s the big trend that you’re wishing you were a part of? Not that you’re leaving Marketo.
Jon: I do think there’s a lot of interesting stuff happening today in terms of how individually addressable the world is becoming. What I mean by that is email today is individually addressable. I can send an email to Russ. The phone is individually addressable. I can call Russ. Now with Facebook, with some of their targeting, I can actually put an ad or a message in front of Russ. I can start doing that more and more accurately with some of the retargeting technologies. So when you’re reading ESPN.com, I can put my message in front of you specifically. When you come to my website I can identify who you are, and make sure that you see something relevant and specific to you. All the way down to more and more -- we’re not there yet -- but TV. You’re watching a TV show, and why not have the commercial you watch be relevant and specific to who you are? With digital cable transmission that’s getting close to being possible. I think there’s some interesting and exciting ideas in terms of taking mass marketing even one step further to being individually addressable.
Russ: We’ll look for future updates from you on that. I imagine you’ll be involved somehow. I appreciate you taking the time with me today.
This has been the Big Awards Sync with Jon Miller from Marketo. Jon, thanks again, and have a great day.