Data Startup Habu, Created By Former Krux Execs, Isn’t A DMP Or A CDP – So, What Is It?

Four former Krux and Salesforce executives launched a marketing data startup called Habu this week to help with omnichannel orchestration – just don’t call it a customer data platform.

Habu, which means “hub” in Japanese, is positioning itself as a modular operating system for marketing data. Put another way, data management platforms failed to fulfill their promise and there’s an opportunity to help marketers use applications to plug and play based on their data needs.

Although there’s overlap between what Habu is building and the technology you’d find in a CDP or DMP, the difference is in the approach, said Vivek Vaidya, Habu’s co-founder and CTO. Vaidya is also the former CTO and co-founder of Krux, the data management platform that sold to Salesforce for $700 million in 2016.

CDPs are generally pieces of software that help marketers build a customer database of unified IDs across all of their systems, while DMPs do much the same but for anonymous audiences and campaign data. The Habu proposition is to fill gaps in a marketer’s existing stack using applications or APIs a la carte so that the whole machine runs more smoothly.

“We’re not saying, ‘Give us all your data first and then we’ll see what we can do,’” Vaidya said. “We’re starting with the business problems and use cases first.”

Habu, which came out of stealth on Monday after a year with news of a $15 million Series A round, was born out of Super{set}, a venture studio that helps build startups from the ground up. Vaidya is a co-founder of Super{set} with his Krux co-founder Tom Chavez, who also serves as Habu’s chairman.

Two former Salesforce execs, Matt Kilmartin and Mike Moreau, round out the Habu executive team as CEO and COO.

The company has six clients so far, but no names it could share publicly. AdExchanger spoke with Kilmartin and Vaidya.

AdExchanger: You’re in an elevator with a marketer going down from the twentieth floor and you’ve got to convince this person to try your technology by the time you reach the lobby. What do you say?

MATT KILMARTIN: CMOs have been trying to deliver personalized omnichannel engagement to consumers for a very long time, and although some progress has been made in specific channels, still no one is doing this at scale across all channels well. Add to that the changes happening in the industry right now around data control, consumer sentiment about privacy and the death of third-party cookies and it’s only going to get harder. Habu exists to help brands achieve their goals in this changing landscape. How did I do?

Not bad. But why doesn’t a DMP solve this problem?

VIVEK VAIDYA: There are quite a few reasons, actually. First, the way DMPs were built – and we know, because we built one – is that they stayed away from the actual execution aspect. Secondly, DMPs were perceived as something that could only work with third-party cookies for advertising. The reality is that a DMP can take whatever data you give it, from first-party IDs to third-party cookies, and do it at scale, but people never implemented their DMP in that way. DMPs also weren’t easy for marketers to use without a bunch of other entities getting involved.

On top of that, all of the DMPs came out with solutions for identity management, but didn’t acknowledge the challenges. You can build a framework to connect data – emails to cookies to mobile ad IDs – but doing that at scale with just your technology is difficult.

Even CDPs don’t do this really well, although they claim to be the panacea.

How is Habu differnet?

VAIDYA: We’re built in a modular fashion. We realize that the partners we’re working with have made investments with other vendors or in their own technology, and that what they need is services to fill the gap. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work anymore.

What are the use cases you aim to solve for?

KILMARTIN: Our core tenets are around data management, identity and privacy and security, and we’ve built applications in three main categories: insights, data and experience.

One example of an application we’ve built is something brands can use to bring their first-party data into Google’s Ads Data Hub environment. In essence, a marketer-friendly UI dashboard on top of Ads Data Hub and Big Query.

We also have a clean rooms module where people can conjoin their first-party data sets and software-enabled data governance so they can understand how they can use the data.

Where does Habu sit in the stack? Do you replace anything?

VAIDYA: This is something we’re getting asked reasonably often, but it’s difficult to answer, because where we fit in the stack depends on what existing components of a mar tech or ad tech stack a customer already has. If they have technology, we integrate with the API, and if they don’t we can provide it.

What do you think of the marketing clouds going hard with their CDPs?

KILMARTIN: The marketing clouds are building CDPs to try and get lock in with customers, to get their customers to use all of their applications. But brands want to invest in their own data assets and be able to run in their own infrastructure or cloud environments. Brands are tired of everyone talking a big game. They don’t want a new platform, they want the investments they’ve already made to work better.

Is there a mistake or misstep from your Krux days that you learned from and don’t plan to replicate?

VAIDYA: We’re not going to build our own identity graph from the ground up, like we did at Krux. That was one of our biggest learnings. 

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

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