David Cancel is CEO of Performable, a marketing platform technology company.
AdExchanger.com: How is your experience as CTO of Lookery and Compete playing into what you're doing with Performable?
DC: Being a founder and CTO at Lookery and Compete were critical in my development, Performable is benefitting from both of those experiences. I don't believe there are repeatable patterns (that lead to success) with Startups. Context is everything, next up is being able to learn and pivot quickly. Startups are all about feedback loops, the faster you can cycle through them the better. Stay lean, move fast and always be listening.
That being said there are 3 specific lessons that have directly shaped Performable:
- Serve Marketers - At Compete & Lookery my end-customer was the same, Online Marketers. I love building products for Marketers because from a technology point of view they are typically the most neglected group in any business. At Performable we are solving a very real operational problem for Marketers, converting more of your website visitors into happy customers. Bringing Marketers and website visitors together throughout the entire customer lifecycle today is painful and filled with hurdles. We remove these hurdles at Performable with our closed-loop internet marketing software that helps them find, engage and convert the right customers for their business.
- Solve for Marketing & Sales not Technology - After being a serial CTO for many years I feel like there are no technical problems that can't be solved on the web today. Technology risk is off the table for web-based startups. The real risks today are Product Marketing and Operational risks. I'm focused entirely on solving these problems, technology is easy for us to solve (it helps to have an all-star technology team).
- Too early is still dead wrong - I learned this the hard way at Lookery. We were a Data Service Provider (DSP) before that category existed. While DSPs are starting to gain traction they are still a long way away from being a lucrative and sustainable market. Maybe that will happen next year; we started Lookery in 2007 about 2-3 years too early.
What problem is Performable looking to solve?
Avinash Kaushik, the Analytics Evangelist at Google, has a great quote that sums up the problem we solve - "2%...that's the average conversion rate in the United States of America whether you're selling elephants or iPods.".
It all comes down to a disconnect problem. We have become so used to jumping through technical & political hurdles within our companies that we have lost sight that marketing & selling comes down to connecting to people, it comes down to having permission, being relevant and having the right conversations with those people who have bothered to share their most precious resource with you, their attention.
We need software that recognizes that relationships and conversations are the drivers of business, software that understands the implicit or explicit context a visitor brings with them when they come to your site and uses that to make sure you tailor your message to that visitor, we need software that treats visitors as people, not as unique visitors or server hits.
You've been stealthy thus far - why?
I'm not a fan of "stealth mode". As my friend Chris Dixon would say, we were purposefully "underhyping" our company. All of our energies were focused on working with alpha customers one on one and building our product concurrently. We were a 3 person team until a few months ago, we simply couldn't afford to spend time building our own website or doing much, if any, marketing. We finally have a website about 8 months after starting the company. 😉
Why offer a product that spans the Long Tail to big brand marketers? Why not focus on a niche client?
One of the great lessons I learned at Compete was that it was possible to create a valuable service that served the needs of the long tail AND the biggest companies on the planet. This is an important part of our mission at Performable, our goal is to transform online marketing as we know it today, to give companies the power to have direct and relevant conversations with the most qualified prospects possible, those that have bothered to visit their websites.
My goal is to do to the marketing automation & website optimization space what Salesforce did to the CRM space - make it accessible to everyone, radically lower the costs to implement & use, and make it simple and easy to use for our customers. Our goals are big, hairy and audacious.
With Performable's product, what's in it for the CMO?
Our goal is to make CMOs heroes within their companies.
I love building companies aimed squarely at servicing CMOs, it's been my sole focus for over a decade. In all that time I have never built a product or service that has gotten the type of reaction that Performable has, even now in our very early days. We are solving a real operational problem for our CMO customers. We do this in 3 ways:
First, we free marketers from IT and put the power in their hands. They can be up & running on our platform in minutes - creating pages, analyzing their customer activity, learning what messages work best with certain cohorts within their user base, collecting & routing data to their sales teams and discovering social profiles of their customer base all without talking to a single IT person.
Second, we optimize the ROI of their marketing campaigns by providing visitors with the most engaging customer experiences possible.
Third, our platform provides tools to help marketers not only know what is happening today and over time but recommends to them what they should be doing next to improve their businesses.
How is your product different than other offerings in the space such as multi-variate creative products? Please discuss the competitive set.
It all goes back to our focus. We built our platform for marketers, not IT people. That means we are easy to use, easy to integrate with and focused on solving the pains that marketers and businesses face. We are not a generic testing platform, we don't rely on long & costly IT integrations and we don't require you to constantly update tags on your website.
We are a software service, not a human service. We don't sell a piece of software that requires any expensive consulting services to use. We are a 100% software service, not a 25% software / 75% service based solution like you'll find in our competitive space.
Our competitors include companies like Omniture, Marketo, Eloqua and Silverpop.
How are you funded? Any plans to seek financing in the future?
We were lucky to raise a Series A round from Charles River Ventures. They were the only VCs I spoke to as I'm quite close with them and have a long operating history with them --- they funded both Compete and Lookery. I have no plans to raise additional funding in 2010, I'll reevaluate our funding needs in 2011.
Creatives are wary of technology not only from a POV of potentially losing their jobs to a machine, but the commoditizing of idea creation. How can technology help the creative?
I was weary of this before starting Performable. We found the current environment to be quite the opposite. Before starting the company we created a community site called ABTests.com, where anyone can upload their test results, share best practices and learn from others. What we found was that our biggest audience was creatives, they were hungry to quantify the impact of their work. At first I was surprised but the more time I spent interviewing our users the more it made perfect sense. Creatives until recently had gotten by without ever being asked to quantify the impact of their designs or their writing.
This has really to started to change in the last couple of years for 3 reasons: 1. Google, Amazon and many others taught the world about the very real impact that design decisions could have on your P&L, 2. Creatives began to feel pressure from clients to prove why their work was much more effective than creative work that they could now crowd-source or offshore, 3. Over the last 5 yrs, mostly due to online acquisition sources such as PPC, the online world got religion over quantifying every single decision that impacted their customer conversion funnels.
All these things came together so that today we find creatives to be our #1 non-marketing team advocates & referral source.
When do you plan to roll-out the product?
We came out of closed beta about 7 weeks ago. You can go and sign-up for our product today. Please send me your feedback if you do, I'd really appreciate it.
Any early findings that you can share with Performable's product?
We have some amazing case studies coming out over the next month. You can see a lot of great results today from our community site, ABTests.com.