Interview with Samir Saluja, Co-Founder of DeriveOne

Marketing Darwinism caught up with Samir Saluja, Co-Founder of DeriveOne and former Microsoft Learning Executive.

Marketing Darwinism: Samir, you left Microsoft to start DeriveOne with your partner Jason Talwar. Tell us about that transition.

Microsoft played a huge role in my development and in my understanding of the needs of customers. It also helped me understand the importance of data and using data for scale. What Jason and I realized is that despite the importance of data in the organizational and business world, most were not conceiving of it correctly or in the most efficient manner. We saw that “data for data’s sake” started becoming the essential mantra for companies and we wanted to help them avoid that trap. Thus we started DeriveOne. We consider Microsoft a key partner so still are in the ecosystem.

Marketing Darwinism: “Data for data’s sake?” What do you mean?

Samir: Data has come to be seen as an important commodity and as such companies are scrambling to ingest it and even hoard it. Ingestion is great but what about digestion? How do you use this data? What about data-overload? What about useless data? What about “fake” data? The point here is that data is not an unalloyed good if not trained on decisions. In fact, we believe you need to look at the decisions first and figure out the data needed based on the decisions not just because “data is good.”

Marketing Darwinism: You have a very varied background. Tell us more about your journey.

Samir: Thanks Paul. I have spent time in the Peace Corp, as an entrepreneur, as a business-owner, as a Microsoft employee and as a volunteer. All of these experiences helped me converge on being who I am today, personally and professionally. The Peace Corp helped me learn to listen, empathize and act. Being an entrepreneur taught me about risk and reward. Microsoft helped me understand the importance scaling through partnerships. DeriveOne has helped me realize the value of focus.

Marketing Darwinism: Why should an organization hire DeriveOne?

Samir: We believe that partnering with our customers in the context of what they need and what their customers need is crucial. We help organizations, medium to large and even some startups, use data to hone and focus their customer segmentation strategy, the cognitive diversity of their teams, and to inculcate the culture of decision-driven data. We believe that methodology matters, eliciting what the true decisions that need to be made is key, and delivering accountability is necessary. We are humbled daily by interest in our company.

Interview with Clement Ifrim, CEO and Co-Founder, Quantarium

Marketing Darwinism: Clement, tell us about Quantarium.

Clement: The company is inspired by insights from Quantum Physics and the potential inherent in applying them to Machine Learning approaches within an A.I. framework. We have organically gathered the analytical methods of fields as far reaching as Quantitative Genetics to build a leading Artificial Intelligence company that enables competitive advantage in vertical industries via advanced predictive and propensity models along with smart decision-engines. To be sure, there remains a lot for Quantarium to accomplish and indeed we have the ambition to match, though we are quite proud of our synthesis to date and the benefits our customers are enjoying each day.

Marketing Darwinism: Can you tell us which verticals you focus on mostly?

Clement: The beauty and peril of A.I. is that it can seemingly apply to everything and that can be intoxicating, thus both market and organizational focus to execute become paramount. Our first salvo is residential Real Estate, a $20 Trillion asset class that represents in a meaningful personal perspective, the most important of all sectors because it constitutes the largest purchase a family ever makes. Quantarium looks at Real Estate from a perspective not only of Data (and there is a lot of Data!) but also of modeling scenarios of what “could” be. For both financial institutions that “own” and service mortgages and for the individuals who own homes, understanding the “deep” economics is very important. From valuations to other analytical models, Quantarium intends to revolutionize the approach and economics.

Marketing Darwinism: Clement, you have a background in large companies like Microsoft, how is it being a CEO of a start-up.

Clement: Thanks for the question. There is nothing headier than building something with world-class people who humble me every day with their vigor and intelligence. At Microsoft, I learned how to manage A+ teams and to think about products and customers at scale. Applying that to the need for speed in the startup world is my biggest challenge and joy.

Marketing Darwinism: Clement, I must ask you this. A.I. has become a “buzz phrase” …how do you distinguish yourself.

Clement: You are certainly correct about that. The technology business is very much about fashion and phraseology. Unfortunately, it is also often about false claims as well. Quantarium’s founders team, with Ph.D’s and accomplished experts in the field, undertook the approach that A.I. is best when it enhances the ability for people to both arrive at a valuable truth in a quicker and more judicious fashion, and then start to predict future truths, or certainties, given the current business exigencies. Quantarium established itself as an A.I. company from the get-go, it’s in our DNA; as a matter of fact, the first platform Quantarium built, QVM/Quantarium Valuation Model relied on M.L./A.I. technologies such as evolutionary programming when “Artificial Intelligence” was not such a buzz phrase yet. Our team consists not only of award winning Mathematicians and Engineers but also of some of the best “technology translators” in the industry. Algorithms and A.I. are indeed assets, however when you add them to the human agency and agility, you get real applications of real A.I.

Marketing Darwinism: What’s in store for Quantarium in the next phase of your growth?

Clement: Good question. While structured as a tridimensional growth approach, with a clear focus on increasing market share, innovation / differentiated I.P. and product expansion, in many ways we’ve been silent for too long. We enjoy genuine, solid relationships with our customers and partners but haven’t “splashed” in the market yet. That has been by design but the time has now come to shout from the rooftops. We’re showing up at conferences like the O’Reilly AI Summit and Strata. While we remain humble and true to ourselves, we are bold at the same time so watch out for us.

About Clement

Clement is Co-Founder and CEO of Quantarium, an Artificial Intelligence company enabling vertical industries via advanced Predictive and Analytic models, and smart decision-ing engines. As the name of the company suggests, inspired by Quantum Physics and fueled by the power and potential of Machine Learning such as synthesizing and leveraging approaches from Quantitative Genetics, towards resolving significant predictive challenges, Clement is an accomplished international professional for leveraging Data Science and A.I. as well as a proven business leader.

With degrees in Computer Science, Clement spent 14 years building large-scale and Enterprise-level software products and services in areas traversing Content Management and Enterprise Search. Responsible for strategy and product development, Clement directed enterprise teams for Microsoft such as SharePoint, and MS Enterprise Search, while building a proven track-record for recruiting and developing teams with exceptional culture. Prior to Microsoft, Clement started and ran several software companies.

Originally hailing from Romania, Clement lives in the Seattle-area with his wife and children. He is actively involved in a variety of philanthropies and applies philosophy to technology as he builds lasting companies.

Digital Transformation is not just for Large Enterprises

Marketing Darwinism caught up with Kathy Visser-May, CMO of Acumatica, the world’s fastest growing Cloud ERP company. Kathy is a celebrated Marketer with experience traversing technology giants like Microsoft and PeopleSoft/Oracle and hyper-growth companies like Acumatica. Recently, she was named a CRN 2018 Woman in the Channel.

MD: Kathy, tell us a bit about Acumatica. We hear about the torrid growth. Any color you can add?

Kathy: Thanks Paul. Acumatica is focused on helping mid-size companies transform their business with a modern system that grows as they grow. The most forward-thinking companies are disrupting themselves to ensure they continue to be the architects of their future. This trend is affecting all industries, it doesn’t matter if you build buildings, manufacture auto parts, sell shoes online; disruption is happening, requiring companies to change how they operate and provide value to customers. As a result, the requirements of a mid market business to be competitive today are as complex as large enterprises were 10 years ago.

We have built a flexible, powerful, and secure platform that offers them speed and scale and connects their business in an end-to-end way. The growth is testament to the quality of the product and our unique licensing and deployment models that enable customers to scale as their business grows.

MD: You emphasize the Channel a great deal at Acumatica. Is it true that you are a 100%- Through-Channel company?

Kathy: For us, the Channel is our lifeblood. These amazing companies sell to and service customers with a deep understanding of their business needs across many industries and geographies. I like to say we don’t compete with our channel, we feed it. My team spends 50%+ of our resources and marketing dollars on creating high quality sales leads for our partners. Partners tell me all the time one of the reasons, in addition to our modern, cloud solution, they love selling Acumatica is because of our commitment to this model. We provide the Channel not only with technical knowledge but sales and implementation support as well. Such harmony is unheard of typically. So, yes, we are 100% Channel.

MD: You mentioned Digital Transformation. What does this mean specifically in the Acumatica context?

We love the phrase Digital Transformation but are also aware of its shortcomings. For many businesses, the phrase implies something arcane and something “other” than what they are doing. But when you inspect the issue, ask the right questions, and find out that these very organizations are migrating to the cloud, digitizing process, and unifying Business and IT, you realize that they are in fact doing Digital Transformation. In our conception, it’s about two things: Operations and Customer Experience. We help Medium-sized companies operate in a manner that allows them to spend their energies engaging with customers and conferring that constantly-improving experience that their rightfully demanding customers ask for. The core concept of the DX journey is that the system at the center of the business must be one that is capable of housing the data needed across the business operations and the ability to provide real-time data and connection across all systems. Systems that house islands of data that have to be synchronized and reconciled are no longer effective in the modern world.

MD: ERP can at times seem “old hat.” What about emerging technologies?

Kathy: There are a few things embedded in this question. For some, the idea of ERP might seem to be yesterday’s news but for growing companies seeking to improve their engagement and experience, ERP can very well be a fresh and new way to approach their business. We are adaptable, flexible, and natively Cloud-based not cumbersome and laborious to implement. Interestingly, emerging technologies, especially AI, are a core pillar of our business. 75% of our resources are technical and we never have and never will stop engineering new products that transform how businesses operate and deliver value to customers.

Interview with Tom Taylor of Blueprint Technologies

Marketing Darwinism met up with Tom Taylor, Managing Director of Blueprint Technologies on his recent trip to NYC. Excerpts from the conversation:

MD: Tom, Blueprint has won award after award for phenomenal growth and customer satisfaction. What’s going on?

Tom: Thanks a ton; we are humbled by the recognition. We believe our success can be attributed to a combination of our unique perspective, drive for innovation, laser focus on the customer, and the quality of our team, our customers, and our partners. We’ve been very agile in addressing market and customer needs – we move quickly and have established a solid track record of delivering superior customer value.

MD: Great. You lead Client Development at Blueprint, tell us about your approach and where Marketing fits in.

Tom: Our approach is very execution-oriented. We hire entrepreneurial doers with amazing track records in industry and surround them with top-notch technologists and delivery professionals to amplify their effectiveness. That’s a core part of the collaborative approach we take at Blueprint – Client Development doesn’t end with the team I lead, it runs across the entire company. At Blueprint, “all hands on deck” really means that everyone aligns around customer value, and delivery excellence.

MD: Marketing?

Tom: We’re constantly refining the sophistication of the handshake between Marketing and Client Development, and investing strategically to really accelerate this. Tight integration between Marketing and Client Development is what will continue to drive momentum and support scale as we continue to grow.

MD: What do you see in the Marketplace?

Tom: We’re lucky to be in the Seattle area, which is at the forefront of a good number of key technology trends. Data Science, AI, Machine Learning, Business Process Automation, Cloud Solutions – all of these are top of mind for many of our customers right now. We often find that while the organizations we work with aspire to these higher order capabilities, they have foundational enablers that need to be addressed at the core infrastructure level around cloud migration, data engineering, modern workforce tool sets, etc. One of Blueprint’s key value propositions is our ability to traverse and up-level the entire organizational capabilities stack from core infrastructure up to customer experience optimization – this allows our customers to achieve wholistic digital transformation rather than just incremental single-point solutions.

Interview with Srivats Srinivasan of Nayamode

I sat down with Srivats Srinivasan, an associate and entrepreneur. Srivats’ company, Nayamode, just acquired a Bay-Area agency called Bluewave. Interesting to see Seattle companies buying Bay Area outfits! I was particularly interested in this because of the role Marketing plays in Digital Transformation- this acquisition was based on Nayamode rounding out its Digital Transformation services.

Some excerpts from the chat …

Marketing Darwinism: Srivats, congratulations on both Nayamode’s success and the recent acquisition of Bluewave. Tell us more about your strategy.

SS: Thanks. We felt strongly that growth and evolution – really our journey to the next phase – required deepening elements of our skill-set as it pertains to the overall rubric of Digital Transformation. In this case, we were enamored with Bluewave’s deep design and visual storytelling track-record and understood that it was a key element in this next phase for us. The strong team and delightful customer base was a wonderful addition too!

Marketing Darwinism: You mentioned Digital Transformation. In your conception, what does it mean exactly?

SS: Yes, we understand that it is a term bandied about, almost in fact too much. In our view, Digital Transformation is about using technology judiciously and in context to create products, processes, and services that enhance and accelerate the best parts of the organization and keep the worst tendencies at bay. Digital Transformation is neither a one-size fits all “thing” nor is it an overnight turn. As with most fundamental shifts, there is a journey required and technology plays only so big a role.

Marketing Darwinism: Nayamode is one of those interesting stories insofar as you’ve grown without really marketing yourself in a broad sense. As Marketers, our readers would love to understand a bit more about your strategy here.

SS: You are no doubt generally correct but we are changing! At the outset, we grew through the sales process, leveraging our connections and experience in Marketing in large organizations, mostly in technology. As we grew, we certainly evolved, but were lucky in that our customers and we created deep partnerships in which as long as we continued to do great work and listen, we remained loyal to each other. Also, we had a bit of the “Cobbler’s Children” problem in which we paid so much attention externally that at times we neglected ourselves. That has changed however. In this phase, very much the most exciting phase in our history as a company, telling our story will be an integral part of the strategy. We are humbled to be included, for instance, in this blog.

Editor’s Note: While in some cases Marketing is an afterthought, we believe that Marketing firms can lead the process of Digital Transformation because of their keen view of the customer and their expertise in pivoting quickly based on business models and customer needs. This traverses the B to B and B to C spaces. We want to hear about other cases of M&A by Marketing companies looking to complete their Digital Transformation portfolios.

7 Ways Blockchain can Transform Marketing

Here’s a great video of me and Aseem Badshah the CEO of Socedo, a social media lead generation tool, talking about 7 ways Blockchain can transform marketing! We hope you enjoy it …

Are Marketers over indexing on ROI and the return of the Marketing Mix?

Two of my very good friends, Romi Mahajan of the KKM Group and Aseem Badshah of Socedo shot a video discussing our most recent blog post on the Return of the Marketing Mix. Ultimately, marketing is a mix of channels, tactics, and bets, of which some are measurable and some are not. It’s time for marketers to reclaim their role as engagers, risk-takers, and experimenters!!

The Return of the “Marketing Mix”

Fashions change. 

This cliché doesn’t apply just to hemlines and jeans, but to business as well.  Anyone who claims that business is all about logic and data needs to get a reality-check; Marketers are perhaps the worst offenders here, much to their detriment.  Of late, Marketers have suffered from a deep alienation from the real essences of their profession and we hope that 2018 will usher in a return to sanity.

This alienation – or departure from sanity in Marketing- stems from the over-indexing on Data and Measurement.  While this sounds strange, even counterintuitive and heretical, it stands the test of logic and does not require a deep knowledge of Marketing to understand.  Data and Measurement are no doubt valuable but they can also be the refuge of scoundrels.

The key in the above paragraph is the term “over-indexing.”  In other areas of life, the tendency to over-index is called zealotry.  In Marketing, the zealotry of measurement has created an untenable situation in which Marketing is asked to be as resilient as Physics or Mathematics; So too are Marketers, who feel forced to conform to the fashions of the day.  For the past decade or so, the fashion has been “Performance Marketing” or, in a wild conflation of strategy and channel, “Digital Marketing.” 

The genesis story here is a good one.  Marketing for a long time appeared to be a cocktail of guesses mixed with a dose of manipulation.  Organizations started to get frustrated with the lack of predictability and rising costs associated with Marketing and the ecosystem of agencies and media companies that had to be invoked when even considering bringing a product, service, or brand to market.  Theories of consumer reception abounded, but the overall logic of Marketing appeared to be something akin to “do it and it will work.”  Since no company could afford to shut off all Marketing, they continued in an inertial frame for decades.

Then came the Internet.  Almost overnight- or so it seemed- behavior patterns changed.  In addition, the almost infinite real estate and low cost of replication on the Internet, allowed for a completely different cost structure for Marketing. Completing the hat-trick was the fact that digitized Marketing can be “revved” quickly and tests of efficacy can be run in record time.  A heady mix indeed!

And for a while it seemed great.  Marketers could “go to market” quickly and bypass the usual middle-men.

Soon, however, the false “quants” took over and started writing how Marketing was both a “Science” and “Predictive.”  Tomes could be written about the false attribution that plagued the marketing scene with the eminent measurability of Digital Marketing.  We neglected Pater Semper Incertus Est

Marketers new to the profession became one-channel ponies. They only knew Digital Marketing. They also grew up under the totalitarianism of measurement.  They believed in the falsity of attribution and hewed only to the channels that provided an easy story for attribution.

Lo and behold, pundits declared the demise of “traditional” marketing.  Some said TV was dead. Others eulogized radio.  Still others print and outdoor.  Digital Marketing was ROI Marketing and ROI Marketing was King (forgive the pun!)

The zealotry created real problems for real Marketers.  First, they were subjected to Wall Street-type time-frames. What would in a sane world take a year, had to be measured in weeks or months.  Second, the need to show ROI created a channel bias in which they were forced to market in only those channels which were eminently measurable.  Third, they lost the Art which defined Marketing and chose, instead, to genuflect at the altar of a false science.  CMOs lost their jobs in 18 months because they could not prove the ROI they agreed to.  Marketing lost its way.

Fast forward to now. 

Are Marketers ready to reclaim their profession?  Are they ready to bring back that Evergreen-yet-needs-to-be-green-again concept that defined their art?  Yes, you know what we mean- The Marketing Mix. 

We predict that 2018 will be the year in which Marketers re-embrace the notion of managing a portfolio of bets, of which some are measurable and others are not.  The rush to measurement restricts the channels Marketers pick to engage with, not unlike a Chef with an infinitude of ingredients but only one ladle and one pan with which to create a gourmet meal.  

The portfolio will no doubt contain elements of Digital Marketing but will also likely concentrate on what the current and future audience really needs and could, thus, index on physical marketing, TV, Radio, Outdoor, even Print.  Who knows.  Why discount ideas and channels a priori

Ironically, the zealotry around measurability and ROI lands Marketers in an ironic soup- they restrict themselves from generating real ROI by thinking of it as an input and not as an outcome.

All fashions have their arc.  It’s high time we reclaim Marketing from the ROI zealots and re-engage with the world as it is and as it could be.

Guest post by:
Romi Mahajan, Blueprint Consulting
Steven Salta, Agilysys

Artificial Intelligence is changing Customer Service

No matter how much technology has changed our day to day lives, both at home and at work, what remains essential to running a successful business is customers—how you treat them, how they feel about your product or service, and whether they share those good (or bad) feelings.

In decades past, interacting with customers and helping to manage their problems and expectations was something that was left mostly to humans, which meant any good or bad things could also be subject to staffing or competing deadlines. But technology has helped with that in a unique way: by automating much of the customer journey through artificial intelligence, or AI.

Customers may not realize it, but a part of the process with many companies is already managed by AI. It’s helping with predictive needs, to name just one area. And its use will only continue to grow. This graphic explains what it’s doing and how business will continue to use AI.

Click To Enlarge

Rise of the Chat Bots: How A.I. Changed Customer Service

Via Salesforce

Enabling Sales for New Growth Opportunities

On April 6, 2016, the Department of Labor released a 1000-page document known as the Fiduciary Duty rule (DOL fiduciary) requiring financial advisors to always act in the best interest of the client, expanding the meaning of “investment advice fiduciary” originally defined under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to also include retirement investment advice. Asset managers have since faced a new set of intricate regulations to comply with, tight timelines to meet, and structural/operational changes to enact within their own firms.

From the very beginning, the fiduciary rule had the weight of inevitability and the social pressure of protecting investors’ morality behind it. Assets under management in America alone nears $40 trillion, most of which is managed by the US’s largest 50 banks.

While the industry foresaw change with the DOL fiduciary rule, my marketing team saw opportunity. What if we could prepare our subject matter experts to react quickly, time our content with the news cycle, and launch an advertising campaign that could help demystify the rule for our clients and potential prospects? Better yet, what if we could be the leading consulting firm on the rule and how to implement it? We immediately got to work.

Program execution

  • Web presence: Ahead of the game In advance of the April 6th announcement, we developed a classic microsite, and built it out with thought leadership, media placements, and videos, all of which were keyword-optimized. Front-and-center, we placed a jargon-free description of what the DOL Fiduciary Duty Rule really meant and how we understood its possible effects. Also quickly available to visitors was a highlighted drop-down list describing various services related to DOL Fiduciary rule and how we could help. Throughout the first added our DOL-focused publications, webcasts and videos, as well as other related content.
  • Thought leadership: A deep-dive and first-to-surface We are never surprised by a regulation. At the time of the announcement, marketing was prepared (at 6 a.m.!) to work alongside a five-member client services team to tear apart the 1,000 page ruling; we published a paper within 48 hours. We also scheduled interviews beginning at 11 a.m. that day with two thought leaders who were media-trained.
  • Media coverage: And then some In advance, and in anticipation of the announcement, two subject area experts had been previously identified and were prepped for press interviews. We arranged for interviews on the day of the DOL announcement with The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Reuters, Reuters TV, Bloomberg, CNBC and CNBC Closing Bell.
  • Webcast(s): Ramping up and following up In February 2016, we held a webcast to present industry perspectives and impacts, discussing four major impact areas: business models, operating models, technology and data, and compliance programs. By polling our webcast participants, we also confirmed concerns that we assumed were top-of-mind for our clients. Once the rule was announced, we held a follow-up webcast within two weeks. The April webcast reviewed the regulation, compared the proposed rule to the final, discussed industry impacts and reactions, next steps and FAQs.

Over the course of 14 months, we helped PwC grow a dedicated DOL team of nearly 200 employees serving 25 clients, 120 projects, and of course we booked business. Best of all we got the call every marketer dreams of from the project team to “please turn your marketing off we have too much demand!”