It’s July 4th, Independence Day in the USA. So it seems like a great time to share the surprising and exciting news that I’ve asserted my independence in the form of a new job. Sometime in July, I’ll be leaving a company I love, HG Data, to start a new adventure as President of LeadGenius.
A Grand Experiment
It’s apropos to share the news of my joining LeadGenius on the same calendar day that many years ago in 1776 on which the Second Continental Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence. What an audacious act. For struggling colonists of a nascent nation to voluntarily leave the safety and security of the British Empire for an unknown future just seems crazy, doesn’t it? I’m still awestruck by the courage and daring of their decision… and that they pulled it off! Even in today’s national and social environment filled with chaos that has many feeling hopeless, I am astonished by our nation’s grand experiment that remains, despite our current climate, a beacon of hope and bastion of opportunity the world over. But back to my personal declaration…
The Perfect Storm
In joining LeadGenius, I’m embarking on a grand experiment of my own that might seem to outsiders as outlandish. But from my lens, it’s an enormous opportunity to build a meaningful company that makes a tremendous impact. There are a number of external factors in the B2B data space that, when combined with LeadGenius’ specific circumstance, have created the perfect storm to build a meaningful and valuable brand. Let me explain a bit more…
Winds of Change
If you’ve been in the B2B martech or salestech space for the past few years, it would be hard to not recognize that we are going through a renaissance. From art to science, from staff to code, from improv to process, one would have to go back to the advent of the computer in business 4 decades ago to see a similar level of innovation that sales and marketing organizations are experiencing. But there are also a number of needs left unmet and trends going the wrong way. Such as:
- Contact vendor consolidation – Jigsaw, Avention, Netprospex…all gone. Two of the top 5 current contact vendors are for sale as I write and both will be sold before 2018. The enormous contraction underway will leave corporate marketers eager for fresh and differentiated options.
- Data driven imperative – ABM, predictive, modeling, scoring, inbound appends, TAM analysis and the list goes on and on. Sales and marketing is undergoing a data driven orgy whereby the gunslinging ways of former fraternity boys is being replaced with the code-laden, A-B testing, regression analysis loving data wonks who prefers screens to people. And how do you fuel these scientific market approaches? Data of course.
- Need for global – Borders have been obliterated. With cloud hosting and the internet reaching into the farthest corners of the planet, the concept of ‘going global’ is so 20th century… companies are born global today. Enterprise tech companies used to be the only ones who needed to market on continental scale, but it isn’t uncommon for start ups with aggressive growth ambitions to need global territory designs from day one. And, to my knowledge, there’s not a single B2B data vendor able to serve their needs. In every case, their business design prevents it.
- SaaS vs. Human myth – Just like marketing and sales functions get pigeonholed into the false fight of opposition, so too have salestech and martech companies fueled a false dichotomy. With SaaS companies trying to code-away every business task handled manually by people, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that we are one more subscription away from nirvana. From a data vendor perspective, this SaaS-Human myth is pervasive with most vendors publicly flaunting their data-science and data-build automation marketing, while desperately distancing themselves from the human elements that underpin their offering. What’s funny to me is that the most sophisticated buyers of data know that code alone can’t solve all their data needs. That’s why after they’ve bought the neatest SaaS software, they have offshore labor dialing through contact lists, or teams in the Philippines appending additional information found online. In other words, the most strategic data buyers I know readily admit it isn’t SaaS or Humans, but rather, SaaS AND Humans. And the market is yearning for a data vendor that leads with this hybrid approach and build a platform that embraces the best of both worlds.
- Sales-martech zombie apocalypse – As much as the explosion of innovation of technology in the sales and marketing function has yielded some great advances, it’s also inevitable that there will be blood. The carnage of tech start-ups trying to revolutionize go-to-market strategies is just getting underway. With companies having raised too much money at too high a valuation for companies that are turning out to be features rather than products, there are hundreds of companies that resemble the walking dead. Still not out of cash but bookings having stalled or faltering, it’s only a matter of time before the great consolidation is upon us. If the company that writes your paycheck isn’t talking about healthy client acquisition, retention, reasonable cash burn and profitability, save your money and sell your shares quick.
The LeadGenius Advantage
In addition to the macro trends providing wind at LeadGenius’ back, those alone would not have convinced me to join. It was ‘their bones’ that have me so excited about LeadGenius’ future. Some of those foundational elements that will make the difference over the long term include…
- Community model – It’s actually really hard to build a defensible data company. The best moat tends to be an organization’s ‘data build’ process. And LeadGenius has a world-class one. Unlike most companies that resell or aggregate data, LeadGenius has a community-model of high caliber staff across the globe with tenure to deliver high quality results via long term relationships with clients. And with the infrastructure to recruit, train, scale and manage this staff, LeadGenius has a unique asset that can evolve with market needs, both in terms of function and geographic need.
- Enterprise proven – When well-known, world-class companies with big budgets and significant internal resources choose to partner, and renew, with a 3rd-party, you know that vendor is onto something. Enough said.
- Culture, cash, customers – It’s not just customers who are rabid fans, but it’s also staff who are passionately committed to the business. Growing out of a social entrepreneur class in the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley (more on that below), attracting a who’s-who list of tier 1 investors, bucking the trend of SoMa by staying in the East Bay all add up to a unique culture where people are valuable while held to very high standards with the goal of changing the world.
- Mission-driven – As a VC-backed startup, the goal of LeadGenius is pretty clear – disrupt the B2B data space by growing the business exponentially and building a great brand… eventually be bought or do an IPO. What’s unique about Leadgenius, though, is that it also has a social mission that’s core to its business and goes back to its birth that Haas MBA program. LeadGenius’ founding goal, before a bunch of VC’s with limited partners expecting a huge return on their money signed on board, was, and remains today, to provide fair-wage work through long-term employment of highly-skilled but unemployed and underemployed people across the globe. Are you kidding me? Build your cash bank AND your karma bank at the same time. Sign me up…so we did.
A Better Union
In a few hours, I’m heading to a friend’s house for our country’s Independence Day tradition of gorging on hamburgers, hot dogs and beer. We’ll watch fireworks over the San Francisco Bay from a hill behind their house and light a few dozen sparklers of our own. Our celebration, which will include at least on Brit, memorializes the remarkable step some visionaries took to create a unique land. Our founding fathers rejected convention, took enormous risk, and against all odds, built one of the most envied and admired nations on our planet, the United States of America. And although my decision to join LeadGenius certainly doesn’t rise to the weight of what 56 delegates did 241 years ago in the Pennsylvania State House, in a small way, I’ve just made a pretty bold Personal Declaration of Independence with the goal of also changing the world. And if we do this right, our band of rebels and dreamers in Berkeley may just succeed as did our forefathers.
Watch LeadGenius closely. Something special is gonna happen.
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