Women 2.0 Startup Competition Finalist and Presenter at PITCH 2010, ObjectiveMarketer (founded by Amita Paul) was acquired recently by Emailvision, a leader in email marketing software. Women 2.0 gets the scoop from Amita Paul (pictured, right) on the exciting acquisition and her entrepreneur's story.
Women 2.0: A few months ago, you presented Objective Marketer at Women 2.0 PITCH Night. What stage was your company in then, and how did you get to where you are now?
Amita Paul: Objective Marketer was born out of my fascination for emerging media and passion for online marketing in general. Earlier on, I had managed product innovations in email and direct marketing - this experience was very helpful in visualizing the needs of email marketers as they transition to social media. I started ObjectiveMarketer in early 2009 with a public launch in September 2009. We had several enterprises, including Fortune 100 companies already executing their social media campaigns with ObjectiveMarketer even before the public launch.
"I bootstrapped the company and focused entirely on building the product and technology for the entire first year."
I had a great team of board members and advisors that included Guy Kawasaki, Marylene Delbourg-Delphis and Susan Bratton, who guided me through the process. By Women 2.0 PITCH Night in November 2010, I was receiving inquiries from various companies, ranging from email marketing to web analytics, interested in ObjectiveMarketer. Social media was a subject matter of experimentation for most enterprises - something of interest but, hard to justify as there were no systematic ways of measuring the effectiveness. This was a big gap that ObjectiveMarketer filled in this space.
Women 2.0: And how did the acquisition happen? What kind of questions and approaches were companies taking to approach you? How did you vet them, and how did you know when and who to sell to?
Amita Paul: From the very early stage, I was approached by several top tiered VC firms - that included firms that have invested in companies like Twitter and LinkedIn. However, I wanted to bootstrap the company, at least until it became profitable, before seeking external funding.
"I will continue to work on ObjectiveMarketer developments from the newly opened Emailvision Palo Alto office, incidentally just a few blocks away from Facebook and Groupon offices. On personal front, post merger, my residential address has changed to "a house on the hills, with a view" :) Another American dream fulfilled!"
When resources are limited, focus is on things that are the most important - and my focus was the technology. This helped significantly, because when the market awareness for ObjectiveMarketer started to gain momentum, the product capabilities were already proven. The process of merging with Emailvision was quick and smooth. There is a lot of synergy between Emailvision's existing technologies and ObjectiveMarketer, and the common vision for social media that made it easy for all stakeholders to decide on the merger. Emailvision is global SaaS leader in Email Marketing and automation. The merger brings in serious investment in product development and R&D for the social media products. As a result of this merger, ObjectiveMarketer today is the only social media company that has support and services teams in 18 different locations worldwide, offering the most global and local support to its clients.
Women 2.0: That's awesome! You've done really well for yourself, going from idea to launch and now acquisition in just a year and a half! What were the hurdles you experienced as a early-stage tech entrepreneur, and how did you overcome them? What kind of advice would you give young women who want to be in your shoes?
Amita Paul: I have tons of advice and all from personal experience :) The biggest hurdle is "inaction" and Nike gave us a great slogan - "Just do it". It cannot be more relevant - every bit of work done in a startup helps. Do not try to optimize on everything. Find few focus areas and keep working on them.
"The second hurdle is resources. How do you get passionate people to build a cutting-edge technology product when you are not able to offer a competitive salary and keep them motivated to work for you? This is a subject matter in itself."
It is also very important to note at this time who you bring in to the team. A group of friends may work in some case, but, not necessarily always. Your startup team will contribute significantly to shape the future of your company - and who you choose to be a part of it has to be a careful decision. Finally, my biggest learning through this entire process was "ask for help". You cannot imagine the power of "seeking help". There are several experienced people who have done it and are very much willing to help. And, I must mention the contributions of Women 2.0 in this context.
Women 2.0: Thanks for the mention! We do work hard to connect female entrepreneurs with the network and support they need to get to the next level, and celebrate your success! Here's a random question for you from our community: How did you come up with the idea for Objective Marketer and knew that this was the business to pursue?
Amita Paul: It is important to build a product that customers find relevant. We believe in customer driven roadmap - and that does not necessarily mean that we have no inputs in the process. When we say that our roadmap is driven by customers, it means that we facilitate the involvement of customers in the process of building the next phase of our products. This works particularly well for social media, where the space is evolving and use cases are still getting developed.
As I come from email and direct marketing background, it was evident that there will be a need of a social media platform to start with a product that:
- Consolidates all social media activities
- Streamlines the social activities with business objectives
- Justifies ROI
The growth in the social media networks like Facebook and Twitter continue to offer a great business value, and we need a product that leverages this power of the social. ObjectiveMarketer was the first company that launched a social media campaign management solution. We consider ourselves to just have started, and are putting together key pieces towards forming the most comprehensive system for social CRM.
Women 2.0: What would you say were the smartest and dumbest things you did for ObjectiveMarketer, and what were some of the mistakes you made as an early-stage entrepreneur?
Amita Paul: Smart: I spent 0 dollars in marketing budget in the early stages and focused on building a solid product that the market needed. Marketing is important, but helps when you have a quality product to market - so spend the first few months in building the product and establishing relationship. Mistake: In retrospection nothing :) As long as you recover quickly and continue.
Women 2.0: Last question: what do you think are the most interesting sectors or fields to be innovating in?
Amita Paul: Besides social, the most innovation in the near future will happen in mobile and local - and a combination of three. (How profound!)
Women 2.0 wishes Amita Paul (Founder & CEO, ObjectiveMarketer, acquired by Emailvision) the very best of luck as she settles into her new Palo Alto office, and may we hear more inspiring entrepreneurial stories from her in the future! Let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments below.