Getting Started As CMO
Odds are you’ve never heard of Actifio. I remember thinking it was some kind of yogurt that reduces bloating.
My journey here started back in 2012, when Jamie Goldstein, a B-school pal at North Bridge, asked me to go in and talk with them. I remember him saying they were “the best kept secret in Boston,” and that they needed help telling their story.
I was a partner in an agency called Holland-Mark at the time, and we went in and did our thing. They weren’t quite ready to invest in the execution to make those ideas real, but the positioning was solid, and we kept in touch. A few months later I heard they were going to clear $10MM of revenue in 2011, and that Andreessen Horowitz had led a $33MM investment in them. Soon after they inked a partnership with IBM. It was looking like Jamie was right.
At the end of April, their CEO Ash Ashutosh called to ask me to come in and kick off an internal marketing planning meeting with a few thoughts on what made for great marketing today. I walked them through a few ideas, seemed to get a good response. After the meeting, Ash took me aside and said, “I want you to come on board, and make these happen for us.”
Initially I said no. Holland-Mark was rolling, plus I loved the place, the team, and the work. But Ash was persistent. I met with what the most impressive executive team I’d seen since m-Qube. Then I talked with board members including Bob Hower, Andreessen’s Peter Levine, Neteeza founder Jit Saxeena, and Greylock’s Erez Ofer. Impressive to a man. I told all of them I didn’t know squat about enterprise storage. All of them told me the company had plenty of domain expertise. What it needed was someone to build a brand, to help define a 21st-century marketing model for enterprise technology, and to put more focus on the emotional value proposition that makes the difference between a good local technology company and the next anchor tenant of the New England startup ecosystem. No pressure.
While we were talking Actifio showed up on a list of the next 10 Boston-based IPOs. That day I called Ash, and took the gig.
In retrospect I didn’t really know what a CMO did at the time. I’d been a CEO a couple of times, and an agency guy who’d started and run businesses before. But figuring out what it meant to be CMO was my first challenge at Actifio, and there weren’t many resources out there to help.
The CMO job is a unique animal. Where a VP of Marketing is really the top marketing person, often acting as an advocate for the interests of marketing inside the organization, the CMO is an executive first. He or she is responsible for applying the tools and techniques of marketing in service to the goals and objectives of the company as a whole, whatever it takes to do so. The difference is subtle, but important. In the beginning, I didn’t really understand it myself.
May 14, 2012
Once more unto the breach, dear friends. Once more.
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends. Once more."
Ready or not, there I was on day 1. At a nondescript office park in outer Waltham, MA, surrounded by a bunch of really good engineers, really good sales folks, and a Web site you couldn’t understand without a PhD.
Over the next few posts I’m going to tell the inside story of what it took to get from there to wherever we are now, which I guess is a storage “unicorn” getting ready for the bigs. I’ll try and share what I learned along the way, with particular emphasis on the stuff I wish someone had told me at the time.
Can a creative marketing guy find love in the roughhouse world of enterprise storage? Can a Boston technology company turn that industry on its head? And along the way… Can it manage to stay in Boston?
Click “Follow,” and we’ll see together.
NEXT: Being a CMO: Day One