Interview with Megan J. Browning Kvamme, CEO, FactGem

Interview with Megan J. Browning Kvamme, CEO, FactGem
Interview with Megan J. Browning Kvamme, CEO, FactGem

“The industry is still exploring how AR and VR can transition from the realm of entertainment into more business-oriented applications.”

Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to be part of FactGem?

I am CEO and Co-Founder of FactGem. My route to the technology field was definitely not typical, but thinking back, I would not have arrived here by any other path. I actually started my career in investment banking. As part of my work, I needed to sift through mountains of data, generally housed in different silos, and in different formats, to find key pieces of information, and ultimately derive decision-driving insights. I spent an inordinate amount of time getting the right data, from the right place, into the right format, to be useful. I would much rather have had that time to focus on the real priorities around solving business problems. I thought, “There has to be a better way….” Ultimately, this personal experience sparked my interest in building the technology company that is now FactGem.

As a woman in a tech-heavy ecosystem, what message would you give to other women, especially in the Marketing and Sales functions?

I think sound advice for any role or industry is to treat people with respect and to approach situations with intelligence, flexibility, and drive. That’s really my approach to life in general.  Also, surround yourself with a team of people who inspire you, and are honest with you.

How is your role at FactGem different from the one you had in your previous organizations?

My previous roles were in formal, structured financial organizations. At FactGem, I get to wear many different hats, which I love. And because we all work so hard, I try to maintain a more participatory culture where our team members truly get to help build the company, product, and future. I have a great team around me, and I am working at the forefront of technology. It’s fantastic!

How do you see the evolution of Data Management platforms impacting the way Marketing teams leverage data, analytics and intelligence?

I believe we are witnessing a step change in marketing. The traditional consumer products model is just not a practical approach for all but the largest mass brands. Micro-targeting, driven by better data management, is a far more efficient and insightful way to influence consumers. This is exactly the type of opportunity, which FactGem’s technology can unlock. Look at companies like Amazon and Google.

One of their most significant competitive advantages is the data they hold on consumer behavior. This allows them to more effectively target consumers and make informed business decisions. Now, more than ever, consumers want choice in what is shared, but also find that sharing is a benefit to them. Take, for example, Amazon Direct. Their service will help you to not run out of key items for your household, like the coffee that I love to wake up to!

Which leaders in the industry do you closely work with? How do they help you stay close to the business action?           

Many of our important relationships are confidential, but what I will say is that, as a company, we are focused on building bridges with partners who have the same values as we do — discipline to product and roadmap, ongoing R&D, and customer value.

What start-ups in the technology ecosystem are you watching/keen on right now?

I’m very interested in what is happening with Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). The industry is still exploring how these technologies can transition from the realm of entertainment into more business-oriented applications. Personally, I believe that the blending of technologies such as FactGem, which connects large amounts of data into a meaningful whole, with these advanced visualization technologies, will ultimately enable people to more readily access and utilize large volumes of data for deeper insight.

What GDPR-related disruptions do you foresee in the future for the marketing teams? How do you prepare for those disruptions?

Given the speed with which technology is progressing, the volume and breadth of the information we now collect, and everything we are seeing in the news, I believe privacy and security concerns in the US will only increase. I expect guidelines will tighten and we will move more towards an EU model in the future.

But you also mention how do we prepare for this disruption? I believe we need to get in front of change, which brings up a very interesting opportunity for us here at FactGem. Recently, we began working with a group called Prosper Insights & Analytics. Prosper has been running a first-party, 100 percent anonymous, privacy compliant, consumer survey since 2001. It’s the largest and most granular database of consumer intentions and predictive behavior. This is the group that has been the “retail currency” for the NRF since 2003 and is also used by Wall Street firms for monthly projections. It’s statistical science at its best.

Each month, about 7,000 consumers, representing all demographic groups within the country, receive a survey, which includes their view on future purchase intentions. FactGem is able to connect Prosper’s customer intention data, with information from an organization’s many customer data files, to create a truly single view of the customer — past, present and future. It is really a turnkey solution. The implication of having this historical information connected with a view over the horizon is significant. With this knowledge, marketing teams can take proactive action, and develop enhanced marketing programs, to address either the problem, or the opportunity, versus taking a more reactive approach as we do today.

What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2019?

We are still a young company so our primary focus is on generating qualified leads. To engage with our target consumers, we employ targeted digital outreach, social media, digital advertising, conference, and event participation.

What would you tell us about your standout digital campaign?

I’m very excited to share that we currently have two new digital campaigns in test. They are different than most other marketing in the field in that they put our consumers — the analysts, business managers, and IT professionals — at the very center of the equation. FactGem’s technology provides the solution that addresses their biggest pain points and provides an opportunity to immediately get to important, business-driving insights.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a CEO?

Today, most companies capturing online behavior of their customers aren’t able to effectively connect that behavior to in-store behavior, transactions, or marketing information. Using traditional means to achieve these connections is too expensive and takes too long to keep up with today’s world — one that, in some cases, sees changes in 2-3 week cycles. As technology improves and AI gains traction, I think that will all change.

FactGem can help companies leverage this opportunity today by letting them connect that data quickly, for significantly less cost, and allow them to get answers now. This translates into better business decisions and a far more effective marketing strategy.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

In general, my team embraces technology. Change is sometimes difficult, but if people understand and buy into your objectives, and are trained properly, they quickly see the benefits.

One word that best describes how you work.

Discipline.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

I have answered this question before with Dark Sky, a weather app that gives to the minute updates and forecasts. It has yet to fail me or my family. It is truly spectacular, and my inner scientist enjoys watching those radar screens and then seeing just how accurate their predictions are. It sure beats the old days of calling Time & Temperature.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

We have been using a project management tool called Wrike to keep us organized across FactGem. The best thing it has done is to help reduce the number of emails that I receive in my inbox and instead places the traditional back and forth around projects into Wrike. It allows me to get a quick snapshot of a project and easily get my hands on historical information.

What are you currently reading?

I will begin by saying that I love to read. But with the demands of life, work, and family, I have not had as much free time as I would like to get lost in a book. Lately, I have been reading various pieces of the works of one of America’s great historians, Arthur Schlesinger (also from Columbus, Ohio). Schlesinger’s discussions about the presidency, American politics, and the need for the people to feel part of a broader community rings true now more than ever. Pausing to reflect on lessons of our past is important to me.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with a diverse group of professionals in my day — scientists, government officials, teachers, artists, business leaders, financiers, researchers, manufacturers, technicians, and on and on.

At the end of the day, I realized one thing: individuals who pursue what that they are passionate about, and are able to be authentic, are the happiest. They don’t have a “work” self and a “home” self – they are authentic to themselves.

Five tenants I follow, as shared by one of my closest mentors, include:

  1. Always speak the truth. (Be authentic about yourself and your product.)
  2. Walk into what scares you. (Take risks! Some of my best opportunities have come when I was willing to do this!)
  3. Trust your gut. (I have always regretted not trusting my gut.)
  4. Things aren’t always as they seem. (Pause and investigate. Sometimes we think, for example, that a customer has a certain problem, but when we pause and take the time to discuss, we better understand the issues.)
  5. If you don’t know where you are, look at your feet. You must always know where you are on the roadmap. We originally got into data visualization thinking it was the right direction for our company, but we soon realized that our true core strength is easily connecting data for your business using the FactGem Data Fabric. We could accomplish the visualization piece through BI connectors and let the folks who do that well act as our partners.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:  

Elon Musk

Thank you, Megan! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

From investment banking to craft distilling to technology, Megan has provided leadership to a variety of industries throughout her career. She is the founder of several women-owned businesses, including the technology start-up FactGem, where she is also CEO. Megan has served as Chairwoman to Popcorn Sutton Distilling and Liquid Fun Management.

Prior to her current roles, Megan spent over a decade as an investment banker for state and local governments, and the private sector. She became the first woman investment banking partner in over 100 years at Seasongood & Mayer, one of the country’s largest, privately-held, public-finance firms. She opened and managed the firm’s Columbus office. In 2010, she was named Investment Banker of the Year while serving as Vice President of George K. Baum & Company, an accomplishment recognized by the Ohio House of Representatives.

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FactGem integrates your data sources in hours through the FactGem Data Fabric. We don’t disturb existing applications. Data instantly connects according to the business rules that you create in our visual model builder. You no longer have to write expensive and time-consuming code to enforce business rules for your data. Easily and rapidly engage with your data to expose the gems that you have been missing.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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