Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What made you start Blueshift?
Before founding Blueshift, my co-founders and I spent the last 10 years working at the intersection of AI and Marketing; early on, we worked at the AI company Kosmix that was later acquired by Walmart to become WalmartLabs, powering marketing technology with AI; and later we founded Mertado, which became Groupon Goods.
We saw firsthand that today’s marketing teams have nearly 1,000 times more Customer Data that they are trying to make sense of, and they are tasked with engaging customers on many more channels than 10 years ago. AI in the hands of marketers is the answer to solving this complexity, enabling marketers to drive customer engagement and revenue by scaling personalized, relevant experiences to each customer on every channel. That’s why we built Blueshift to be an AI-first Customer Data Platform for cross-channel marketers.
How is Blueshift different from other digital data and analytics marketplace?
Our vision is to put “AI in the hands of Marketers.” Unlike other solutions that require ongoing reliance on engineering and data science teams, our approach of marketer-accessible AI enables marketing teams to become self-sufficient in activating large amounts of data, in real-time, across multiple marketing channels.
From a marketer’s perspective, this means that they can focus on driving personalized experiences at scale and delivering RoI, instead of spending time turning a gazillion knobs in their legacy marketing systems or submitting tickets to other teams for launching data-driven campaigns.
What are the core tenets of your business development model? How does Blueshift add value to digital transformation journeys for businesses?
Our belief is that the use of AI by non-technical teams within enterprises, especially marketers, will unlock transformational business value. Every few years, as a key technology matures and is ready to be adopted by customer-focused teams, a new wave of enterprise value gets unleashed. The use of AI by marketers is likely to be one of the biggest such waves and is going to have a revolutionary impact on businesses.
How different is the “AI for Marketing” ecosystem today than when you first started here?
In the past, analytics/insights (understanding what customers want) and marketing decisions (campaign execution) were decoupled for the most part. This limited the ability to intelligently respond to customers in real time. In the traditional model, the marketing decisions were rule-based, and marketing analytics was used offline to improve the rules every so often.
With the advent of true AI-based solutions like Blueshift, an AI-based campaign decision engine is tightly coupled with the AI learning engine. This new approach of fusing “analytics” (or rather, AI-based learning models) with decisions in real-time is enabling brands to intelligently orchestrate customer experiences across their owned and paid channels.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
We built Blueshift from the ground up to be an AI-first platform for marketers, being early to recognize this shift towards an AI-centric world. As we help our customers prepare for this new wave of AI in marketing, I like to emphasize two key areas that drive success.
The first is about understanding that Artificial Intelligence is only as smart as the data it is receiving. As they embark on their AI journey, marketers must prioritize activating their Customer Data. Secondly, to drive the adoption of AI in marketing, it is important to make the AI explainable, instead of it being a black box. With explainable AI, marketers can understand the AI system deeply and layer in their own strategic and creative insights on top.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
Technology enables all of us to “scale ourselves.” At Blueshift, we hire people who are inherently passionate about using technology and empower them to use the tools that can get them to the next level. Across every function in the company, from Marketing & Sales all the way to Customer Success & Support, our teams have scaled themselves and achieved greater results by incorporating the latest technology and tools into their workflows.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
The Kindle app is a must-have for me on all my devices, so I can continue reading on the go.
What are you currently reading?
I read a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books, in addition to consuming blogs and news. Recent favorite reads include “The Sarantine Mosaic,” a historical fantasy duology by Guy Gavriel Kay; and “Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office,” a book of leadership and career lessons by Bill McDermott, the CEO of SAP.
On a lighter note, these days I also spend a lot of time reading children’s books with my two-year-old son. It’s amazing how many important life lessons you can relearn from these books; for instance, “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think” is a great reminder to unshackle your imagination, and the self-belief of “The Little Engine That Could” is something that every startup needs.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Festina Lente (“make haste slowly”). For startups, moving fast is extremely important, but so is the act of being deliberate about the right opportunities to pursue and the right people to hire.
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Staying curious, not being afraid to try new things, and continuously learning. Incidentally, at Blueshift, one of our core values is to “Make New Mistakes,” which encourages everyone to be unafraid of trying new things and experiencing failures, and at the same time instills a learning mentality.
Thank you, Vijay! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Vijay Chittoor is the CEO & Co-Founder of Blueshift, the leading AI-Powered Customer Data Platform. He was previously the CEO & Co-Founder at Mertado (acquired by Groupon to become Groupon Goods), and part of the early team at the Artificial Intelligence company Kosmix (acquired by Walmart to become WalmartLabs). A former McKinsey consultant, Vijay is a graduate of Harvard Business School and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.
San Francisco based Blueshift is the leader in AI-Powered Marketing and is recognized by Gartner as Cool Vendor in this category. Using patented technology, Blueshift’s AI enables consumer marketers at companies like LendingTree, Udacity, IAC, and BBC to activate customer data and launch 1:1 engagement on every channel. Blueshift’s recent innovations in AI-Powered Marketing include “AI-Powered Customer Journeys,” a next generation solution that enables marketers to deliver content rich & personalized customer engagement.
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.