Interview with Eva Tsai, Chief Marketing Officer, Algolia

Eva Tsai

“Search will no longer be limited to a list of outcomes that are a result of entering a few key words. Search will become natural and human.”

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Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What made you join Algolia?        

After studying at MIT and spending the earlier part of my career in engineering, consulting and IT, I decided to take my work in a different direction and venture into the field of marketing. I have always been one to enjoy the journey, and you can often find me on the unbeaten path. While some of my close friends joked that I was going to the “dark side” by entering the marketing field, I found that my curiosity and drive to learn new skills outweighed any skepticism.

At the end of 2017, I joined Algolia because I wanted to be a part of a company that was passionate and had a love for developers. Because of Algolia’s tremendous growth and the community they’ve built, I knew it was the right fit.

Define the Context of “Right Content” in 2018, and how does it impact search and discovery results?

In 2018, “Right Content” can be defined as providing customers with the content they want to see, when they are ready to see it. In the context of search, this puts an emphasis on predicting and delivering the most relevant content for users. For example, if a customer searches for a red dress, it is the job of the search technology to predict and recommend what other products they might want to search for next, based on previous data. If the data shows that a significant amount of people searched for black shoes after searching for red dresses, it would suggest black shoes to the user. We refer to this as “Conversational Search” because it allows marketers to create a seamless search experience for consumers that deliver relevant products to a user when they are most receptive to viewing them.

When Algolia refers to “Conversational Search” what does that mean?

Conversational Search is a unique search method designed to enhance the user experience by utilizing relevant data and predictive capabilities. This type of search provides useful results, regardless of user error, by being prepared for users to search with typos and missing letters. It spans online, offline, mobile and voice.

While search has traditionally been known to produce a list of results generated based on keywords entered, conversational search adapts to customer needs and becomes more closely aligned with natural conversation.

What are the core tenets of your business development model? How does Algolia add value to search technology journeys for businesses?

Algolia’s business development model is heavily focused on the user experience and the developer experience. Many marketers realize that trying to build their own search capabilities in-house is more difficult than it appears. An internal search team of only a few engineers cannot compare to the power of an entire company focused on building a search platform — in which the sole focus is improving the user experience. By utilizing cloud search technology, marketers can trust that they are building a fast, reliable and scalable search experience for their users.

Where do you see search and discovery experiences influencing business outcomes in 2018-2022?

With the introduction of new technologies like Alexa, Siri, chatbots and voice-activated devices, marketers face the challenge of bringing these search experiences to life on all these different platforms. Search will no longer be limited to a list of outcomes that are a result of entering a few key words. Search will become natural and human. This means knowing your customer and predicting what they want. These capabilities will allow marketers to suggest relevant products to customers, increasing sales and improving the customer experience.

How often do you measure the performance of your marketing analytics and sales reporting?

We track our performance on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.

What benefits do you extend to your customers and employees as part of your marketing transformation?

Our marketing transformation is  one of the last major functions to be built out given our heritage as  a product-led hyper growth company. We are now in the midst of aligning and managing the change that  needs to happen, especially as we rapidly scale and transform our GTM motion. Our core values – grit, trust, care, candor, and humility – have set the foundation for us to navigate changes and unite people from different disciplines on the journey ahead.

What are your predictions about the most impactful disruptions in Content Marketing technologies? What do you have to say about video and live streaming content?

Voice search will be a gamechanger for marketers, driven by the growth of voice activated devices on our phones, in our homes and in our cars. Similarly, AI will take content marketing to a whole new level.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

Stripe, Auth0, Twitch

What marketing and sales automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

Pardot,, MadKudu, Clearbit, Leadspace, and Google Analytics.

Could you tell us about an outstanding digital campaign?

As a product-led hypergrowth company, we enable growth for both top down and bottom up sales motions. For decision makers, our goal is to educate them with relevant content and offers. For developers, we aim to demonstrate values with our product. We recently launched GDPR made searchable by Algolia, free of use to anybody, to demonstrate our product capabilities by allowing people to quickly locate relevant information from copious amount of GDPR text. Such real-world applications generate genuine interest and demand for our product.

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

I believe in the practical application of AI for solving real world business problems. As a marketer, I’m very careful about not overextending the AI message given the hype and myth surrounding the topic.  As a marketer, along with the opportunity to apply AI, comes the responsibility to use it diligently and conservatively.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

I believe that marketing is all about demand generation – contributing to pipeline and accelerating sales cycle – ranging from short term to long term.

Short term: typical demand generation activities

Medium term: long tail users in a product-led growth company, such as Algolia

Long term: brand awareness and thought leadership

Marketing needs to master technology and metrics to do demand generation well.

One word that best describes how you work.

Efficiency. When I was a student, I studied with a clock in front of me, with self-determined goals on how much I should have finished by the hour end. Procrastinating or being inefficient is not in my operating book.

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

My Calendar. Calendar is my source of activities and milestones. I am a stickler for adhering to the “pay now” mentality and ensuring important milestones, activities, and discussions are accounted for and tracked.

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

I benchmark with and learn from peers and external sources as much as I can, including serving on the advisory boards of a few companies. It helps accelerate my learning, formulate strategy, and introspect my blind spots.

What are you currently reading?

I cycle through reading from business, socioeconomics, and philosophy genres. I recently read:

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  • Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Worrick

My current read: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

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

Jeff Bezos said in a commencement speech, “When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices.”

I view my life as an intimate dialogue I have with myself. I often picture myself in my older years looking back at my life to assess if I have lived a full life. I make choices on a regular basis with the goal that one day I can look back at my life and be convinced and at peace that I have lived a full life with no regrets.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

I believe in a growth mindset (instead of a fixed mindset) and in taking on new challenges — not being held back by fear of failure or rejection. Talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others.

I believe that “courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” I’m not a stranger to fear and failure, but I do not let it deter me – the worst outcome of trying is failing or being rejected, which is the same as not trying in the first place. So from my perspective, try has the the same or better outcome than not trying at all.

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

Engineer turned B2B marketer, Eva has more than 20 years of experience leading marketing to define the customer journey, create new market categories, establish recognizable brands, and drive growth worldwide. As CMO at Algolia, the leading Search & Discovery API powering over 1 billion searches daily, she leads worldwide marketing to fuel the company’s hypergrowth. Prior to Algolia, Eva was CMO of vArmour where she established vArmour as leader in cloud security and increased pipeline multiple fold. Before vArmour, she held strategic roles at Citrix, BEA Systems, BroadVision and Oracle.

Her innovation and leadership has been recognized with notable industry awards and patents. Eva was named Female Executive of the Year by the Stevie Awards and also led her team to win the Stevie Award Marketing Department of the Year during her time at vArmour.  She was recognized by Silicon Valley Business Journal as one of Silicon Valley’s 100 Most Influential Women and received the Marketer That Matters™ award, commissioned by The Wall Street Journal.

Eva also serves on the advisory boards of five companies, including from its inception to successful acquisition by ProofPoint. She holds a BS and a MS in Computer Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

algolia logoOur mission is to make every search interaction meaningful and rewarding through developer-friendly and enterprise-grade APIs. Algolia helps the most innovative companies across e-commerce, media and SaaS industries create powerful, relevant and scalable discovery experiences for their users. Unlike other solutions, Algolia’s hosted platform reduces the complexities of building and scaling a fast, relevant digital experience and helps teams accelerate development time. More than 5,000 companies like Under Armour, Twitch, Periscope, Medium and Stripe rely on Algolia to manage 41 billion search queries a month.

Founded in 2012, Algolia is backed by $74M in funding from Accel Partners, Alven Capital, Point Nine Capital and Storm Ventures. The team is headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Paris, London, New York, and Atlanta.

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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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