Interview with Kabir Shahani, CEO, Amperity

Kabir Shahani

“All the content we’re producing right now is geared towards educating the market on the value of CDPs.”

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Tell us about your role at Amperity and how you got there? How does your entrepreneurial experience help you run a tech company?

When I first started out, companies had tons of data and knew it was valuable, but lacked the technology to utilize it properly and get real value from it. That’s what inspired my Co-founder Derek Slager and I to launch our first startup, Appature, which focused on helping healthcare companies track and enhance their marketing campaigns. It was such a success that IMS Health — one of the leading healthcare data providers — acquired us. What seemed like an ending was really just the beginning of a new chapter.

During our time Appature and later at IMS Health, we became aware of an even more foundational opportunity. Most companies had an abundance of data but were only able to use a fraction of it. This was because their data was inaccessible, disconnected, and hard to manage. As a result, major retailers, hotels, airlines, etc. were targeting customers based on incomplete, inaccurate and inconsistent customer information. Meanwhile, consumers were increasingly demanding a more personalized experience. This disconnect made for an extremely potent opportunity.

That was the beginning of Amperity. We built a platform that marketers and analysts could use to bring together all of their disconnected and siloed customer data and accurately resolve customer identities using advanced machine learning algorithms. Vendors had tried to do this in the past ‒ in fact, we witnessed a lot of this at Appature ‒ but the methods they used were slow, labor-intensive, and error-prone. We worked with the leading academics in data matching to commercialize an entirely new, and much more effective, approach.

We launched 6 months ago and we’re already working with some of the world’s most beloved brands like GAP, Alaska Airlines, Kendra Scott, Wynn, TGI Fridays and Brooks Running, among others. Also, investors and partners are seeing the value. To date, we’ve raised $37M from leading investors like Madrona Ventures and Tiger Global Management. Also, we have a go-to-market partnership with Microsoft, which is huge considering our size and how long we’ve been operating.

What are your pgo-toredictions on the State of Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) in 2018?

There are two major trends that will drive CDP adoption in 2018. The first is the need for brands to personalize the way they interact with customers and deliver an amazing experience. There has been a ton of investment in technologies to bring this to fruition — marketing automation, web personalization tools, etc. — but these are not enough. Ultimately, what brands are missing is the customer data that provides the necessary context to create impactful experiences.

The second trend is the growing importance of first-party data. Marketers have been relying on third-party data to connect with their customers, but their efforts have major limitations, as we’re seeing with the recent controversies. We expect to see an even greater emphasis on first-party data going forward.

How is the Data Management industry different from when you first started? What makes Amperity distinguish itself from other CDPs?

The problem hasn’t changed. Marketers and analysts continue to struggle with customer data that’s incomplete, inaccessible, and inaccurate. What we’ve learned in the past decade is that traditional approaches to this problem are just not enough. What we need is a fresh approach and a platform built from the ground up for addressing the needs of brands and consumer marketers.

CDPs make it possible for brands to use all of their customer data to power customer 360 initiatives, acquisition and retention marketing programs, and advanced customer analytics. What sets Amperity apart is the following:

  • Advanced technology — our ability to resolve customer identities is unique. Our deep investments in data intelligence and infrastructure, customer data expertise, and machine learning techniques enable the world’s most loved brands to transform consumer marketing and reinvent themselves in a data-driven and customer-centric landscape.
  • Enterprise scale — we are built for the enterprise. This means enterprise-grade security and scaling to the volume and velocity of enterprise data. We also provide end-to-end enterprise-grade service — from our white glove implementation process through strategic goals setting and guidance.
  • Speed to Value — We get value to you quickly — this means weeks, not years. Customers are looking for personalized experiences now. What you need is a platform that lets you test and iterate what works and what doesn’t for your customers and for your brand. Amperity is designed for these rapid set up and quick-win uses cases
  • Flexibility — We unlock your customer data for your full range and variety of customer data-driven uses cases and initiatives. The platform provides complete and adaptable capabilities along all relevant dimensions including probabilities of matches, PII-permissions across teams, speed of data usage, ingestion and export requirements, and more.

How are CDPs for marketing and advertising different from each other?

A true CDP should power both marketing and advertising use cases, not either/or. Furthermore, because execution channels are continually evolving and being added, CDPs must be vendor-agnostic, sending data anywhere and in any format. This is the only way for brands to stay relevant in a constantly changing consumer landscape, and to retain the agility necessary to meet customers where they are.

What is Identity Resolution? How does identity resolution help marketers manage their audience segmentation and targeting campaigns?

Consumer brands have terabytes of customer data that exists in diverse formats, within many different disconnected systems across the organization. None of this data neatly fits together, and most of these systems were never designed to integrate with one another.

Identity Resolution is the process of bringing together Personally Identifiable Information (PII) like email addresses, first and last names, mailing addresses, and phone numbers — and connecting it to transactional data, preferences, and behavioral data at the individual level to form known-customer profiles. This includes any customer data source: online, offline, on-site, and in-store.

The result is unified, 360-degree views of each of a brand’s unique customers. These customer views can be segmented based on hundreds of attributes to fuel personalized marketing and customer experiences in all customer channels (including email, direct mail, advertising, web, app, and even in-person interactions).

For example, after the process of identity resolution has taken place, an airline can easily create a segment of people who have flown to Denver in the last 12 months, who have not checked a bag, who have the airline’s credit card and have opted into email communications. This sample segment could be used for highly targeted marketing campaigns across a variety of digital and non-digital channels.

Before the process of identity resolution, building this segment across disconnected operational, marketing, and financial databases was virtually impossible. It’s unusual for data users to even have access to all of these systems, let alone a resolved and actionable view of individuals.

What marketing and sales automation tools do you use?

Which startups in martech and adtech industries are you keenly following?

We are insanely focused on driving value for our customers. In the CDP space, this means we need to be comprehensively aware of all the newest ways to gather customer data, as well as all the legacy tools and systems that our customers still leverage today. With 5,000 MarTech vendors, we learn about amazing new tools every day.

In addition, because CDPs need to send data to all of a brand’s external systems of action, we keep a pulse on where data needs to be sent, at what speeds, and in what formats. The product roadmaps consider all of these aspects ongoingly, so we can help our customers make the best use of their data now and in the future.

All of this knowledge helps us to be the best resource for our customers we can be. If someone wants to sunset an older email sending tool, we want to tell them the best one to replace it. Similarly, we can advise customers on the newest advertising best practices, personalization use cases, customer analytics techniques, etc. It’s a great vantage point sitting at the intersection of so many amazing technologies.

Tell us about the most interesting Digital Marketing campaign at Amperity? Who was your audience and how did you measure the success of that campaign?

The CDP category is nascent and not very well understood. All the content we’re producing right now is geared towards educating the market on the value of CDPs. So far, the market — including investors, customers, the media and the analyst community — are responding quite well.

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

There are three important factors to consider with AI. First, define the purpose. AI is smart, but the people using it have to understand the precise ways in which it’s smart and use it accordingly.

Second, AI is only as good as the data the feeds it. Data scientists love to say “garbage in, garbage out” meaning that if you fuel your AI and ML algorithms with sparse or error-filled data, the results will be terrible. So get your data in order before you invest in fancy AI capabilities.

And third, most brands should use best-in-breed technologies when it comes to AI and machine learning instead of building it themselves. It’s a very specialized area and they’ll achieve great success partnering with the right providers.

Amperity’s technology is a case-in-point. Our proprietary algorithms were built for a very specific problem — data unification — and it would take a long time for a company to build such complex technology from the ground up.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology at Amperity?

Our people are inspired by what we do for customers. Everyone at Amperity is motivated by the great tech we’ve built to make marketer’s lives better. It’s a real problem we’re solving and we have a shared mission to help customers better understand their target customers.

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

Email is still huge for me — and for most people. I don’t see it ever going away despite what collaboration platforms propose. Evernote is also part of my day-to-day. Find My Friends is another app I use — more for fun, though.

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

I use drafts in my email to keep track of priorities. I then come back to it when I need to. It’s a to-do list for me.

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

Satya Nadella’s “Hit Refresh” — I have an incredible amount of respect for him as a person and business leader. When I am not reading a physical book, I listen to podcasts.

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

“Don’t talk past the sale.” I live by this. Once you’ve closed the sale, there’s no need to continue selling. It’s done!

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

Sheryl Sandberg.

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

Kabir is CEO at Amperity, and a technology entrepreneur and senior executive with experience at many stages of the lifecycle: start-up/bootstrap, venture funding, M&A, and IPO experience. His previous company, Appature, developed a relationship marketing platform that enables brands to deepen customer relationships through an integrated data infrastructure, multi-channel campaign toolset, and innovative analytics engine. In recognition of the company’s success, Kabir was named one of BusinessWeek’s “Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs of 2009” and was also named a 2011 Puget Sound Business Journal “40 Under 40” honoree. In 2012, he was awarded the U.S. SBA “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” award, and also recognized by PharmaVoice Magazine as one of the “100 Most Inspiring People in the Life Sciences Industry”.

Amperity is the Intelligent Customer Data Platform empowering global consumer brands to create unique and personalized experiences by unlocking all their customer data. Using machine learning and massive computing power, Amperity stitches together all of a brand’s disparate data sources, forms complete customer profiles, and makes those profiles available to marketers and analysts. This complete, actionable data can be used to power customer 360 initiatives, acquisition and retention marketing programs, and advanced customer analytics.

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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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