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MarTech Interview with Neha Sampat, CEO at Contentstack

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“CMS products should be architected to take advantage of any and all AI as they become useful and emerge as best-in-class for a particular domain.”

What inspired your journey into technology?

One of my life mantras is to “never be boring.” This is why I believe I didn’t find tech; tech found me. At university, I majored in French and Mass Communications. Outside of being a math and data nerd for most of my life, I didn’t really have any exposure to STEM and what STEM meant for me. I started my career in Public Relations in Denver, CO where I graduated from university.

I quickly learned that I liked PR, but I wanted to take my PR skills to a fast-paced, exciting field. At the time, there was a lot of talk about the “dotcom” world and Silicon Valley. I decided that I wanted to be in that world. I applied to a few jobs on a Wednesday, got on a plane and interviewed for a job on Friday and by the following Monday, I had packed my bags and driven to Silicon Valley. I never looked back.

As a woman CEO in the tech industry, what unique challenges and opportunities did you find in your journey? Who mentored you in this role?

I thought it would be appropriate to call out a few key challenges that women CEOs in tech often face:

Access to funds. For example, males are 63% more likely to raise capital than women, with all other things equal. Research also shows that 95% of venture deals and dollars are going to companies without a single woman in the top management suite.

Subconscious bias. We live in a society that has been trained subconsciously to think about the capabilities of men and women differently. There are organizations making real change and taking action by analyzing and correcting salary inequities or removing names from resumes to prevent gender bias in screenings. With awareness, this is slowly changing but there’s more work to be done.

Uneven playing field: According to Center for American Progress, women hold almost 52% of all management and professional-level jobs, yet they lag substantially behind men in terms of their representation in leadership positions. I strive to help Silicon Valley and the technology industry overall become a more level playing field. There are organizations like the Girl Scouts that help to train girls into leaders, and organizations like Springboard that turn women into incredible CEOs.

I’m fortunate to have great mentors throughout my career, including many of the women of Springboard, an organization that supports entrepreneurial companies led by women. I try to pay it forward by helping budding female entrepreneurs get to the next level in their businesses. I help guide entrepreneurs with investor decks, customer relations programs, customer growth, hiring strategies, and more. And later this year, I am launching a training program for STEM education in India. My goal is to encourage students, especially young women, to consider entering technology jobs, and also build their own companies.

What message do you have for other women professionals in the Marketing Technology industry?

My advice to other women in technology is that it’s ok to take the road less traveled and try to do things differently – you may beat the odds and turn the “right way” on its head.

As a female tech CEO with a Marketing background instead of Engineering, I took an unconventional path on my entrepreneurial journey. Up through the acquisition of Built.io, I completely bootstrapped the business. From there, I learned how much value we had built in Contentstack and I spun it out of my profitable consulting company, also bootstrapped. I’ve built teams abroad and successfully exited a company without the help of a banker. You can do it.

How is traditional CMS different from the modern Digital Experience Platform?

Contentstack was conceived by our team of Cloud and CMS experts that spent a decade researching, implementing and supporting every major content management system on the market. Traditional CMS approaches rely on a decades-old architecture, built in a world where the web was the only digital channel.

After experiencing the pain as consultants, we invented a new CMS platform with a modern, superior architecture, a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) – and it was specifically built for enterprises. This new platform allows marketers to manage content and deliver digital content experiences to their audiences across any digital channel and any digital touchpoint – Web, Mobile, Kiosk, Smartwatch, Jumbotron, VR, Voice or Bot.

How does the Digital Experience Platform accelerate the content delivery? What do you think about the role of AI in your customer success?

DXPs allow organizations to manage content across all digital channels and create amazing digital experiences at the speed of the market. As a pioneer of the headless CMS category, Contentstack effortlessly handles large-scale, complex, and mission-critical deployments, while supporting real-world enterprise business processes and team collaboration.

In the world of AI, we have seen some amazing examples in the content realm today. AI can already analyze the tone and sentiment of content and suggest if it is suitable for the intended audience. There are services out there (IBM Watson and MonkeyLearn) that can do language detection, keyword extraction, profanity detection, news categorization, sentiment analysis, and so on.

Another great example is automatic image tagging and categorization, which is a beast of a task, especially for e-commerce platforms or royalty-free stock image sites, where hundreds of images are uploaded every day, and success depends on displaying results that are both accurate and highly relevant to the searched keyword. The next generation of AI-powered image recognition and tagging tools can analyze images in seconds and with great precision.

There are so many other examples in which AI plays a role in our content world today, including Voice-controlled platforms and services increasing productivity (think: Apple Siri, Google Home, Amazon Echo (Alexa), and Microsoft Cortana), and personalized Content and Marketing that gives way for marketers boost customer engagement, satisfaction and, ultimately, revenue.

Tell us about your funding rounds and the plans to expand footprints in new markets?

Contentstack recently closed $31.5 million in funding from Insight Partners with participation from existing backers Illuminate Ventures and GingerBread Capital. This funding was a critical step in the company’s future as capital will be used to scale Marketing and Sales to reach more industries and geographies, as well as to build out the partner ecosystem and the larger community around Contentstack.

As I think about our funding, I get excited thinking about where we started and where we’re headed. Contentstack has grown from having a single business team in San Francisco and a single Engineering team in India to a truly global team encompassing multiple geographies. With a growing presence across the US, India and now in Europe, Contentstack is hiring talent in Amsterdam, Austin, Mumbai, New York, Pune, San Diego, Seattle and San Francisco. In Mumbai, we’re joining forces with local colleges and universities to launch the region’s largest innovation hub, whichalso resulted in our recent campus size increase by 3X.

Tell us more about your most unique user-case scenario and how you promote it to inspire your Sales and Marketing efforts?

We are proud of the work we’ve done with brands that move the needle in delivering great customer experiences with highly personalized, interactive, engaging content. You can see a couple examples with The Miami Heat and Icelandair.

How does your headless CMS technology help Marketing teams and publishers?

Every company in the world has a common problem set these days when it comes to attracting and retaining customers and growing the business. This connection with audiences happens by default through digital content. But audiences don’t just want billboard-style information on a website anymore. They want a tailored message, recognizing them as individuals. Broad demographics don’t make the cut anymore. They want to *experience* content, not just read it on their mobile phones in a smaller font.

When you think about Omnichannel, personalized, real-time content experiences in that way, there is no company in the world that can afford to ignore these trends anymore. Meanwhile, companies are investing billions into digital content. Many don’t know what’s working and what’s not. Sure, you can optimize your SEO, but that’s just optimizing one piece of the content puzzle. Getting more ROI out of content and more RoX (Return on Experience) out of digital experiences is something Contentstack does better than any of its competitors.

On the technology side, we’re seeing the perfect storm of Cloud and APIs and microservices coming together to redefine that “stack” you need to deal with all of that content. Companies are realizing that they can do more and better by bridging the best technologies together. With the emergence of content experience platforms, companies can get to market faster, compared to using a single-vendor approach that wasn’t built for the modern era. This is why we like to think of the new way of innovating as using the “Stacks, Not Suites” approach.

What effect does the Digital Experience Platform on ROI and customer experience?

Organizations that invest in customer experience want to be able to map the consumer purchasing journey, identify touchpoints that drive their experience along the way, and then invest in those key elements that deliver measurable results. A Digital Experience Platform (DXP) helps deliver on that goal.

Whether your organization is a retailer, an airline, or a financial services company, delivering a superior experience is the key to customer success and retention. According to Accenture, 75% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a company that knows their name and purchase history and recommends products based on their preferences. Measuring RoX helps organizations understand the value they are getting on investments, for example customer engagement, or brand experience, and clearly outlines which digital initiatives to invest in to win. DXPs aid in the journey to get you there.

What are your future predictions for Digital Transformation? Tell us about the kind of discussions you have with your CIO and CSO in protecting user data and risk management?

Digital Transformation in companies is evolving yet this path has produced an increased divide between business and technology users. I am focused on democratizing technology for all users and that means a focus on creating a level playing field for design, while developing, selling and supporting the product. Bridging this gap is what keeps me excited and motivates me at work each day.

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

AI can be applied to nearly every domain but because it learns from past behavior, a special-purpose AI is more useful than a generalized one. Instead of competing against the global leaders in AI, we utilize them as partners. This allows us to focus on what our customers come to us for – delivering a seamless user experience.

CMS vendors should caution, not to limit themselves to embedding a single AI into its product suite, whether it’s built in-house or otherwise. Instead, CMS products should be architected to take advantage of any and all AI as they become useful and emerge as best-in-class for a particular domain.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

I try to inspire the people I work with my own mantra I mentioned earlier – never be boring. Technology moves at a fast pace, especially in the startup world, where we are tasked with solving real world business problems.

At Contentstack, we’re motivated by the importance of bridging the organizational divide between businesses and tech users once and for all.

This is How I Work

One word that best describes how you work.

I consider myself resilient. I should add that I am also curious and empathetic, which I think are also important words that best describe how I act as a CEO.

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

As a remotely distributed company with employees and clients around the world, Zoom has been integral in keeping me connected. It gives me the ability to see and feel closer to people, and establish and nourish relationships even though we’re not physically near each other.

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

I use Alfred, the productivity app for Mac. This app helps me get things done quickly and makes me so much more productive. It’s become a tool I can’t imagine living without.

What are you currently reading?

Good Authority by Jonathan Raymond. It’s about leading teams and becoming the leader that your team wants you to be.

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

The best advice I’ve ever received came from an entrepreneur I truly admire. This individual has impacted his entire community and literally millions of people with his work. He once said “Don’t think about what you can get from someone or something. Think about what you can give.” He gave several examples of how he has given back selflessly and relentlessly in his world. This mentality has shaped how I think about building my companies, my home and all of my relationships. It has not only made me a better entrepreneur, but a better citizen of the world.

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

I’ve always wanted to learn how to sail. I once took a sailing class over a weekend in the San Francisco Bay. Everything that could have gone wrong did. The weather was rough, we ran out of emergency fuel, and the boat capsized. While I was desperately working my way back onto the boat from the cold and polluted Bay, it dawned on me.

Learning to sail is not unlike being an entrepreneur. There are ups and downs, ebbs and flows and when you execute well, you catch some incredible wind. The trick is that you have to be resilient. When the sea gets rough, get back on the boat and keep going. In my entrepreneurial journey, that is something I’ve learned to do very well.

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

Leslie Leifer the VP, enterprise strategy and business development, 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. She was recently named a Top 10 Women in Tech: https://chainstoreage.com/top-10-women-tech

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

Neha Sampat is CEO at Contentstack – a leading Content Management System (CMS) and Content Experience Platform (CXP). Previously, Neha was Founder and CEO of Digital Experience Platform Built.io, which was acquired by German software powerhouse Software AG in September 2018.

Neha also founded digital transformation consultancy Raw Engineering, which helps large organizations adopt API-first, cloud-native and SaaS technologies. Neha is a recognized industry leader, a proponent of diversity and an outspoken advocate for women in leadership.

Neha can be found appearing on keynote stages or expert panels discussing her experiences as an entrepreneur, a female leader, or her company’s role in the future of technology. Neha was named in “San Francisco Business Times Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business” in 2017, is a “San Francisco Business Times 40 under 40” honoree and one of “50 Women in Tech Dominating Silicon Valley” in 2015.

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Contentstack – the pioneer in API-first, headless CMS technology – accelerates and simplifies content management across today’s and tomorrow’s digital channels, including web, mobile and IoT. From desktops to smart phones, from kiosks to smart watches, from billboards to jumbotrons, from dashboards to VR headsets – content is delivered with the push of a button and optimized for every screen, device and channel.

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