To truly understand the current challenges of some of the world’s most impactful organizations, you have to talk to them. That’s just what we set out to do when we organized our first CMO Tech Tour in 2014––inviting a cross-section of top brands and marketing leaders to share their biggest challenges and needs to create a larger conversation around the support startups can offer to these big industry players.
At this year’s Foundation Capital CMO Tech Tour, we gathered CMOs and VPs of Marketing across a wide swatch of large and mid-size businesses, including both digital natives and more traditional brands like Clorox, Trulia, and Wells Fargo. It was a lively conversation filled with unique insights and novel approaches—across an array of businesses—to the newfound marriage of technology and marketing.
Here at Foundation Capital, we take an ethnographic approach to investing, meaning we believe in spending time with a startup’s customers as well as the startup itself. If we truly understand the challenges and opportunities these people face—walk in their shoes, in their natural habitats—we can more easily identify winning companies that can solve real world problems. And given that both myself and our VP of Marketing Meg Sloan have tried-and-true marketer’s blood pumping through our veins, these are “our people,” and we love getting together with them and discussing the future.
We do this in a way that others don’t––our CMO Tech Tour isn’t a giant conference, and presenting to the group isn’t required. Instead, this small forum of 20+ premier marketers is primarily focused on building relationships and getting a glimpse of technologies participants may not otherwise see. (Our “White Hot Startup” panel is always a hit.) We help them “see around the corner” to emerging technology that is just about to make an impact on their businesses. And our special guests love the intimacy of the event. Kurt Apen, Chief Marketing Officer at Coursera said, “It’s not often you attend a marketing conference and walk away with insights you can bring to work the very next day. But that’s what Foundation Capital’s CMO Tech Tour accomplished. The meaningful conversation with peers around our biggest obstacles and informative panel discussions left me excited about where marketing is headed.”
In 2014, we discussed how technology will be making a bigger impact on marketing in the years ahead. This year, that shift was firm and well understood––mobile and MarTech are table stakes for today’s marketing organizations. So for this year’s “White Hot Startup” panel, we invited an array of emerging technology companies to push our imaginations even further. Our panelists included:
- Feetz — a 3D-printed shoe company
- Immersv — a VR company (and recent investment)
- DroneDeploy — an emerging drone company
- Tubi TV — an adRise owned-company providing free digital TV and movies
Other guest speakers covered topics ranging from the intersection of product design, user experience, and marketing to what it’s like to run marketing and communications initiatives at the White House. We also had lengthy discussions around stack vs. single-point solutions when it comes to MarTech challenges for large companies and lively conversations around the future of TV and video.
After a day of deeply connected dialogue and war stories shared over good food and drink, both the startups in attendance and our CMO guests left the summit with a greater understanding of their shared experiences. The startups found themselves in the unique position to simply listen in and learn. (This was a “pitch-free zone.”) To simply spend the entire day learning about their customers’ challenges and opportunities—and listening to their exchanges about marketing—is unlike any other opportunity they’ll have. This invaluable experience helps them position their products, make better pitches, and refine their overall thinking––all with a greater focus on the thought process of their customers. Participant Lei Sun, Founder and CEO at Yozio, had this to say about the experience: “Getting the unique chance to hear unfiltered conversations and input from customers in this setting has been invaluable––especially for an early stage company like Yozio. We can get ahead of the largest opportunities at hand and map our product offering accordingly.”
We look forward to continuing the conversation with our CMOs in the weeks and months ahead. If you are interested in attending our next CMO Tech Tour, please reach out to Meg Sloan at MSloan@foundationcap.com. And if you are a MarTech startup ready to ease the tensions of today’s leading customers, get in touch with me at @AshuGarg.