An Interview with Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, co-founder of Growthverse
Marketing Technology has become an important weapon in the quest to discover, engage and delight customers. While marketers try to sort through their needs and identify what and with whom to invest in, it seems like every week there’s a new landscape or “MarTech stack” produced by a vendor or industry pundit.
I rather recently discovered something very refreshing, a new perspective on the landscape created by CMO Jascha Kaykas-Wolff and Kobie Fuller, Partner at Accel. It’s called Growthverse, an interactive, living, breathing tool marketers can use to discover and sort through marketing technologies and the solutions providers that may be right for their organization.
I had a chance to chat with Jascha last week about Growthverse and the current state and future of marketing technology. Here’s the scoop.
Scott: Let’s dive in. Why did you and Kobie partner with Accel to create Growthverse?
Jascha: Kobie and I talked many times about the odd fact there wasn’t a good resource to help sort through the marketing technology we needed to do our jobs. While there are research analyst firms, they’re often driven by the firms’ need to publish and to create research sales.
There are also many conferences with interesting content, but most are shaped by economic incentives rather than actionable information you can use in your marketing role, especially around identifying and selecting the right technology for your organization.
We recognized it’s extremely difficult to practically represent MarTech based on the way marketers do their job. We were frustrated. This time, instead of talking and complaining about it, we did something about it. Kobie and I were not researchers by trade, so we leaned on our marketing peers in the community, and with the support of Accel and collaboration with Beutler Inc were able to pull off a v.1.
"It’s extremely difficult to practically represent MarTech based on the way marketers do their job....The unique thing about Growthverse is it’s being developed from a buyer’s perspective"
Growthverse is an online software tool that visualizes and identifies marketing technology options and providers, starting with the problems you’re trying to solve. The unique thing about Growthverse is it’s being developed from a buyer’s perspective to help marketers understand what technologies, and prospective providers, are responsible.
We accomplish pulling this research information together by tapping into this community and then visualizing it. So far, more than 100 CMOs have contributed, and there are greater than 900 companies represented.
What were the biggest surprises/observations that jumped out at you as you were developing Growthverse?
It was much more difficult than we thought to develop a taxonomy. Today, you have both a technical taxonomy driven by the analysts/research firms like Gartner and Forrester and also the sales and marketing taxonomies provided by Luma Partners via their Lumascape, for example.
We discovered you need both a functional and a technical taxonomy; we wanted to capture the best of both. Let’s take paid acquisition, a very popular need for today’s marketers, as an example. A marketer practically asks, “I think I need to invest to acquire prospects and customers, let me research all my options.”
A research firm often dives right into the specific approaches and uses this lens to provide information. In the case of paid acquisition, that may be display, mobile or email. Marketers want to start first by asking: Is ”paid” the best approach to acquisition? Only then do they dive into which functional investments or channels to use.
Another example is marketing automation. Many assume you need marketing automation and it becomes its own category. Well maybe it’s much better as a sub-category of CRM and just one of the tools you use to manage customer relationships.
As you did your research, is there a macro list of marketing tech opportunities and/or challenges that developed that we can learn from?
Probably not surprising, but one of the frustrations that became even clearer as we went through version one is that there’s incredible tension between the way marketers buy and use technology, and the way vendors sell and “position” their technology.
It’s way out of sync. This causes big challenges for marketers when you start addressing questions such as “What do I need?” and “What should I be investing in?”
Case in point, once we launched, MarTech vendors came back to us and said we really need to be listed in these five or six categories. This completely defeats the purpose of providing a tool to help marketers choose the right technologies and avoid buying duplicative tools that they often don’t need.
"There’s incredible tension between the way marketers buy and use technology, and the way vendors sell and “position” their technology"
This tension isn’t going away; however, we see it so much more clearly and can begin to address it by putting together research and information via Growthverse that better organizes around problems marketers are solving.
In the Growthverse research, were there any segments of marketing tech that you see growing the most, or at least indicators of such rapid growth?
I’m not sure they’re indicators of growth, but we’ve seen hundreds of new companies emerge and submit information that didn’t exist six months or a year ago. And, we’ve been surprised at the depth of marketing tech companies that exist as well.One of the areas we’re surprised with the most in terms of depth is “acquisition.”
"This really underlines marketing’s need and appetite for marketing solutions to help find new prospects and I would be hard-pressed not to say this will just continue to grow."
When we started, we thought there were three or four sub categories. As we dug in, we found several more with many layers – from organic search to content marketing to local marketing to webinar tools to print mailers and beyond.
This really underlines marketing’s need and appetite for marketing solutions to help find new prospects and I would be hard-pressed not to say this will just continue to grow. A mind-boggling number of choices nonetheless that needed to be organized for marketers.
Do you see any areas converging? If so, why is this happening?
As a buyer, I see a group of functional needs and technology converging around “marketing automation” – personalization, testing, customer experience, lead scoring, etc. – all of this coming together driven by the increasing access we as marketers have to data.
Marketers are developing “customer data platforms” to provide accessibility of customer information into and from other systems to deliver much more effective marketing and customer experience. This is why, broadly speaking, marketing automation and customer experience will converge, I believe.
I also think we’re in a big area of consolidation, but this time it’s happening at a meta-level, with the Oracles, Salesforces and Adobes of our world acquiring technologies and companies to build out their own solution.
"We’ll see most MarTech innovation in the “edges” and “in the cracks” between the categories outlined in Growthverse – the “inter” pieces – over the next several years."
This will in turn create another opportunity to fill in the gaps and the pieces required to make the connections between their acquired technologies. This is why I believe we’ll see most MarTech innovation in the “edges” and “in the cracks” between the categories outlined in Growthverse – the “inter” pieces over the next several years.
These technologies will enable the convergence, integration and, ultimately, collaboration required to deliver great marketing and customer experience.
What is your top MarTech industry prediction over the next five years?
Well, here’s one that I’ve been thinking about – accessibility of marketing technologies to all company sizes. It used to be technology was only available for larger, enterprise companies. Maybe mid-size organizations. Today, there’s so much innovation in technology making it much easier for smaller companies to adopt, including startups deploying marketing technology in the early days of launching their company.
"Technologies typically only adopted by enterprise and mid-size organizations now will become available to small businesses and start-ups."
If this downward movement continues, I think what’s likely to happen is technologies typically only adopted by enterprise and mid-size organizations now will become available to small businesses and start-ups.
Small business will have the same access to technology as their enterprise peers. To me, that is exciting for marketing but more exciting for everybody when you create more productive companies at all sizes. I think of this movement as a “farm to table” analogy we see taking place with our food, except now we can apply it to marketing via technology.
How often are you going to be updating Growthverse for CMOs and marketers to use?
We don’t have a formal, published update cycle. We’ve been updating about once a month. In fact, we just launched a fairly substantial platform technology update including search, deep linking and a CMS to make it easier for us to update and are adding another 100+ companies to Growthverse.
We’re open and committed to evolving on this mission. This is also why we need feedback from the community at large, both individuals and organizations. Category clarification and refinement, for example, is a work in progress. Like any meaningful software initiative, we’ll continue to listen, learn and evolve from 1.0 to 1.1 to 1.5 and so on.