Tell us about yourself?
I’m the co-founder and CEO of Confection. Our product is a marketing enablement solution for businesses who want to take control of their atomic-level digital marketing data.
Personally, I have a professional background in literary studies, media production, project management, technology development, customer acquisition, and data analytics.
As a person, I care deeply about data, ideas, language, storytelling, and other forms of mimesis. These things are at the root of the human experience, and I feel very fortunate that I’m able to engage with them in meaningful, sustaining ways every day.
I’ve worked in the marketing and technology sphere for many years. For most of my professional career, I’ve collaborated with marketing teams at SaaS companies and supported various other kinds of companies in their technology and growth endeavors.
What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?
Sam Altman has a great Tweet that reads, “When you are standing on the exponential curve of technology, it looks flat behind you and vertical in front of you. But it’s just a curve” (https://twitter.com/sama/status/628997336719474688).
I think it’s important for early-stage entrepreneurs — especially first time ones — to remember they’ll be walking along that flat part for a good long while before they experience any real growth. It can feel like crossing a desert.
Doubts and fears are always present. You’ll start to wonder if you’ll ever see the vertical face of the curve.
But if you believe in your product and your team, if you see some customer traction, take solace in that. Keep moving forward. Listen, learn, and make adjustments. Then, let the curve do its work. It’ll start lifting you up in due course.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
Marketing and sales (and to a certain extent product) are like a nuclear reactor. There’s a lot of quantum chaos. If not managed properly, we either see a stalled reaction that creates nothing or an explosive meltdown that burns up runway and undermines an entire enterprise.
(The latter is especially common with early-stage, growth-focused companies, but no enterprise is immune from this risk.)
However, if we can get the various elements working in harmonious ratios — applying control rods when needed, watching our gauges, ensuring each pipeline stage is supporting the others — we can create a machine that generates more energy than it consumes (in terms of revenue growth, positive ROI, &c).
Taking marketing seriously, treating it with a certain amount of humility and even trepidation, respecting its power to create and destroy — I think this is the most important lesson I’ve learned as an entrepreneur.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Learn everything you can about finance and sales. Use those (and the data that flows from them) to guide your journey.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
Being a dad and a husband and an entrepreneur is challenging. It’s very, very difficult to balance all these interests.
Having a supportive partner who believes in what you’re trying to do for your family is a must. And it’s interesting that you can use lessons learned in one sphere in the other two.
If you can get your spouse to commit to your vision, you can do the same with a team. If you can support your team and help it do its best work, you can do the same thing at home.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
Before Confection, I ran an agency called Studio Hyperset. In late 2019, one of our clients emailed us and asked, “Why do our CRM forms not appear in this browser called ‘Brave.?” We did some investigation and realized the CRM forms included ad and analytics scripts.
When blocked, the forms failed to appear. This is a hard stop from a marketing operations perspective. As we dug into the issue, we realized all sorts of website data went missing when browsers block scripts (source information, pageviews, engagement intelligence, &c).
This was our “ah ha” moment. In early 2020, my co-founder and I started building what would become Confection to address these challenges. We knew digital marketing was going to work quite a bit differently going forward.
The architectures and resources from the past 30 years — cookies, cross-domain scripts — were all going away.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
Compared to other solutions, Confection routinely delivers 20-30x more attribution data and 30-40% more session intelligence to critical endpoints like CRMs, analytics tools, and ad campaigns. Our performance advantages are substantial.
However, I think or true differentiator is our focus on building something that balances the data interests of policy makers (think GDPR), businesses, and everyday web users.
As a cornerstone cultural value, we believe that’s the only way to build a lasting peace between the three camps, all of whom have a rightful say in the way society uses data. Like air and water, this is one of our most important collective resources.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
Sales is the most important and hardest part of any enterprise. Find a good sales mentor. Learn from him/her. Then, use these insights to build predictable systems and frameworks that guide customer lifecycles, outreach tempos, and conversations.
I once worked with someone who said, “Marketing is about talking and sales is about listening.” I’d keep that difference in mind too. Once you’re having a warm conversation with someone, it’s your job to ask questions, listen, diagnose, and help solve challenges.
What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in California over other states in the US?
The only other state in which I’ve operated a business in is Nevada. I’m not in a terribly regulated industry (compared to, say, banking or healthcare) so I’d say the differences are negligible.
What (if any) are the weaknesses of operating your business within California?
I haven’t encountered any.
We are currently suffering through a cost of living crisis. With California already being one of the most expensive states to live in, how has this impacted your business?
Working with a lean, remote team means we’re more or less immune to the core challenge of operating in California: the cost of living. I feel very fortunate in this regard.
It is no secret that California is the birthplace of innovation. But that also makes it incredibly competitive. How have you found the competitive environment of California?
I’ve lived in California since 2009, but I’ve always worked with remote teams all over the world. My connection to California is really more personal than professional.
With that said, I do think the economic and natural intensity of California makes it a great place to live and work. The culture challenges you to do your best work, and there’s little margin for anything but that.
Have you considered moving your company to another state? If so, which state and why?
Mostly for personal reasons, I have no plans to move Confection to another state. My family and I are anchored in California, and we’ll be here fo the long term.
Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?
A free and open web depends on ad support and data exhaust. The general public tends to be very entitled about these points.
They think it’s their right to get expensive things for free, but this is silly and naive. And the alternative — activating some sort of pay-to-play hierarchy or turning the web into an anarcho-syndicalist, downmarket version of 4chan — would be much, much worse.
There are different schools of thought on this, but we operate from the position that digital marketing data is a public utility, like air and water. Some regulation is necessary.
In the same way we need environmental laws to keep the Cuyahoga river from catching fire, we need to prevent an online “tragedy of the commons.” But these are just policy details, and they’re easily (and happily) accommodated.
What’s important is creating the space for air and water and minerals and online data to be used in constructive, meaningful, culturally-enriching ways.
Ads and data exhaust make the third possible, and they’re worth defending/enabling. I’ll go to the mat for this argument. In five years, I want us to still be working hard to ensure a free and open web is still alive and well.
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
Visit confection.io to learn more about the product, the problem we’re solving, and to create an account. I’m also available on LinkedIn and at [email protected]