Philadelphia Business Journal | Peter Key | February 20, 2013
I didn’t hear the speech David Brussin made when he accepted the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 award for the Greater Philadelphia region, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he had mentioned Billy Beane and Michael Lewis in it.
And if Brussin finds himself in a position to give a similar speech this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if he throws in President Obama, too.
Beane is the baseball executive who, while with the Oakland Athletics, began using statistical analysis to help the revenue-challenged team find talented players who weren’t highly valued by other organizations and thus could be signed at relatively reasonable rates.
Lewis is the author who made Beane’s approach known to the masses through his best-selling book, “Moneyball,” which was made into a hit movie starring Brad Pitt.
You probably know who Obama is. But you may not know what he has in common with Beane. It’s that, like the A’s front office under Beane, his 2012 presidential campaign relied heavily on statistical analysis. Instead of mining data to find undervalued baseball players, however, the Obama campaign did it to determine where and when to direct efforts to reach swing-state voters it thought could be persuaded to turn out for the president.
What, you may wonder, does any of this have to do with Brussin?
Monetate, the Conshohocken, Pa., company
he co-founded in 2008, uses big data to help online marketers present each visitor to their websites with the information most likely to cause that person to make a purchase.
Initially, Brussin said, Monetate faced two barriers in getting marketers to use its products and services. One was that many still had older technology that hindered their attempts to analyze all the data that could be collected from their websites. The other was skepticism that anyone could do what Monetate said it could do.
Time has lowered the first barrier; with the passing of it, much of the technology that couldn’t handle the data crunching needed for Monetate’s approach to work has been consigned to the scrap heap.
As for the second barrier, it has been lowered by the widespread acceptance of big data’s potential, thanks, in no small part, to Beane, Lewis and the Obama campaign.
“These are the kinds of things that are really leading every marketing organization to ask the question, ‘If baseball can do it, and if the presidential campaigns can do it, what can we be doing to pay attention to more of the data around our relationship with each customer and use that in real time to make things better?’”
“So as that sentiment has really become very broad, we’ve seen more and more brands ready to start working with us and I think that’s been one of the things that’s driven our growth.”
That growth was why I talked to Brussin, Monetate’s CEO, over the phone recently.
As Monetate said in this press release, the company’s revenue, number of customers and number of employees all more than doubled last year.
Brussin said Monetate ended the year with 140 people and had about 40 openings.
“We’re going to grow the staff really significantly in 2013,” he said.
Much of that growth is being funded by $15 million in venture capital that Monetate received from Boston-based Open View Venture Partners in August 2011.
Monetate doesn’t reveal its revenue and Brussin wouldn’t say if it’s profitable.
“We don’t talk about a lot of the basic financial numbers,” he said, “but I can tell you that we’re a venture-backed growth company and so we’re much more focused on growing to serve the larger market opportunity than we are on the profitability that we’ll be focused on later.”
Monetate was breaking even early in its existence, Brussin said, but “made the decision to expand to take advantage of the larger opportunity that we saw after our success with the early customers.”
That success has continued.
“Over 20 percent of all online retail dollars are influenced by our platform,” Brussin said.
Brussin described what Monetate does as helping marketers “really understand the relationship that each of their customers has with their brand and take the action to put the right experience in front of that customer.”
Chain store operators, he explained, have different merchandise mixes in each of their stores based on such things as the tastes of the people who shop at the stores and the climates where the stores are located.
When merchants initially took to the Internet, they ignored this concept and instead presented the same images to everyone who visited their websites.
“It really ended up being a one-size-fits-all Internet and so the personalization for us is really about implementing that very relevant experience instead of one size fits all.”
One way Monetate does that is through what Brussin called “dynamic merchandising,” which is focused on presenting products in the ways that are most relevant to the people looking at them.
For example, he said, some people might like a jacket because it’s waterproof, some might like it because of its fit, and some might like it because it doesn’t make a noise when they move around in it.
“As customers go through the process of looking for the things that are the most relevant to them, how do we make that experience better, more efficient?” he said.
Monetate also helps marketers test ideas and change their understanding of their business and customers based on the test results.
Monetate has been hiring since its inception, but Brussin said the company now considers a wider range of people than it used to.
Early on, he said, it largely wanted experienced people. It still does, but it’s also willing to hire newly minted college graduates as well.
Monetate has used various incentives to encourage people to help it find good workers. Under a program that ends Friday, it will pay a $4,000 finder’s fee to someone who refers to it a person that it hires.