Notes from the Valley blog by Cint

Notes from the Valley …

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Cint’s Richard Thornton reflects on his move to San Francisco and his efforts to start up Cint’s expanding offerings into AdTech and MarTech.

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First impressions

The first time I came to San Francisco was back in 2010 when we were doing what the Americans term as “the dog & pony show”, with the VC community trying to raise funds in a Series B round of investment. Little did I know then that San Francisco would become home and my place of work. But here I am…and I have to say it’s been a very enriching experience so far.

New city, new role, new value proposition into new verticals. Obviously all very low risk. Good job I like a challenge, have an understanding wife and kids young enough to not be scarred for life from having been pulled away in their formative years from their best friends, thinking the world is about to end.

The truth is there was more than an element of selfish indulgence when the opportunity presented itself to up sticks and go on a secondment to San Francisco. I always find travel and experiencing new cities and cultures fascinating. I’ve been fortunate enough during my lifetime to get the opportunity to see a lot of the world through both private and professional travel. Admittedly the US to an Englishman is hardly pushing the boundaries of comfort zones, but despite the obvious common ground and close ties the two countries share, there is a bigger adjustment than one would think when it comes to making the successful transition across the pond, especially in a professional capacity.

Pace of work in the US

Take the pace of work for example. Faster and more intense in some ways with a real sense of purpose and urgency, but in other ways much more relaxed (the workaholic in me took some time to adjust to Fridays over here, for example, where I think it’s fair to say the general approach is to a) work from home and b) wind down into the weekend starting at approximately 12 midday).

The other major difference is in how Americans have an amazing way of selling themselves. Everyone you meet here is a salesman or woman (in addition to being a tech entrepreneur, so San Francisco’s answer to LA’s “My first job is an actor” scenario) in one way or another. And I admire that. I think it breeds a half glass full attitude and generally a positive approach in all aspects of life here, not least business. This bravado might not be everyone’s cup of tea as we say back in Blighty, but it works here in the Valley, and is an important trait to have to stay relevant and get noticed in the crowd of noise.

The country that is proud to be “the land of opportunity” is certainly just that, with the important caveat that you either need access to funds, a genius idea or to come from money. And even then, ticking the box on one, two or all three doesn’t guarantee you anything.

Global tech scene

As was the case seven years ago, the global tech scene continues to be led by innovation and the inspiring combination of heavyweight technology giants and aspiring, often explosive, start-ups. And the scene shows no sign of slowing down. The pace of change and disruption here is done at breakneck speed and time waits for no man (or women) when it comes to trying to unearth the next AirBnB, Tesla or Uber.

And if there is one thing that’s very evident over here it’s don’t be scared to fail. But critically, ensure you learn quickly. So the ‘fail fast’ mantra is widely embraced and appears to run through the culture here in the valley.

At the same time, you do get a sense than an awful lot of businesses are not making money – even relatively mature start-ups or those who are beyond that point in their life-cycle. It’s almost a badge of honor over here if you don’t make money, so when people hear that I work for a company that that is both growing rapidly AND profitable it raises a few eyebrows.

Human connections

Networking is taken to another level here too. People here are genuinely happy to open up their address book, certainly more than from my own experiences of having worked extensively across Europe and Asia. To some extent it is a status thing, kind of like what you tend to see on social-orientated platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook where people almost collect ‘connections’ or ‘likes’, and you create this element of your own social status being defined by how popular (or networked) you are.

In a business sense when you’re building from ground up, running a start-up, which is effectively what I’m tasked to do for Cint (albeit in our case with the luxury of a having a much larger, very healthy core business to support it and lean on), this thriving networking environment is of course a huge bonus. It helps accelerate introductions and opens doors, making it possible to move through early stages of developing business and relations at pace.

And that has certainly been the case during my first few months as I’ve been busy beavering away setting up an office, hiring the initial team to lead our BD efforts, but equally kick-starting potential partnership discussions and focusing on breaking into the AdTech and MarTech verticals. Thankfully my first forays have yielded some quick wins and the beginnings of potential valuable longer-term partnerships, which always help.

Challenges

But it’s not been without its challenges, the greatest of which is without a doubt securing talent. Notice that I didn’t say finding talent. That part is reasonably easy in comparison to then actually landing your preferred candidates, especially if you’re a non-US headquartered company that doesn’t have a presence yet in the Valley. The fact we are a technology company hiring for business development and technical roles automatically means we are fishing in the same pools as almost every other technology company on the west coast. With that comes pressure: pressure to sell yourself, sell your business, demonstrate genuine innovation and uniqueness, and much more. You must have a clear vision and mission. You must pay well. You must have the right culture. But then because you’re an outsider, in some regards you need to oversell to stay relevant.

However, having the history that we do and the company being from a country with a global reputation for creating scalable, successful tech businesses, I saw this as an opportunity to really tell a story and create excitement about all the great things being an international company with a rich and diverse culture in our DNA brings. When America talks about the “land of opportunity”, Cint can talk about the “company of opportunity”. That appears to have resonated well with talented, curious and ambitious people in San Francisco who like the fact we’re still fairly small, agile, a disruptor, passionate, and genuinely do something that is quite niche and unique.

Cint’s promising stance

It helps of course if you have a real story to tell, and I would like to think we do. Timing is everything and I believe Cint’s value proposition and business model is more relevant now than ever before. And if you were paying attention earlier, you will have noticed that the three companies I name-checked all have one thing in common: they are all platforms. The last time I checked, so are we. More than that, in AirBnB and Uber, they are platforms built around the ‘shared economy’ concept of taking assets on one hand (supply) and making them available on the other to buyers (demand side). What AirBnB does with bricks & mortar or Uber does with transport, we do with consumers. I’m not for one minute suggesting we do it at the same scale or to the same level of disruption, but everything is relevant. When we are trying to attract the right talent and ensure they join the Cint family, and not any one of the hundreds of technology companies competing here for the best minds and most impactful sales and BD people, I would like to think in our own small way we have the potential to make our mark on the insights industry just like these unicorns in theirs.

Reflecting on a pivotal year for Cint

Reflecting on a pivotal year for Cint

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As 2016 draws to a close and 2017 waits eagerly in the wings, it is natural to reflect on all this year has held and the milestones accomplished – and what a year it’s been for Cint!

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The year couldn’t have started off in a more exciting fashion, with a change of ownership following the acquisition of Cint by Nordic Capital – a leading Private-Equity firm with extensive experience in supporting the growth of technology businesses. This was the perfect tonic to ensure a strong start to 2016, with a renewed focus and clear goal of accelerating growth and delivering strategic value for customers and partners.

Developing market-leading technology and continuing to lead disruption within the insights industry, we then launched OpinionAPP, in a move that demonstrated our commitment to our supply partners within Cint’s insights exchange. This allowed panel owners an opportunity to attract, incentivize and maintain respondents with a user-friendly, partner-branded turnkey solution as part of our ‘Engage’ supply side product bundle. OpinionAPP offers users a better experience by providing a simple dashboard view of the survey panels they are part of, and thus helps the mission to increase user engagement, and generate more revenue for the panel owner. It was a first for Cint and a development that has been well-received by partners and users alike. There is more to come with OpinionAPP too, so watch this space for further announcements in 2017 – most notably our forthcoming SDK capability to support in-app integrations, and develop more analytics capabilities for our mobile-first partners.

Our next development milestone came with Connect by Cint – a real-time insights solution providing the world’s first self-serve ecosystem to measure the effectiveness of audience and online advertising. This has been a major initiative for Cint, and one that represents the start of our broader NextGen strategy – to build a suite of solutions to plug into and help power existing technology stacks in a number of key partner verticals, with AdTech, MarTech and Insights at the forefront of our plans. It forms a critical part of our mission to help provide richer insights throughout the entire consumer journey, whether online or offline. This is imperative in today’s increasingly automated and connected, omni-channel consumer and marketing world. To help marketers deliver more personal and relevant marketing messages to their audiences, this will be key

There has also been continued investment in the best talent around, with some key hires joining the Cint family to help add value and deliver on the renewed strategy. For example, earlier this year we were joined by Greg Dunbar, who brought with him a wealth of expertise from the Enterprise tech world. More recently, we appointed Kevin Gianatiempo as a strategy lead to help Cint foster partnerships with online publishers, Demand Side Platforms and Data Management Platforms within AdTech. These are just two great additions from an array of talent we have added to our team, with more to follow in the coming months!

My own promotion to Deputy CEO earlier this year has enabled me to take a more strategic view and approach to the business, and my relocation in October – from London to spearhead the new office in San Francisco – has been an exciting prospect for me, from both a personal and professional perspective. Prior to the San Francisco office launch, we also added our first New York office in central Manhattan, taking the total number of Cint’s US offices to five.

I feel as though my feet have barely touched the ground, but as I reflect on the events of 2016 it makes me feel proud to have been part of such a momentous year for Cint, and to work within a company that refuses to stand still. The most excitement, however, comes with what’s ahead of us. 2017 is shaping up to be the biggest and best yet, in terms of product releases and improvements across our platform for buyers and sellers in equal measure. There are further expansion plans for the US and beyond, as we embark on the next chapter of our growth to deliver the best technology, people and support to the Insights and AdTech industries.

My final thought, however, is saved for our valued customers and partners, without whom there would be no Cint. They are the reason why, year after year, we keep coming back stronger, more motivated and even more disruptive than ever. We are extremely grateful for their continued support and business. We hope to continue to repay this with value and ROI in 2017, and for many more years to come.

I hope everyone has a great festive period with friends and family, and I look forward to seeing you all next year!

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