“Raising Money Is Not A Goal Or A Sign Of Success” 5 Leadership Lessons With Ran Sarig CEO of Datorama

“Raising money is not a goal nor is it a sign of success. I am always surprised that people celebrate raising capital because you’re literally selling a part of your business and you’re not getting compensated. Obviously, it is an essential component to building a big business but I just want to underscore my point here: Funding does not equate success, achieving revenue growth is what you want to do.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ran Sarig, co-founder and CEO of global marketing intelligence company, Datorama. Ran was recently named an Advertising Age Marketing Technology Trailblazer, an EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, and identified as a Digiday Top Boss in the marketing technology sector. Datorama’s best-in-class combination of end-to-end data management, artificial intelligence (AI) technology and high-performance architecture makes it simple for data-driven marketers of all experience levels to make better decisions from all of their marketing data. The company has been recognized as a Gartner Cool Vendor in data-driven marketing for 2016, and was named a Deloitte Fast 50 Rising Star in 2015 and 2016 with a revenue growth rate of 694 and 211 percent, respectively.

Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

In a previous life I used to work as a research and development (R&D) leader at an advertising technology (AdTech) company. Our customers were enterprise marketers and advertising agencies. I realized while trying to solve for their marketing intelligence needs that there was a lot of white space in the industry, which presented an opportunity — there wasn’t a single solution that could deliver on my clients’ needs at the ever-increasing speed or scale of marketing. So, I spoke with the best technology person I know — now Datorama’s CTO & Co-founder, Efi Cohen — and he agreed that we were onto something. We set out to find an optimal third partner. We met her — Datorama’s CSO and Co-founder, Katrin Ribant — as she was a customer at our previous company. After inviting everyone to get together for a beer, the three of us were on board and ready to make a change; however, it took some time for us to develop the type of relationship and trust co-founders in a startup environment need.

Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company

I can certainly deliver something that I suspect will meet your “interesting” criteria. During our Series A round of funding, I was working relentlessly. The process can be arduous and time consuming, and has to be balanced with running a business. Having not had one day of vacation, I decided that I needed to get a breath of fresh air, which led to me taking a hiking trip with my wife. As I always travel with my laptop, even when hiking, I brought it along for the day’s journey. As is the nature of closing deals, there were some challenges and differences with our potential investors — their lawyers. This meant that during one of our hikes I needed to crack open the laptop on a remote mountain top (thankfully, we had reception) and spend three hours on a conference call with five lawyers and two investors. It ended just before dusk.

Yitzi: So what does your company do?

Essentially, we provide enterprise marketers and advertising agencies with a technology that brings all their respective marketing data into one place, and ultimately aids them in better decision making for the business. It sounds simple, right? In reality it is a complex business. 
 
 Every marketing organization drives its messaging across a plethora of channels — social, mobile, online, search, display, video, offline events, etc. — and they do that across geographies. When you factor in that today’s businesses have many different products they’re trying to sell with varied messages to a slew of segments for targeting purposes, the complexity increases. And, if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, there is an influx of point solutions to help marketing departments execute on this. If you take a look at the LUMAScape or Scott Brinker’s marketing technology landscape, we’re talking about thousands of solutions for marketers to choose from as they build their technology stack.
 
 As marketers ourselves, we know that making decisions is difficult especially when your data is fragmented and siloed. Datorama was created to bring all that data together, allow for teams to mash it and have a single source of truth that’s easy to work with. It’s huge and our business is growing accordingly.

Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

First and foremost, the success of our customers is always top of mind for Datorama. Frankly, we’re customer obsessed. I know I speak on behalf of all Datoramans when I say we wake up every day thinking how we can make our customers more impactful for their business. In addition to that, we also believe that we should be a positive force in our local offices’ communities, which is quite expansive given our 16 global locations. For 2017 we’ve begun to focus more on our volunteer initiative. Take, for example, our participation with New York-based City Harvest, which is an organization that redistributes excess food to those in need. In addition, our London-based team worked with The Felix Project, which is also geared towards reducing food waste. As this is an ongoing effort at Datorama, we’re looking forward to giving back to the communities we call home.

Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

People don’t say “No.” The investing community takes its time and will have you coming to meetings over and over again. It’s much better to have a quick yes/no decision. NOTE: If an investor seems to be taking their time, they probably are. As a founder, time is our most valuable asset and it is finite.

What I can say no to are advisors. Personally, I have a tough time finding the value there although many people will be happy to join your effort. As a rule of thumb: Build the business and ask for advice when necessary.

Dovetailing from my last point, don’t be shy. Ask for help! Here’s the key though: Collect as many data points as you can but when push comes to shove you must make the decision about your business. No one knows it better.

Raising money is not a goal nor is it a sign of success. I am always surprised that people celebrate raising capital because you’re literally selling a part of your business and you’re not getting compensated. Obviously, it is an essential component to building a big business but I just want to underscore my point here: Funding does not equate success, achieving revenue growth is what you want to do.

Avoid negativity like fire. People are keen to shout from the rooftops why your idea will not work. What you need is constructive criticism. Know the difference, because I can guarantee that you will make mistakes on your adventure and you will need to course correct, but do not fall victim to those who will bring you down or who do not understand your vision properly.

Yitzi: I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, or I might be able to introduce you.

If I were to have an opportunity for a private breakfast/lunch with an entrepreneur it would have to be Elon Musk. I look up to him because he has been able to make a real dent in the world in various capacities. Between PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla, he has a pretty remarkable story that’s provided me with inspiration. Personally, I like to think that Datorama is providing today’s marketing organizations with the same level of disruptive impact.

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