the interview: Camille Landau
Camille is currently the Chief Marketing Officer of WireWheel, a venture-backed startup that modernizes and simplifies how enterprises protect and manage the privacy of personal data. She has been CEO of OmniSparx and Choozy, and a senior marketing lead or strategic advisor for companies including TeamSnap, Eventbrite, iMedical, Mixbook, Fandor, Mozilla, Chic by Choice, Liquid, PETsys, and Pitchtime. She co-managed the San Francisco and West coast presence supporting the startups connected with Portugal Ventures and is the founder of Steal this Idea, which provides multiple forms of support for early stage teams in for-profit and not-for-profit fields.
What initially sparked your interest in marketing?
My interest in marketing was developed when working at TBWA/Chiet/Day advertising. The view at the time was that advertising equaled marketing. It always struck me as interesting that advertising was thought of as equivalent to marketing, when in reality advertising is so much farther down the line. I believe that marketing is about markets and understanding untapped needs among potential consumers and clients. What I’m most interested in is the consumer, business, and market needs that are unmet and how those can be addressed through product. Eventually, many, many steps down the line, these can be addressed via advertising. Now with SaaS businesses, people have finally come to the same realization. Now, the marketing channel, especially in SaaS, is more about the steps in the user’s journey we have an opportunity to support better. There might also be steps in the product opportunity that we’re not currently supporting. Marketing is finally in the role of helping the organization think about product and other aspects like usability, customer service, and of course, the messaging to the consumer or client.
I’d love to understand how that interest intersects with your passion for technology as well?
The thing about consumers and technology is that we don’t necessarily think in terms of wanting technology, right? We think in more granular, direct terms, and technology is, of course, broader than bits and bytes. Put simply, technology is the knowledge that our society has captured. It’s a marketer’s job to look at an unmet opportunity and phrase it in an addressable way. So, a consumer might have a need that she doesn’t articulate as a technology need. What we do as a marketer, is to translate that need and then use technology to help meet that need. As marketers, technology lets us listen faster and at scale, which helps us quickly understand if there is momentum in a solution and determine if we’re onto something.
That’s a really good point about technology being a mechanism to meet consumer needs. Moving on to your current role, you’ve worked with a wide range of exciting companies, I’d love to know how you ended up at WireWheel?
I really care about privacy, it is a personal value. I think that this is a great time to talk about privacy, because we are still very naive about it. Yet, I think there are enough signs to show that we shouldn’t be. There was a New York Times article written just a few days ago that showed how much our mobile phones know about us. If you had asked Americans 20 years ago, “Would you be okay being tracked at all times?” most people probably would have said “No”, right? Yet, it’s not only possible, it’s happening now. Still, nobody wants to give up their phone. The relationship between our integrity as consumers and the businesses that we work with, and the governments that we work with, I think is becoming clearer. The power that we have as consumers is something that I really want to support. I relate to the spirit of GDPR, in which the use of data needs to directly and demonstrably show value on behalf of consumers. Social platforms have shown us that our data is extremely valuable. They have shown it in terms of advertising, but I think it’s even more valuable than that. I want consumers to know that they have power over their own data as well as over their own agency.
As somebody who has been part of many small teams, I know that compliance can seem like a burden to a smaller company. The thought can be, “Gosh, I shouldn’t have to deal with this on top of all the other things we’re dealing with and it’s hard enough to run a business.” With our products, of course, we want to convey that it doesn’t have to be hard, and help companies get on the path to doing the right thing by their customers. I like that we can turn something that might sound mysterious or difficult, like compliance with GDPR, into something manageable. We also illuminate other positive things that can be done with a stronger customer relationship.
For those that might not be familiar, WireWheel helps customers achieve compliance quickly, and become prepared for upcoming privacy standards, which is of growing importance. What are some of the biggest pain points your customers face?
The way I put it is that privacy is a human value. It’s a deeper than compliance. Compliance is a useful way to think about it, though, and it’s a useful motivator. Compliance gives businesses a reason and an urgency to make sure they’re not doing anything wrong. Overtime, we can start helping them do more of the right things as well. The deeper value is in treating consumer privacy with the same importance that we treat data security. In a way, consumer privacy is the deeper value of data security. Of course, security is an important layer, but there’s also non-technical aspects regarding the consumer relationship.
I was recently thinking about this with respect to my relationship with Instacart, which I enjoy using. It struck me how much information Instacart has about me and also that I’m okay with that. Instacart knows when I’m home and, maybe, when I’m not. They know where I live, what I eat, and probably who lives in my house, given what we order. Possibly, since I order differently around some Jewish holidays, they know my religion. They might know that I’m eating more healthfully recently. I don’t mind, and not just because the convenience is so compelling, but because of the way in which the consumer relationship has evolved. I was, in fact, thinking that Instacart could take things a step further and ask me to assign a budget and upload a menu and then just make that process happen. That would go even deeper, right? That’s what I mean about thinking about privacy more deeply and how closely that connects to marketing.
You just beautifully outlined the many things that can be inferred from seemingly innocuous data. What are your thoughts on some commonly held misperceptions about privacy?
I think the main one among consumers is that they shouldn’t care if they’re not doing anything wrong. I assume that no one’s doing anything wrong, but that doesn’t mean that marketers or others should have access to all that personal information. You may or may not be in a group of people that at one point in time, may suffer an algorithmic disadvantage. We don’t want that to happen. It could happen. I have a little bit of a historical context here as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. There are extremes and so we shouldn’t just trust governments with our data. It needs to be protected for everybody, not only those who feel safe at a given point in time.
That’s such an important point. Moving on to your experience beyond marketing, as somebody who’s been both an operator and an investor, what advice would you give to founders pitching investors?
The advice that comes to mind is what I would say on both sides of the operator-investor table: be comfortable and really transparent about the uncertainty in what we do and recognize that our plan for change is really based on hypotheses. You really need to be able to outline the way you see this opportunity, the way you believe it should be addressed, and then acknowledge any parts of that plan that could shift. Outline your vision while acknowledging that you may not be interpreting something correctly, that there could be a greater or lesser degree of urgency around that need, and that maybe the proposed solution isn’t the right answer. These things shift and the macro environment also changes. So, I believe clarity about that uncertainty is very useful, as is outlining milestones based on testable moments throughout the experiment. If everyone is aligned on testing the experiment, then you can’t lose. Everyone is collectively gaining knowledge and will work together more transparently as a result.
It’s also another way to have more clarity about what assumptions are being made.
I also invest, and therefore, I practice my assumption thinking often. I’ve realized that the 80/20 rule applies here as well. There are at least 20% of assumptions that haven’t been captured. COVID, I think brings that home. Let’s imagine we were listening to the pitch of somebody who wanted to create a restaurant. A year ago, we would not have said, “What if no one is allowed to leave their house?”
No, that definitely wasn’t in the scenario analysis. I’m curious, you’ve worked with many startups in a variety of contexts, what advice do you have for operators in our community?
I think this one might be obvious, but it’s so true. Cash is king, or queen. Try not to spend it until it’s going to benefit you. Up until then, really focus on experiments and testing, then deploy the cash when it will help you accelerate. Cash flow is the most important part, it really matters, it really has an extraordinary value to your business. What you want to do is learn your way to efficiency, learn your way to a great market. Then you’ll understand more and will be able to address the market better than any competitor. At that point, $1 invested will produce many more times that.
We’ve only briefly touched on your very impressive background, what work would you say you’re most proud of?
It was really a privilege, as well as incredible joy, to work on behalf of the Portuguese government and its venture investing arm. We were not only advising companies and investing, but it was extra exciting to support those companies in their early milestones. The reason why that fund was created was because, as we know, despite the fact that we have such a strong investment ecosystem here in California, it’s hard to find many echoes of that elsewhere. Portugal wanted to create an ecosystem and invested in doing so. It’s done very well. If you’ve heard of Portugal lately, it’s partly the result of the investments we made. The fund was run by a genius, wonderful person who had so many roles in the economy. He really helped the fund to think about wins as a collective. There is an investment thesis around the endemic strengths of Portugal and supporting businesses that would take advantage of those. As a result, Portugal is seen as a great place to start new businesses, a great place for design, a great place for light manufacturing, a great place for pharmaceutical research, and on and on. It’s all based on this careful investment thesis and the careful structure of the fund, which I got to be part of.
That’s really an exponential impact. Are there any other parting words that you have for community members?
To entrepreneurs: It is always a good time to start a new business, it always is. You get to decide when and how you want to seek money. You can take a long time building up to that moment or a short time. You know, raising money is part of your process but it doesn’t have to be on day-one because you can run many experiments ahead of time. You can start learning on day-one.