16 Aug The Interview: Gregory Kapp on working with BDIT and the role of data engineering in Marketing
Another interview in our series of interviews with some BDIT’s clients. Our goal is to show you their thoughts and experience working with us. Raw, unfiltered. No fake testimonials. We believe this is the best way for you to truly get a good idea of what it’s like working with BDIT.
Greg Kapp’s primary focus is on growth marketing and he has worked with Siniša at Lumos Labs, and then afterwards with BDIT, on other projects. Read more about his thoughts and experiences with Siniša and BDIT.
The Interviewer: You worked with Siniša in Lumos Labs. How would you describe your work with him?
Greg: It was very collaborative and I’d also argue that it was pretty innovative in the sense that we were trying to solve problems that I believe relatively few companies were working with- just given the scale at which we operated – in the number of countries that we were in, in some of the marketing channels that we were on. Like television, which is pretty rare for a digital business, at least at the time, to be advertising on TV and trying to link that with site visitors and the sales that were coming from – those kind of marketing efforts, we were sort of cutting edge on some of the attribution that we were doing and how we’re visualizing those things.
I think a combination of really easy to work with, very fun working environment, casual, but at the same time, working on some hard problems that we had to actually think through together. We weren’t following a path that lots of other companies had followed, we were trying to solve new problems together.
The Interviewer: Have you been working with any team that is similar to Siniša’s team in this period, after Lumos?
Greg: Occasionally, maybe we’d work with a contractor here or there that could help us with a project or – internal teams… I certainly could share some of the issues with either of those approaches.
With a smaller team, or a single person, it can be less responsible or less attentive to our needs;
And when it’s your internal team just on the marketing side, we generally are less likely to have resources dedicated to us within the team. What was great about working with Siniša was that they were dedicated, his team was dedicated to working on problems from the marketing team and the organization that I was a part of. A great reason to bring in a team that can be external to help on projects, like what Siniša is doing for other advertisers right now.
The Interviewer: If you could describe the work ethic and their approach to work, how would you describe it and if you can, maybe compare it to other companies like that?
Greg: It was very high and it was a very, very serious approach to the work that we were doing. He was always working really hard, his team was always working really hard.
It’s a presumed trust and I’ve been lucky that everyone that I’ve worked with was always able to deliver a great work it’s just there’s different approaches you can take to it – and the one thing for sure that I know is that Siniša’s team works really hard, they have a strong work ethic and also tried to map the hours as much as possible so that we can ensure that we had a lot of overlapping time despite the time zones, to make sure we were on the same page and kind of building exactly what we’re looking for or that they were building exactly what we were looking for. So I definitely know that they work really hard and we would rate it very highly on a scale compared to other people that I’ve worked with.
The Interviewer: And in the end, even though they work in engineering, it somehow appears that this human part is even more important. Being a great engineer is a prerequisite for everything else, but on top of it, it’s this human side that Siniša has that sets him apart as well.
Greg: I think it is helpful when working with him. Because, it’s just a lot of understanding. And I think it makes things more fun and casual with the working environment. So we can do great work, but also do it in a way that’s fun. And great. We enjoy working with one another.
The Interviewer: The next question is, what was the situation in Lumos Labs? Back then when BDIT was working on it? Can you maybe remember the manifestations of the issue? How do you even think about needing help from the software development team?
Greg: I joined after Siniša was already off. So I’m not super 100% sure on what was the initial driver for his team joining Lumos and adding a lot of support, but I can certainly share from my perspective, one challenge that I’ve run into at my current job is that marketing in particular, is lower priority in terms of getting resources from data engineering, versus product teams.
And that was a problem because we actually were meeting to make sure that everything that we were doing in marketing was paying itself back, we’re spending lots of money a month and if we were kind of not sure how it was performing, or not tracking all the data related to the dollars going out, we would be really in a lot of trouble. And I would be in a lot of trouble because I was responsible for making sure those dollars came back and paid themselves back.
The main kind of game changing opportunity that Siniša’s team brought was that they were dedicated to working on marketing problems and really viewed those as the highest priority. The ability to have a team that was dedicated to our problems that treated us like we were number one priority, and always had time for us was kind of the most important thing that BDIT provided for us.
The Interviewer: What do you think would have happened if they didn’t come there? You would be left alone without an engineering team?
Greg: I think eventually, we might have built the same tools that we needed to both streamline our processes and make better decisions that would have just taken longer; the couple workarounds that we probably would have had to develop or hire more people, onto our team to manually do the things that tools did automatically for us. And, you know, we probably would also have made worse decisions. So let’s buy this TV spot instead of that one. Because we don’t really know which one’s doing better. And we watch the show and not that show. So, let’s just buy that. And that might have been the wrong decision. And so when you’re spending lots of dollars, a small percentage of it being better allocated, can really pay itself back. So I think that it would have been a worse return on our ad spend. And we would have had to just have a higher payroll for people to do manually some of the things that the software that BDIT developed for us did automatically.
The Interviewer: Is it the usual practice in the Valley that startups are developing their own marketing, tech support, and not using some other ready-made software?
Greg: At the time, it was very rare that we were doing so much development in house, over time, it’s become a bit more common. But I would say among sort of larger organizations that are really successful, it’s very common to build your own internal BI tools and marketing analytic software.
One thing that was a little unique for us was that about half of our spend or more was on offline marketing channels, which is much harder to get the data – because there’s no API, like with Facebook or Google, where you can just extract the data. So that was a majority of where their time with us and working with us went. Figuring out how to adjust this data from places where we don’t have API’s and how to store it, how to associate it with users that we think came from those channels and things like that.
The Interviewer: After Lumos Labs, you founded your own startup. Why did you talk to BDIT then? And what was the problem?
Greg: It was kind of the same thing, to some extent – a little different than at Lumos. There were lower priority problems, and we needed help with those, because it did translate into real savings. Here, we wanted to offer something to our clients that we just couldn’t. We were a service organization with no engineers on staff. We were looking to have somebody that could help us build the tools that we were hoping to build, to provide to our clients.
The purpose of the tools were to help show our clients on a daily basis, how much they spent on TV and how well did it perform in terms of the lift that was generating, and sales; and it was just something that we were incapable of building. Siniša immediately came to mind just because we work together so well, and the team does great work. That was the main desire, purely on the basis of I have worked with them in the past, they do good work and made my life easy.
The Interviewer: So you have a problem and you initially think about Siniša and BDIT. You don’t go around and find another comparative competitor or…?
Greg: Correct. The part of it is just that there are so many things that could go wrong when you’re working on a new project from the ground up. It’s really potentially risky to try that with somebody that you haven’t worked with in the past. And so even if I was in a place where I couldn’t have the opportunity to work with people that I’ve worked with before, I would still heavily leverage referrals from people that I trust and say, “Who did you work with? “
The Interviewer: Would you recommend BDIT to others?
Greg: One thing that I will say about BDIT, is that it’s grown a tonne since I initially started working with them, which is probably a sign of their success and how well they’re doing, and their ability to meet demand. I would absolutely not hesitate to recommend them. And I would hope that that growth, which is probably because of the success that they’ve been having, would be indicative of their ability to take on more work and not necessarily let it affect their current capacity and clients.
The Interviewer: How would you pitch their team to another decision maker, what would you choose to point out?
Greg: It would be kind of related to some of the things that we touch base on initially. The ability to work on innovative things in addition to the more routine things, from time to time. You know, there’s maybe more mundane types of solutions like connecting with an API to extract data and things like that.
But then almost invariably, you’re going to run into a challenge that’s unique to your business, or unique in the sense that you’re doing it for the first time or solving a problem that very few people have encountered in the past. And I think it’s that secondary bucket that gets me very excited to refer BDIT to other teams, because I know working together with them on problems that neither of us had encountered in the past could work – as we’d work collaboratively to solve them.
One thing that I flagged that I was a little less exposed to, but if the alternative is to hire full time people to solve these kinds of problems, that can be very costly to win all the benefits and things like that. It comes with this sort of expectation that you’ll need to continue to find projects for them to do. I could imagine bills and costs would be part of the equation that a decision maker would factor into. I would also refer to them as I know it makes staffing much less of a headache of needing to think through hiring and the salaries and benefits and all those kinds of things.
Find Gregory Kapp on LinkedIn: View Profile