Tech In Boston

Tech In Boston

Conversations with people doing interesting things in the Boston tech & startup community, focused on topics like building a company, hiring, product, sales, marketing and more.

What Most Startups Get Wrong With Marketing [Tech In Boston #11]

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Interview with Mike Troiano, Chief Marketing Officer, Actifio.

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"Don’t confuse the story you want to tell about your company with the story that the world will actually understand.” -Mike Troiano, Chief Marketing Officer, Actifio

Mike Troiano is Chief Marketing Officer at Actifio, a copy data virtualization company based in Waltham.  

To put it in non-tech speak: they help big businesses dramatically reduce the number of copies of data they need to store which saves them a ton of time and money.  Think about how often you update, save, re-name or delete files on your own computer, and you’ll start to get a sense of how big of a challenge this can be for huge companies.

With more than 300 customers, including Sanofi, Unilever, HBO, and Netflix, Actifio recently raised $100 million at a $1.1 billion valuation, making it one of only two companies in the Boston area with a billion-dollar valuation (Wayfair being the other).

A graduate of Cornell and Harvard Business School, Mike spent the majority of his career working at agencies before going in-house to join Actifio in May 2012.

Mike’s one of the best there is when it comes to marketing and branding, and has worked with many local companies including Zipcar, Adelphic Mobile, VSnap, BostInno, Gemvara, Linkable Networks and more.  He’s also a mentor at TechStars, on the board at the New England Venture Capital Association and an advisor to several Boston startups.  

In this episode, Mike talks about:

  • Leaving the agency world to join the team at Actifio
  • Marketing a very technical product
  • The hard lesson he learned owning his first agency
  • How one of his early companies had a role in the NBC show Deal Or No Deal
  • The best piece of advice he’s received in his career
  • What most startups get wrong with marketing
  • The best way for a company to tell their story
  • Twitter’s role and importance in personal branding
  • His list of the early-stage companies to keep an eye on right now in Boston
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Arian Radmand, Co-Founder & Director of Engineering, CoachUp

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Arian Radmand is the Co-Founder and Director of Engineering at CoachUp, a service that connects athletes with private coaches.

The idea for the company was based on Founder and CEO Jordan Fliegel’s experience as a private basketball coach and the fact that most private coaches don’t have the expertise or the platform to market their services and accept payment for those services.

Graduates of MassChallenge and TechStars, CoachUp initially receiving $28,000 in funding from Dharmesh Shah.  In just two years, CoachUp has grown to serve more than 15,000 coaches and more than 42,000 athletes, and most recently raised a $6.7 million Series A round in November.

From Boston Bruins legend and current President Cam Neely, former Red Sox favorite Gabe Kapler and Nerlens Noel of the Philadelphia 76ers, CoachUp has some big name athletes helping out with the company as well, and if you like sports and startups, you’re going to enjoy this episode.

In this episode, Arian talks about:

  • How CoachUp works and the economics of a two-sided marketplace (athletes & coaches)
  • Starting the company working only nights and weekends
  • How they were able to grow the company with less than $30,000 of funding and why they were focused on building a product first before raising more money
  • Why he is against founders working 80 hour weeks
  • Why founders need to systemize their operations to create a business than can run on it’s own
  • The approach he’s taken to building an engineering organization

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Matt Brand, Co-Founder & Head of Technology, Dunwello

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Matt Brand is the Co-Founder & Head of Technology at Dunwello, a new company in in Boston that is focused on changing the way employee feedback is handled and is based on the idea that everyone should be both happy and productive at work.

The founding team at Dunwello is comprised of two Matt’s, Brand and Matt Lauzon, the former CEO of jewelry retailer Gemvara, and the team recently raised a seed round of $1.4 million.

Matt Brand was previously part of the team at Tabblo, a Cambridge-based company founded by Antonio Rodriguez that was acquired by HP in 2007.

“There’s a difference between building software and writing code.  People who are building software are thinking about the user.  There are a lot of great coders, and those people are wonderful, but at an early stage, you need people who understand they aren’t typing in a vacuum.  At the end of the day, all that matters is what our users think.” - Matt Brand, Co-Founder & Head of Technology, Dunwello.

In this episode, Matt talks about:

  • The role he plays as a technical co-founder
  • Why it’s so important to have a clearly defined culture and be happy at work
  • How to hire top engineering talent
  • The difference between building software and writing code
  • Why he loves change and being part of a company in its early stages
  • Work life balance and how to write code at a dance recital

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Allan Telio, Vice President, Startup Institute

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Allan Telio is Vice President at the Startup Institute, a career accelerator that helps people find jobs at local startups.

The Startup Institute has become a magnet for people looking to switch careers and join a startup, attracting everyone from ages 22 to 55.  Since being spun out of TechStars a little over two years ago, the Startup Institute now has 25 employees and offices in Boston, Chicago, New York & Berlin.  

To date, they’ve helped people land jobs at 170 local companies, including Fiksu, Ovuline, Nanigans, Constant Contact, Swipely and more,  and they are quickly becoming the farm system for many local companies.

Before joining the team at the Startup Institue, Allan was Vice President of Business Development at MyEnergy, which was acquired by Nest in May 2013 (Nest was later bought by Google for $3.2 billion in February of this year). 

"Most people coming through the program are transitoning their careers and looking for something different.  They want to find a job where if they don’t show up, it matters and impacts the company’s bottom line.” - Allan Telio, Vice President, Startup Institute

In this episode, Allan talks about:

  • How the Startup Institute provides talent to local startups (1:28)
  • His number one piece of advice for those looking to join a startup (12:40)
  • The three keys to finding a job you love (14:50)
  • Why a company’s product is so important to recruiting top talent (16:00)
  • The challenges of working at a people company vs. a product company (17:55)

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Cort Johnson, Co-Founder, Terrible Labs

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Cort Johnson is one of the co-founders of Terrible Labs, a design and development shop with 11 employees in the Leather District that specializes in building mobile and web apps with Ruby On Rails.

With a background in economics and finance, Cort is one of the rare business people that has a passion and understanding of product development (not a coincidence after spending three years with his co-founders who are both engineers, Joe Lind and Jeremy Weiskotten).  He spends his time at Terrible Labs running point on client projects and handles all potential clients interested in working with the team.

Before Terrible Labs, Cort was Chief Evangelist at SVNGR, and on the side started Dart Boston, an organization focused on bringing together passionate young professionals in Boston.

In this episode, Cort talks about:

  • Why naming the company “Terrible Labs” was one of the smartest things they’ve done.
  • How he’s become product focused without a background in engineering or design.
  • The importance of product management and writing clear requirements.
  • Why everyone in your company should be involved in sales.
  • Why you shouldn’t always have to settle for less money when joining a startup.
  • The most important thing during the first five years of your career.
  • How they invest in their team and keep everyone engaged.
  • How they are using a new way to build iOS apps called Ruby Motion to take some of the burden off paying parking tickets in the city.

“It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest product in the world.  If you don’t know how to sell it, your company will go nowhere.”  -Cort Johnson

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