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Intro: Welcome to the WP-Tonic this week in WordPress and SaaS podcast, where Jonathan Denwood interviews the leading experts in WordPress, eLearning, and online marketing to help WordPress professionals launch their own SaaS.
Jonathan Denwood: Welcome back, folks, to the WP-Tonic this week in WordPress and SaaS. I have a great guest, I have my co-host, he’s a champ, he’s had some medical problems, sounds a bit awful, but he seems to be recovering, so it’s great to have Andrew back. We have a great guest, we have Sam from Datajoin. I’m going to let Sam quickly introduce himself, I’m not going to attempt to pronounce his surname, as you know, tribe, I just butcher some names and I have no idea on this one, so I’m not going to insult the man. So, Sam, can you give us a quick 10, 20 second intro about you and what you do at Datajoin?
Sam Fonoimoana: Sure. Yeah, thanks for having me on the show, Jon and Andrew. No worries on the last name. My name is Sam Fanoimoana. That’s a Samoan last name. I’m a Polynesian, I’m Hawaiian and Samoan. I’m the founder and CEO of Datajoin. And we always say, we’re not a marketer, but we’re a marketer’s best friend. And what we do at Datajoin is, really, to help all marketing teams interconnect all data across all of their systems. And that’s what we do in a nutshell.
Jonathan Denwood: That’s great. And, Andrew, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?
Andrew Palmer: Sure. I’m Andrew Palmer, co-founder of Bertha.ai, which helps you write where you work, specifically, within WordPress.
Jonathan Denwood: That’s great. And before we go into this great interview, I have a couple of messages from our major sponsors. We’ll back in a few moments.
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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back. I just want to point out that you can sign up for the WP-Tonic newsletter. I do a weekly newsletter, I choose one of the stories of our Friday show and it’s all about tech and WordPress. You can get that by going over to wp-tonic/newsletter; also, there’s a list of special offers from our sponsors and recommendations. There are a load of goodies on that page, so sign up for the free newsletter, it’s great.
So, we’ll go straight into it, Sam. So, maybe, you can give us some background about how you got involved in tech, because by your bio, you did your MBA at Brigham Young University. So, how did you get into tech, and then how did Datajoin start and your involvement in that?
Sam Fonoimoana: Sure. As far as how I got into tech, when I think back on it, I think there are, really, two things. First, in college, I think I was introduced, I think the seeds were planted in a couple of information systems courses I had in college, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. And then second is just purely by chance, and we’ll talk a little bit about the journey that I took to get here. But back in college, I studied entrepreneurship as an undergrad at Brigham Young University, and then I went back for the MBA program and I studied finance.
And so, in the midst of studying about lifetime value of money, EBITDA, debits, and credits, I had a couple of courses, the first one was on Microsoft Excel. And the first time I opened up Excel, I did not know what I was looking at, a bunch of rectangles on the screen, which is funny to think about now, I love Excel and I feel I’m pretty appreciated now. And then, the second information systems course was on VBA, Visual Basic, basically, the programming languages inside of Excel to automate spreadsheets beyond the functions.
And, yeah, so both of those classes, I thought to myself, wow, this is cool, you can automate things, and I don’t know how I’m going to use this in the future, but I think that I’d like to use this somehow inside of the future. So, I, kind of, tucked that thought away to the back of my mind, but that, really, planted the seeds, for me, of this idea that you could automate things through programming. And then, as far as purely by chance, my job’s out of college were exporting cereal and leg quarters to Tahiti, that was my first job. That’s, definitely, a far cry from tech, where I’m at today.
My second job was working for this turbo shop, they would install turbos on everything from Mustangs to family minivans, right? And so, once again, kind of, another, definitely, far from where I’m at today in tech. And then my third job was a scrapbooking company, it was this publication for scrapbookers. And it was like the Sports Illustrated of scrapbooking, so those are my first three jobs out of college, so that’s why I say, purely, by chance, me along with the entire finance team when I was working for that scrapbooking company, we got acquired by a bigger scrapbooking company publication and the entire finance team got laid off.
And one day passes by, I remember it was right before the 4th of July, I was flipping burgers, I just got laid-off and just thinking, wow, well, it shouldn’t take me too long to land another finance job, because that was my training. One day passes by, one week, one month turns into six months, and I had made it to the final interview stage of 10 different companies, different healthcare companies, financial institutions and, for whatever reason, none of them panned out. My cousin who works for a tech company, he called me up and he said, Hey, Sam, are you a statistician? And I looked at him and I said.
Jonathan Denwood: Oh, I am now.
Sam Fonoimoana: Yeah. I’m a statistician. I got six months of no, I’m a statistician. And so, I called my buddy who’s an actuary just to make sure I know what I’m talking about with my regression and my ANOVA and my T-test, all of that stuff I learned in school. He said, Hey, your understanding’s good enough. So, I went and got that job and, and there I was, bam, all of a sudden I’m in a tech company. I went from a scrapbooking company to a tech company and the rest is history, now I’ve only been in tech since then.
Andrew Palmer: Cool. So, on the tech company, so how did you transition, how long were you working in the tech company when you realized that your qualification or your study for entrepreneurship, suddenly, came about, was it a light bulb moment? How did it start, was it a side hustle or did somebody ask you a question? How did you get into Datajoin, what was the decision-making process and path toward that?
Sam Fonoimoana: Yeah. So, for me, when I started at that company, the company’s called One on One Marketing, they hired me as a chief statistician, but, really, the biggest problem that I solved the whole time I was there and, really, where I made my mark at the company was combining data from disparate data sources, that, really, was it. And, at this time in my career, I did know how to use Excel pretty well and I had dabbled in visual basic, but the problem at One on One Marketing was that we were spending money on marketing, millions of dollars each month, and we were generating leads for for-profit universities like University of Phoenix.
And the final success metric wasn’t the lead, it’s, actually, if that lead enrolled at the university, and so University of Phoenix had that data. We had all the marketing data. we knew what the cost per lead was, but we did not know what the cost per student enrollment was, and so that right there, that, really, was my first glimpse into a problem that I then saw it at many, many companies after. And this idea that marketing data is separated from the final outcome data, which is, normally, sales data, and that’s a problem for marketers because they have a hard time being able to do attribution, they have a hard time being able to activate without having those two data sets connected.
So, that’s, really, what got me into tech and into Datajoin, like what we do today, I went from One on One Marketing to ancestry.com, a much bigger company that’s well-known, same issues there, right? They’re spending money, but they don’t have a, really, good grasp on how that’s turning into bill-throughs on the trials and renewals.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah, so.
Andrew Palmer: It’s a problem that needs to be solved for a lot of people. Go on, Jon.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah, sorry. So, maybe, you can give us some background, a quick intro into what Datajoin does, Sam?
Sam Fonoimoana: Sure. So, Datajoin, what it does is it’s, really, taking this concept of connecting data from systems, but, to me, it takes it to this crazy level of what I like to call activation. And so, for example, getting Salesforce data for leads that have converted to a customer and being able to pipe that back into Facebook ads or back into Google ads. So, instead of optimizing to a cost per click, you can now optimize to revenue, right? Cost per revenue, or cost per opportunity, and it’s just a much higher quality metric to be able to optimize to, rather than something that’s higher up in the funnel.
So, we could take data across all of the different marketing systems and send it to another system, and this is web analytics data, sending it into your marketing automation platform, which is what I spoke about yesterday at Adobe Experience Makers, right? And sending data from your marketing automation into your ad platforms. So, marketers have all the data they need, they’re sitting on it, but it’s just in different systems, and so Datajoin is all about getting that data, not into a spreadsheet or into a chart, but getting it, directly, into the systems that the marketers are using so they have all the customer journey data, but right at home, where they work every day.
Andrew Palmer: All right.
Jonathan Denwood: Well, over to you.
Andrew Palmer: Turning that into cash, in fact, turning the cash into cash, because you can say, okay, my cost of acquisition is this much, but people aren’t, really, analyzing that cost of acquisition against return on investment, right? So, they’re two separate things, so what you’re doing is you’re saying, okay, we have a cost of acquisition, this is how much we’ve made from that acquisition or how long the pathway will take for us to make money from that acquisition, depending on the cost of acquisition. And we’re then taking that data, throwing it back into the ad platforms and saying, we only want to remarket to these guys, right? Because that’s what I mean, turning cash into cash.
Sam Fonoimoana: Yeah.
Andrew Palmer: So, it’s a great little system you have going on, though, it’s interesting. Who are your top clients? What clients do you aim at?
Sam Fonoimoana: Nobody knows who I am, or nobody knows who Datajoin is, right? So, for me, I’ve had to partner with a much bigger ship, much bigger horse, which is Adobe. And so, Adobe’s customers have been my customers. So, to date, all of our customers are Fortune 500 enterprises, they are in the B2B marketing space mostly, but I don’t think it’s limited to just that, I think we’ve just been, kind of, fed these leads, which we love, I can’t believe that I’m working with these companies if I could.
Andrew Palmer: Well, you’ll be working with another big one in a minute, won’t you? Figma, who Adobe have just done a deal to buy for $20 billion, so that’s a nice client to add to your list, Sam. Straight away; Jonathan, back to you.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. So, what’s been one or two of the biggest challenges that you and your team have faced in developing Datajoin?
Sam Fonoimoana: For me, the first thing that comes to mind is, how do we do more with less? In the earlier days, it was just me and one other person, Nate Jackson, and we were selling to Workday and Workday, probably, thought we had a huge workforce, but they didn’t know that it was just me and Nate Jackson, kind of, behind the scenes. And so, how do we do more with less? So, that’s something where Nate and I had to learn a lot of different skill sets, I was already skilled at data engineering, and so I can handle a lot of that work, but when we have to handle the marketing and the sales and the biz dev and the partnerships.
There were a lot of long days, I’ll say that, and a lot of stressful cycles for Nate and I in those early years. And I still try to continue that same culture with even, we got funded this year, our seed round, we have a lot more customers in those early days, but I try to keep that same culture like, Hey, how can we do more with less? The cavalry is not coming, we are the cavalry; that’s one of our mission, our second mission statement is, find a way. So, I think that’s always been a challenge, but it’s one that I relish, it’s one that I’m just used to.
Andrew Palmer: I think you’re describing the journey of every single startup in the world, aren’t you? Well, I’m involved in a startup, Jonathan’s got a business, he’s the head of his business, he has to use disparate developers here and there, or freelancers or design. And this is why the success of things like Figma and the success of things like design houses that accept unlimited orders for people like us to go around.
The key is not to fool people or to impress people in as much as the, you are a bigger team than you are, and there’s never an excuse for not giving great support, you can’t ever say, well, we’re a startup, we can’t get back to you within 40 hours. 48 hours. You have to get back to them, almost, instantly. So, I notice you have a family member working with you, how’s that going?
Sam Fonoimoana: It’s good. I have a big family, so I just pick the best of the best, I’m just kidding. Don’t show this to my family.
Andrew Palmer: Don’t have a favorite son, nephew or whatever, can you? Not allowed.
Sam Fonoimoana: That’s my brother’s son and he’s great. He Graduated with top marks from his university and just, really, doing a good job with marketing for us.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. Yeah. But before we go for our break, Sam, obviously, you are doing work, mostly, with Adobe as a partner, and you are doing work with these Fortune. So, Datajoin, obviously, it’s a web-based platform and it provides a number of, kind of, API that can join, certain, data to other data so you, basically, have more insight about the whole marketing process. Am I doing an unreasonable job surmising something that’s very complicated?
Sam Fonoimoana: Yeah. That’s a great job right there. We call them micro-integrations, that’s a term that we’re coining at Datajoin. I think when people think of integration, they get, some of them get stressed out, they get the shivers because they know that’s a big process and a big undertaking for most companies. So, for us, it’s like, no, we can help you skip the IT line because we do micro-integrations and they’re fast. In a couple of days you’re in and out, you don’t need to wait in line for IT and you can go to your next stakeholder meeting next week and you can show them some solid results. So, what you described is what we call micro-integrations.
Andrew Palmer: Yeah. So, you’re ERP, kind of, but without the massive project manager cost to ERP-ing and getting that whole umbrella view of what’s going on with all your data within the company. So, are you looking to do any more integrations? Can you get a zap integration into anything, what are you doing? Where’s the roadmap going?
Sam Fonoimoana: Yeah, the roadmap, we, really, focus on what I call the big four and these are what I consider the big four platforms inside the B2B MarTech stack, specifically, and that would be any ad platform. So, this would be Google ads, Facebook ads, Bing ads, LinkedIn. That’s the first one. And then the second is your analytics platforms, so that’s Google analytics and Adobe analytics. And then the third is your marketing automation, your email systems, which would be, right now we have Marketo, Eloqua, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and Pardot. And then the last one is CRM, which would be Salesforce and Dynamics.
So, if you take any of those systems in what I call the big four, we have a micro-integrion that can connect any two of them, at a time, and can do it, really, quickly.
Andrew Palmer: Right.
Jonathan Denwood: Oh, that’s great. I think we’re going to go for our break. We’ll be back. I think it’s been a, really, interesting discussion, Sam, thanks for coming on. As I said, we’ll be back in a few moments, folks.
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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back. It’s been a great discussion. I just want to plug my own and Andrew’s going to be part of it as well. We’re doing the Membership Success Summit on the 28th, the 29th of this month. And also, there’s going to be an extra day, which is part the pay ticket, on the 1st of October; it’s going to be a great free live event. We have some amazing speakers, it’s about if you are building a membership website for somebody or you’re looking to build online business yourself.
We’re going to have a load of experts that can tell you how to market it and also build the thing. Our keynote speaker is Pat Flynn, one of the leading experts about building online businesses and we have a very impressive group of speakers and you can watch it all for free. And you can watch Andrew and Stephanie, they’re fantastic, and I am, really, looking forward to it. And the link will be in the show notes, as I said, to watch the two days live is, totally, free and it’s a great resource. So, back into the discussion.
So, obviously, you touched on this, about how you’ve managed to market the company, it seems you have this partnership and this alliance with Adobe, and it seems to have been crucial. Do you mind me asking? That couldn’t have been, well, I’m presuming that this was difficult. But I don’t know. How did you develop this relationship with Adobe? Because I think it would be interesting to some of our listeners how you develop a partnership, because it’s talked about a lot and Andrew, in some ways, has benefited from a partnership with Yoast, which is a leading SEO. So, maybe, you can give some insight about that, Sam.
Sam Fonoimoana: Yeah, yeah, definitely. I think when I look back, if you would’ve talked to me out of college, I’ll, probably, just tell you, Hey, I’m just the average Samoan kid. I don’t know anybody. I don’t have any network. All of my family’s back in the islands, I don’t know anyone who works for any tech companies. And, for me, just looking back on it, though, anyone who feels similar in those shoes, I would just say just do a good job wherever you go.
You always have your good name to count upon to build a network. And that’s how I got into Adobe, it wasn’t an overnight thing that I sent a cold email and they answered back, none of those work, but what did work, for me, was working for Domo. And I became, really, good friends with our LinkedIn marketing manager there and, really, helped him in a lot of different ways to be able to optimize [to spend – 24:10].
I would play horse with him, that’s just playing horse with the basketball. I’d go out every day and we’d just talk story, as we say in Hawaii, and we just shoot some hoops. I’d go back in, do some work for him, get him the results that he needs to shine in the organization, and then fast forward six years later and he’s one of the product marketing managers at Adobe. So, he’s there at Adobe, he knows what I can do, he’s already seen me in action, we’re very good friends, at this time, and so I have a connection with him that any other competitor couldn’t touch, right?
And so, I can go in with him and create this partnership with him, he introduces me to the rest of the team and the rest is history, so that’s how I was able to make this partnership.
Jonathan Denwood: Was there, because you said that you started off with your founder, I presume it’s your founder. Is the founder the programmer, the person that programs and that, would that be correct, or?
Sam Fonoimoana: Yeah, so I’m the founder. I do know how to program, I built all of the first micro-integrations just learning Python on my own and I never took a computer science course. I did a lot of YouTube, I took a lot of Coursera classes. I, actually, would pay the data engineering team back at One on One Marketing in breakfast croissants, and they would teach me at 6:00 AM in the morning for about a month every day we would come in.
And, for me, I feel like coming into analytics with a finance mindset of follow the money, I felt that was good, for me, because I knew what to analyze and I knew what to attack that was going to move the needle for the bottom line so that the finance guys wouldn’t get mad, because that’s how I think.
Jonathan Denwood: Well, I think you have given a great insight there. So, you want to listen there, tribe. Bribe the developers with croissants in the morning.
Andrew Palmer: Well, there’s another thing there, Jonathan, it’s very, very appropriate to our community, the WordPress community, Sam. We have these WordCamps, and somebody said, take this with a grain of salt, and I didn’t go to the last WordCamp in in America, which was last week, which Jonathan went to. And this guy said, I didn’t go there, but is it worth, because it just seems like there are a lot of advertisers there, blah, blah, blah, blah. But, actually, it’s about building relationships, and my relationship with Yoast was built via Joost himself, he tweeted me and said, I love Bertha, what’s going on?
And six months down the line we’re meeting at WordCamps and we’re making friends and Marieke herself came on this podcast a couple of times, came on another podcast that I’m doing. And you make friends with people, Sam, and it’s good to have friends in good places, not, necessarily, high places, because at the time Yoast had not been purchased by a large company. And one of the things that I wanted to say to you was, how did the seed round funding go? That’s hard work, right? Seeing these venture capitalists. And they want to know the inside leg measurements of your cat, really, don’t they?
Sam Fonoimoana: That’s a good way to put it, I never heard anyone put it like that, but that’s a good way to put it. Yeah, for me, from my experience, I don’t know. I’ve seen some founders; of course, on LinkedIn you only see the success stories, right? But I’ve seen founders go in pre-revenue, pre-customers and come away with a nice round. And that just wasn’t my experience, I’d always tell people, for me, it was easier to build a business than to fundraise, right? It was, actually, easier, for me, to get customers, get my partnership with Adobe, bring on these Fortune 500 customers.
And, just for various reasons, I know we’re competing in a crowded space, even though, we’re doing something that no one else is, really, doing, it’s still a crowded space, but it was a long journey. I’m talking about multiple years journey, for me, to be able to, actually, get this seed round so that it’s not just me and Nate anymore. But it feels great to be on this side of the coin where I have revenue and I have the funding and I have a team now that’s greater than two; we’re over 10 people now who are working for us.
Andrew Palmer: Yeah.
Sam Fonoimoana: And I just feel, really, grateful to be in this position, but for anyone who’s struggling with that fundraising. Yeah, you, definitely, have to be prepared to answer all of the questions, but I felt like my fundraising got better when I focused less on giving the perfect pitch, the perfect slide sequence and more on talking about the opportunity and even the problems that I’m facing and how the investment is going to help me to overcome my problems.
Jonathan Denwood: Well, I think, I just get the impression that serious investors want to see that you know your figures and you understand your business and how you are going to expand it. Because that’s why they’re investing, because they were investing because they want to see a return. So, if they don’t think that you have a, really, detailed understanding and a understanding of how you’re going to market and get more customers, they’re, really, not going to invest, are they?
Andrew Palmer: Well, let me answer that one because I’ve met a couple of institute, not institution investors, but VCs, when I was out in New York last year. And one of the reasons they want, I think the second part of your story there, Sam, where you focused on the dream, let’s call it a dream, where you want to end up. How you’re going to get there with new developers, with marketing managers, with customer success people, et cetera, cetera, people that you can afford to be built, you can now afford to pay your bills and you can concentrate on the roadmap and where you want to go.
And part of VCs wanting the inside of your cat’s leg measurement is the fact of, yes, they must, they’re trying to understand your business from a financial perspective. Is it a viable product? Is it a viable service? And then, as soon as you get rid of that, you can start talking about the dream, because if you start talking about the dream first, without having that data available, you become between a rock and a hard place, because at one time in the day, whether that’s over a three months to six months to nine month period.
And it can also put you off, actually, going for investment, because this is taking so long, are we going to do it? It distracts you from the business. I know this from having sold a business to a large hosting company as well, that distracts you, because I was distracted for a year. So, you have to have your nuts and bolts together and your sums added up with the financials, but you also, you are so right there; you have to have your roadmap together and your dreams, your ambitions, your criteria for getting there.
And that is one of the most important aspects that I think that people that are asking for seed funding or any, kind of, funding, they don’t, really, focus on that, and they’re not, really, sure of how to get from that A to B, so that’s good advice there, Sam. Over to you, Jon.
Sam Fonoimoana: Yeah, thank you.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah, that’s great. I think we’re going to wrap up the podcast part of the show, are you okay to stay on for another 10 minutes, Sam? And we call that bonus content and they can watch the whole interview, plus the bonus on the WP-Tonic YouTube channel and on the live LinkedIn video that we’re pushing out as well. But for the podcast, we are going to wrap it up; we like to keep it around 30 minutes, Sam. So, Sam, what’s the best way for people to find out more about you and about Datajoin?
Sam Fonoimoana: I think the best place for me, I’m on LinkedIn a lot these days, so I think my LinkedIn profile, that’s, probably, the best one to take a look at. So, find me on LinkedIn, Sam Fonoimoana, I’m the only one on there, and then datajoin.com. You guys can go learn more about micro-integrations at datajoin.com.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah, thanks for that. Andrew, how can people find out more about you and what you’re up to?
Andrew Palmer: You can find me at bertha.ai_ and @arniepalmer on Twitter, and, of course, at Bertha.ai. There you go. What can I say? How many times do I say it, you keep on forgetting it, so there you go.
Jonathan Denwood: There we go. And, as I said, do join us for the Friday show, join us live because we have, actual, people comment live on the Friday show and it’s hilarious. That’s at 8:30 Pacific Standard, you can join us on the WP-Tonic YouTube channel and also join us on the WP-Tonic Facebook group page where the live show is pushed and you can comment and be part of the discussion. What more can you ask for? We’re going to wrap up the podcast, please join us on the YouTube channel to watch the bonus content of this great interview. We’ll seeing next week, folks. Bye.
Outro: Hey, thanks for listening, we, really, do appreciate it. Why not visit the mastermind Facebook group and also to keep up with the latest news, click wp-tonic.com/newsletter. We’ll see you next time.
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