Russell Goldsmith
Russell Goldsmith 18 February 2022

Podcast - Interview with Kabir Shahani, CEO and Co-Founder of Amperity

Part of our special series of episodes that we're recording in partnership with the European PR Agency, Tyto, and their own Without Borders podcast, this interview is with Kabir Shahani, CEO and Co-Founder of Amperity.

Part of our special series of episodes that we’re recording in partnership with the European PR Agency, Tyto, and their Own Without Borders podcast, Russell Goldsmith and co-host Brendon Craigie, Founder of Tyto, were joined online from Seattle by Kabir Shahani, CEO and co-founder of the customer data platform Amperity.

In July 2021, Amperity announced it had raised $100 million in series B funding, valuing the company at $1bn and totalling its fundraising at $187m.

Founded in 2016, Amperity’s leading software allows companies to narrow down data sources from customers to use in targeted marketing campaigns, across web traffic, purchase history, loyalty programmes, in-store visits, and other touchpoints.

Kabir and his co-founder, Derek Slager, worked together building a marketing automation business prior to Amperity, which meant they had a wide perspective on multichannel marketing, specifically how data was being used in businesses around the world.

Kabir began by explaining that one business core is helping brands to best serve their customers whilst using insights and analytics to be able to understand how they can be most effective in that engagement.

He added that when the business began, consumer brands found it a continuous challenge to get a single, actionable view of their customer.

This was reflected in Amperity’s first case study with Alaska Airlines, an airline that the pair frequently used.

In 2015, they received an email from the airline, the subject read ‘The one thing you could do this holiday season’ and upon opening it, it said, ‘download our mobile app’.

Their reaction was one of confusion ‘wait a minute, I have the mobile app. I’ve used it four hundred times. I used it yesterday.’ How did the company not know this?

That really prompted Kabir and Derek’s journey, as it inspired them to speak to someone working in IT at the airline, Jeanne Jones.

They sat down with her describing the experience as ‘magical’, enabling them to see the real passion and creativity Jeanne and her team had, but that they were without the tools to unleash their best ideas.

Jeanne explained that the airline had seven different places where the data lived and showed them an extensive wish list that they would do if they had a 360-degree view of their customer.

Jeanne now works at Amperity and runs their entire customer community, and both Kabir and Derek both agree Alaska Airlines gave them the opportunity to understand and focus on the technical challenge that these companies had been facing for two decades, in achieving their ambition for customer experience.

Kabir added the reality is that data is imperfect and that over the past 20 years, we’ve been trying to get this golden record, this perfect view, but the perfect view doesn’t exist. He said embracing the inherent messiness and uncertainty in the data means we can start to surface connections in that data which lets users apply their own perspective on where and how to use that data.

Instead of trying to merge all this data into one place, Kabir and Amperity have been able to invent techniques that allow them to find patterns across the data.

He said an email address might be the key in one data source, whereas a phone number might be the key in another, or the full name and physical address might be a key in a third because it turns out that all the contextual information can prove useful in creating an accurate representation of a person.

Kabir explained that they’ve trained machines to exert the same human consciousness and judgement around these different data sources.

Becoming a Unicorn

Kabir said that becoming a unicorn has changed the perception of the business in a couple of ways, one of them being the milestone, that gives you the credibility of staying power. He said this helps attract talent, and there’s certainly a big segment of potential team members that Amperity can now recruit, because they will understand the staying power of the company.

He explained that through the transition of becoming a unicorn, you’re constantly rebuilding the company throughout every phase, and once you reach this milestone, you can see your runway much further than you might have previously.

Industry Trends

Kabir noted that over the last two years, two things have been really powerful during the pandemic and accelerated the business. The first is the push to digital customer relationships and the recognition that as a brand it is imperative to have a first-party digital customer relationship with your consumer.

Kabir said that in this new world, we’re engaging with the brands we love in so many different ways.

The other focuses on loyalty and acknowledging that a loyal customer is worth on average, five to seven times a non-loyal customer.

He explains that the investments that companies are making to drive loyalty are having a vast impact.

External Communications

Kabir explained that they are very candid about what their product does and doesn’t do, which is uncommon in enterprise software. He said there’s often this pressure to try and be everything to everyone, but that Amperity are incredibly clear and specific about where they are best in the world, and where they are not.

He also adds that they work with their customers to help them make good decisions, and sometimes that means advising them not to use their software yet, but to go and do these three other things first, and that they’ll talk in a year.

Kabir highlighted the importance of transparency, along with exercising the patience and discipline to do so has not only helped them create great, long-lasting relationships with customers but also means those customers are willing to stay doing business.

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