Russell Goldsmith
Russell Goldsmith 9 January 2024

Podcast – Interview with Jeff Lunsford as CEO and President, Tealium

Part of our special series of episodes of the c-suite podcast that we’re recording in partnership with the European PR Agency Tyto and their own Without Borders podcast, this interview is with Jeff Lunsford as CEO and President, Tealium.

In the 31st episode of the c-suite podcast Unicorn Leaders series, Tealium takes the spotlight with co-hosts Russell Goldsmith, Founder, Audere, and Tyto’s Senior Partner, Holly Justice.

This Customer Data Platform achieved unicorn status in February 2021, with Jeff Lunsford as CEO and President.

In this interview, in partnership with the European PR Agency Tyto, and their own Without Borders podcast, we explore Tealium's remarkable progress, Jeff's entrepreneurial path, unique communication approach, and unwavering commitment to innovation and customer-centric solutions.

Tealium's Humble Beginnings and Unprecedented Growth

Tealium was founded in 2008 through the joint efforts of Mike Anderson and Ali Behnam, later joined by Jeff Lunsford, who became CEO in 2013. The trio had previously collaborated on Webside Story, a pioneering real-time web analytics venture from 2002 to 2007.

Drawing upon their expertise, Tealium swiftly expanded into a global company, serving approximately 870 customers worldwide and achieving unicorn status with a valuation of $1.2 billion.

Mike, Ali, and Jeff all worked together to create Webside Story from 2002 to 2007 which was a pioneer in real-time web analytics. 10 years later, it now stands as a global company with around 870 customers worldwide.

Jeff Lunsford's Entrepreneurial Journey

From a young age, Jeff demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit by writing software and automating billing systems for a local laundromat using a Commodore 64.

Following a six-year tenure in the Navy, he returned to the technology sector, co-founding a technology consulting firm that catered to banks across the United States.

Jeff's illustrious career also includes leadership positions in a software development tools company. Tealium now stands as his sixth operating role, marked by a consistent ability to identify emerging markets, and build enduring companies.

Strategic Focus and Culture

Tealium's series G funding round, which secured $96 million, propelled the company into unicorn territory. Looking forward, Tealium plans to allocate significant resources to product development, platform enhancement, and customer success over the next 12 months.

By placing a strong emphasis on research and development, Tealium strives to maintain a competitive edge within the market.

Culture plays a pivotal role at Tealium, with an intentional shift away from the term ‘unicorn’ in internal communications. Instead, the company prioritises expansion and the recruitment of exceptional talent.

Tealium nurtures a winning culture, fostering trust and accountability among team members. Despite the challenges presented by the post-pandemic landscape, Tealium successfully transitioned its culture to virtual platforms while also organizing in-person meetings at designated ‘Tealium connection centres’.

In this new post-pandemic world, the culture at companies has changed and this is the same for Tealium. Jeff explained as a leader, you could walk around the building and talk to the engineers, and operators, but that’s no longer possible.

The culture has shifted online through Zoom, but they still have in-person meetings they call Tealium connection centres. Jeff said their culture is one of winning, they win together as a team, trust each other and they hold each other accountable for performance.

Differentiating Tealium in a Crowded Market

Tealium emerged as a trailblazer in 2013 by pioneering the customer data platform (CDP) category. The company introduced the concept of real-time data collection, visitor profiling, and seamless distribution to various systems.

With data centers located in Europe, Asia, and the US, Tealium processes an astounding six billion events per day. What sets Tealium apart from larger competitors is its commitment to rapid time-to-value, boasting implementation timelines averaging 30 to 60 days as opposed to the industry standard of six to nine months.

Effective Communication Strategies

Jeff acknowledges the critical role of effective communication in building and scaling a successful business. He serves as the external spokesperson for the company, and believes in empowering other key leaders, including the CMO, Head of product, and CTO, to engage with customers and the market.

Given the uncertainties surrounding the global economic outlook, Jeff has adjusted his communication approach to instil confidence in Tealium.

Internal Communications

For internal communication purposes, Tealium uses Slack to speak to the team. Zoom is also used with their employees as well as newsletters where each member of the leadership team writes an update.

As the CEO, Jeff works with the leadership team and the board to arrange financing. He understands that it isn’t his job to tell his team what route to take, he explained:

“You want to hire the climbers and the Sherpas and the amazing team leaders that are going to get the whole group up that particular mountain. And so, I feel like over 25 years, what I've been able to do, I have been lucky to see these emerging markets that are really nascent.”

External Communications

Moving to external communications, Jeff is the external spokesperson and representative of the business. However, he would prefer to not be the external spokesperson for Tealium but understands the investment community need to speak to him and his CFO.

Instead, he would want the CMO, head of product, and CTO to be talking to customers and the market. He isn’t the type of leader to be constantly tweeting which is why this podcast is the first that he’s ever done.

In his early career, 25 years ago, he would be a little nervous to do public speaking. But then it just became a natural conversation, and he was comfortable speaking in a group of any size.

Communication Challenges

The biggest communications challenge Jeff has faced along his journey is the current pandemic world with Zoom meetings instead of face-to-face. But most of the corporate leaders that Jeff knows are working through it to figure out what's the best way to operate in this hybrid world.

Going Back in Time

Jeff imagines going back in time to speak to his old self, reflecting on what guidance he would give about communications. He states that he would tell himself to listen and not talk, which is counterintuitive, but what helped him over the years to become a better communicator.

This is for communicating with customers, prospects, investors, and employees. Finally, being direct when you do talk saves a lot of time!

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