Editor’s note: Here we grow again! Our founder Raghu Raghavan is taking the CTO position here at Act-On, and Andy MacMillan, a former Salesforce executive, is our new CEO. (Read the press release.) This blog post is an edited selection of Q&A Raghu and Andy had with the press about this news.
Q: What’s the impetus for this change?
RAGHU: This company is on a journey – from an idea to becoming an iconic brand. It has grown from just me in my study to a company with 3,000 customers and almost 400 employees.
Given our rapid, sustained growth, I was starting to feel that this company needed a CEO with the necessary skills and experience to scale it to 10 times its current size. This requires very different set of skills and interests than what made me start the company in the first place – a passion for technology and product.
I have been looking forward to this transition for a while. At heart, I am an engineer, a techie and a product guy, and I wrote a lot of the code. This is what I love, and this is what I get to go back to.
We have been fortunate in that as we added new leaders, the prior leaders stayed on to help and contribute in any way they could. I plan to continue this tradition by staying on as the CTO.
The fact that Andy is himself a product guy is a very big plus. Having a product-focused leader gives me a lot of confidence that this company can keep innovating for years to come.
Q: In terms of startup years you are older – how has the broader landscape evolved, and where do you fit in?
RAGHU: I think we fit into an enormous underserved segment – the mid market. There are literally millions of companies that need this technology and are ready to adopt it.
What has changed is that now there is widespread awareness of the value of the technology. Marketing automation has gone from a curiosity for early adopters, mostly tech companies, to becoming essential software for the modern enterprise.
Back when we started, there were a lot of marketing automation companies but now, there are just three big vendors, and we are one of them. Our main competitors, Marketo and HubSpot, are now both public companies. Marketo serves the enterprise segment, just above ours. HubSpot serves the SMB segment just below ours. Our unique value proposition is that we have made this technology accessible and usable for the very wide variety of industries in the mid market.
ANDY: Raghu’s built a great product and a customer-centric company; this shows in our growth. We are at size and scale for the next phase of the company’s lifecycle of business and the opportunity we have in front of us.
We are focused on the consumerization of a complex product – it’s our unique strength to have built an easy to use and consume product. It’s a massive market with single digit penetration and lots of potential, and we are in the first inning. Act-On has the technology and focus to be that iconic brand in marketing automation.
Q: Andy, will you move to Oregon?
ANDY: My family and I intend to stay in the Bay Area, but I’ll split my time between Oregon and California. We have executives, engineers, and key back-office staff in both states, which gives us resilience against the ebbs and flows that affect the availability of talent in one place or another.
RAGHU: As we have grown and brought in talent – the guys who have started the company are still with us [in Oregon] and want to participate. People stay here because they want to stay here –we have kept the talent and added to it – making us so much stronger.
Q: Timing? Why a CEO transition now?
RAGHU: I’ve been planning for this for a while, since back in April actually.
We brought in a new CFO (Kate Johnson) eight or nine months ago to prepare us for the next phase of growth. Bringing Andy in, with his strong business background and SaaS experience, was the next logical step in building the leadership team that can scale the business to many times its current size.
With Andy on board, I now get to once again work on all the things that truly excite and motivate me.
ANDY: I spent the last four years at Salesforce running data.com and my goal was to build it to a large-enough business where we could integrate it into the larger Salesforce. We built it up from about the size of Act-On to about three times that size, and gave it back to Salesforce. I loved building that business.
My background is as a product guy. Great tech companies are product-centric and customer-centric, not just sales- and marketing-centric, and I’m really looking forward to partnering with Raghu on the product.
Marketing automation is the most interesting technology out there today, so this opportunity felt very fortuitous.
Q: Andy, how did you connect with Act-On?
ANDY: Silicon Valley is a small place. You know your partners and you identify new trends early. Not only did I know Act-On as a partner of Salesforce, I saw the potential of marketing automation. It also helps to have a few connections into the Act-On board.
RAGHU: I targeted the most successful SaaS companies during our search. Salesforce was at the top of my list, and Andy has exactly the type of profile and experience we were looking for.
Q: What’s on the top of your agenda?
ANDY: Act-On has so much opportunity. To get started, I need to make sure we have clear alignment across the company. If you look at the next phase of the company – it’s about what will we do in the next 18 months to three years. I want to share what we intend to do, say it to the market and go do it.
We have two types of goals – inside goals and external goals. Inside is making sure we have infrastructure and operations in place to capitalize on the external: market opportunity.
There is a huge opportunity in the market for the mid-market CMO to really play a bigger role in the individual successes of their company, and Act-On is building the technology to enable them.
The trend started through sales force automation – marketing automation is “crossing the chasm,” in Geoffrey Moore’s terminology – MA is becoming an intrinsic part of a business that can drive businesses forward. Act-On in particular is focused on that mid-market CMO and all aspects of what they need to be successful. Iconic brands will lead this charge and I really think Act-On is one of those brands.
With Raghu focused on product now, we are making sure we are squarely aligned at all levels to bring this vision forward.
Q: Final thoughts?
ANDY: I knew I wanted to join Act-On the moment I met Raghu.
RAGHU: This company has always had a sense of destiny about it, and the right person has come along at the right time to drive us to the next level. I think Andy coming on board now is yet another example of the stars aligning to pretty much guarantee our success.
Press coverage includes:
CMS Wire: Act-On Software Names New CEO
Portland Business Journal: Act-On taps Salesforce exec as new CEO