News Article | May 20, 2013
Building a company is difficult in itself. Building a company away from the Mecca of its respective industry only compounds entrepreneurial challenges. Try starting a finance business anywhere but New York for instance…or a fashion brand away from Paris. Better yet, take on the task of growing a tech startup outside of Silicon Valley. The obstacles may seem insurmountable. Yet, these challenges often mask unnoticed or undervalued advantages. It’s rare for startups to scale without substantial funding, which is difficult to secure when launching a technology company removed from Silicon Valley. In fact, somewhere around a third of all venture capital in the U.S. is invested within this small technology hub. The process of finding investors relies heavily on networking, and making meaningful connections is problematic when you’re geographically detached from the network. Even after working tirelessly to secure a meeting with a potential investor, they’ll inevitably have concerns about the startup’s ability to recruit talented employees and close valuable clients from a remote location. Their concerns around attracting industry talent are legitimate. Despite having three major universities located within a three-hour drive of Integrate’s Scottsdale headquarters, finding applicants with adequate education and relevant experience remains a challenge. The Phoenix Metropolitan area is known for its transitory nature and quality graduates seem to depart the moment their diplomas are in hand. Without the luxury of an experienced talent pool, remote startups are required to search for younger employees that have a desired skillset and can be taught industry best practices. Hiring employees who are relatively new to the workforce requires an extensive focus on aptitude testing during both the application and interview processes. Corporate training programs must include a heavy foundation of basic industry knowledge and instill an entire vocabulary that is typically second nature to the Bay Area workforce. Much like ascertaining quality talent, courting potential clients mandates an intensive approach. While modern technology makes communication possible regardless of location, there’s no substitute for in-person meetings. In a sales-driven environment, face-to-face connections are vital to building lasting relationships. When you’re outside the valley hub, hosting quick, impromptu meetings is nearly impossible and perennial travel is a necessity. During Integrate’s first two years, we were on the road eighty percent of the time, providing platform demos and identifying the needs of prospective clients. Moreover, building outside of Silicon Valley can lend the impression of being behind the curve with regard to new trends and developments. Consequently, obtaining important industry credibility is a challenging endeavor. Technology solutions must be more sophisticated, sales and account staff better informed, marketing collateral of superior design and thought leadership actually based on innovative ideas. Efforts to keep these elements in the industry eye must be precise and persistent. Fortunately, where most people are blinded by obstacles, successful entrepreneurs see opportunities. Many startups fail due to their inability to generate profit before exhausting capital. The capability to keep overhead in check during growth is crucial for success. Operational costs are certainly disproportionate in the Bay area compared to other locales. Depending on where entrepreneurs choose to hang their hats, their location can definitely help their companies survive the first years with lower real estate costs, salaries and taxes. The daunting task of identifying, training and developing valuable employees is largely offset by the greater ability to retain talent. Remote startups are far less affected by the company-hopping culture endemic within the valley, leading to greater operational efficiency, company morale and productivity. In addition, by recruiting staff not yet jaded from years of experience with other organizations, it is easy to foster an environment of motivation and innovation. Operating outside the pack mentality engendered by Silicon Valley has helped Integrate advance creatively and technologically. Undistracted by industry fads and intrigues, remote startups can focus their efforts on advancing technology and creating new sources of revenue. This atmosphere of innovation and creativity has been pivotal to Integrate’s success—and it’s something that wouldn’t have been possible had we launched in Silicon Valley. We would certainly have gotten lost among the thousands of me-too tech providers scrambling for their market share.
News Article | December 18, 2014
A lot of entrepreneurs have circuitous career paths before becoming a first-time CEO. Few have the Olympics or the National Football League on their resumes. But that’s the case for Jeremy Bloom, co-founder and CEO of Integrate, a venture-backed marketing software company. Bloom has been in the top spot for about eight months as the company tries to scale, improve its go-to-market strategy, and find the perfect market fit after a challenging year. Understanding how to successfully navigate those challenges comes only with experience, and Bloom said he’s learning on the job. “The thing about being a CEO is, it’s sink or swim, and you’re thrown in, and you have no choice but to swim,” he said. Although he spent a year in a special entrepreneurship program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, he said the best training might have come from his years in sports. He was a world champion freestyle skier and competed in the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics, where he finished sixth in the freestyle moguls competition in 2006. He also spent parts of two seasons as a wide receiver and kick returner with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Prior to the Olympics and NFL, Bloom was a collegiate All-American with the University of Colorado’s football team. It’s been several years since Bloom’s athletic glory days—his football career ended when the Steelers cut him before the 2008 season, and he last competed as a skier in 2009—but the lessons are lasting. “Day to day, I find so many similarities with my experience as a professional athlete. Building a team, building a culture, trying to accomplish these lofty goals, I think there are a lot of similarities,” he said. Now Bloom is in charge of Integrate, which he co-founded in 2010. The Scottsdale, AZ-based company, which has offices in Denver, San Francisco, and Boston, announced last week it has a new $5 million venture loan from Trinity Capital Investment, a firm that specializes in venture debt financing for expanding startups. The mezzanine financing brings the total raised by the company to $40 million. Of that, $22.5 million comes from equity investments by Comcast Ventures, Liberty Global Ventures, and the Boulder, CO-based Foundry Group. The remainder is a debt facility from Silicon Valley Bank. Integrate makes marketing software, an area that’s been hot in recent years. But unlike Marketo and Eloqua, which do marketing automation, or adtech companies focused on programmatic advertising, Integrate focuses on what Bloom said is the piece that’s in between. That’s demand generation—the process of finding potential costumers, building brand awareness, and starting the work of converting leads to sales. “There’s such a big collision right now between adtech and marketing tech, and Integrate sits between the two,” he said. Bloom said that’s a $30 billion per year industry, but it is part of the advertising and marketing process “that’s still very, very old school.” “The way marketers are buying that media and getting that lead data into their systems looks like … Next Page »
News Article | August 2, 2013
I adore Jeremy Bloom. He co-founded Integrate, which we are investors in. I’ve interviewed him for the Entrepreneurs Unplugged series I do at CU Boulder. We’ve been part of a few events together. He’s got an enormous heart, soul, and brain. A while ago he created a foundation called Wish of a Lifetime. It’s a magnificent example of what I call “Random Acts of Kindness” and is a deep part of my value system. Amy emailed me a great article in the Denver Post from earlier this week titled Dreams come true, thanks to Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime Foundation. Amy and I gave a major gift last year and just agreed to make another gift to Wish of a Lifetime. If you are so inspired, contribute to Wish of a Lifetime right now. And if you want some motivation, or just want to see an interview with an awesome entrepreneur, human, friend, philanthropist, athlete, leader, and role model, watch the video below.
News Article | July 2, 2015
Why do people start a business? For many, it’s the simple pursuit of being their own boss—calling all the shots, all the time. For others, it’s the entrepreneurial journey of launching a company, while creating a product or service they are truly passionate about. Yet, some are in it for the financial gain. Considering my background in professional athletics, I didn’t take the most traditional path in becoming an entrepreneur. I once spent my days on the ski slopes and the football field. Now I run customer acquisitions at a startup. Regardless of their journey to CEO, company founders tend to be passionate about solving problems they encounter in their career. This is the reason I left my customer acquisition job to start a company to solve my biggest pain point: the arduous and manual demand-generation process. Our time and resources were wasted, creating a problem not only for me, but also for the rest of the marketing community with no existing solution. I took this challenge on personally, founding a company Integrate to help marketers automate their demand-generation efforts. We are making excellent progress five years later. I'd like to share four key lessons I learned along the way. Entrepreneurs taking on disruptive challenges, take note: One of our five main cultural pillars at Integrate includes an entrepreneurial spirit. I subscribe to the notion of surrounding yourself with people who aren’t afraid to take big risks. A startup is like jumping out of a plane and assembling the parachute on the way down. It’s like the famous Facebook quote: "Done is better than perfect." If you haven’t developed pattern recognition, then it’s best to join a company prior to starting your own. When I was in the NFL, I took part in a program that allowed me to take classes at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. At the time, I wanted to start a vacation rental website—think Kayak meets Vacation Rental By Owners (VRBO). My real estate professor, Peter Linneman, gave me great advice: "Jeremy, before you start your own company, go lose someone else’s money first." What he meant was that I had spent my entire life focused on becoming a better athlete. I needed to develop my business acumen at a company prior to starting my own. Instead of starting my website, I decided to join a startup called MDinfo where I first gained exposure to customer-generation marketing. This role allowed me to start a business based on a challenge that I experienced, not something that sounded like a good idea. A common mistake I see founders make is they start a company with their close friend because they like the idea of building a company together. You want to find a cofounder that complements your blind spots as an operator. In my case, I found a tech savvy cofounder. While I was out in the market getting feedback on our product, he was in the office making sure it was properly built. It’s also important to put more weight on culture than competency while building your team. Although a great culture won’t ensure a great business, it will help your team fight above its weight class. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. Seek out people who have a founder’s mentality. It is critical to build a team that's dedicated like you are to changing an industry. As much as entrepreneurs—myself included—would like to maintain the company’s original mission, it’s rarely realistic. Market needs shift, industry trends come and go, and the focus of a company will change. It’s important to have an open mind. Maintain true to your core values, but don’t be afraid to be flexible with your vision and evolve it. The most successful businesses are able to foresee market needs, and determine how to shift focus accordingly to best serve customers. We hear the term corporate culture a lot. It’s not just a buzzword; it’s more than casual dress code and a couple of fun work outings. Write down four or five cultural traits that you respect the most and inject them into your DNA from day one. My days in the NFL taught me the culture you instill in the locker room is sometimes the difference between losing in the first round of the playoffs and going on to win the Super Bowl. The same is true for a company. An atmosphere of unity with shared core values contributes to a happy, cohesive, and successful workforce. This is something I wish I had focused on earlier when launching the business. I have learned it’s easy to surround yourself with like-minded people, and this creates a level of comfort. However, working with people with differing viewpoints and ideas makes for a more stimulating corporate culture. I like to keep an open mind to new ideas and welcome them. The most effective collaboration comes from working with smart people from various backgrounds. Jeremy Bloom is the CEO and cofounder of marketing software company Integrate.
News Article | January 28, 2013
Tomorrow night (Tuesday, 1/29) I’ll be doing another Entrepreneurs Unplugged – this time I’ll be interviewing Jeremy Bloom, the co-founder of Integrate. We are investors in Jeremy’s company which is doing extraordinarily well. Jeremy has been a total joy to work with and has an amazing story. If you recognize his name, “olympic ski champion”, “college football star”, and “NFL football player” may come to mind. He’s also the founder of a dynamite non-profit called Wish of a Lifetime. We’ll be at the University of Colorado Law School, Room 101 from 6:15 – 7:45 PM with a reception to follow. Register to join us for a fun and interesting evening.