CEO Jeff Lunsford Describes Long Term Guiding Principles
Read below for part 1 of an ongoing interview series with leaders from Tealium describing how we approach today’s data challenges. Our first interview is with CEO Jeff Lunsford to delve into Tealium’s mission and guiding beliefs:
Matt Parisi, Interviewer: When comparing software and vendors out there, it can be easy to lose sight of the vendor’s purpose as you check off feature boxes. But with how fast tech and behavior changes, it’s arguably more important the direction a company is headed than the specific feature that exists today.
What is Tealium’s vision in the market? What was the initial opportunity and how did it evolve to where we are today?
Jeff Lunsford, Tealium CEO: The world is awash in data. We started Tealium back in 2011 because of this explosion of customer data. Companies saw an opportunity to leverage these new digital touchpoints that were creating all of this data and wanted insights about their customers from it…but they didn’t have the technology to manage it. This great opportunity with so much data became a problem having so much data, which then created a very large data fragmentation problem that we’re tackling today.
We, as software engineers, found an opportunity to create a standard data layer across the enterprise that defines who a customer is and what’s important, where all important attributes could live and be accessed in one place. We called this platform Tealium’s Universal Data Hub (UDH) and we set out to build it in 2011 when we founded the company.
We built it step by step. The first component was that we saw 80% of the big data problem was from interactions happening on a website. We started with tag management (Tealium iQ), then advanced to creating mobile capabilities. In 2014, we created a Customer Data Platform (CDP), called AudienceStream, where we take visitor-level data, store it and route it to other vendors. Then we created DataAccess, which offers the capability to store that data and filter/stream it to a data warehouse. And finally, because of the advent of IoT and mobile, we added EventStream – a cloud-based API hub. Those 4 components make up Tealium’s UDH.
Our UDH allows companies to listen to all their different data sources, normalize it and leverage that data across all of their best-of-breed apps. Rather than picking up a software company only at the customer experience layer, we allow a customer to have a flexible, vibrant and real-time data model that is leveraged across all packages.
MP: Interesting to hear how the needs of customer data management have evolved from tag management in the early days to the capabilities offered by customer data platforms today. When Tealium built its customer data platform, the category didn’t exist, so I’m wondering what guides Tealium’s decision-making.
What does Tealium view as its guiding mandate? What is Tealium trying to solve and how should people out there researching Tealium view its approach?
JL: Digital Transformation mandates. All companies are going through digital transformation initiatives – so how will they be competitive in this new world, where there’s all these data sources and customer touchpoints?
We believe there are 5 mandates for successful digital transformation:
- Put the customer at the center of your business. Technologically and operationally.
- Do this in real time. If you ingest data in a manual, batch way it could take 24 hours to get the data in and you’re now trying to create a personalized experience based on what someone was interested in yesterday. That doesn’t work in the long term.
- Follow the privacy laws. With all this data comes great responsibility (i.e. GDPR in Europe and privacy regulations in California).
- Machine Learning (ML) ready. A human cannot process this data alone because of the sheer volume of data today. It needs to be programmatically managed and able to leverage sophisticated ML algorithms.
- Data should flow freely across the enterprise. It needs to be accessible and real-time for all teams that are accessing it (i.e. when a customer calls in to a call center that department is able to see any actions that same customer just took on the website), while still following privacy laws.
Companies that go through this Digital Transformation and incorporate these 5 key requirements into their processes will be more competitive in the future.
We believe Tealium is the only company in the world that has built an end-to-end platform that covers the whole data supply chain and lifecycle from point of data creation to final resting place, at a global scale, that meet these 5 requirements of Digital Transformation. No other company has built that (yes, of course there are other point solutions here and there and in other categories that cover some portion of the data supply chain) – but no one else has built what we’ve built.
Why Tealium? We’re the innovators, we invented the real-time CDP concept. We’re the first ones that knew data collection and activation had to happen in real time.
Why Tealium? We’re pioneers, thought leaders, and listen to our customers religiously. We listen to their pain points and have built products to solve those pain points. We stretch ourselves and we build for the future and we invest in our customers future.
Why Tealium? We have a model where you can build it yourself or use Tealium.
Why Tealium? We’ll be here for decades to come, still listening to our customer.
MP: Tealium’s first mandate of putting the customer at the center of everything you do brings the current CDP category buzz to mind.
There is a very diverse collection of tools in the space, and as a pioneer in the space, how did Tealium’s vision lead down that CDP path before there was an even a CDP category to build against? And what does that mean for a Tealium customer? What advantages does our approach give over other tools?
JL: Prior to Tealium there were companies that tried to solve this problem with an advertising approach by way of Data Management Platforms (DMPs). They were combining third and first-party data. In our approach, we were the first vendor that said we’re going to help you manage all of your first-party data – as well as all of the other data you have about your customer. We’ll help you capture the data and you decide what you send to your DMPs and what you don’t, in real-time.
That first mandate is customer data – your data. We’re first party data, in real time, and you can control that data geographically to follow privacy laws. And we added ML and future-ready data and always ensure data is freely flowing between the four walls of your business.
MP: Speaking of the future, how do you see that evolving and how will Tealium’s vision keep its solutions in tune with the market? What’s coming out now that you’re excited for that our vision is leading us towards?
JL: The most exciting thing is the continued addition of data sources and digital touchpoints for customers. There are only 24 hours in a day and now we have smart devices like Alexa and Google Voice and Siri…listening to us all 24 hours a day with these different voice interfaces. We have smart IoT devices, smart homes, cars and TVs.
What’s going to happen is that every company we work with, depending on their industry, will only continue to grow their number of data sources and type of data they’re collecting (ie: healthcare having doctor’s office visit data, sports teams having sports venue data), and we will help them seamlessly collect, correlate, and act on that data in a way that satisfies the first mandate. There will be a Darwinian explosion of companies that help with these touchpoints and Tealium will be the leader in how brands are leveraging this by way of providing the capability for companies to manage their data from the point of collection all the way through delivery, and back again.
I’m excited about bringing in atmospheric data (i.e. weather, sports scores) like things that allow our customers to deliver a more contextually relevant experience to their customers because we have access to that data (i.e. body temperature, sports data).
Building a massive engine that can pull customer data from all sources and allow you to act on it and correlate it in real-time – Tealium is the engine. You set it up, you do with it what you want – Tealium is the engine that helps you drive your data to where you want it to be.
MP: What are your thoughts in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) realm? What kinds of advantages does Tealium have with working with AI and the data, based on the approach Tealium takes?
JL: AI is obviously one of our 5 mandates with ML-ready data. We’re very excited about customers having the ability to take this data and use whatever algorithms they want (Tealium will package some) and they’re becoming more accessible. Tealium will be open in our architecture. You can use whatever AI models you want or you can use ours. We believe these models are required to do things like predictive modeling, next best action, product recommendations and pricing algorithms. No matter what companies are doing with AI, it’s essential to have a substantial amount of data that has been managed for this purpose— that’s what we do.
Tealium is not an AI company – we’re an AI enablement company.
With Tealium you get clean, structured data that will get you results. We’ll get you clean data which is the first step in successful AI.
Thank you Jeff!