Amperity has top talent, solid venture investment, and a tested solution to a pressing problem. Now the company is coming out of stealth mode to share its vision with the world as it aims to become one of Seattle’s top new startups.
Kabir Shahani and Derek Slager are back at it again, four years after selling Seattle-based healthcare marketing startup Appature to IMS Health in 2013.
A year-and-a-half ago, the entrepreneurs teamed up for another go in the marketing automation space, only this time with a much bigger vision for a product tackling a much more difficult problem.
The result is Amperity, which today lifted the hood on its technology that helps some of the world’s largest companies better understand their individual customers by connecting disparate data sources from across the internet.
The 40-person startup raised $9 million in February 2016 from Madrona Venture Group — which participated in the initial venture round for Appature in 2009 — along with a who’s-who list of angel and venture investors like Liquid 2 Ventures founder Joe Montana; Founders’ Co-op partner Chris DeVore; former Microsoft corporate vice president S. Somasegar; Concur co-founder Rajeev Singh; former drugstore.com CEO Dawn LePore; Isilon Systems founder Sujal Patel; and former ExactTarget chief marketing officer Tim Kopp, who now is a partner at Hyde Park Ventures.
Amperity used that cash to build out its team and create a marketing technology platform which ties together unorganized data about individual customer habits and helps clients fine tune their targeted marketing campaigns.
Based on their experience at Appature, which helped healthcare companies track and enhance marketing campaigns, Shahani and Slager knew that there was an opportunity across various industries to better leverage data to create a more complete view of a customer. They worked with Dan Suciu, a computer science professor at the University of Washington and a data management expert, to help figure out how to connect customer data across different sources without a unique identifier.
“We spent a bunch of time with Dan last year to really understand if this was technically feasible — how to handle this scale of data and how to apply machine learning to this problem,” Shahani told GeekWire this week.
Amperity had early pilot customers test its technology earlier this year and saw “extraordinary results,” Shahani said, with revenue increasing and customer acquisition costs dropping. The startup has continued to build out its technology that ingests trillions of data points from a single customer and crunches that information with machine learning to give marketers a holistic understanding of a given user.
Amperity links together several discrete data sources related to one customer — everything from an in-store transaction, online purchasing tendencies, browsing behavior, mobile app activity, email campaign responses, CRM information, etc.
Shahani noted that part of Amperity’s secret sauce is making it easy for companies to plug that data into its system. The CEO said this process has historically been human-driven and “incredibly error prone.”
“We have the scale to not only ingest that data very quickly, but actually do something really meaningful and useful with it so you can action on it to drive the kind of results we’re seeing with our customers,” he added.
The platform can help a retailer figure out customers who spent more than $1,000 last year, but only $250 so far in 2017, for example. Or, it can help an airline identify customers who flew four times in 2016, but only once this year.
“This arbitrary question you might want to ask of your customer data — this is stuff that these companies can’t do today,” Shahani said. “It’s impossible for them to quickly get that data.”
Amperity is not a predictive analysis platform; instead, its clients can take this data and then figure out how to tweak their marketing campaigns. Its technology is particularly valuable for companies that are not “internet-first.”
Amperity’s customers, which include Fortune 500 companies, range from a wide variety of industries — one of many differences from Shahani and Slager’s experience at Appature.
“We have a very big vision around what we see this business capable of being in terms of its contribution to the market and our customers, and to our employees and this community,” Shahani said. “That’s something that really drives us in a way that I don’t think we were driven by before and thought about before.”
Shahani and Slager have long-time ties to the Seattle area and are bullish about creating the next great local startup. Shahani said today marks a milestone in reaching that goal.
“If we continue to play our cards right, continue to serve our customers well, and continue to build great product, we will have the same opportunity that many of those lighthouse companies like Tableau, Apptio, and others have done,” he noted.
Being in the Seattle region also helped Amperity link up with Microsoft for a “really meaningful partnership,” said Shahani, who has spent the past year working directly with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Microsoft customers will get access to Amperity via its independent software vendor system while the company will look to integrate the platform with its Adobe partnership.
“The way Amperity lights up products like Azure, Azure Data Lake, Azure Machine Learning, the Power BI stack, Dynamics — when you feed those products with better, unified data about the customer that is more complete, those products perform a lot better for the user,” Shahani explained. “Satya was very persuasive in getting us to build Azure compatibility, which is something we hadn’t done historically with our product.”
Shahani noted that Amperity is not exclusive to Azure and expects the same level of integration with Amazon Web Services in the future.
Amperity has steadily added veteran talent to its leadership team, from bringing on Dave Fetterman as vice president of engineering, to hiring Amy Pelly as its CFO, to adding Aashish Dhamdhere as vice president of marketing.
But Amperity has also seen a bit of churn with some hires. Shahani acknowledged a “sub-15 percent attrition” but said the company considers that within a normal range.
“One thing we’ve always been committed to as an operator is that if things aren’t working, you try to make it work where it makes sense, but if it doesn’t, you make the call early,” he said. “It’s not always us saying it’s not a fit, or the other party saying it’s not a fit. Sometimes you both look each other in the eye and say, ‘you know what, we thought this was a great idea, but for both of us it turns out it’s not working out.’ We’ve worked extra hard to make sure we have those conversations candidly and we do them quickly when we realize there isn’t a great fit and we treat people the way we want to be treated on the way out.”
Shahani said the company is still working off its initial $9 million investment — “we’ve been very capital efficient,” he noted — but expects to entertain additional funding conversations down the road.
Amperity is celebrating its launch with an event in Seattle today featuring executives from Crate & Barrel, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, Alaska Airlines, Nordstrom, and Starbucks.
“Every brand wants to have a more personal relationship with their customers, but they often have data in disparate locations and systems,” Matt McIlwain, managing director at Madrona Venture Group and Amperity board member,’ said in a statement. “Amperity combines modern machine learning and cloud technology to create compelling customer data management solutions that help the world’s leading brands serve those customers better.”