Last year, Compass Labs, a social media advertising service, was one of the featured startups at our SXSW Accelerator Kickoff event. Last week, this San Jose-based startup announced a $6 million round of funding from New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Presidio Ventures. Not a bad year.
The company’s focal product, the Compass Labs IQ (CLIQ) platform, is an advertising tool which allows companies to easily target their particular audience(s), efficiently execute campaigns, and gain insights into prospective customers. Compass Labs boasts of its patent-pending technology and highly scientific approach toward dissecting various user groups over a breadth of social media platforms.
But even with the best technology in the world, an acute entrepreneurial acumen is still required to make a business thrive. That’s where Compass Labs CEO Dilip Venkatachari comes in. With a background as the former Director of Mobile Ads at Google and the VP of Risk and Fraud Management at Paypal, Venkatachari brings experience from some of the valley’s best oiled machines. I caught up with Dilip to find out how he’s applied his experiences to his newest venture.
Tech Cocktail: What is the most stressful part in obtaining funding?
Dilip Venkatachari: Investors hold all the cards. They need a sense of urgency to motivate them, and while we were able to show that our opportunity was indeed compelling, it’s a different kind of process. Much more complicated than making a sale to a customer, which is comparatively simple. An in-market customer already has a need and an idea of what they want. Show them that you have what they need at the best price and boom – sold. Venture investors, on the other hand, don’t have as clear or pressing sense of need. They tend to postpone, delay, ponder – and only finally react when they’re presented with the proper motivation.
Tech Cocktail: What are the greatest learning lessons you took away in your experience with working at Google?
Venkatachari: My experience at Google provided me with tons of actionable business insights, but there are three lessons that stand out and are relevant to all entrepreneurs.
The first is easy in concept, but a bit difficult in action: stay focused on your goals.
Next, hire the best. Our industry has a pool of amazing talent, so take the time to select based on quality and cultural fit. Finally, innovate – quickly and don’t stop. It’s better to grow a little every day than wait a few weeks to make a change. Constant innovation and iteration is the best way to gain a competitive advantage and continued success.
Tech Cocktail: In your opinion does Google do enough to foster the entrepreneurial spirit?
Venkatachari: Google actively encourages all their employees to think like entrepreneurs. You can find this focus in everything from the structure of their organization and their internal culture to the goals that individuals and teams have. Perhaps the strongest point I can give is that after working at Google I made the decision to start my own company.
Tech Cocktail: What advice would you offer to someone on the fence between starting their own business, joining a larger corporation, or getting their MBA?
Venkatachari: Education is always a good choice, but timing matters. An MBA is certainly helpful, but it makes sense to have work experience before an MBA, so you enter the program with some real-life knowledge and a better idea of the type of role you want after graduation. The choice between starting your own business and joining a larger corporation is normally crystal clear, but you need to listen to your inner voice and make the choice based on what drives you and your appetite for risk versus based on what others “think” you should do.
Tech Cocktail: If you were stirring the perfect metaphoric “startup cocktail” what would the parts of your perfect recipe include?
Venkatachari: One part passion, one part perseverance, add initiative and a splash of a sense of humor, shake and pour over ice.
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