Keeping Pace with the Internet Economy 

When I was CMO at Orbitz, I had a front-row seat to the fast-evolving world of online marketing.  We had an amazing team of online marketers who pioneered many new techniques and our mantra was to be first to market with new digital marketing ideas.  We knew if we could move faster than the competition, we would gain an advantage.

However, the challenge we had ten years ago is still the challenge marketing teams face today.  Even now, as CEO of BrightTag, I know new online marketing ideas often require IT work, build cycles, QA time and calling in a lot of favors.  Many times we have said, “if only we could implement this new marketing idea right now,” we could hit our numbers and get a leg up on the competition.

The problem is that most marketing doesn’t happen in real-time.  Organizations can’t react instantaneously and, today, with the rise of search, social media, mobile and a more personalized web, the crush of new services at a CMO’s disposal has resulted in a virtual traffic jam. Websites are crammed with bulky services that make the web slower and less reliable. Opportunities to capitalize on growing themes such as “big data” and “predictive analytics” cannot easily be realized when the virtual bridges and roads of the modern-day Internet are littered with technical potholes and data-driven debris.

Much like the physical infrastructure improvements we need to make to keep our highways moving, the biggest opportunity for everyone participating in the Internet economy lies in the ability to smooth the road on which data travels. The winners of the new digital age will be the companies that learn how to bypass the obstacle course built atop an outdated foundational structure and unleash the promise of a real-time web.

When I first heard Marc Kiven’s plans for BrightTag, it was immediately clear that he had a big idea to reinvent the way online data is collected, normalized and distributed.  If BrightTag had been around when I was a CMO, the possibilities would have been infinite, and I would have been unencumbered by traditional processes to experiment and innovate continuously. With Eric Lunt on board to drive the technical vision, we couldn’t gather a team fast enough to help us build the BrightTag ONE platform and make this bold ambition a reality.

What advice do you have for companies just starting up?

It’s an exciting time to be build a company in Chicago. Two pieces of advice I can give to first-time entrepreneurs:

Build great teams who share your passion. Your success will depend on the people you surround yourself with.

Don’t go at it alone. Having a great co-founding team you can confide in and lean on (like I have with Marc and Eric) makes the rollercoaster of building a great company a lot easier.

Finally, it’s important to get involved in Chicago’s thriving startup community. We’re all busy building the next big thing, but making time to get to know and help other early-stage companies in town is important. We are fortunate to live in a city that boasts such a supportive network that, together, is making Chicago one of the leading digital capitals in the nation.