Chris Golec (Channel99) - Keeping Things in Perspective
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Ben: Welcome to The Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista, probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you're going to put in your ear. I'm Ben, the producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their take on the current challenges of the market, and we'll have a little fun along the way. In today's episode, Chris Golec, the founder and CEO of Channel99, chats with us about how collaborating with others in a company plays a big role in success. Give it a listen.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Stirista's The Marketing Stir. I, of course, am your always happy host, Vincent Pietrafesa, the vice president of B2B products and partnerships here at Stirista, and still interim general manager of this division. I'm sure that's going away soon, but I'm holding onto it for dear life, ladies and gentlemen. It is so good to be here. If you're just joining us in The Marketing Stir, we appreciate you listening and thank you for all the listeners out there, all those listeners who write us, all those listeners who come up to me at conferences and tell me, " Wow, you really are that happy. Are you and AJ like that all the time?" We are. We are. And thank you for listening and coming up to us. Let's take a pause really quick to talk about Stirista. Who are we? It's just 10 seconds, ladies and gentlemen. We are a marketing technology company. We own our own B2B data, our own B2C data. We help companies access that data through our technology, our own email sending platform, our own DSP that focuses on connected TV display. Email me, vincent @ stirista. com. That is how confident I am in our product. I just gave you my email address. And boy, are you using it. Most of the time, you're trying to sell me. It's okay. At least, you're listening and responding. Ladies and gentlemen, my co- host, he was just here in New York City, living it up in the Big Apple, enjoying some tennis, meeting with some of our amazing clients, people who are just learning about Stirista, Mr. AJ Gupta. What's going on, AJ?
AJ Gupta: Hey, Vincent. A pretty good time seeing you and all of our clients in New York City over US Open. First time doing this event. I feel like we'll be doing this one repeatedly.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, I figure we will. You love tennis. It was a great event. US Open, I found out that that's all they do at Arthur Ashe Stadium. It's just a couple weeks. They make all the money and that's it. And I'm like, "What? That's crazy." It was only my second time there. I loved it. I'm not that into tennis, but I was glued to it. It was fun.
AJ Gupta: Yeah, I think it's just the atmosphere. Even if you're not a tennis fan, it seemed like more than half of the people were not. They got really into it with the crowd and the energy. It's hard to see that on TV. I think it's a very different experience being in person.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, it is a great live sport, it really is. And look at, you got your jersey on today, rocking some cricket jersey, your other favorite sport there. I did not get the memo to wear a jersey, or else I would've rocked a jersey. However, I'm wearing a jersey this evening because I have two, count them, two fantasy football drafts that I have to attend to. One is in person, and then, one is online while... Hour or two in between. I'll be rocking my Daniel Jones New York Giants jersey. I got it many years ago on sale at Modell's when they were going out of business. I now have it, but loving that jersey.
AJ Gupta: Well, I think you probably saw, Kelsey might be out, so your Stirista draft might be in a little bit of jeopardy.
Vincent Pietrafesa: If you know Travis Kelsey, and I met him once in Las Vegas, ladies and gentlemen, he'll play. He'll play, and even so, he'll just be out for one game, I'll fill someone in, he'll be good. Yeah, I am worried about that, but fantasy football season is upon us. Football season is upon us. By the time this comes out in a week or so, we will already be in it and you'll be hearing about all of our adventures here at Stirista, especially when AJ and I go head to head, which a lot of you listeners are certainly interested in because of what happened last year in the championship. But let's get right to it, AJ. This is a special episode for me. I got to tell you. On this episode, and this is not even a lie, two of my favorite CEOs, one being you, of course, and that is not a lie, I met you in '09, and the other, I met in 2006. And the reason, I say this, and I tell him this all the time, I think I embarrass him when I say it, but I always say, he always has the time of day for me no matter what company he's at. If the company gets huge, which they always do, he grows these companies, he does an amazing job, he's always nice. And I say this, the ageless, ladies and gentlemen, this is the ageless. I don't know what his secret is. Some people ask me for my secret. I want to know this guy's secret. He is very special to me. He is currently the founder and CEO of Channel99, but formerly one of the founders and CEO of Demandbase. Ladies and gentlemen, Chris Golec. What's up, Chris?
Chris Golec: Hey Vincent. Hey, AJ. Nice to talk to you guys. Thanks for having me. And the reason I'm always so happy to talk to you is because you are so happy.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I am, I am. And our history goes back. And I know, like I said, maybe I embarrass you sometimes saying, you're always been so nice. You're a nice guy. You've always been. I know you're extremely busy, but I met you when Demandbase was just getting started. I was at Walter Carl, a little company, fairly big, but a little company in Pearl River, New York. A lot of people used to think I was Walter Carl. I'm like, " No, I think he's dead." But I met you back then and it's been, I mean, look, years, and every time, I'm like, " Hey, Chris, I'm coming to San Francisco." " Oh, awesome. Hey." No matter what, you've always been there. I do appreciate that. That does not go unnoticed, so thank you for that. It was an easy one for me. To catch up with you, this is great.
Chris Golec: Of course, of course.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Chris, let's get right into it. I know you from Demandbase. We'll talk about that in a moment. We'd be remiss not to talk about it because all the amazing work you've done there, a lot of people, Demandbase, synonymous with ABM. You hear a lot of people talking about it. But let's get into, tell us about this new organization, Channel99, and your role within the organization.
Chris Golec: Yeah, great. Thanks. Channel99 was started last year, in 2022. I'm the founder, CEO. Most people don't realize it was the original vision of Demandbase, going back to 2006. And that vision was a platform for B2B marketers to measure the effectiveness of their vendors and channels, based on their financial impact on pipeline and revenue. The reality is, it was just way too early back in 2006, so Demandbase kind of changed course, and we decided to create a technology category around account- based marketing and go after that first. But this need to measure B2B marketing on a level playing field across these thousands of vendors is still needed. We're going after it and really excited to be here.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. And oftentimes, Chris, we ask people how they got started in marketing, but I'd like to ask you, looking at Demandbase, what made you decide to get into B2B marketing?
Chris Golec: Yeah, well, going back to the software question, I came up through chemical engineering out of Detroit. That's a perfect recipe for a boring career. Me and two guys from GE, we started a supply chain software company called Supplybase back in 1996. And at the time, I was a frustrated marketer because all the technology out there was for reaching consumers, everything was B2C. Supplybase sold, and I was helping companies on the marketing side, and I said, " We need dedicated B2B marketing technology," and that was really the launching point for Demandbase, how do we really help B2B companies reach the companies that their sales team is selling to? It sounds so simple and obvious, but as you know, it took years to really get a bonafide category in place.
AJ Gupta: Chris, what is it about B2B marketing that interests you and led you to start Demandbase?
Chris Golec: What interests me is things that haven't been done before. It's really the innovation. It's how do we dramatically change the way something is done before? And as you guys know, in the world of B2B, most companies are only trying to sell to probably 2% or 3% of the companies out there, so it's incredibly inefficient. It's just ripe with opportunity. And most of the things you hear about are generally B2C, but a lot of those technologies are not financially effective for B2B marketers. There's just a huge world of opportunity to make it better and innovate and always want to be the first at doing something versus a second tier player or somebody that's trying to do it a little bit lower cost. That's not for me, necessarily.
AJ Gupta: And what were some of the big highlights for you during your time at Demandbase?
Chris Golec: That's a good question, AJ. You could say raising a big round of money or your first million dollar customer, all those things are great, but probably, the biggest reward was building the culture of the company and the people, the friendships. At Demandbase, over the years, we built one of the best places to work, not just in the Bay Area, but in, I think 2016, we were top 10 in the US on Glassdoor out of 500, 000 companies. It felt really, really good, and it really helped us attract and retain talent, and it was something we all bonded over. It's a lot of investment, a lot of work, but that was a huge reward, that culture and friendships that still benefit me, obviously, today, in the new company I'm building.
Vincent Pietrafesa: And one of the things I remember, going to some of those events, Chris, that you used to have, the Demandbase events, the ABM Summit, and I'll never forget, this is more of a personal memory now because I have two sons, I remember the very first one you did, and it grew every year. The first one, you were at, was it AT& T Park, right? Is that what they call it?
Chris Golec: Yes.
Vincent Pietrafesa: And you're throwing out a first pitch, which was a strike, by the way, to your son. We were just talking off air, if you will, about how your son's grown up now. You were just hanging out with him and stuff, where I remember you throwing out the first pitch to your son. Do you remember that moment?
Chris Golec: Well, yeah, he saved me because it was a high fastball.
Vincent Pietrafesa: It was better than 50 Cent. Remember when he...
Chris Golec: Yeah, it was better than 50 Cent, and I think Barack Obama did it pretty well. But yeah, that was a fun moment, and certainly, he remembers it. That was the time we already rented out the whole baseball stadium. That was a lot of fun.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. That was a lot of fun. That wasn't my question. That was just a fun moment that I remember personally. But let's shift gears. The Demandbase days, great. I know they're still near and dear to your heart, but you recently launched Channel99. What's behind the name of that company, first of all? I'd love to know that.
Chris Golec: Channel99. Let's see. It could be, I'll give you two options. You can pick whatever would think. The channel that the TV guy where I grew up in Detroit, Channel99 was a place you'd go to see the programming and get all your information on what you want to find out or see what's playing. Or it's the only domain name that was available for under$ 100.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I think it's a little bit of both. I think it's both. I think you were looking for a domain that's under$ 100, and then, you're like, " Oh, wait, there's also a Channel99 available."
Chris Golec: Yeah. And you can spell it. Nobody screws it up.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. In regards to Channel99, you talked earlier about, this is a company, a vision that you've had for a long time. What solutions, in the marketing industry, is Channel99 trying to tackle?
Chris Golec: Good question. In the world of B2C marketing, Adobe owns the platform for measurement. In the world of B2B, it doesn't exist. There's a big void. Marketers struggle with having multiple vendors that have different KPIs, and they're all biased on what's working and how well it's working. And the reality is, there's just so much BS out there. We want to be that unbiased source of truth so that you can really understand how well is LinkedIn doing for you versus Demandbase or Google paid search or Facebook ads and understand what's the most effective way to build pipeline and where should I take out money? Where should I put money in? And then, we've added in a layer of technology that will include AI, but we're also introducing the first, what I'll call a B2B verification pixel that you can place into ads and other offsite content to understand the efficiency of, hey, I'm buying millions of impressions. Are they even reaching the companies I want to sell to? And lo and behold, that's probably not as good as you think it is, but we're able to do it very effectively. Again, I'll do the B2C analogy. In B2C, DoubleVerify, very successful company helping B2C marketers understand brand safety, human, non- human. In the B2B world, you want to know, are my ads being served to the right companies? And then are those companies engaging with my website? And the reality is, most B2B marketers, 60%, 70% of their traffic comes from this channel that gets called direct, which is really unknown. The reality is, they probably saw an ad, they read a post, they listened to a blog, they did something to hear about you to come to your site. We're demystifying all that and giving much better credit to all the different channels and vendors that deserve it for driving that engagement and the quality of that engagement.
AJ Gupta: Chris, as someone who has started many companies, what are some of the big dos and don'ts advice you have for somebody who's just starting their first company?
Chris Golec: Yeah, the first company, after you've done it a few times, as you know, it's what not to do, not where to spend your time. You learn that through experience. I think keeping things in perspective on what really matters. And I think one of the hardest things about building a company, it's the people part. It's not just the hiring, but it's also the firing, and one of the dos would be making people changes faster. If you're already reached a point where, " I'm not sure it's going to work out," very seldom do those situations turn around, and you're better off moving quickly, making faster decisions. I do think, don't underestimate how important the people factor is, especially in a software company because that is your asset, is really the people.
AJ Gupta: Makes sense. And for you, right now, what's the ideal client profile that you're going after for Channel99?
Chris Golec: Typically, we're starting off, I would say mid- market companies, at least 50 people up to a couple thousand. But we're already getting larger companies engaged with us because they obviously spend a lot of money on ads and all these top of funnel programs and they have no visibility into what's really working well, and we're able to do that for them. We are kind of mid- market, but I suspect, as we get into next year, we'll be going up into the enterprise pretty quickly.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Chris, let's talk about the two companies. You look at Demandbase, you started in 2006, Channel99, 2022. For the listeners out there, some of the differences in starting a company in'06 until now, and what remains the same?
Chris Golec: Yeah, what's different? I would say, just from a financing perspective, it's a great time to be starting a company. There are a lot of investors that are dedicated to seed investments and Series A and don't do the later stage stuff. And I think that was flipped around, going back to 2006, where you had these angel networks, and if you're chasing$25, 000 investments, it's a tough life because you got to do a lot of those to get a real round of money together. Today, there are a lot of great seed and Series A investors, and there's a lot of appetite for investments because they're not doing the later stage. That's a very different environment. I think, the same, it's the people part. You got to engage with the people that have an appetite for the early stage, and that means you got to roll up your sleeves and do a little bit of everything. It's not all strategy. You're typing emails, you're running, taking out the trash, you're doing a little bit of everything. I think that'll always remain the same. And being collaborative. Well, I guess the most obvious thing that I didn't cover is trying to build a business in a virtual environment versus in office, it's hard, and I think it's a disadvantage to companies that are trying to do it. We just moved into an office in Sausalito, California, and we all love it. When I interview people, I look for people to express that they want to be in the office with people versus giving them a choice. I want people to really want to lean in. And we get so much more done collaboratively than we would if we were trying to schedule Zooms all day.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, AJ, you're a big fan of that too, the in- person, going into the office or just, at least, I'm remote, but I prefer an office just to have that environment, even, of other people. But Chris, talk to us about, it seems like you're more of a fan of starting the company from the ground up, as opposed to just going in and taking over companies or being the CEO. What's that appeal? Have you always just liked, I want to do it myself? I would love to understand that.
Chris Golec: Yeah, that's a good question. Reflecting back, I've worked at General Motors, DuPont and GE, so I've certainly been in the big companies, which is great because you learn a lot with process and all those things, but what you don't get is the ability to innovate, to innovate quickly, build a team, change the way things are done. If you really value innovation and velocity, building a culture, those are the things that really drive me, and starting something on your own fulfills all those things. It's hard. It's always hard. It's never easy. But it gets a little bit easier, especially with this company, it's an adjacent space to Demandbase, so just having that network of people ranging from investors to people like yourself to editors and different resources, that makes it easier this time around, for sure.
AJ Gupta: Chris, any big announcements or new products for Channel99 you'd like to share with our viewers?
Chris Golec: Yeah, thanks for asking. On September 20th, we are rolling out our platform, and it's free to get started and people can get up and running in a matter of an hour, and you can use it for a month for free. And if you want to stay on board, that's great, and it's get started and pay as you go. It's great for smaller companies, and there's a lot of businesses that are not making new software investments, so we've made it just super easy to get started and get real results, and then, hopefully continue and expand onto that. Yeah, we're very excited about it. Got a great team in place, and onward and upward.
AJ Gupta: Awesome. This is a fun question. We ask all of our guests this question. I'm sure you get a lot of unsolicited messages on LinkedIn. What's one that gets your attention, gets you to respond? And what's one that'll annoy you?
Chris Golec: Let's see. I'll start with the annoying ones.
Vincent Pietrafesa: You seem too nice. I don't believe anything annoys you.
Chris Golec: Yeah, it's a lot of the same. I must get at least a dozen recruiting ones, people that want to do recruiting for the business. And it's fine, I get it, but having done this a few times, I have my network of go- to people to help out with, and just, obviously, we know a lot of the same people in the industry, so it's those blind sales pitches that aren't very personal. And the ones that I respond to are the ones that are really genuine. If there's a university student that is doing a paper on B2B marketing, who's like, "I would love to speak with you if you have a few minutes," I will absolutely respond to things like that, and people with real, genuine interest or want to engage or have something compelling. But generally, it's that short and sweet, and I like to read bullets versus long paragraphs. But same thing happens at our company with our marketing outreach, and I drive our marketing person crazy because, when they craft something for me to send to somebody, I'm like, " I don't talk like that." I want it to be way more personable so they know that I genuinely care or wrote that message.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Chris, before we get into the personal side of the podcast, just one more question about leadership. As a business leader, what are some signs that you can share with our audience about when to pivot and to react and be agile in a business?
Chris Golec: Yeah, that's a good question. It's super important. And you saw, Vincent, through Demandbase's journey, we evolved a lot. We used to sell business contacts, and then, we got into advertising, and you got to move and really listen to your customers and understand what problems they're trying to solve. And if you have a good set of investors around the table, that's super helpful as well, because they see a lot of different businesses and they often know before you do when things really need to shift. Changing a business model is hard, but as a founder, sometimes, your original idea, it has to go bye- bye, and you got to be prepared to do that. I think that's really important to do.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, and I remember those early days of Demandbase and always keeping an eye on it, even though I was not a customer of Demandbase per se, I've always kept them close to the vest just to see how you were doing and always supporting it, and yeah, a lot of pivots. And I think where that company is today and where I know Channel99 will go, it's due to you as a leader, the people around you. I definitely agree with that. Knowing when to pivot, knowing when to say, " Okay, we need to shift gears here. This is what the market is detecting." The personal side, Chris, let's get... I know you, but what do you like doing these days? Are you still in the San Francisco area or?
Chris Golec: I am. I'm up in Marin County, so just north of San Francisco. Our office is in Sausalito and I live just a couple towns over, but I love the outdoors, I love the mountain bike and trail run and travel. And both kids in college-
Vincent Pietrafesa: Wow.
Chris Golec: ...so it's easy for me to get out and enjoy that kind of stuff.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Where are they at?
Chris Golec: My daughter's at Michigan State, where I went, and she's in inaudible-
Vincent Pietrafesa: Right. Yeah.
Chris Golec: And then, my son is at University of Oregon.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Nice. That's awesome. Yeah, it's crazy. I remember meeting your son, and now... Like I said, that's how far back we go. It's crazy. We love what you're doing there, Chris. One more thing, a message, a closing thought that you'd like to leave our audience with? It could be anything you want, some leadership advice, " Hey, I'm reading these three great books," or anything you'd like to leave the audience before we wrap here.
Chris Golec: Yeah. Good question. I would say... Well, I'll pick two things. One, great time to be starting a company. If you've always had something on your mind, it's a great time. There's a lot of appetite out there, but proceed cautiously, I guess. And then, two, if it's not in you to start something, if you want to pick a startup, company picking is so incredibly important. You can work your butt off at a bad company and not make a lot of money, but if you get in board with a really great company and work hard, it sets your career up for every step beyond that. I would just say, selecting the company of where you want to go to is incredibly important for your whole career, not just that one job.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, no, I agree. I talked to some of our interns about that, where a lot of times, that first or second job also dictates, sometimes, a skillset, how people view you. It's one of those things where, choose that wisely, but also if you need to pivot, I say so. I think I chose wisely. I've never been a person who's been a one- year or two- year wonder at a company. Every company I've been at in my 22- year career, six years, seven years, it's always been growing and investing with that company and choosing wisely. Yeah, this has been awesome. My two favorite CEOs, ladies and gentlemen, on the same podcast. You got to love that. And I truly mean it, Chris, you've been always amazing to me, sir. I look forward to seeing you in person. Thank you for joining us. Check out Channel99, ladies and gentlemen. That is Chris Golec, the CEO and founder. That's AJ Gupta in his fresh new cricket gear. I'm Vincent Pietrafesa with just a boring polo shirt. This has been another episode of The Marketing Stir. Thank you so much for listening, and we'll talk soon.
Ben: Thanks for listening to The Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista. Please like, rate and subscribe. If you're interested in being a guest on the podcast, please email us at themarketingstir@ stirista. com and thanks for listening.
Chris Golec, the Founder and CEO of Channel99 chats with us about how collaborating with others in a company plays a big role in success.