MarTech Interview with Ajay Gupta, CEO of Stirista

Ajay Gupta, CEO at Stirista shares his thoughts on the top marketing technologies that will become a priority for marketers in 2021 while taking us through Stirista’s journey and startup story:

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Tell us a little about yourself Ajay…we’d love to hear about your role, a typical day at work and what inspired Stirista?

I spent the very early days of my career seeing firsthand the importance of relevant ads being put in front relevant target audiences. My wife Candice and I started Stirista to offer more complete data profiles that were updated in real-time and could be utilized across all the available media channels to eliminate ad waste and get better results. I have served as CEO from the time we started the company 11 years ago out of our apartment. We’ve now grown to over 80 employees. I’m a sales-driven leader and spend at least half of my time with clients and our sales team in landing enterprise deals. I’m obsessive about responding to emails in a timely manner so spend quite a bit of time keeping caught up. I read newspapers (still!) and industry publications to keep up with latest trends and convert some of those ideas into new products.

Take us through some of Stirista’s key highlights since its inception; a few learnings on scaling a startup without external funding? 

We initially started the company to fill what we saw as a gap in really good, actionable data, specifically multicultural data which we felt was missing – the demographics of this country are changing and we saw the need to change with it. Since then we have launched platforms to onboard and activate data across all screens, built a solution for the ever-expanding CTV opportunities, started a business unit focused specifically on b2b data and made a few key acquisitions to make our business that much stronger. We most recently launched our ID graph OMNA which allows marketers to reach over 100 million households and more than 1 billion connected devices so they can ensure their message hits the right targets.

Main key learning is to build a business from the very beginning to be cash-flow positive. VC and PE don’t often seem to care as much about profits. I’m told we are a unicorn in that we grow rapidly and generate a handsome EBITDA. Hire only when you need to and add a product when you have perfected the first one. You don’t need big sticker names in the early days – build your own bench of early stage driven career professionals.

How do you feel the marketing and marketing technology space is set to evolve in the near-future?

More and more, esp. driven by the pandemic, the lines are blurring between personal and professional data profiles and people are using their personal devices for work and more are working from home. New channels and communication opportunities are emerging but with the volume of content out there, you need to pull users in with something of real value. They need a discount or a tip or to learn something. It’s critical to reward someone who takes the time to interact with your brand. Identity and all of its components is really core to where marketing is going. You need to make impressions matter.

A few ways in which you feel marketers today need to drive better marketing approaches, given today’s dynamics because of the pandemic?

Today’s marketing messages need to reward prospects with something of real value and be respectful of their time. Marketers and consumers have been bombarded with more email than ever during the pandemic and you need to find a way to cut through the noise and stand out. Relying on third-party data alone won’t get it done, which is why we focus so much on first and second-party data. That has been critical to our year over year growth – even during the pandemic. Today’s marketing requires a shift in mindset. For example, brands have spent a ton of money on linear TV ads even as streaming adoption increases exponentially. We jumped on CTV adoption early in the game and it has been a key driver of our success. Being opportunistic and identifying market needs is so important for a marketing company.

What are some of the leading marketing technologies in your mind that are set to be top in-demand products for marketers for the rest of 2021?

 The opportunities for both consumer and b2b brands in CTV are growing daily. Years ago, industry standards were good enough, but now, with a wealth of data and device-level targeting and attribution from online to in store, brands expect and demand better results from their campaigns no matter what channels they are using. Attribution is also becoming critical across all marketing channels. While brand and awareness have their place, CMOs and marketing execs are being held more and more accountable and expecting more results for their spends. Targeting is more important than ever with ad waste becoming less and less acceptable.

Take us through some of Stirista’s own marketing processes and marketing plans?

We try to address all levels of the funnel – we both need to get our name out there and continue to drive leads with messages of real value. We pride ourselves on a slightly different approach than many b2b marketers. Relevance is key, but so is getting content out there in the way consumers want to receive it. Just because you are speaking to a business audience doesn’t mean they want the usual wordy, over-explained b2b messages that we see too often in our industry. We have hosted successful online summits with industry leaders, participated in virtual events but really look forward to getting back to live events where we can connect in person to share what makes us unique.

A few last minute takeaways for marketing leaders in 2021: top factors they should keep in mind as they hire/ train and shape their teams?

Marketers need to adapt to the sea changes we are seeing in the industry. TV advertising was the gold standard for years and it’s now rapidly being upended by CTV. Industry standard results just aren’t good enough anymore, not with the volume of actionable insights and data that we all have at our disposal. When it comes to growing Stirista, we try to find people who are as passionate about what they do and what we do as we are. Intellectual curiosity is a must – know what makes us special but know also what our competitors are doing, what the trends are in the industry and always keep learning. We are about to enter the most competitive and crowded job market in a long time and the more well-rounded, curious and strategic you are – whether you’re right out of school or an executive – the more you will stand out in a crowded sea of resumes.

Originally published by MarTechSeries on 4/16/21.