Sramana: Obviously you don’t have a background in marketing. Typically we see people getting into a field with fairly significant domain knowledge and then building a product using that domain knowledge. You seem to have come into marketing optimization without real knowledge of marketing. How did that work?
Paras Chopra: Looking back I think I was a little bit naïve. I think that led to a little bit of overconfidence. When I started to struggle I thought back to my time in biotechnology. I entered school with very little understanding of the topic but I was still able to perform at the top of my department and I was able to publish some papers. I also remembered how I was able to learn and progress through machine learning. That gave me confidence that I could learn this new field as well.
Marketing optimization did not feel like rocket science. It sounded very interesting and I was passionate to learn the ins and outs of that market. I figured the worst thing that could happen would be me failing.
Sramana: How did you go about starting this company? How did you know what to work on? What did the product contain?
Paras Chopra: I started moonlighting while I was still employed. I told my employer that I was working on something that was not in conflict with what I was doing. What I was trying to do with my first attempt with the product was develop something useful. Google Analytics was very popular and I started using it. I realized that Google Analytics gives you a lot of insight into what is happening.
They make it possible to know where your business is coming from. Implementing the information in a useful way becomes difficult. You have to change your website which requires a lot of customization and IP. Even then it may not be perfect. So, while you get a lot of insight from Google Analytics you are only able to implement a minimal amount of productivity on your web platform with the information you are shown.
My goal was to build a platform to Google Analytics that would allow users to make changes to their websites in an intelligent way using that platform. That would let them be able to implement change based on the information they are getting from Google Analytics.
If you write marketing optimization software on Google you will quickly delve into any number of sub-specialties such as ad optimization. There are threads for the display side of the house as well as personalization products. There were other products when I started my company but they were primarily built for large companies. There was no practical method for small and medium business to run marketing optimization strategies.
I set out to commoditize the marketing and optimization part of operations for small and medium businesses. That is where my scoping started. I really focused on what marketing optimization really meant for a website. I discovered that it meant you had to implement A/B testing features, targeting features, and segmentation and analysis features. I worked on this for about 8 months and I came up with a product that had a lot of features in it.