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Bootstrapping to Exit, Then do a VC-Funded Venture: Cordial CEO Jeremy Swift (Part 3)

Posted on Friday, Nov 19th 2021

Sramana Mitra: You were getting ready to start something else, but you wanted to develop some sales chops. Where did you do that?

Jeremy Swift: I actually told this mentor that he’s crazy. I spent the next year or two warring against that. I finally came back around and this mentor said, “You got to do it.” I jumped in. I ended up leading the worldwide enterprise sales organization for a number of years specifically on our unit around email marketing and digital marketing platforms there.

I loved it. I fell in love with it. It scratched this unfound itch where I could take all the client stories and my interaction with them and bring that much earlier up in the funnel. I did that for a number of years and built teams. It was such an awesome experience. Fast forward, the original founders were still working at Digital River. We started getting together at coffee shops again. I don’t know why coffee shops is a petri dish for entrepreneurs. We were just meeting at the coffee shop and talking about building again. 

Sramana Mitra: These are the same people that you did the first company with?

Jeremy Swift: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: Were you guys all still in San Diego?

Jeremy Swift: We were all in San Diego. They kept us fully autonomous operating the business in San Diego. 

Sramana Mitra: What year does this bring us up to?

Jeremy Swift: This is 2013 when we were meeting in coffee shops. We spent a year doing that off and on. 2014 was when we stepped out from corporate jobs that provided pretty decent lives for us. That’s where Cordial began.

Sramana Mitra: What was the concept of Cordial?

Jeremy Swift: The jumping off point was looking at our current company and the broader sector. That sector had exploded into a massive channel. Email marketing is a core fundamental channel. There were multiple companies that started the same time we did, but they sold for multiple billions of dollars to Salesforce or Oracle. There was a ton of overlap in the category. By 2014, so much consolidation had occurred. Software and hardware, and the idea of cloud, had completely evolved in such a transformative way that we were looking at some of the gaps and pains that we were living with.

At my last year at Digital River, it felt like we were selling a bill of goods. I knew that the expectations that marketers had were greater than the capabilities of not just Blue Hornet and Digital River but all of the providers in the space. Mobile devices and tablets – everything had exploded to a point where there was so much more data that was available to use and take advantage of that the architecture of any of these platforms could not sustain or support.

It felt disingenuous to continue to do that job, especially leading a sales organization. I built a huge network of friends and colleagues and people who have been at my wedding. I can’t sell a product to these people that I don’t believe can deliver on their expectations.

There was a staff from Forester that said, “A third of all brands were switching email marketing providers every single year.” For such a mission-critical tech, that is outrageous. That was the impetus. We said, “Let’s go build something that not just solves this problem of the data challenges and problems that marketers have. We believe that there is a opportunity to truly purpose-build a cross-channel marketing platform that didn’t just serve the email marketing channels’ interests but also served the interests of mobile channel and SMS channel, which was nascent at that time in 2014 but had huge upside and opportunity in the years ahead.

Frankly, you think of streaming services that were in the infant stages or even IoT and the idea of Internet of Things. That was the impetus. We would build a cross-channel marketing platform on top of that. We believed we could exceed the expectations of marketers.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Bootstrapping to Exit, Then do a VC-Funded Venture: Cordial CEO Jeremy Swift
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