David Cancel: I Want Performable to Be the Salesforce.com of Online Marketing

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the Boston area. Others include Hubspot, Constant Contact, DataXu, Crimson Hexagon, Lexalytics, Bluefin Labs, and oneforty. (But the most similar startup I’ve talked to is probably Optify in Seattle.)

Here are a few highlights from my chat with Cancel:

On his biggest lessons learned in the past year:

“We avoided growing, avoided press, and spent all of our time with customers,” Cancel says. “We stayed three people for almost eight months. We focused on product-market fit.” He says Performable “experimented early on with lower-end customers,” which turned out to be a “wrong match,” and that the company “wasted some time there.” It has since raised its pricing and removed its smaller subscription plans, which seems to be working out better.

On what the real opportunity is in marketing analytics and automation:

“There’s a massive market served by older companies, which have not innovated,” he says. “They haven’t moved to [address how an] individual is going to interact with a brand across different channels. You have to have a user-centric strategy. That’s what they haven’t done yet.” He adds, “I want to be the Salesforce in that space. Google owns the long tail. But in the enterprise space—integrating into [existing] systems, multiple channels—we can own that.” (Cancel would probably be the first to admit that will take a lot of time and effort, though.)

On Performable’s biggest challenges and potential obstacles:

“Selling, positioning, and scaling the company,” he says. “We could grow too fast. We could go down a lot of rat holes.”

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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