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商业 - 科技

连续创业家掘金营销自动化

Andrew Nusca 2014年05月27日

2007年,天使投资人布莱德•奥尼尔挖到了金子,eBay以7,500万美元收购了他投资的内容发现网站StumbleUpon。如今,他再度出现在公众的视野中,新创立的自动化内容营销公司TechValidate已吸引一些大科技公司已成为客户。

    时隔不久,布莱德•奥尼尔又回来了。

    那是在2007年末,几个月前StumbleUpon(热门的内容发现网站,也是当时他最受关注的一项投资)刚刚被eBay (EBAY)以7,500万美元现金收购。StumbleUpon的天使投资人奥尼尔本可就此收手,坐享这笔丰厚的投资回报,有位记者将此称为典型的互联网灰姑娘故事。但是,他转而创立了另一家公司。

    “我和盖瑞特•坎普、杰夫•史密斯将StumbleUpon卖给eBay不久,就开始考虑一个新的、要解决的问题,”奥尼尔说。“我在和懂技术的共同合伙人史蒂夫•诺埃尔谈。他是一位行业分析师,总是为必须要写的东西忙得晕头转向。我们讨论的是内容自动化正在如何变得越来越有可能。当时我在英属维尔京群岛度假,结果却变成了与诺埃尔在Skype上聊天并酝酿后来成为TechValidate的种种设想。”

    奥尼尔将TechValidate的同名产品描述为“B2B公司软件即服务的内容自动化平台”。奥尼尔表示,自设内容已成为受欢迎的营销手段,但企业团队很忙,难以提供足够的定向内容来保证有效性。TechValidate的工具可以从资料库中导入它认为对于B2B公司认证用户重要的内容。营销人员审核后可在不同平台上发布,包括营销自动平台、客户关系管理工具、社交媒体渠道、网页等等。

    “我们开创了这个市场空间。我们出现之前没有人做过这件事,”他说。“我们打造了一个内容机器人,简化了营销团队的工作,以前他们总是为打造定向内容而忙得晕头转向——工具实现的定向性是人类难以企及的。”

    TechValidate于2008年年中推出了产品,如今通用电气(GE, GE)、惠普(Hewlett Packard, HP)、IBM、戴尔(Dell)、日立(Hitachi)、CA Technologies (CA)、SAP (SAP)和英特尔(Intel, INTC)都已经是它的客户。据奥尼尔称,这家不接受外部投资的公司2013年实现营收500万美元,今年有望达到1200万美元,实现盈利。

    “诺埃尔和我做出了一个非常清醒的决定,这家公司我们不打算寻求风险投资,”奥尼尔说。“我们总是将自己与在线调查网站SurveyMonkey相比,后者也有这样的正反馈回路。如果我们收取的价格合理,我们不需要风险投资。我们第一年就实现了盈利,目前仍是如此。”

    First Round Capital的约什•考普曼曾经投资StumbleUpon。他说,奥尼尔和诺埃尔的做法是对的。“我认为,很少有团队能像奥尼尔那样不借助外部投资就取得这样的成就。我们很少看到创业公司能在企业软件领域达到规模化。这是一条可行的道路,但不常见。”

    周二,这家公司宣布与甲骨文(Oracle, ORCL)合作,把自己的服务与甲骨文的营销自动软件Eloqua相整合。奥尼尔表示,TechValidate有35%的客户同时使用Eloqua和TechValidate,整合能简化他们的工作,也能让TechValidate通过EloquaAppCloud软件枢纽到达更多受众。

    “他们的挑战是没有这样的内容来填充页面,”奥尼尔表示。“企业已经做出了努力,花费了数百万美元实施营销自动化。他们意识到如果没有内容,这些努力并不能实现目标。Eloqua的客户要求以一种更简单的方式,将我们的内容提取至他们的工作环境。现在,我们的任何共同客户都能在Eloqua中建立、发布和集成我们的内容——无需离开Eloqua。”

    内容自动化蕴藏着多大的商机?奥尼尔只是说,他的公司处于“几十亿美元”的营销自动化行业与440亿美元内容营销行业之间——“营销预算中最大的单一支出。”这个领域真不赖。

    “因为我们是其中一个,很难谈论总的可到达市场,”他说。“当你是独角兽时,这是一件不言自明的事。但目前我们处于两股令人激动的趋势之间,两股趋势都在快速增长。”(财富中文网)

    译者:早稻米

    It didn't take long for Brad O'Neill to get back in the game.

    It was late 2007, and StumbleUpon -- the popular content discovery service and his highest-profile investment at the time -- had just a few months earlier been scooped up by eBay (EBAY) for $75 million in cash. O'Neill, an angel investor for the company, could have easily sat back and enjoyed the return on what one reporter called "your typical dot-com Cinderella story." Instead, he started another company.

    "I had just sold StumbleUpon to eBay with Garrett Camp and Geoff Smith and was starting to think about a new problem to go solve," O'Neill says. "My technical co-founder Steve Norall and I were talking. He was working as an industry analyst and overwhelmed with all the writing he had to do. And we were talking about how content automation was becoming increasingly possible. I was in the British Virgin Islands on vacation and ruining it by Skyping with Steve and brainstorming what would become TechValidate."

    O'Neill describes TechValidate's namesake product as a "software-as-a-service content automation platform for B2B companies." Custom content has become a popular approach to marketing, but corporate teams are too busy to create content targeted enough to be effective, O'Neill says. TechValidate's tool imports content it deems relevant for verified customers of B2B companies from its library. Marketers then review it in private and publish it across platforms, whether in a marketing automation platform, in a customer relations management tool, on social media channels, or on the web.

    "We invented the space. Nobody was doing it before we showed up," he says."We built a content robot that is designed to make it simple for a marketing team that is already overstretched to build targeted content -- so targeted that a human couldn't do it."

    TechValidate introduced its product in the middle of 2008 and now counts GE (GE), Hewlett Packard (HP), IBM (IBM), Dell, Hitachi, CA Technologies (CA), SAP (SAP), and Intel (INTC) as customers. O'Neill says the company -- which did not accept outside investment -- made $5 million in revenue in 2013 and is on track to make $12 million, profitably, this year.

    "Steve and I had a very conscious decision that we weren't going to seek venture money for this," O'Neill says. "We kept comparing ourselves to SurveyMonkey, which also has these very positive feedback loops. If we're charging the right amount of money, we won't need venture money. We turned profitable in our first year and we still are."

    Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital, which invested in StumbleUpon, says O'Neill and Norall have the right approach. "I don't believe many teams could have accomplished what Brad has without outside investment. We just don't see too many bootstrapped businesses getting to scale in enterprise software. It's a viable path, but uncommon."

    On Tuesday, the company announced a partnership with Oracle (ORCL) to integrate its service into Eloqua, that company's marketing automation software. O'Neill describes the deal as a way to make it easier for the 35% of his customers who use Eloqua and TechValidate together, but the arrangement also exposes his company to a larger audience through its presence in the EloquaAppCloud software hub.

    "The challenge they have is that they don't have all this content to fill these pages," O'Neill says. "Companies have gone out and spent millions of dollars for marketing automation, and they realize that the deployment doesn't achieve its objectives without content. Eloqua customers were asking for a more streamlined way to pull our assets into that environment. So now any of our joint customers have the ability to build and distribute and syndicate our content in Eloqua -- they don't have to leave it."

    Just how big an opportunity is content automation? O'Neill would only say that his company sits in between the "multibillion-dollar" marketing automation industry and the $44 billion content marketing industry -- "the single largest line item in the marketing budget." It's not a bad place to be.

    "Because we're one of a kind, it's difficult to talk about a total addressable market," he says. "When you're a unicorn it's a self-serving thing. But we're sitting between two wonderful trends that are both increasing."

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