David Steinberg is the founder of XL Marketing and Wirefly, using big data we help large companies acquire and keep customers longer.
The ability to see how markets are reacting to your current business and the ability to pivot to where things are going vs where they currently are, is critical to creating enterprise value.
XL was an education marketing company in 2010. We saw the market was changing and recognized that our assets and capabilities could be leveraged in a new way. We pivoted to a focus on Big Data – using data and email services to help brands in other verticals, with similar dynamics to the Education category (high lifetime value, complex sales cycle), create customers and retain them for a longer period of time. The acquisition of Zeta Interactive was key to making this pivot a reality. Overnight, we became one of the top 10 ESP’s in the US with a blue chip client roster. Combining this enterprise-grade, Forrester-rated ESP with our 150 million record consumer database enabled us to become a major player in the emerging – and highly valuable – Big Data space.
We really focus on listening to our clients and testing many methodologies for our customers. Most of our customers start with very small contracts and grow rapidly.
People need to see leadership and the vision to want to join your team. This is my 5th company the last 4 exited for just under $2b collectively so that does not hurt when selling the vision.
Once a year we have our Excel at XL day. We take all our US based employees to a huge loft in NYC overlooking the Hudson River and do a full day of team building and individual growth. it has really helped us bond and recalibrate as a team every year, and we have grown our company by 37% per year, organically in the last 2 years since founding it.
We bought a company that had great customers and a mediocre business model, then combined it with a business with an amazing model and mediocre customers. This allowed us to scale very quickly.
It’s a hard balance to be a founder and CEO, you need to be really up and excited about the vision, but you also need to realistic about where you are, I have lost sight of that in the past.
When I started my Sterling Cellular in 1993 everyone who was in the wireless phone business was focused in retail distribution. We did not have the money to open a store, but wanted to get in to the wireless business. So we decided to focus on B2B sales. Working out of my basement, we would take wireless phones with us in duffle bags and go directly to businesses and activate the phones for them on site. It was a huge game changer in the industry, and we did it because we could not afford a store.
When John Scully first became my mentor a number of years ago, he and I traveled to the west coast to make some sales presentations to a number of important Valley companies. I fancied myself a great sales person, and after we walked out of the first presentation John took me for a coffee and told me we were going to have to work on my west coast style. At the time I felt really humbled, but I see how clearly he was right and how the styles are so different on the coasts.