Earlier this year, I had the privilege of meeting Ajay Agarwal at the annual MarTech Conference. Ajay is a partner with Bain Capital Ventures. He’s been at the firm for about 12 years, primarily as an early-stage software investor.
Ajay recently joined me on a Google Hangout to discuss innovations in the B2B marketing industry, and account-based marketing in particular. He also offered some stellar insights about the next generation of marketing technology companies his venture capital firm is currently investing in.
Before we explore what’s on the horizon for martech, let’s get to know Ajay a bit better.
Who are the thought leaders you follow?
“I follow the leading entrepreneurs in the States. Within our portfolio, it’s folks like Raj De Datta at BloomReach, Josh McFarland at TellApart, Dan Siroker at Optimizely, and Paul Albright, co-founder of Captora.
“Outside our portfolio, certainly Brian Halligan and Darmesh Shah of HubSpot have been great thought leaders of the marking space. Jon Miller, co-founder of Marketo, has now started his own company, Engagio, and Paul Teshima and Mark Organ from Eloqua.
“To me, I look to the entrepreneurs. They’re the visionaries. They’re the ones who see the future. They’re the ones in front of customers all day long, so I take my cues from them. Those are just some of the folks that I respect.”
What’s your favorite movie?
“I have to mention Star Wars since the next one with the original cast is coming out in December. I’m fired up for that.”
What’s your favorite book?
“There are so many great books I’ve read. One I read recently — I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, but I think it’s a great book — is Boys in the Boat. It’s about the U.S. team that went on to win the Olympics in rowing. Whether or not you like rowing, it’s a phenomenal story. To me it describes what every entrepreneur goes through. It’s all about heart, guts, and perseverance. Such a great story!”
If you weren’t part of a VC, what would you do?ad t
“I’d start a martech company. There are so many great entrepreneurs out there . . . I’d rather give funding to those folks. It’s fun. I love this whole process of working with great entrepreneurs and building companies from scratch. To be honest, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.”
Check out the full interview here:
The Next Generation of Marketing Technology
Since the rise of marketing automation software, Ajay and his partners at Bain Capital have been some of the most active investors in the martech space. Over the last six years, Ajay’s firm has built a portfolio including companies such as:
- CQuotient (acquired by Demandware)
- TellApart (acquired by Twitter).
“What I love doing best is working with entrepreneurs and building really exciting software and SaaS companies,” Ajay explains. “I’ve had a particular theme around marketing technology. Myself and my partners here at Bain have found it’s been a great space for us. We’re fortunate to be working with an incredible group of entrepreneurs.”
The 4 MarTech Clouds
Ajay explains that the next generation of martech will be different than other software innovations. In the HR and CRM categories, for instance, we see horizontal development. But marketing technology is not “monolithic,” Ajay says, as there are very different products which comprise the marketing cloud.
“I think of marketing as four different clouds that all have their own needs and requirements,” he says.
Those four martech clouds include:
- B2B companies
- Commerce companies
- Consumer brands
- Advertising tech
According to Ajay, it’s essential for martech entrepreneurs to focus and understand in which cloud or category their technology would fit. “The dynamics in each space are different,” he explains, “but I think the theme we are seeing across all those four spaces is there’s quite a bit of interest in analytics.”
Ajay further explains how an analytics layer in any of these clouds is going to be very powerful, particularly if you can start generating insights and provide predictive capabilities. “I think that theme is really important here,” Ajay states. “I think the second theme that we’re really excited about is this notion of user identity. There’s so much information about each and all of us out on the web now, out in the digital domain.”
This information is particularly impactful when it comes to learning more about your customers. Being able to look at your customers holistically throughout their lifetime and across all the channels they use is essential, especially when it comes to creating customer advocates.
Ajay is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the next generation of marketing technology companies. I certainly agree that analytics are taking precedence now, especially among companies with an account-based marketing strategy. What do you think is on the horizon for marketing technology? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.