A Conversation with Greg Smirin, CEO Interana
Q: You have an entirely new executive team, what are your strengths and how are you managing this restart to compete in the crowded PaaS industry?
GS: Our CTO, Bobby Johnson led infrastructure engineering at Facebook through its first billion users. He transformed that unique experience into Interana’s unique IP stack that enables everyone in a company to fully understand each customer’s usage of their products and services. Interana has been able to support iconic tech as well as industrial companies with the scale and operating environments that are the most demanding in the world. What we didn’t have was a solutions-based enterprise support infrastructure to bring these solutions to a much broader set of enterprises, and that’s what we’ve developed over the last year; we have filled out our Account Management, Field Engineering, Solutions, Customer Success and Operations teams to support the 24/7/365 needs of our enterprise customers.
Q: How much has the company raised to date, and what are your future plans in this area?
GS: The company has raised around $45mm, most recently in 2016. We have some of the most experienced and successful investors and entrepreneurs on our board, and they have supported our focus on establishing a leading organization to support our world-class customers and IP. Now that we’ve built out our organization, I expect to take on expansion capital in 2019.
Q: Describe your software, how does it disrupt the analytics landscape?
GS: The biggest change in business today is that event data is available for customer actions that weren’t previously measurable. The most iconic companies – Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft – use event data to understand what customers do; not just in aggregate or on average, but through specific actions – where they have problems, and what transforms someone into a great customer. Interana is the only event data platform that enables every enterprise employee to fully understand each customer action. Employees in every function can use Interana to do their jobs better -- whether it’s to deliver better products, increase customer engagement, ensure customer renewals, or improve functionality -- all to drive growth.
Q: Microsoft is your biggest customer - what do you provide them?
GS: Over the last four years Microsoft has transformed into a cloud-first and mobile-first provider of apps services on multiple OS’s. Enterprises are relying on Microsoft to help them transform their internal and customer-facing applications to the cloud. Microsoft has deployed Interana across their teams so that employees can understand customer usage and engagement across each of their consumer and enterprise services. They have told us that Interana has enabled them to move past decision-making by gut and lets them make analytically supported decisions in real time as they collaborate and work every day.
Q: What have you learned about the world of analytics and what Interana provides since you joined the company?
GS: I’ve been struck by the universality of the experience people in every company have of not being able to get data that explains clearly what their customers and users are doing and why. Across companies of all sizes, people have relayed their experience to me of asking questions about why a particular measure in one dashboard report had changed (for the worse or the better), and how most of the time it would take days to weeks for data analysts to extract the detailed event data behind the summary measure and that discovering the causes of such changes, especially with diverse sets of users, was not at all possible.
Q: Is the democratization of data a reality? It's a pretty specialized field, how will Interana change that?
GS: Full Data democratization may take a company several quarters to years as IT and business users work out how to integrate their various data stovepipes into a unified data lake. The biggest challenge is the “last mile” problem - how to enable business users to explore the massive data sets once they’ve been unified. At Interana, we focus on the highest leverage data: event data. Event data is proliferating everywhere humans use electronic services of any sort (cloud or local applications) on mobile, desktops, home appliances and sensors deployed everywhere. Event data has a timestamp reflecting every customer interaction with the company’s services. Understanding user actions has been revolutionary for our customers who have employees in every department using Interana on a daily basis to fully understand in granular detail what different customers are doing with their products and why, so they can evolve their products and services to increase customer conversion (purchasing), satisfaction, engagement, and repeat usage.
Q: Describe the number one customer benefit of your technology.
GS: As one of our customers shared with us: “we used to make decisions based on the gut of the highest paid person in the room. Now we’re able to make data-driven decisions every day at the speed of our business conversations.”
Five Things About Greg Smirin
1. If you could have lunch with someone famous who would it be and why?
Daniel Kahneman - one of the researchers who established the field of Behavioral Economics (for which he received a Nobel Prize). The insights of Behavioral Economics (Prospect theory, framing) inform how every truly innovative startup needs to communicate and convince their customers to switch to their technology/solution.
2. What do you like the most about living in the Bay Area?
As a South African immigrant, I appreciate that within the mass market, mass production culture of the US, the Bay Area nurtures a truly American artisan craft: building tech startups to innovate (yes, sometimes even disrupt) in almost every area of life. We attract people from all over the US and the world to dream, to learn from one another, and to lead.
3. What is one thing you would change in Silicon Valley?
We need to increase housing stock through increased housing density and more robust public transport or we will wither away. We are creating a permanent underclass and strangling generational growth if we don’t fix housing and transport.
4. Where is your favorite vacation spot?
While I love getaway spots like Kona, Hawaii and Cape Town, South Africa, I love to spend time in Venice, California where you can experience the peace of the ocean & beach at sunrise as well as the creative chaos of the boardwalk, and the art, design, and restaurants on Abbot Kinney.
5. Is there an app you can’t live without?
My current favorite app is a service in private beta called Telepath by some amazing ex-Quora friends. It combines easy linking of content with powerful conversation threading all with amazingly smart, real people from many walks of life. It’s like a virtual salon - where you really enjoy hanging out, asking, and learning