NVCA Member Spotlight: TCV

Tell us about your firm. What makes TCV different?

CEOs and Founders tell us how TCV stands out for them: the depth of our knowledge in their particular industry and technology. When we identify a compelling technology trend, we take the time to thoroughly understand the underlying drivers, business model, and competitive environment. Having a developed perspective means we can have much more meaningful conversations about a company’s business and growth opportunities.


Where did the firm’s name come from?

We were founded in 1995 and were originally named Technology Crossover Ventures. “Crossover” means that we’re equally comfortable making both private and public investments, and that we help companies evolve from private to public ownership. Many CEOs appreciate a firm who can be a capital partner at multiple stages of their company’s evolution. For example, we invested multiple times in Netflix as a private company, and continued to support them as an investor after their IPO. Our original investment in the company was 20 years ago, and we continue to be investors today. Over the past 24 years, we’ve had more than 60 IPOs in our portfolio and we bring that experience to every new investment.  

What defines your portfolio?

We look to partner with companies that have already established a leadership position in their market and are looking to succeed at an even greater scale. This typically means that a company has been growing for several years – with a history of delighting customers, an economic model that is reflective of the value they provide, and an opportunity to scale the business in the future.

How is the firm different today than when you first started?

Today’s technology market is much bigger than it was in 1995, and today TCV is also much bigger than in 1995. During the past 24 years, we’ve invested in hundreds of companies and evaluated thousands more, so our knowledge base, experience, and network has expanded dramatically. Because of that, we’re in a better position today to help companies scale smarter and faster.

Why is TCV a part of NVCA?

We are a collaborative firm, so being part of our own industry association is a natural fit. TCV was a founding member of the NVCA Growth Equity Group (GEG). Through our direct involvement on NVCA committees and task forces, we have witnessed first-hand how the NVCA works as an advocate for entrepreneurs as well as investors.

Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region.

We have offices in Menlo Park, NYC, and London. While our geographic focus has generally been focused on companies headquartered in North America and Europe, most of our portfolio companies are – or are seeking to be – global leaders regardless of where “home base” is. Today, executives are building great companies everywhere, not just in the traditional technology hubs like the Bay Area, Boston, or New York. So we’re increasingly focused on finding the best companies regardless of where they are located.

What’s ahead for your firm in 2019?

Looking outward, we see more great technology companies and talented entrepreneurs than ever before. We recently began investing out of TCV X, a $3 billion fund, and are excited about the portfolio we’re assembling for that fund. Looking inward, we’re focused on making TCV an even better platform for the world’s best technology investors. We continue to grow our organization and provide a compelling career path for investors who can partner with the world’s best technology companies and deliver exceptional returns for our Limited Partners.

Describe your firm’s culture in 5 words or less

“Helping others succeed.” Internally, this means each of us are accountable for the success of the entire TCV team, and each of us are expected to actively support our colleagues. Externally, we all have the ability – and responsibility – to bring the capabilities of the entire firm to our portfolio companies and give them the best TCV has to offer.

About TCV

Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $10 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 115 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV’s investments include Airbnb, AxiomSL, Dollar Shave Club, EmbanetCompass, ExactTarget, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, LinkedIn, Netflix, Rent the Runway, Splunk, Spotify, Varsity Tutors, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit www.tcv.com.

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The views and opinions expressed in the post above are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.

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Woody Marshall on The Twenty Minute VC!

Check out Harry Stebbing’s latest podcast with TCV General Partner Woody Marshall.

 

 

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The statements, views, and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies. For additional important disclaimers, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Developing Narrative to Compel Action and Drive Results

nar·ra·tive

noun

  1. A spoken or written account of connected events; a story.

 What separates companies that move quickly towards a common goal from those that struggle to find unity? Why is it that some teams can routinely find a second, third, or fourth gear of execution? How do people who start with divergent objectives find common ground? Perhaps most importantly, why are some leaders successfully plug-and-play no matter what technical problem, cultural issue, or market challenge they are tasked with addressing?

In my last post on “Hiring for Leaders”, I talked about how you can both screen for and cultivate leadership qualities as your company scales. These qualities include taking positions, creating environments where multiple perspectives are acknowledged, and being adaptable. In this post I’ll build on that framework to discuss narrative – a critically important concept that is talked about often but still remains confusing for many people in business.

 

Why Is Narrative So Important?

During my time at Facebook and Pinterest, I noticed one element that drove successful outcomes: the connection between people and company objectives. This connection can take different forms: intuitively understanding the why of what people were tasked with, linking personal goals with company goals, creating less friction with other teams, and being resilient in the face of obstacles. The differentiator in all of this was the construction and delivery of a narrative.

Narrative creates the ability to connect people to your company and your company mission and drive collective action. The corollary to this deceptively simple statement is that narrative is not one thing – it’s not just a story. Narrative binds individuals to a living set of company attributes.

The following tenets are core to creating a compelling narrative.

 

Establish Clear Mission and Vision Statements

 You can think about the mission and vision as the why and the how. Both are critical to any organization, large or small, because they become the scaffolding for how teams construct their roadmaps and how leadership talks about them.

At Pinterest, the mission was to help people discover and do the things that they love. As our technology advanced and our customers engaged with it more fully, our vision of how Pinterest could change the world also changed. This taught me that while the vision of a future outcome may not stay the same, the mission – the why – should remain stable. It’s the foundation for how people and teams answer the “Why are we doing this?” questions that naturally arise. Changing the mission can create confusion about priorities.

Make sure every team creates a mission and vision statement for the work that they do. You may call it a scope doc, a PRD, MRD, or something else entirely. But if the mission doesn’t answer why people are working on something, and the vision doesn’t show how that work changes things for customers and the company, it’s difficult for people to understand why and how their work is helping the company achieve its objectives.

 

Develop Long-Term Roadmaps

A roadmap is a narrative about where you’re going and what happens along the way. Push your teams to create three-year roadmaps. Acknowledge that the value in the exercise is not the accuracy with which teams can predict the future, but rather the exercise itself.

Teams with a roadmap for the future end up moving faster because they have already envisioned a journey in the process of creating the roadmap. They’re not disoriented when the real road turns or twists, because they already foresaw and prepared for some of them – and anticipated that there might be a few surprises along the way. That in turn alleviates the level of oversight and explanation that leaders need to provide, because their teams are advancing within a larger, more longitudinal comfort zone.

In creating the roadmap, aim to resolve it to a vision statement. This should be a 1+1=3 exercise where individual functions intersect and combine to create an even more powerful outcome. The company vision should be a leading indicator of what teams should strive to accomplish.

A good way of thinking about this at the team level or even division level is to break out into thematic areas and assign varying levels of confidence in the work. Those confidence levels will decrease the further you get out into the future.

Even if the technology you envision doesn’t exist, writing down the roadmap is a helpful exercise to plotting out an initial path.

 

Measure Everything

Everything is measurable, but not everything can be measured in the same way. Create space for teams to define their metrics so that their output can be measured in ways that are meaningful. These metrics naturally generate narratives about how to meet or exceed them. They become a source of ongoing conversation within teams and between teams: Do we have the right metrics for meeting company objectives? Should we adjust them for technology or customer behavior? Do our metrics mesh with our mission and vision?

When these conversations take place, people feel naturally connected to the company and its goals. This process is so powerful that it’s essential to make sure that all the team-level metrics ladder up to company-level objectives. You don’t want people embracing their metrics (and their roadmap) and then arriving someplace the company did not want them to go.

You also need to ensure that team roadmaps do not collide and create conflict. If they do, reflect on each team independently and try to assess how it moves the company forward towards its top-level goals. If one team comes out on top, talk to the other team in the conflict about how they could adjust their roadmap and still achieve their goals and the company’s goals.

Know that there will always be trade-offs to make, and that your job as a leader is to create the narrative that keeps teams informed, aligned, and excited.

 

Create Cross-Functional Narrative Forums

Often as companies grow quickly, the first thing to go out the window is inter-team communication on strategy and goals. This can lead to misalignments, political posturing regarding resources, and management attrition. A great way to prevent this is to create regular forums for your leadership team to sit together and explain to one another what they are doing and why. You’re not asking them to justify their existence or run their numbers. You’re asking them to tell everyone else a narrative about their mission, vision and roadmap, and how the journey is progressing.

Smart leaders will bring a narrative that is tightly aligned with what they hear from their teams. It also gives the narrative “legs” for traveling across the entire enterprise – something that is otherwise rare.

Getting team-level narratives elevated to the leadership level, across functions, accomplishes a number of positive outcomes. First, it creates empathy among and within the leadership team about other team members’ goals, challenges and objectives. During resourcing conflicts, you want leadership team members to be able to advocate just as empathically for another team as they would for their own.

Second, it forces understanding. Anytime you have to tell a good story, you have to understand that story far better than the people you are delivering it to. The requirement to share your team’s story with other leaders forces you to master that narrative. Detailed work has to be distilled down to essentials. Technical complexity has to become clarity. Acronyms disappear, replaced by meaningful, memorable terms. Just the process of preparing a narrative about your team can help you spot work that is not truly aligned with company objectives.

Third, delivering cross-function narratives establishes trust at the inter-team level. Putting leaders in a position to explain to their teams why other teams are doing what they are, or why a trade-off decision went against them, establishes an authentic authority.

Story Time

The most successful teams have leaders that can weave a story using the foundations described above and connect it at various altitudes throughout the company. Driving board alignment around a strategic shift isn’t that different than getting your ops teams to the same place. It’s about creating shared understanding that drives people’s internal connection to the company’s goals.

Metrics, technologies and quantitative goals are important for any business to succeed. But without a narrative that makes people own them, they’re just components of a machine without a soul.

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Jonathan Shottan is an Executive-in-Residence at TCV.

The views and opinions expressed in the blog post above are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Peloton Announces $550M In Series F Funding Led By TCV

NEW YORKAug. 3, 2018 — Peloton, the global fitness technology company, today announced a $550 million Series F financing round; capital that will enable it to continue to innovate aggressively and to expand into more international markets. The round is led by TCV, one of the world’s largest technology growth equity firms. Nearly all of Peloton’s existing institutional investors, including Tiger Global, True Ventures, Wellington Management, Fidelity (FMRCo), NBCUniversal, Kleiner Perkins and Balyasny participated in this round, joined by new investors, including Felix Capital, Winslow Capital and other mutual fund partners.

Jay Hoag, Founding General Partner of TCV, who also serves on the board of Netflix, Electronic Arts, Zillow, and other prominent technology companies, will join the Peloton Board of Directors. He joins TCV Venture Partner Erik Blachford, who has been on Peloton’s board since 2015.

“We are truly honored to partner with TCV and with Jay Hoag personally,” said John Foley, founder and CEO of Peloton. “TCV’s reputation, experience, and involvement in businesses like Netflix, Spotify and Facebook will be invaluable as we build Peloton into one of the most unique and influential global consumer product and media companies of our day.”

“We look for companies that offer their consumers a great value proposition, have engaged and delighted customers, and are led by visionary CEOs who have built a world-class management team,” said TCV’s Founding General Partner Jay Hoag. “We found all of these characteristics in Peloton and look forward to working with John and the entire team on their journey to revolutionize the home fitness category.”

The $550M Series F round brings the total equity raised by Peloton to nearly $1B since its inception, and positions Peloton to take full advantage of the growing global trend of instructor-led fitness classes moving into the home.

Since its last round of funding, Peloton has seen rapid growth across several key areas and is preparing to launch several new initiatives, including the following:

  • Global Expansion: This fall, the Peloton Bike will launch in the UK and Canada, marking the brand’s first new markets outside the US.
  • Retail Presence: Peloton plans to open at least 20 new retail showrooms in the US, UK and Canada by early 2019, bringing its total number of locations to more than 60 worldwide.
  • Peloton Tread: The company will launch its highly-anticipated second product, the Peloton Tread, this fall. Hundreds of running, walking, bootcamp and strength classes have already been produced in Peloton’s Tread Studio, which opened in New York’s West Village in May 2018.
  • Peloton Digital: Peloton recently introduced a new digital membership that offers over 10,000 live and on-demand, instructor-led classes across several fitness categories, such as cycling, running, walking, bootcamp, strength, stretching and yoga, for under $20/month.
  • Real Estate Footprint: Peloton announced plans to open a 25,000+ square foot campus in Plano, TX, which will serve as its member support hub, and Peloton Studios, a 35,000+ square foot, state-of-the-art flagship studio complex at Brookfield’s Manhattan West development in New York City. This new fitness facility will house Peloton’s broadcast and production operations and multiple studios from which thousands of group fitness classes will be hosted and live streamed for the Peloton Bike, Peloton Tread and Peloton Digital.

J.P. Morgan served as the sole placement agent to Peloton on the transaction.

The financing will be used for general corporate purposes, including providing liquidity to certain existing shareholders, and is scheduled to close in the third calendar quarter, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

About Peloton

Founded in 2012, Peloton is reinventing fitness by bringing live and on-demand boutique-style studio classes to the convenience and comfort of your own home. Our immersive fitness content, taught by Peloton’s roster of elite instructors, features real-time motivation and curated playlists of your favorite artists. The Peloton experience can be accessed through the Peloton Bike, the Peloton Tread, or Peloton Digital, an iOS app that offers an all-access pass to a full slate of fitness offerings, anytime, anywhere. Peloton is changing the way people get fit through a comprehensive and socially connected experience that makes every workout both efficient and addictive. The company has a growing number of retail showrooms across the US and, starting this fall, will launch in the UK and Canada. For more information, visit www.onepeloton.com.

About TCV

Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $10 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 115 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. Investments include Airbnb, Altiris, AxiomSL, Believe Digital, Dollar Shave Club, EtQ, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Netflix, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, Splunk, Spotify, TourRadar, Varsity Tutors, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit www.tcv.com.

Media Contacts: 

Jessica Kleiman, (646) 829-1633, jkleiman@onepeloton.com 

Katja Gagen, (415) 690-6689, kgagen@tcv.com

SOURCE Peloton

Related Links

http://www.onepeloton.com


Hiring for Leaders: Your Company Won’t Scale if the Leaders Can’t

By Jonathan Shottan

Companies that scale quickly share many of the same problems. Institutional knowledge becomes fragmented or lost as people leave. Decision-making authority changes or becomes opaque. New cultural norms are developed. Personality conflicts arise as the old guard and new guard merge. Collaboration becomes even more essential, because almost everyone is involved in creating new functions and establishing new processes.

But if the conditions during scaling are similar, the results vary widely. Some companies thrive through it, while others struggle. I’ve seen both in my career, working at Pinterest, Facebook, and other startups, and cultural differences don’t explain it. Leadership does. There is universality to the qualities exhibited by the best leaders at successful companies. If you’re hiring or promoting from within during a period of high growth, these are the qualities that you can and should identify. Leaders with these qualities naturally maintain momentum, exceed their objectives, develop and attract top talent, and amplify the best aspects of your culture. They are best suited to thrive on constant change and they are instrumental in driving success for the organization. Colloquially, they are the 10Xers.

From my own personal experiences leading teams through scale at Pinterest, Facebook, and other startups, I’ve identified a set of three attributes to consider when vetting leaders during the hiring or promotion process:

  1. Leaders That Scale Take A Position…

What is it: Leaders who can scale companies successfully know how to take a position. I know it sounds simple, but not everyone can do it – especially during times of pressure. A position is an informed stance amid a swirl of uncertainty, which galvanizes others to understand it, respond to it, and imagine how it would work. As such, it speeds the organization toward decisions and action.

Why is it Important: A position is not an opinion, because everyone has plenty of those. A position is also not a point of view because again, everyone has a perspective from which they view the world. A position is a singular proposal for addressing a particular issue. In taking a position, you may actually diverge from your own opinion or perspective, in order to take a position that’s more provocative and therefore more productive. Taking a position creates urgency and gets the conversation moving toward an agreement on next steps.

This is critical because as organizations grow, people can get stuck in paralysis by analysis. They’re not sure of their status yet. They may be afraid of making the wrong decision, or making the right decision, but in the wrong way for the culture they find themselves in.

Leaders who take a position dissolve all this. Though it may sound like a paradox, taking a strong position at the outset of a meeting is a unifying force, not a divider. Everyone else now shares the same task: testing the position, modifying it, figuring out whether and how it would work. It’s easy to focus because a hodgepodge of opinions and questions has been replaced by a proposed solution. Even if the stance is only a straw man, it sparks a productive conversation. And if the position becomes a North Star that everyone can navigate by, you’ve just taken a great leap forward.

How to Hire or Promote for it: First of all, you want candidates with a wide range of knowledge and interests, not superficially, but down to details. These people tend to be polymaths. They are familiar with a wide range of fields, technologies, cultures, and customers, and they can see the big picture intuitively. They can also explain it from multiple angles. They love to share their data or historical knowledge if it will enlighten or empower others. Typically, they can formulate their position as they walk into a room, because that’s how their minds work: synthesizing many factors into one proposition and pitching that proposition at the right level for others to understand and react to.

During the interview pick a big hairy sector, such as transportation or education, and ask the candidate “How do you think this sector will change in 10 years? In 50 years?” Ask about the candidate’s hobbies, pick the one you’re most familiar with, and ask the candidate to talk about it at length; you’re looking for what it says about them, their passion, and their personality. What was the last book they read? What is the next book they want to read? Do they play a musical instrument or a sport? Ask them to analyze the strategy of the organization they’re working for now, both pro and con, to see how many different perspectives they incorporate into their analysis.

  1. Leaders Don’t Get Stuck On A Position…

What is it: The second trait for leaders who scale is effortlessly moving off their own positions when the time is right. They do this because they understand that the position is a means to an end. If you’re familiar with the expression “strong opinions weakly held,” you understand this trait already. In many ways, it’s the flip side of the first trait. Strong opinions weakly held means that leaders readily evolve their positions in the face of new information or through an ability to read a room. They understand that a stronger position is forming – and this was the reason for taking a position in the first place.

Why is it Important: Why does this matter for scaling an organization? Because you need everyone to share their ideas, even if they’re shy. Being inclusive of thought accomplishes this. It also draws out sharper analysis from bolder or more informed members, because they trust that they’re not going to hit a wall if they voice partial or even complete disagreement with a leader’s opinion. Getting to a new, better, shared position makes everyone feel connected to the outcome. Now it’s time for action.

How to Hire or Promote for it: Testing for the ability to gracefully move off a position can be fun for you and the candidate. Before the interview, pose a real-world business problem within an area where you have lots of data but there are many ways to solve the problem. For example, if you’re at a ride-sharing company you could ask “How would you build a driver loyalty program?” Once the candidate states a position in the interview, begin to challenge it constructively, as if you were colleagues in a meeting. Probe for the thinking behind it. Share new data and see how they change their position. You’re not just looking to see if they’re open to revisiting their conclusions. You also want to see if they can continue to effectively articulate their position in the face of resistance — without getting stuck on it.

  1. Leaders Embrace the Outcome…and Adapt Appropriately

What is it: Unless you’re the CEO you don’t get to make the final decision most of the time. That’s when leaders need to have a third critical trait: they embrace the outcome of the conversation that just concluded. If the board decides to cut marketing hiring by 50%, the leader of the marketing department could respond in a variety of ways. The one you want is understanding and expressing the consequences of that decision to the department, in a constructive way.

Why is it Important: Psychologically, this leader has an innate ability to assume best intent. If a management decision goes against such individuals, or their organizations, they don’t take it personally. Quite the opposite, they default to a position that the people above them or around them share a vision for success and that the decision was necessary. Today is not forever, and marketing will be hiring again in the future. The focus now is making the current strategy succeed, rapidly. A good leader will take a positive, proactive position on how to do that.

This natural aptitude is an invisible bulwark against confusion and fatigue during times of rapid change and growth. Why? Because leaders with this trait are consistent in message, countenance, and style. When the environment is constantly changing, people look to their leaders. If the leaders are showing up as constructively positive in good times and bad, their teams will adapt a similar penchant for consistency and there will be fewer productivity troughs.

How to Hire or Promote for it: There are two approaches that can help you identify candidates who will naturally embrace an outcome, turn it positive, and lead their team to success with it. The first approach is to ask the individual to describe a time they disagreed with a boss or peer, and how they responded. You’re not looking for surface answers like “Of course I had to go along” or “I won.” You’re looking for the ways the candidate turned the adversity into opportunity – graciously.

The second approach is to actually put the candidate through adversity as part of the hiring process. If you gave them a homework assignment before the interview, change the terms before they can present their work. Substitute in an interviewer they didn’t expect to talk with. Pick something on their resume that could potentially be a deal-breaker and ask them to reframe it into a deal-maker instead. Again, you’re not looking for pat answers. You’re looking for the natural inclination to embrace what’s happening and turn it positive.

 

The Most Important Deliverable You Have

In my own career I came to realize that vetting for and then fostering leadership attributes on my teams was more important than any other deliverable I had. I am also aware that this knowledge can get crowded out when your company is on pace to grow 10X in two years, because you’ve got so many high-priority problems to solve. Fight the tendency. Sure, you don’t want to be distracted. But you still have to get leaders in place who can scale. Making this a priority benefited my teams tremendously. Individuals with the traits described above were resilient culture carriers who instilled confidence, trust, and good-will in the organizations they were involved with. They were best suited to manage constant change and rapid growth, and most responsible for the ultimate success of the organization.

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Jonathan Shottan is an Executive-in-Residence at TCV.

The views and opinions expressed in the blog post above are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.

 


The Rise of Augmented Marketing: Q&A with Michelle Peluso

Michelle Peluso has spent the past two decades helping to forge a new relationship between people and technology. She started her first company, Site59, with a group of friends in 1999 and later sold it to Travelocity, where she served as CEO during the “roaming gnome” era. Peluso became an Executive Advisor to TCV before joining Citibank as Global Consumer Chief Marketing and Internet Officer responsible for the digital experience of the bank’s 100 million global customers. Peluso then took the helm at fashion pioneer Gilt, which she later sold to Hudson’s Bay Company. She became IBM’s first Chief Marketing Officer in 2016 — a move that highlights the transformation of marketing into a core corporate capability.

Still an Executive Advisor to TCV, Peluso remains committed to discovering how marketing can redefine relationships with customers, a transformation that requires curiosity, agility, innovation, persistence, and resilience. In this exclusive interview, Peluso discusses:

  • How the CMO’s role has changed in the last decade
  • Four trends that continue to revolutionize marketing
  • How the rise of ‘augmented marketing’ will challenge CMOs as never before

TCV: It’s widely acknowledged that there has never been a more challenging time to be a CMO. How have you seen the role change since you founded Site59 in 1999?

Peluso: It’s no wonder the average CMO tenure is only 2–3 years and has seen a drop over the past two decades. It’s a hard and incredibly dynamic role, as marketing has shifted from a thoughtful, functional discipline around creatively amplifying the company message to a much more dynamic, real-time, analytical  —  and creative  —  driver of client experience, revenue, and company performance. Expectations have never been higher for marketers, and the new seat they have at the table is an amazing opportunity for the best of them to grow and lead.

TCV: It’s easy to say all these changes have been driven by the rise of the internet. But there are several distinct trends that are reshaping marketing…

Peluso: Clearly four major shifts have shaped, and are shaping, how we can connect with customers, how we can analyze our effectiveness and drive results, and how we need to lead our respective organizations. First was the era of digital. For me, this was the beginning of the internet, making transactions and content interactive, convenient, and more personal. Then, we entered the era of social, which has been all about engagement and authenticity. Social toppled the notion of hierarchy and forced brands to think differently. Third, we have seen the era of mobile, which began with mastering the art of a smaller screen but evolved into much more as the focus has been about location and real-time and always-on engagement. These three eras have dramatically reshaped every industry while elevating the role of the individual, with far-reaching consequences.

TCV: That’s three…

Peluso: Right. We are now on the cusp of the era of cognitive learning, or as we call it at IBM: Augmented Intelligence (AI). We’re building fast and smart systems that understand vast amounts of unstructured information, such as natural language and imagery, recognize data patterns to create recommendations, continuously learn from these recommendations and many other sources of data, such as books, medical records, and conversations with humans and finally, interact with humans in a natural way. AI lets us better understand and engage with our customers; it enables us to make more precise bids on advertising and improve ROI across every dollar spent, and it will fundamentally shift the paradigm of how consumers interact with websites. Arguably, we are already starting to see this with new AI home devices and natural language interaction.

TCV: This new vision will require an entirely new way of doing things, which is a significant change for any company, much less for a massive organization like IBM. How does a CMO drive these kinds of changes within such an established framework?

Peluso: The cognitive change is no different than any other large-scale change management program. To be a cognitive company, you need to be clear about your mission  —  what challenges do you want to solve? What decisions do you most want to improve? You need to have the assets, which are all about your data sets but, even more, your team, marketers, developers, and data scientists. And, of course, you need the right tools. Companies new to AI should identify a handful of specific problems they want to address and apply AI tools to solving those problems. Then, repeat the process to address new challenges. This way, a corporation will see meaningful and measurable results as they evolve into a cognitive company. Patience is required. Companies must learn how to use AI, and these systems also require learning, so “training” the system is critical. It’s a classic crawl, walk, run.

TCV: How does this new approach to marketing change the way you look for and hire the right talent for ‘augmented marketing’?

The traditional marketing waterfall process  —  develop a creative idea, send it to advertising, media, and a CRM team, and then analyze results  —  can no longer keep up with the pace of the market today. I take a lot of inspiration from the Agile movement, which fundamentally reinvented the technology development process. At IBM, we’re applying Agile to our marketing function, and that means creating small empowered teams with the right skills, clear accountability, sprints, and a constant focus on prioritization. When you adopt Agile, you can see how different marketing becomes, and the emphasis it puts on hiring Agile teams that have a strong mix of creative, process, digital, and data science skills.

TCV: What role will marketers have in identifying and developing new technologies for the augmented marketing era? Or will that function remain within the realm of the IT department?

Peluso: AI is about man (or woman) AND machine. Users of all sorts, not just developers or CIOs, can use AI in small and big ways to help them solve the most difficult problems. That’s the promise, and we’re starting to see this at organizations all over the world. Marketers will play a critical role in how AI is developed and applied. One of the many things I learned while working with the TCV team and their companies is that it’s fundamentally important to be insatiably curious about technology because the most successful marketers are as analytically rigorous as they are creative.

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