“Effective Executive” Series with Ric Calvillo of Nanigans

ricThis week’s “Effective Executive” interview is with Ric Calvillo, co-founder and CEO of Nanigans. Nanigans is pioneering the next evolution in media buying with its predictive lifetime value platform for performance marketing.

Ric Calvillo is Nanigans’ co-founder and CEO. Ric has over 20 years of startup experience, having founded and led three technology companies. Prior to co-founding Nanigans, Ric was Founder & CEO of Incipient, Inc., a venture-backed data storage infrastructure software company.

We asked Ric about his current role and the early days in his career as well as what is next for Nanigans for the remainder of 2013.

Can you explain your technology in simple terms for our audience?

Nanigans is the transformative SaaS platform for performance marketers, focusing on customer predictive lifetime value at scale. Most of our clients right now are in the e-commerce, travel and gaming verticals and use Nanigans across social and mobile.

 

What is the most exciting part of your role as CEO and Founder at Nanigans?

The most exciting part would be watching the growth of our customers, employees and the overall business. I started Nanigans in 2010 with the simple idea that performance marketing was inherently broken, and just a few short years later we’re up over 200 customers, 100+ employees and have offices around the world. Feeding off of the energy and successes of Nanigans employees is also contagious, and that vibrant culture is seemingly always on display walking around any of our offices.

 

Back in the early days of your career, what did you envision Nanigans to be? Have you met or exceeded your expectations?

I always wanted marketers to buy media based more on data than anything else. We know that consumers want to see a certain amount of offerings from advertisers and engage, especially online. For us, it was helping our customers find those purchase-minded consumers at scale and develop long-term relationships with their best target audiences.

 

In such a fast-paced tech industry, how do you keep up with the constant changes and developments?

We have an always-on engineering team. There’s no “easy solution” or “10 step method” to keeping up with the ever-changing tech industry. We focus on partnerships, planning and execution to ensure we’re always meeting goals. Our team meets every day to confirm nuances or updated plans, and we all sit together in an open floor plan to ensure open communication can happen in-person not just via email or phone.

 

You recently celebrated a huge milestone (1 Billion conversations enabled), how did you celebrate internally and how does this milestone motivate you and your Company to achieve future goals?

It’s always nice to highlight “big wins” for the company, so we celebrated the same way we always do, which means to take a step back for a moment and understand the impact and then move on. This industry changes on a dime, and we’ve seen great companies fail in the past few years so we don’t like to spend too much time on “accomplishments” but rather focus on how we can continue to provide value for our customers and innovate within the industry.

 

What is next for Nanigans for the remainder of 2013?

We’re focusing on how to best scale the business. In terms of verticals, we like ecommerce, travel, gaming and a few others while also looking at where to expand geographically. We currently have offices in Boston/NYC/SF/UK, which leaves a lot of opportunity on the table so finding the right combination for growth while continuing to maintain our level of quality and success for our customers is the main priority right now.

 

 

“Effective Executive” Series with Kris Duggan, CEO & Co-Founder of Badgeville

This week’s “Effective Executive” interview series is with Kris Duggan, CEO and Co-Founder of Badgeville.

Kris is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for building innovative, fast-growing SaaS companies with thousands of delighted customers. He is dedicated to helping brands on the web increase user engagement by leveraging proven techniques in social gaming and loyalty. A sought-after speaker on gamification, analytics and user engagement, Kris is a thought leader of innovative ways to incorporate game mechanics and social loyalty programs into web and mobile experiences. Prior to founding Badgeville, Duggan worked in leadership roles at a variety of successful companies, including WebEx (a former PerkettPR client), and across a wide variety of verticals.

You have a great deal of expertise in startups.  What is it that you love about the startup environment?

I’ve worked in many different companies at this point in my career, from startups I’ve founded or held leadership roles in, to very large, global companies. I have learned a great deal from all of these experiences, but one thing I find most exciting in the startup environment is creating something from nothing. Over the last 20 months, with the help of an extremely talented and intelligent team, we have built a healthy global business with nearly 200 customers and 75 employees. There is nothing more exhilerating, fun and fulfilling than being part of this journey. I also really enjoy building a company from the ground up – defining the culture and team, and being a part of the larger product vision.
Gamification appears to be a solid solution to improving customer loyalty and employee performance.  Can you explain how Badgeville is leading the way in this effort?

Gamification for business is a strategy based on game mechanics to help measure and influence user behavior. With the proper psychological application for each audience, these techniques can drive behavior 20 to more than 200 percent. Badgeville is the global gamification leader, with nearly 200 customers across the globe, including Deloitte, EMC, Autodesk, VMware, Symantec, Bell Media, Interscope Records, Opower, Barnes & Noble, and more.

 

How is Badgeville leading the way in this effort? One of the main reasons customers tell us that they choose Badgeville is our unique view on gamification as part of a larger engagement strategy. We offer a full spectrum of engagement mechanics, including game mechanics, reputation mechanics and social mechanics. Instead of offering gamification for siloed applications, we offer a true Behavior Platform. This means that down to the way our platform database is architected using NoSQL, we are able to integrate our platform across multiple websites, mobile apps, and enterprise applications owned by a company.

 

This architecture design is extremely important for us, as large businesses don’t want to reward user behavior in one small area of their online experience – they are looking for a holistic gamification program across their online communities, websites, blogs, mobile experiences, CRM systems, training applications, support programs, and other digital experiences. The ultimate value of gamification lies in being able to connect the behavior dots between all of these disparate applications, and this is unique to Badgeville in the market. We like to call this “portable reputation” – where the user experience can tie together all of these online experiences. For the business, there is also the value of having this connectivity from a data perspective, being able to easily identify trends and insights around user behavior across their entire digital ecosystem.

 

What do you think is driving the rise of social gaming?
 

Gaming is nothing new. Social media enabled gaming companies to create new types of games which are largely tied to reputation. Instead of playing games by oneself or with a few friends, success in these social games can be viewed by many friends and online peers. This is the same concept used to inspire many behaviors with gamification. Another key factor in the success of social gaming is the rise of mobile technologies. Now game devices are in everyone’s hand. People have a few minutes of spare time in between their busy lives and they want to be able to get entertainment on the train or during a free moment. This is changing the types of games we play. Now, the important part of gameplay is being able to participate for a quick minute or two, and truly engage with this experience, and to come back later to engage even more.

Can you tell us a little bit about the recent launch of Social Mechanics?

Integrating Badgeville’s Behavior Platform begins with tracking important user behaviors. With Game Mechanics and Reputation Mechanics, customers can use the Behavior Platform to reward users for performing these high-value behaviors. With Social Mechanics, we take the behaviors we are tracking and surface them in ways that you may typically see in a social network. For example, our customers can use Social Mechanics to add real-time notifications, live activity streams, and even user-to-user or user-to-topic following. This enables every online experience to have the same social engagement qualities of today’s top social networks. When Game Mechanics or Reputation Mechanics are added to Social Mechanics, the experience is extremely powerful and engaging. The more social an experience is, the more value social rewards and status within that community will be for the user – and the greater the success of the gamification program one will see.

How do you explain your job to your children?

My two sons have a very good understanding of gamification. They would explain it as “making things more fun and engaging.” I’ve gamified a lot of experiences as a parent. When I was coaching T-ball it was hard to get the team of 20 kids motivated… they were more interested in jumping around on top of each other than paying attention to learning how to improve their game. I started to use points to help the kids focus. I created a whole points system where if you caught the ball you get a point, and soon found out the more points catching the ball was worth, the harder the kids tried to catch it. The points were never worth anything, but just adding a point value to the experiences made them try that much harder. The T-ball gamification got increasingly sophisticated. I added virtual rewards like a treasure chest or virtual space shuttle for catching, hitting the ball, and so on. I’ve never seen them work so hard. Gamification is part of everyday life for my kids, so it’s not hard to explain the core concepts to them.

You have traveled extensively. Do you have any memorable trips or spots you would like to share?

I’ve traveled to over 35 countries around the world and have had some very memorable moments… such as visiting the Pyramids of Giza and staying on a houseboat in Kashmir, India for a month. But most recently, the most interesting moment that stuck out in my mind related to gamification was an experience I had on my visit to Japan for the Japanese Gamification Summit. In Japan, aspects of the culture are heavily focused on gaming. When I visited a standard mens restroom, I found a completely gamified urinal. I’m not kidding. Without getting into to many details, there were many options to play this game and win. I thought that was pretty incredible, so I decided to investigate this product further. It turns out it’s made by Sega and it’s call the “Toylet.”  We’re actually working on having one special ordered for us to have at the Badgeville headquarters, with some special Badgeville ads and games built into the machine.

What is next for Badgeville for the remainder of 2012?

Badgeville is growing at a very rapid pace. We recently raised our Series C round of funding in under two years of our business launch. This funding is being dedicated directly to product innovation and team growth. This September, we will move to our fifth office in two years with 25,000 square feet for long-term growth. Our employees enjoy “leveling up” each time we move to a new space. Beyond the move, we are constantly working on new products and overall growth. Hiring is a major focus of ours as we continue to seek out top talent in our Silicon Valley, New York and European offices, as well as among our regional teams around the world. We are also fast expanding our global partner network, with emphasis on System Integrators, ISV/OEM partnerships, Agencies, and VARs.

In addition, our inaugural Summit — Engage 2012 — which occurred August 8-9, was a huge project for us — our first two-day event featuring customer stories, key industry analysts and gamification workshops led by our team of expert game designers and producers. We have a lot of photos to share from this great event, here.

.

 

Innovation in IT from … a PR company? Forrester Research Reports on PerkettPR’s “Golden Image” Standard

Update: Chris Silva, analyst at Forrester Research, kindly posted additional information and insight into the report, here.

When I started PerkettPR over a decade ago, I knew I wanted to do something different. My goal was to build a new kind of PR firm that focused on superior client service through senior-level talent. I didn’t think much about my IT innovation in building a virtual  infrastructure – I just wanted to offer an excellent and productive work environment for employees throughout the nation. And I wanted to ensure that, just like their office counterparts, they had everything they needed to be successful in their day to day work.

I’ve always been driven to go beyond the norm and it’s no different for me in business. Just as everyone else is learning something, I want to be moving on to the next big thing. It’s that kind of initiative that led me to build not only an innovative PR agency – but an innovative business. When we started our agency in 1998, virtual workers were still viewed with a skeptical eye, green was just a Crayola color (#21) and SaaS (known as “on-demand” at the time) was something only a few companies (including our clients) were aware of. So it was an honor to have the last decade of our work at PerkettPR – encompassing all three of those elements – turned into an independent report from Forrester Research Inc.

You can download the entire case study (registration or login required), learn how Forrester can assist in developing virtual and remote workers, and learn how PerkettPR leverages a “golden image” standard – including remote support technologies, robust storage capabilities, collaboration tools, and being proactive about green IT initiatives.

As a virtual organization, we have worked very hard to establish a specific culture (one that is clear to both our geographically-diverse employees, and to our clients who know that good teams matter in PR) – as well as a technically-savvy organization that constantly discovers and implements the best new technologies to keep our workforce productive. Thanks very much to Forrester analysts Chris Silva and Doug Washburn for taking a closer look. I hope readers will find the study helpful and informative.

Why We Love Tech PR

 

PR can be a tough business. Not with life or death pressures, certainly, but tough in the sense of gaining respect for what you do, who it benefits and why it matters. We’re often caught at family gatherings trying to explain what we do, only to stare into a sea of confused faces and at least one elder asking us what it’s like to be a journalist. Many journalists question the value of PR executives and, on more than one occasion, have been known to make their distaste for the profession clear. Clients can also be tough to win over, especially if they do not fully understand the value that PR can provide to their business and how that value is achieved. Trying to please both of the aforementioned audiences on an ongoing basis is enough to question one’s career path. As a client service profession, the demands can be high, expectations unreal, kudos fleeting and the need to prove yourself never-ending.

 

 

So why are we in the business? How is it possible that we continue to persevere and help some of the most interesting companies increase market mindshare and reach their target audiences day after day? There are a lot of reasons, but the best reason for those of us at PerkettPR has to do with our specialty, high tech. We’re actually in this business for the same reason a lot of journalists, bloggers and clients themselves are – we love technology.

And, as one of the first entities pulled into the conversation when a new business is born or product is on the horizon, we get to learn about the latest and greatest services, applications and gadgets long before the rest of the world.

 

 

 

We have had an ongoing invitation to board rooms around the world to watch some of the most engaging, enthusiastic and extremely intelligent entrepreneurs at work. We are there as they envision and create the serious business tools and fun personal gadgets that continue to evolve the world’s way of working and playing. And despite the sometimes bad reputation for PR as “controlling and misleading,” those of us in high tech are really more focused on the fun task of telling as many people as possible about all these fabulous new technologies that continue to shape our society. Educating people on how technology continues to enhance the world around us – and make everyone’s lives more fun and productive – is a big part of our job and why we love it.

 

 

 

Tech PR executives, like the team here at PerkettPR, have been privy to some of the business world’s most confidential conversations, helping to shape the rollout of technologies and products – and even industry evolutions such as Web 2.0 - that people will stand in line for or pay others to do so – for days at a time. We learn about the most exciting new technologies – from SaaS to CRM, VoIP to CEP, social networking to Internet search, video-on-demand to online photo sharing – years before the general public. We have seen technology innovation move at a rapid fire pace – through engineering departments to the depths of HR, from consumers to specialized groups such as doctors, Baby Boomers to Millenials – the growth never ends. It’s an incredibly exciting industry to be in and it doesn’t stop. We have the privilege to work with top innovators from all around the world, enabling us to always learn something new – and valuable – every single day.

 

Whether it’s why blogging matters to how a router works, to what AJAX is or how different businesses in different parts of the world build teams and track metrics, we utilize this information not only to benefit our clients, but to build a better company here at PerkettPR. We’ve been there to celebrate many tech successes and we’ve seen – and learned from – our share of industry hiccups.

 

 

While we still might not be able to explain to our friends just what we do, we always get a kick out of watching their expressions when we hint at what’s coming next in technology…so stay tuned, because as the buzz continues around the return of tech IPOs and what lessons we all learned from the dot com bust, we plan to be right in the middle of it – always.