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Telekinesis - Data to Data Conversations

Sheltering in place with Kinetica CRO, Tom Addis

Daniel Raskin (CMO, Kinetica): Today’s special guest is Tom Addis, who is the Chief Revenue Officer at Kinetica, the newly appointed Chief Revenue Officer at Kinetica. Welcome, Tom!

Tom Addis (CRO, Kinetica): Thank you. Glad to be here.

Do you feel like this is a pivotal moment in your career? Like the apex moment?

TA: I feel like there should be two ferns on this stage here. One on either side of me.

Yes, yes. There is a little bit of a Zach Galifianakis vibe to the way we run these. And there’s definitely some influence in my background cause I love that show. So Tom, I’m going to try today to evoke every emotion I can from you, whether it be, you know, excitement, tears, anger, we’re going to touch on everything. So very Barbara Walters kind of moment, so be prepared, but I thought maybe we can kick this off with just learning a little bit about you. Like, where are you from?

TA: I’m still reeling from the emotions that are going to come out of me during this interview, so I look forward to that part of it. But I am a Southern California native. I actually am kind of boring in that way. I was born an hour from where I live today and where I went to college, at UCLA, and I’ve pretty much lived in beach communities between the different points of that. So the interesting thing is, although I’ve really not changed a lot from where I was born to where I live all within like a 60 mile radius, in my job I actually travel around the world. And if it wasn’t for the shelter at home order in place currently in California, I would probably be in the UK today actually.

I was going to say that I thought you might say something like, I was born on a 747. Yeah, no, that’s exciting. And so California, so lots of beach skills I would imagine.

TA: I love being outdoors. I love anything that has to do with the beach, whether it’s a standup paddleboard, surfing or volleyball or just even hanging out. I just love doing beach sports and activities.

I don’t know if it would count as a sport, but being an East coaster, my beach knowledge kind of cuts out around a Marco polo frolicking in the water, things like that.

TA: Well, I’ll have to get you out on the ocean. When I was at Salesforce, I concluded a meeting with bringing everybody out for surf lessons. So we will have to do the same since our CEO surfs as well. We’ll get you on a board and paddle out.

That could be our thing. Instead of taking clients out for golf, we can take them out for  surfing lessons.

TA: We call those board meetings.

Yes. I like that. That’s awesome. So born in Southern California, but in terms of your education, were you like a business major? What was your background?

TA: Yeah, so I went to UCLA and I was going down a path to eventually come out of there as a lawyer. I actually did an internship in Washington D.C., I worked for George Bush 41, I believe when he was a vice president under Reagan. Worked on the grounds of the White House at the old executive office building. Had a great time doing that and thought for sure when I’d graduate from UCLA, I’d get back into DC. But when I looked at the starting salaries and compared that to the job offer that I did accept at IBM I had a lot of college debt and needed to go for the money. So I chose IBM as the route. And that’s really what started me off in in the career that I’m currently at today. And the reason for it is early on I always saw that, you know, if you use technology wisely, it gives a company the advantage that all those that they compete with either have to decide to spend the money and compete at the same level or you know, ultimately they may perish. And so I love the promise of technology and I’ve always tinkered with technology and anything to do with engineering, taking apart bikes or cars and trying to put it back together. That stuff has always fascinated me. I think that kind of a background opens your mind up to more things technology related.

Yeah. So there was a lot in there actually. And just so you know, we do have a commonality. My first career was in politics as well. And I remember those days of walking to the Hart Senate building or the house buildings and dropping off pieces of paper at each reps or senators office.

TA: They had a library over there that had the best research papers done by experts in DC that I absolutely filled my briefcase with when I came and, and used that to finish off my studies at UCLA. It was a good source of information.

Yeah. And so then you jumped to IBM. What was the IBM experience like? I would imagine there’s a lot of learning that you can get from being at such a massive company with so many different products and areas.

TA: Yeah. You know, it’s kind of sad because back then, back in the day, a company spent a lot of time and money really educating you, really like an MBA program. I mean, I literally took accounting class as part of the IBM training. And why would I do that? Because at the time they also sold the financial services package and they sold an ERP type package. I learned about supply chain management, you learn basic coding skills and you would spend time, at least I would spend time back in Atlanta. That’s where our training was. Significant amount of time during the course of the first year and onward. And it’s sad cause you don’t get that kind of training as much today. And then in addition to that, when I decided to go down that path or IBM decided for me it was time to go down the path of management. Once again, I received a lot of great training about effective management and it really shaped my career both at IBM and after. And so what I try and do is I work with other folks, especially people younger than me who haven’t had the advantage of that. It’s trying to impart the knowledge that I gained through that extra training. You know, mixed together with some real life experience.

Yeah, no, very different. I think in the startup world you’re kind of learning through the fire hose. You know, I was at Sun Microsystems and just like you mentioned, they had a lot of different opportunities to learn and they’re all the Six Sigma kind of black belts running around all over the place. Lots of learning that I brought into the startup world. But from IBM, what was next after that piece? It sounds like you kind of grew up through IBM, got into management and where to next?

TA: So the cool thing at IBM, by the way, back in the day, and I don’t know if it’s still this way, but when I was there, if you did well on the career path that you had chosen, you could always raise your hand and say, Hey, I want to go over there and try something different. And so I actually moved into consulting when I was at IBM as well. And I really loved that.  I thought it was just novel that people would actually pay for what you had between the ears. I mean actually writing papers on what I thought the growth of the internet would be in healthcare and having somebody pay for that. To me it was fascinating. So I love that part of the career. But what I didn’t love about it was the travel, unlike the travel I do today, where I might be gone in Europe for two weeks or whatever it might be.

And that kind of travel. I was gone for, you know, a month at a time constantly. And my wife and I were celebrating the birth of our first child and I realized that that just wasn’t going to be conducive, that lifestyle. So I moved back into  sales and then a friend of mine who was over at Siebel Systems, actually where our CEO was also working, gave me a call and I made the jump over there. Then from Siebel, went to Salesforce. And then went over to Box before joining Kinetica.

That sounds like that was a pretty exciting ride.

TA: Yeah, at the time it was fascinating. You always learn, people always ask me questions about Salesforce and what I learned, you know, being one of the first 300 employees and working close with Mark Benioff. I learned a lot more probably in the early days at Siebel and why? Because we owned a market. We defined a market, we grew that market and almost overnight the bottom fell out of our market. Things changed. New products came to market and it really taught you that, you know, you could corner the market, you can own that market. But if you don’t innovate, if you don’t move your technology along, if your customers are not treated like gold when things turn, it’s gonna turn real fast and you’ll see that your customers leave first and your employees leave second.

And there’s not a lot left after that happens. And so it was sad because I thought the quality of people I worked with at Siebel are some of the highest I’ve ever worked with. Some of the smartest people I’ve ever been associated with. And the sad thing was we just didn’t move fast. That is as web-based solutions, like Salesforce came into existence companies like Siebel  where we’re faced with a really tough question, which is, do I cannibalize my on-premise install base to try and move to the cloud which is going to ruin my margins or do I try to fight it? And for a while they tried to fight it. Obviously that didn’t work out well. And then Salesforce obviously took over that CRM market pretty quickly because it was a better, faster, cheaper option.

And so you said you were at Salesforce when it was less than 300 people?

TA: Yeah, I joined. My easy way to remember it was, it was about 300 people and 30 million in revenue and it was pre IPO.

Yeah. And what was that like? I would imagine every year it’s like a different company at that point.

TA: It was, but what I appreciated, you know, the lesson I learned at Siebel around really treating your customer like gold and innovating or you’re just not going to survive. I learned at Salesforce something a little different, which was, you know, Mark’s leadership style is one where he always looked out into the future and and when you’ve talked to him, if you talk about the present, he quickly lost interest in the conversation and you knew it pretty quickly cause he’d look around and go find other people to talk to. So the way he always thought was, we all know what’s happening today. Tell me what you see happening next quarter. Tell me what the competitors are doing next year. Tell me, you know, always forecasting down the line what I thought would happen. That was what he found interesting. And that’s really how he ran the company.

He was never just focused on settling in one different area and saying, okay, we hit that goal, let’s all celebrate and pat each other on the back. Like when we first set the goal to get to $1 billion, I think we’re around 500 maybe 700 at the most. And we could see that $1 billion was in sight. We’re about to get to this lofty goal that software companies get to on revenue. And as quickly as we thought we’re going to get there, and Mark changed the game on us and said, we need to focus on 5 billion. So that’s just the way he operated. But more importantly, that’s how we plan the company. So when we did our growth plans, it was based on X many years, how do we get to 5 billion? And that’s a great way to plan for the future.

How much intentionality did you have? So, in driving towards this CRO kind of a role, how much intentionality did you have in terms of getting different experiences to do that?

TA: Yeah, I definitely looked at those people that had, you know, the CRO role, that title is relatively new, but the position is not. And so I looked at people that I thought were successful both professionally and personally and tried to emulate what those people did. And so, you know, if you’re asking me to rank the things I care about, my family would be the first thing. I worked to provide for my family even though my kids are adults, I still look at that as a first priority, providing for my family. So I wouldn’t sacrifice that for my job. And so I looked for jobs. Careers where, you know, the CEOs were like minded. That’s important to me cause I don’t think you sustain long term success if you sacrifice everything that’s important to you personally to get there.

Make sure you identify with the leadership team and the values.

TA: Got it. So important you’ll never be happy otherwise you hit financial goals. And I’ve seen this countless times with people that I’ve worked at through the years. You’ll hit financial goals, but then you’ll find your life’s kind of empty. Yeah. So I definitely would look at, okay, this is the career path I want to go to. I think the only thing that I was always hesitant about as my kids were growing up. I did not want to spend all my life on the road. So I would slow roll certain jobs just so I didn’t have to do the two extents in the UK or wherever it might be. And, you know, miss my kids sporting events or graduations or other important things. So I always tried to tie my career advancement around those things that you know, I knew once the kids got off to college, then I would travel more and my wife would come with me on certain trips and that’s pretty much what we’ve done.

So when you shifted to box, where were your kids off to college yet?

TA: No, they were still in high school. So I started out building the U S sales team, field sales team, and then we grew that field sales team to a worldwide sales team. So it was kind of a slow rolling event and we hired somebody from the outside to be the CRO and then ultimately that person moved on. And when Genoa, when that person moved on, my son was already in college and my daughter was about to graduate from high school. So it worked out. The timing was just perfect.

And what was the, when you first started at Box in terms of like number of employees you were managing versus towards the end?

TA: I remember I started out with 14 salespeople. Unfortunately, about half of those weren’t a great fit. So pretty soon it was down to seven. And then when I left I had about 700 people reporting to me.

Oh my Lord. And how do you adjust to something like that in terms of figuring out how to manage a 700 people? Verse seven?

TA: Yeah. The important thing is you put foundational programs and processes in place that allow for growth so that you’re not giving your team this, you know, whipsaw effect where every year you’re changing things so dramatically. They’re constantly their heads on a swivel because they, you know, you just establish one process and way of doing things, but now you realize it’s not going to scale. So you rip it up and try something else that is really disruptive and it’s not a great way to grow. So what I try and do is teach logic more than just the outcome. Because if I teach the logic on the underlying foundational process, then I can have my management team, no matter how many levels I go down on that management team, recite to me what we’re trying to do and the logical path we go on. And then they could fill in their own way of doing it from there as long as they follow the logical path and come out with the same outcome.

So this is a structure and operations, so, you have to have a love for operations beyond just selling in order to do what you’re doing.

TA: Yeah. And then you have to, you have to really love data because I think if you’re going to be successful as a CRO today, or I would probably argue even in almost every position, I know especially yours and how much your decisions are driven by data, but you really have to love data and understand what it’s telling you so that you can make the right moves to prepare yourself for the future. And so I constantly am, you’ve probably seen, I build my own dashboards in Salesforce because I constantly think of mashing together different objects to come up with an outcome that tells me something that might happen in the future. So I’m constantly trying to play with the data just so I can better prepare my team and myself for what I think is going to happen in the future.

And then when like a typical day for you, where are you balancing between kind of being on the phone reps to find out what’s going on with deals and cause I think the challenge I always see, particularly in the early stage startups is there becomes almost this, this a focus of staring at your feet as opposed to looking ahead towards the forest because there’s so much pressure to hit the current quarter’s goals. And so how do, how do you balance that?

TA: So there’s three things that I feel that I should always know and know not just the current state but the future state. And that is where the hearts and minds of my team, where is their head up? What’s the general mood and the only way you get that is if you’re talking to them. If you’re out there, I mean Connecticut’s of the size right now today where it’s not hard for me to pick up the phone and meet with people or talk to them via zoom right now. But as we get bigger, what I plan on doing is what I’ve done in the past, which are town hall meetings where if I come into town, I’m going to come in and meet customers, but I’m also going to sit down with the team as individuals and as a team and answer their questions.

And, and you know, open door policy applies to the questions you ask. So that’s one important aspect of what, what you know, I would expect anybody getting a leadership position and knowledge with the hearts and minds of their people. The second thing is the hearts and minds of your customers. What are your customers saying about the product overall? Be honest with yourself so that you can share that with other people in the company. I’ve always maintained a great relationship with the engineers and my companies because I don’t come to them asking for the one feature that I think is going to change the game only because it’s gonna win me one contract. I try and think of things that are generally the feedback and hearing across a wide group of customers where they think our product should go.

And I try to share that with engineering. So I try to represent my customer’s wishes as they would want me to as I report back. And then the last thing is competition. So what’s my competition up to? I’ve already seen it in Connecticut. I’ve gone into situations where your competition has some serious holes in their products, so they try it. You know, you shamed your, your product and other areas that they think they’re superior. And, and so educating your customers on a more balanced, broad view of what your market is, how your product addresses that market, especially at Kinetica is really important. And I say that, especially at Kinetica, because you know, when you think about it, we compete with 50 different point solutions. Each one probably offers just one, one fifth if that, what our product does. And so our goal is to give our customers a complete view of the problem we solve, which is generally speaking much wider aperture than these point competitors that we see.

So how long have you been at Kinetica now?

TA: Almost two months or about two months.

Right. So you join and right when you join a pandemic hits.

TA: I didn’t bring it with me. I can promise you that. I’m very clean.

Yeah, it’s crazy. So two months, God, it feels like I’ve known you for like six months at least.

TA: I have that effect on people. It’s a very painful long relationship. That’s how it works. Yeah. One day seems like a year.

So you’ve been here for two months. You’ve been talking with companies all over the globe in lots of different industries. What are you learning? What are you hearing out there around the world of active analytics?

TA: Yeah. You know, what I love about this company and what we solve for is there’s data issues that present themselves in a lot of different ways with different companies. But the two things that I really can call a solution around, I can really sum it up really easily on is we offer risk intelligence. Whether I just want to identify that risk so I can create strategies or whether I want to isolate the risk or whatever it might be. We offer that intelligence so you can find those anomalies, identify risks, and come up with the appropriate action either using our product and setting it up automatically. Or at least advising somebody, you know, with a flashing screen that says, Hey, look at this. You need to do something, that is a great thing because we are all presented with so much data, we don’t know what to do with it.

So having an intelligence solution like ours really guide you on what you should do with the data that you’re looking at is I think more critical than ever today, especially as you look at the proliferation of all the edge devices and IOT devices that we’re seeing out there. And then the second thing that we really do a great job of is revenue enhancement. Helping companies find ways to get more revenue from whatever it is that they’re out there doing, whether it’s a supply chain related at work or whether it’s looking at a loan process and trying to find ways to new increase your your turn on your lungs to get more loans to the system and increase your revenue that way if you’re a financial services firm. So that’s what’s fun for me in those, those areas. And then, you know, one last thing I’ll say about what I love about this company is the fact that our solution is portable to the major cloud partners that we have out there.

So, and that is something I heard at both Salesforce and box quite often. Give me your code base. Let me go run it on Azure, let me go run it on, on Google cloud, let me go run it on AWS. And that is something that I love about this product. It’s portable. So if you’ve got a relationship and investment with any, any of those companies we’re going to support that for you. And our product will run on the services. That to me, the portability of the solution on these cloud players is I think something that is going to be more important, more and more front and center for all of our customers and prospects going forward.

Yeah, I mean, yeah, you have data everywhere, right? Data in the cloud, data on-prem data and the edge. You know, so much more users, devices and things coming online. I agree that that’s a really important piece. I also agree, it’s nice to be able to come home to my family and you know, I think the conversation when I was at Sun would have been like, Hey, let me tell you about Solaris containers. As opposed to, Hey, you know, this, this problem that’s gone on with financial risk right now, there’s a lot of people that are trying to run models to figure out what’s going to happen.

TA: Yeah, I’ll give you an even less important example, but a fascinating one with my family. I think my family’s biggest gripe with fresh produce, our strawberries, even though we grow strawberries probably 20 minutes and, and major fields from where I live, you go to look local stories here, the strawberries are typically fuzzy in a bad way. And what I’ve found out, Daniel, is that from one of our customers is that if strawberries sit on a loading dock for as little as 10 extra minutes, it will take two weeks off their lifespan. And so a solution like ours that helps track where that strawberry is going constantly, so it doesn’t sit in that loading dock for an extra 10 minutes, which gives it an extra two weeks of lifespan, which means that my family gets fresh strawberries when they want fresh strawberries.

Right. Kinetica,  no strawberry left behind. No strawberries with a five o’clock shadow. The important thing that actually to me is one of the most frustrating things when I buy the berries and literally open them up and there’s mold at the moment. Yeah, that happens a lot more often than it ever should. Exactly. yeah, no I think that’s great. And actually I mean we cut across so many different industries but I don’t, this wise man has had me investigating the realm of logistics lately. And I was reading about how so many companies are trying to compete with Amazon right now, right. Cause Amazon’s launched Amazon logistics and they’re doing things like same day delivery. Yet the, the market dynamics of it are so interesting cause customers want same day delivery. They’ll spend more for same delivery day of delivery, but they don’t want to actually pay for it. And so you have all these retail companies that are sitting there saying like, how do we actually offer this without having to build out the same type of network as Amazon? So looking at things like a retailer to home delivery is becoming a, a big, a big thing store to home as opposed to shipping from a warehouse. So there’s so many interesting trends that we get to investigate and be a part of, which makes it really, really fun.

TA: Yeah. I mean, you’re right. You’ve seen the same that I have that same data points where so many companies are interested in logistics optimization and that can, that runs the route. I mean, that runs the gamut. So it could be anything from supply chain optimization to route optimization. Right. it’s an interesting use case that I first was looking at Connecticut. It didn’t strike me, even though you’ve got accounts like a USBs, a us postal service, that that, that really is the use case there. It is amazing to see how ubiquitous that use case is and how it presents itself differently in different industries. But there’s this underlying thread that is basically I need to optimize the delivery of multiple products from, from this location to that location. And you know, one thing where this really strikes me today and we’re you know, if you asked me in a month from now, hopefully we’ll have some solid tangible results, but we are talking to government agencies about how we can use our service to how assist them as they try and combat the COBIT 19 outbreak that we’re currently faced with.

So that I can start matching up different facilities at all the different components of this facility where it’s, whether it’s a ventilator, whether it’s ICU, whether it’s just available beds in a hospital compared to all the PPEs that I need, all of the actual manpower I need in a certain area and then forecast out based on the models that we see out there where we think the next outbreak will be. And combining all this data to help give more informed or help policy makers and government officials make more informed decisions to protect those that are on the front line battling this horrible thing. Is is great. And, and so we’re actively pursuing opportunities to help them use our technology to do just that. And I’m hopeful soon that we’ll have some tangible results from it.

Yeah. That, I mean, that’s a huge one. I think about that in terms of just the impact on, you know, how people are, how organizations are managing inventory warehouse planning, getting it from point a to point B, kind of that last mile delivery. All the stuff around emergency responders and what they’re going to need as they roll out mobile hospitals. Really important issues. And I’m never more brought to the forefront then with what we’re hearing in the news every day, which is just still blows my mind. It’s like, I, I thought this would be a mini series that you watch on HBO, not something that was actually reality.

TA: Yeah. It’s a, yeah. I mean, my parents’ lifetime, they never saw something quite like this and I’m sure their parents didn’t, it didn’t, did not either. But, you know, hopefully we get through it very quickly and I know we’ll be smarter as a result. And, and like I said, I as much as we can, I know you and I and everybody else who works at kinetic as committed to trying to help use our technology to solve for some of these issues, not just today, cause hopefully with time this will pass, but better prepare us for the next time that something like this should happen.

Yeah. Yes. You know, one area where the predictive analytics has been actually quite strong is around animal adoption. And from what I understand, you have made an impulse adoption as part of this pandemic.

TA: Well, I don’t know as much as I made that that decision is my wife and daughter. My daughter by the way, was studying abroad in Italy and she, she’s a junior at Cornell. And so she came home almost a month ago now. So she was at the, the front end of this and Italy. Luckily she was healthy and safe. Although we’re all sad what, what has happened in Italy and hopefully they’ve turned the corner. But yeah, I think my wife and daughter where I was actually one of my last road trips before we did the shelter in place they were bored and took it upon themselves to go out and get a puppy. So we have a King Charles spaniel now in the house, which thank God I don’t need an alarm clock anymore. Every day at six o’clock I get to take an up front to take care of his business medicine. Yeah. So there’s that I life now.

Yeah. Great. You need to talk to your family about the difference between sheltering in place versus animal sheltering in place. There are two, two separate things, but it sounds like you guys have mixed it up a bit.

TA: Which by the way, I understand like shelters around animal shelters around the States are basically empty right now. That’s, that’s great news. Let’s just hope that people don’t get the bad idea of returning these animals.

Yeah, no, I know. I know. In my home my dog has been a superstar. Everyone’s like hanging out with him all the time. He’s like the happiest little guy ever. But yeah, that’s great having a little animal around when when you can’t really go to too many places.

TA: Two months from now or three months from now, hopefully two months from now, these, these poor dogs and cats and whatnot are going to be looking around and saying, well, where did everybody go?

Right. I wait, I’m home alone today. It’s all about so I guess you know, we’re, we’re coming to the end of episode three of telekinesis. Tom, any partying comments you’d like to share? Before we go?

TA: First and foremost, I should have started the discussion this way. Your new haircut, absolutely phenomenal. If the CMO thing doesn’t work out, you know, once the social distancing has passed, as I think you should open up your own little hairstylist shop, it’s just great to see what you’ve done there.

Yeah. Now. Now, most of my professional colleagues can’t see this because I do not connect with them as frequently on Facebook. But I did a broadcast, the whole haircut experience, and I did a lot of research on how to do a fade with a razor cut. Yes. If you could see me face to face, you’d see some errors, but I think from a zoom perspective, with the face, the straight on angle, it works.

TA: When we see each other again, you can give me a little touch up on the sides then.

That would be nice. Yeah. Anytime you need, man. Anytime you need, I’m there.

So thank you for humoring me and joining us for this episode. And thank you all for listening to another episode of telekinesis and we will be back with episode four at some point soon. Take care!

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