Heather Hall, Entrepreneur In Residence – JumpStart Inc.
Each week, we interview proven leaders from our network, to learn from their experiences, and share their Talent Attraction and Candidate Experience stories with you.
- Our mission is to promote the accomplishments of our guests
- Highlight the companies where they work and the services, and products that they offer
- Share success stories from their experiences and, most importantly
- Provide strategies for job seekers and advice to talent seeking to accelerate their careers.
In this episode,
- Heather share’s the story of her career progression evolving from:
- Her first exposure to startups at Lucent Technologies, New Ventures Group
- Through the progression of her exposure to MarTech and Data as a Service (DaaS)
- And then onto her Entrepreneur in Residence role at JumpStart, Inc.
- She presents a case study of a successful Cleveland, OH based SaaS/DaaS company called Thrivable
- Heather offers some excellent advice for both recent college grads and experienced pros, on how to differentiate yourself in a job search
- Lastly, more observations on the critical role that data plays in enhancing career development and success in the MarTech industry.
Full transcript of our interview below:
RON: I was fortunate to connect with today’s guests a few years ago via several mutual friends and coworkers.
She’s a proven executive in the Martech space, having built and grown teams across startups, Fortune 500, and in management consulting. Her experience has been heavily focused on sales strategy and customer success and product centered marketing technology companies.
She’s extremely passionate about helping new companies develop their business strategies and access to seed capital and currently serves in a role to facilitate these objectives.\
I appreciate having you here and was very much looking forward to this conversation. For our listeners, can you take a step back and re-introduce yourself, tell us about what you’re doing a JumpStart specifically, and if you don’t mind also adding on a little bit about your career progression and how you got to where you are today.
HEATHER: Absolutely! So I am Heather Hall and I’m an Entrepreneur In Residence at Jump Start. I’ll give you the background to get to what I do at JumpStart, and I’ll tell you that there’s no way to plan for this. I still don’t quite know how I got here!
I was a Political Science history major who had every plan to go take the State Department test and go abroad. And, well, I’m going to date myself…but it’s okay. I wanted to go to Poland or Soviet Union and that’ll tell you everything right there.
The wall (Berlin Wall) came down when I was in college and I had to scramble and figure out what to do next. Fortunately, I had a couple of stats classes that exposed me to the power of data, which led to marketing. And I just happened to trip into startups.
So I worked for a non-profit for a year out of college and quickly forayed into what at the time was considered “direct marketing.” How you use data to target people better? At the time, it was through print and the envelopes that we all get in the mailbox.
But that quickly parlayed in digital marketing..banner, SEO, all of that. I got really excited about the power of data and the components of how you target that. And so my trajectory through the startup ecosystem has always used data as a backbone to that.
- How do you take that and build a targeted startup?
- How do you roll out customer success using different technologies? Those sorts of things.
I’ve done it in a true startup. Somebody just comes up with an idea…and, “hey, we’re going to build this.” I’ve had the opportunity to work at Lucent New Ventures when they would go into the labs and take technology that couldn’t be commercialized and launch it out on its own.It’s something that wouldn’t be sold through Lucent or AT&T. So Let’s make startups out of that. So I did two of those.
And as I’m going through this whole trajectory, this really inconvenient thing happened called: “I met a guy from Ohio,” and through a long, long narrative story, decided to move back here, and I came to join a startup that was here in Cleveland. Again, anchored in data and technology was here for a couple of years, and we were acquired by a Fortune 500 company out of Arkansas called Acxiom, folded into them and just have continued the growth in trajectory and the experience of how to roll out very targeted marketing experiences using your data, the behavioral information that you leave bread crumbs on on the Internet, all that type of stuff.
A couple of years ago, I just decided it was time to get off the road and decided to take a step back and just kind of breathe…think through what made sense.
About the time I was doing all that, I had the opportunity to start to mentor with JumpStart, which is a venture organization here in Northeast Ohio. It’s actually Northern Ohio that’s focused on developing businesses, both in the startup ecosystem, in the small business ecosystem and joined them as an Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR).
So a little bit different definition that you would see from an “EIR” in the traditional venture world. Yes, I do get companies up and going and help them figure out how to grow into scale. I probably engage a little bit earlier than you would see in a traditional venture organization. A lot of people who have ideas and have started to validate and really thinking about growing and scaling.
I’m an on demand resource for them.
- So how do you think about all of these things that you’re building out if you’re getting an MVP up and going?
- What does that look like?
- What’s your go to market strategy?
I’m really that kind of on demand resource to help them out. So it’s kind of a hodgepodge. I still get to work with my Martech companies here and there. It’s a couple that come through, but honestly, everything B2B, B2C. There’s some marketing in there, there’s some AI, you name it.
RON: Well, I’m definitely excited to have your perspective with us today, and I can’t wait to review a few case studies with you.
I have to mention that guy from Ohio, also known as “Todd Hall,” is the main reason I think you and I know each other and is also an executive in the digital marketing space in Cleveland. So I’m sure the conversations around the dinner table are pretty exciting at night!
So let’s talk about a case study, if you don’t mind, since I think we’re starting to transition there, can you talk about one maybe from your experience at JumpStart and one maybe from a past experience?
CASE STUDY – David Edelman & Thrivable
HEATHER: Absolutely. So it’s interesting when you think about case studies and you think about the power of marketing, people approach it in different ways.
And so I’m always going to think of it as the data asset. What do you have that could drive the intelligence to act smarter?
Early on, in my experience at JumpStart I had the opportunity to get exposed to an entrepreneur by the name of David Edelman. The company’s name is Thrivable, is really trying to think about how to get insights faster.
So a tiny bit of background: Thrivable started out as Diabetes Daily. It’s pretty popular website for people with type one or type two diabetes who are looking to learn more about how to manage their condition, build relationships with people who have similar conditions, and just create that community aspect. It was a great monetized asset that he had been growing and scaling was doing really interesting things, but he kept feeling like there could be more.
All of this information is coming through. He couldn’t sell any more advertising. He pretty much maxed out the site, but he felt like he wanted to keep pushing and doing.
And he would jokingly tell me the story about – I don’t remember it was one of the East Coast medical devices Pharma companies — had developed a concept for inhale-able Insulin, which in theory is a great concept, right? But when they launched it, it looked like a bong. It legitimately looked like a bong. And so their marketing concepts and all of the creative you’ve got this person inhaling Insulin, and it looks exactly like a definition of a bong.
And he’s like, you know, if they could have tested this, if they had gotten some quick insight, they would have saved so much money, like millions and millions of dollars, to make this much more efficient, to go down a different route to think about the design differently. Instead, they wasted months and even years and a ridiculous amount of money.
How do you think differently about that? In essence, what he did was he developed a software as a service or SaaS platform to drive rapid insights. So email, text, online forms, that sort of thing. But in parallel with that, all of those contacts through Diabetes Daily, he turned into “Data as a Service.”
You have SaaS, and you have DaaS and he’s monetizing both of those as a way to say:
- You know what, I’m going to test a new medical device and I need to roll out creative.
- I need to roll out messaging. I don’t know what it works.
- Or I have an AB split that I want to, I’m going to send them both out, and I’m going to ask people to weigh in.
And it’s a traditional curated panel that you can get feedback on in hours or days as opposed to months that you would have had with traditional focus groups.
So he’s built out this whole platform, doing incredibly well and scaling like crazy. That’s based on that concept of how do you test and learn quickly using data to make intelligent decisions about product about marketing so that you can get out there and avoid those million dollar mistakes that come with time and lack of feedback.
RON: Wow. Very cool. And just to be clear, is that product apply outside of just diabetes and out of the medical field?
HEATHER: It’s probably going to stay focused within medical but can absolutely scale beyond diabetes. Right now, they’re focused on diabetes and potentially scale to some co-morbidities because a lot of times you see diabetes and hypertension, for example, or type two diabetes and hypertension, things like that.
Ultimately, over time, they’ll continue to grow those panels to expand to other things. But diabetes is their first entry.
RON: So thanks for that, Heather. That’s pretty enlightening and exciting to hear another successful startup company come out of the Cleveland area.
ADVICE FOR TALENT
Transitioning to Talent; and one of the main reasons I wanted to tap into your expertise. Three areas of the talent market that I want to focus on first is for entry level or college graduates are about to graduate from college students, who want to get into the marketing field, what would you suggest to them? As far as how to go about their search?
What new trends should they be really focused on and thinking about? You mentioned data earlier. I know personally that’s one of the hardest roles to fill, especially in analytics. And I think anything in marketing related to data is pretty important.
But what are your observations, especially with a son just about to go to College?
HEATHER: I’m a real big fan of leveraging the exposures and the relationships you have. I hate to say that it’s all about connections, but a lot of times, it is. And it’s about the experience that you gain through those connections, the opportunity to get into either fellowships or internships, things that are going to help you learn and refine your talent.
There’s a colleague of mine to JumpStart who is really great at this. She comes out of the academic world and really focuses on bringing in really intelligent college students and helping them develop their skills in a way that’s going to help them springboard into the next opportunity. And it’s basically extending their college career in a way that gives them the experience or the skills that they might not have had in practical classes.
So she’s a data scientist. So how do you think about mobilizing data, treating outliers, things like that? And being very socratic about how you ask the questions to understand the assets that you have. It becomes kind of a safe place to fail, if you will, because we come out of college with this great compendium of knowledge, but a lack of practical applications. So to me, the opportunity to apply that in a way. Now, that could be an internship that can be through opportunities and clubs that you have in school.
Whether it’s a governing role, it could be a fraternity or sorority opportunity. It could be a club that you’re in that allows you to take on some of that experience and do something to say, hey, I’m going to promote this. I’m going to play around in a space that will help me understand a profile of who these potential candidates are. Concepts like that, right? You can challenge and play and expand outside of the textbook. That, to me, is the big key.
The other piece of it, too, is the exposure to people who are going to help you think critically. And while it’s relevant to someone just starting a career, it holds throughout. Being able to reach out and say, “Hey, you know what? I’ve seen you present, and I’m a really big fan of how you think. Can we have coffee periodically, or would you mind giving me feedback on this thing?”
People are very open to have conversations, especially when they know it’s going to benefit others early on in my career was always afraid to ask, and I look back now and wish I hadn’t been so fearful. There’s nothing wrong with reaching out. “Hey, Ron, you’re really confident in this area. I would love to buy you a cup of coffee and talk about ‘X’”, especially now with Zoom with email with so many different facets that we can have those conversations. It’s a great way to develop that skill set and exposure.
RON: Well, especially with LinkedIn. It’s pretty easy these days to find people and get those relations or develop those relationships.
I love that you mentioned data scientists. I just have to comment on that. I think too many times people still think of marketing as branding or content or creative only, which are still extremely important. But a data scientist has a very strong place in marketing today and definitely into the future.
Obviously, the example you gave from a case study perspective, I think, is centered all around data. So thank you for mentioning that.
RON: And then the last thing I would say, too, about that, I almost call it forming your own personal board directors. I love that idea of assembling a group of people that you can tap into and gain experience from. So two great points there.
Shifting gears a little bit. How would you suggest or what would you suggest to experienced individuals looking for their next move, preparing for an interview, trying to appear different in the interviewing process to stand out?
HEATHER: When I think about the interviews that I’ve been in and over the course of the last, say, three or 4 years, there is no textbook…”Tell me your greatest strength. Tell me your greatest weakness,” type of thing. A lot of times it’ll be a startup. “Let’s get a feel for each other. What are you interested in? What do you want to be?”
Really kind of more of almost an esoteric big picture? How do you fit within this company? Because what you’re seeing culture is becoming more and more and more important. And so it ends up being a two way interview. It’s as much about you and how you fit it with a company, but also how the company fits with you. And you see more dialogue come through and things like that. So it’s okay to show more personality to be different.
When I was first starting to interview, you wanted to fit within a mold and almost a little bit of a cookie cutter. And now it’s good to bring experience, and dynamic, and your own unique brand to things.
That said, I think that you’re also seeing that people want to know how your brain works a lot more. And so I make the point about the traditional interview. You’ll have that general conversation, and it will very quickly go to show me how your brain works and the example. And I can think of a couple of situations now that I’ve been in where you very quickly get to solve a problem for me. And it’s not an on the fly type of conversation.
It’s go away, think and come back and present a PowerPoint of your thoughts or a recommendation for this. And it’s really taking the time and the thoughtfulness to show that you can process the information that’s been given to you…so critical listening and critical questions process it, augment it with your knowledge, as well as maybe a little bit of research or follow up questions that sort of thing. And come back with a solution.
One of the things that we tend to throw around at home a lot is don’t just come with a problem, come with a solution with a perspective. And so the ability to come in and say, Okay, I see you talking about X, Y and Z. And I know you care about these things. Let me tell you what I see. And based on this experience, how I would approach it doesn’t mean you’re always going to be right.
And there will be information that’s missing because you don’t have all of that. You haven’t had that depth of dialogue, but you can bring a perspective. And it’s showing that you understand that you care, that you’re listing, that you’re processing, so that you can plug all of that in.
That is where to me, people really start to rise above. And what I would say to people who are interviewing, even if you’re not presented with that opportunity following on with the traditional thank you after a call. “And OH by the way, I heard you say, X and my experience, this would look like this. Or Here’s a great book to address those types of things.”
It’s a way to show that you’re bringing something to the table that will solve that specific need. And so, even if it’s not that task, still, that ability to get in and make impact is going to be really substantial.
RON: Yup. Again, agree. I couldn’t agree more with what I call the “show and tell” almost dating back to our elementary school days. Bring something to the table, whether it’s a presentation, a case study, just something more than just your resume, even a video, something like that?
RON: Well, I appreciate your time. This has been extremely helpful, and I can’t wait to share this information. And if you’re okay, I’ll share your link to your profile in the notes below, and some additional information about your background so everyone can learn more and reach out to you if they have questions and otherwise glad it’s baseball season. And Go Cleveland!!
HEATHER: Batter up!
April 5, 2021