A look back on Blended's martech start up journey

Post by 
Damon McMillan
October 7, 2020

Blended officially turned two in July!

Given this, we thought it prudent to grab Damon, our co-founder and Chief Marketing Technologist and dive into the detail of Blended's journey as a start-up, and the vision, circumstance and hard work that has led us to becoming a leading APAC martech consultancy in less than 2 years.

1. Tell us about how you met Adam?

It’s actually quite a funny story. I was working at a well known martech agency and we landed the transformation work for one of the big four banks – when an great opportunity came up for me to consult elsewhere. 

Me leaving at this time would leave a hole in the agency for this big bank project, so I was tasked to find the replacement ‘me’. I interviewed literally everyone. And then luckily I met Adam. 

I said to the CEO – you are going to need to find a way to hire this guy.

Further down the track, Adam and I had shared enough conversations over drinks to realise we had a common ground on the key issues – we saw the same problems in the martech landscape that we knew we could solve. That’s when the idea of Blended came to the fore. 

2. Why did you decide to found Blended?

Adam and I saw the same problems in the industry - and the paradox in the world of martech. On the one hand, it’s offering a huge pathway for growth, to connect, and to improve customer experience. But on the other – it’s really hard for organisations to be successful and to shift the needle. The landscape is littered with huge investments and very high failure rates. 

It’s much more than just the ‘right technology’, it’s the right technology underpinned by the correct organisation structure and sponsorship, business operating model and a vendor partnership and resource team to deliver. Martech in many cases is positioned to solve complex business problems, it’s made to look simple – but the reality in practise, is that while marketing technology offers amazing benefits, it's just one pillar, and there critical areas that need to be setup right or evolve to deliver on the success promised by many martech vendors.

We knew this. Adam and I had worked with some really big enterprises and delivered martech transformation projects that broke the mould. We had a track record of shifting the transformation needle and knew we had a formula. Importantly, we could see a great need to become client centric rather than software vendor centric which the industry had evolved to focus around,  and we could see this was such a big issue. And most of all we wanted to go and do some really great work, and have the empowerment and accountability to always deliver outcomes for clients, which we could only truly do under our own business.

3. Do you still remember Blended's first 'official' day of work?

It’s actually hard to put a finger on the first day – I think the first month probably blurred into one! However I do remember a lot of back and forth about the name, which was when Adam finally suggested “Blended”. 

I think the name “Blended” perfectly aligns to everything that we stand for: simplifying the void of martech for organisations and truly partnering with clients to deliver results, not just technology  – ‘blending’ with their businesses to deliver success together. As with all new things, It took a while for the name to stick – and now I love it. 

4. What have been some of the highs over the last 24 months?

The highs have definitely been winning and working with some great clients - we’ve had some amazing wins over the past two years. 

Our foundation clients were ANZ and IAG and in our first year we went on to work with Victorian Government, Toyota, YMCA and more recently Sensis, Beyond Blue, Greenpeace. Winning against Tier 1 agencies with 100-500+ staff gives you a real high – affirmation that what we stand for is resonating in the market.

We’ve had two office moves and I think these are kind of symbolic points when you think back over our history to date.

Also, every-time we add a member to our technology team, I feel like we are getting closer to achieving our mission – it feels like we are getting closer to where we want to be.

Delivering great work is still the ultimate high and win for us, it still feels great. 

5. And some of the challenges?

Where do I start?! I have huge respect for anyone who has founded and grown a business. Previously, I’d managed large teams, hired staff, and built client relationships. But there’s so many different layers and other skill sets you need to figure out founding and growing a business, whilst implementing work for clients at the same time! 

We learnt immensely in year one and we built those lessons into year two. 

Finding the right people is always a challenge. We have been lucky to date.

We know we’re looking for unicorns – that rare breed of talent which infrequently exists!

Obviously, COVID has brought its own hyper challenges. We have really tried to make sure the team are supported, motivated and thriving remotely – it’s been a real focus for us to ensure our people are staying connected. But on the flip side, it’s been a real catalyst to focus more actively on our people and how to keep our team really connected - even outside of work. 

6. Any surprises over the last 2 years?

Every day I’m surprised at what we have built so far! You never know what to expect, how fast you’ll really grow. I’m always so grateful for staff, friends and client partners that have helped along the journey.

7. Talent are key in any business. Can you tell us more about what you're looking for in the hiring process?

We hire unicorns, so to speak. By definition, they are very rare! We ultimately need a skill set of someone that is very consultative, client centric, with end-to-end knowledge and can sit in a room and gain the trust of a CMO.

But we hire for attitude and aptitude, motivation and curiosity. If you have these, we can build the right skill sets with any resource.

8. What are some of your key plans ahead?

We want to deliver growth, obviously - we have delivered 100% year-on-year growth for our first two years and our long term milestones are to keep delivering this.

As an extension, we want to double staff by the end of the year whilst broadening our vertical focus.

We currently have had clients as far as the UK, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and shortly in Japan – we want to also continue this growth overseas, particularly across APAC. 

9. What is your greatest hope for the business community at the present time?

Obviously, it’s a really tough time for many. I hope that we all support each other as much as possible to get out the other end of this and share long term success. 

We have been doing quite a bit of pro-bono work for NFPs and existing clients with revenue pressure during this time because we do see ourselves as partners, and that means supporting clients when we need to.

My broader hope is that there’s silver linings - innovation, change and disruption, career growth. And I hope that science and technology continues to evolve quickly enough that we don’t all have to go through this again.

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