Every startup is not just a business adventure, but also a human journey. Today, Sense360 is getting acquired by Medallia (NYSE: MDLA), see the press release. It’s one of those bittersweet moments where I’m very proud of the team and company, but also realize I’ll really miss working with this great group of folks.
My journey with Sense360 started before there was a team, a product or even a company.
I had been a personal angel investor in Eli Portnoy’s previous company, Thinknear, which had seen a quick acquisition by Telenav (yes, with today’s acquisition, Eli is officially two for two). Eli and I had hit it off working in that context. As he was nearing the end of his tour of duty at Telenav (where he very significantly scaled the Thinknear business), Eli sent me the kind of email that every investor wants to receive from a serial entrepreneur they know and admire: “Over the last few weeks I have become very excited about an idea“, he said, “and I wanted to get your thoughts.”
While Eli could have probably said “I’m building a new brand of vacuum cleaners” and I would have said “I’m in!” (he’s just that kind of founder), it so happened that Eli wanted to build a very interesting B2B play, leveraging the large amounts of data captured by phone sensors, which happened to be right up my alley.
FirstMark enthusiastically wrote the first check into the company – and, as Eli kindly pointed out in his post, also the second. And then the third.
Over the years, Sense360 became a leader in behavioral consumer intelligence and benchmarking. The team built an impressive vertical, “full stack” data company that combines a data ingestion layer, an analytics layer and application layer, customized for different industries. The platform captures billions of data points about consumer behavior through a variety of sources (cell phones, receipts, etc.), and then extracts real-time insights through proprietary models. Sense360 started selling its product to QSR / restaurants as its first vertical, and then expanded to retail and CPG. Today, they work with some of the world’s biggest brands in those spaces. Where those big brands would have to wait weeks to get survey results, they now get real-time insights into consumer and competitor behavior, which is a complete game changer. The fit with Medallia’s Experience cloud was very clear and very compelling.
Beyond a great product, Sense360 is first and foremost a great, smart, dedicated team (and much more diverse than the picture above might indicate). It all starts with Eli, a terrific serial entrepreneur with tremendous amounts of intellect, resourcefulness and grit (which perhaps comes from his immigrant background – few people know that Eli is Mexican). Co-founder Kamil Mroczek powered through all sorts of novel technology challenges. Ori Konstantin played a huge role in product, as did Mikey Renan in sales and business development. Karan, Parker, Andrew, Mollie , Jeremy, Damien, Wendell, Michael, etc – many others contributed immensely. All great – and all much better bowlers than I am (as the picture above painfully remind me).
This great group of people built a fun culture while remaining very scrappy. This involved a less-than-cool first office (which has probably been torn down for sanitary reasons since), as well as occasionally questionable office decoration choices (one t-shirt per customer in the early days):
Congratulations Sense360! (and Medallia on a great acquisition). It’s been a fun journey building a B2B/data company out of Los Angeles, and I’m proud and honored to have been a small part of it, along with a great group of investors that includes Founder Collective, Box Group, Counterpart, Qualcomm and Upfront.
Can’t wait to see what Eli comes up with next, as he powers through mile after mile on his treadmill desk!