With over 20,000 customers around the globe, InsideView has become a major force in marketing intelligence and sales enablement. Through his vision and persistence, founder and CEO Umberto Milletti has tripled the business in the last five years.
RJ: Can we start with some quick highlights of your Company, the product/service you provide, the scale and the level of growth you’ve achieved?
Umberto: InsideView powers the world’s business conversations, helping more than 20,000 B2B companies redefine their go-to-market strategies from a volume-based to more targeted approach. Our information platform helps sales and marketing teams quickly identify and qualify the best targets, engage with more relevancy, close more deals, and retain and expand accounts.
We have established InsideView as a clear leader in our market, as a modern alternative to traditional data providers like Dun & Bradstreet. Our business has more than tripled in size over the last 5 years.
RJ: We are very interested in understanding the steps leading up to an individual’s eventual rise to successful entrepreneur / CEO. Can you share your background with us?
Umberto: Starting at an early age, I developed a desire to run a business. Having grown up in Italy, where entrepreneurial opportunities are more limited, I decided to attend college in the US, the land of opportunity.
After school, I saw every job as training for the day when I would be able to build my own company, so I focused on gaining experience in as many functional areas as possible (marketing, product development, customer support, sales, quality assurance).
The inspiration for InsideView came from recognizing how important it is for customer-facing employees to understand their customers’ business, so they can better explain how they can add value. But it was clear that very few took the time to do effective research, so we set about building a technology platform that would find and organize relevant business information, and make it available at the fingertips of all customer-facing employees, and marketers who define, execute and support go-to-market efforts.
RJ: Are there one or two key factors you can attribute to your keen ability to effectively grow your Company?
Umberto: I focus on 3 keys.
1. Having a clearly communicated direction and strategy
2. Hiring the best
3. Nurturing a culture that enables effective collaboration, and desire to listen to customers and the market
If I get all 3 right, I know we will be successful.
Last year we went through a strategic exercise to analyze our Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). We have thousands of customers — but what are the ones that will determine the best growth for the company in the future? We were able to determine several key industries and characteristics of our ICP to focus on. This has served as a focusing function for sales, marketing, and our product teams as they go to market and develop our product roadmap. Every company should think about “where is my best revenue” — those customers that will stick with you, and grow their relationship.
RJ: Is there someone you admire personally or professionally that has inspired your success?
Umberto: I am inspired by many, many people around me, every day. There are so many smart, creative, wonderful people that all I lack is the time to learn from all of them.
If I had to pick one people who had a huge impact on my person it would be my mother. She found herself a single mother with two small children when my father died unexpectedly at the age of 36. On a teacher’s salary she worked incredible hard to provide me, and my sister, the best education possible, including supporting us both in our desire to study in the US. I have no idea how she did it, but from her I learned the importance of determination, and the humility to be thankful for what is given to us.
RJ: Can you share with us one of the most challenging times you have faced, for example when you hit a low point and how you dealt with it and bounced back?
Umberto: Before InsideView I co-founded an e-learning company called DigitalThink. In 2001 we had just gone public, growing very quickly but consuming a lot of cash, and when 9/11 happened the business environment changed overnight. Capital dried up, customers went out of business, and all our customers cut back on their investments. It was a difficult 3-4 years, but we pulled through it, took the company to profitability and sold it to a large enterprise.
I learned more about running a business in those years than I had in all the years before then. I learned the importance of making difficult decisions quickly, of focusing on what’s most important and letting go of the rest. I also learned that during hard times you find out who people really are, for good and for bad.
RJ: What book has had the most profound impact on you and why?
Umberto: My current favorite book is Aligned to Achieve, written by our CMO and our VP Sales. Wiley published it last fall. I love that it tackles the thorniest issues that hold companies back from achieving full market potential.
The book that’s had the most profound impact is Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits. More recently I found a lot of insight in Ben Horowitz’ The Hard Thing about Hard Things. He outlines many of the things I experienced at DigitalThink, and talks about the concept of the “war-time CEO” which I found to be very enlightening.
RJ: And on a lighter note, what is your favorite place to visit – where you can take a break and recharge?
Umberto: A place where I recharge is the race track (I’m an avid car racer). If I truly need to reset, I love warm places with beautiful water (where I love to scuba dive).