A Door-to-Door Salesman for the Digital Age
What if you have an idea for a product, but are unsure whether there would be much demand? Do what Kabir Shahani did — ask the people who could most benefit from your product whether they would buy it.
Shahani is the co-founder and CEO of Appature, a Seattle-based technology firm that specializes in cloud-based marketing solutions for health-care companies.
While Shahani had the idea for his service, he wasn’t sure how much of a need there would be. So he went door-to-door to major pharmaceutical and health-care firms to pitch his product. He found that the demand was enormous — so enormous that his customers said they would provide the first round of equity funding for Shahani to use toward launching operations.
That was the beginning for Appature, a firm that helps health-care marketers easily extract data, launch campaigns, and get actionable insights to drive deeper customer relationships and market share. Shahani talks about how he did it and what comes next for Appature.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
We simply saw a gap and thought we could fill it. Marketers — specifically in health care/life science — had tons of data they could not access, campaigns they wanted to run but couldn’t execute, and insights that were just a pipe dream. Co-founder and current CTO Chris Hahn and I built Appature Nexus (our product) to cut right through all of those issues and bring the first end-to-end marketing solution to life.
Who provided the original funding?
Our customers. We were lucky that the problem set we were solving was valuable enough that customers wanted to pay us just to get in the beta. Their attitude was “if this works, it will be worth so much to us that we’re willing to pay you just to take the shot.”
Who was your first customer?
A small division of Johnson & Johnson. We are still engaged with that group and feel fortunate to have had the support of their leadership and team so early in our development.
When did you know the company would be a success?
In August of 2008, about 20 months after we started, I was invited to sit in on a meeting between Microsoft and J&J. There I was at the age of 25, sitting with two companies who epitomize our two strands of DNA — software, and marketing. It was a great feeling to know that if we got that kind of visibility that quick, we were going to do something great.
We spent an enormous amount of time perfecting our platform and approach with alpha and beta customers, and did not start our commercial launch until last year. We now have over 50 brands on the platform and are working to aggressively scale up the operation to support this growth.
We are also investing heavily in our big data infrastructure — a technology we have developed as part of our platform to help marketers access the vast amounts of unstructured data that until now was not accessible. We are super excited about the possibilities this opens up for marketers in multiple industries, all over the world, and are going to continue aggressively building to service that existing and future demand.