Habu — the why and the what of the industry’s first Marketing Data OS

“Another one?” “Really? “. That was my inner monologue as we were discussing whether to jump in the fray — again — and launch yet another MarTech / AdTech company. When Tom and I started super{set}, we set ourselves the ambitious goal of creating category disrupting companies in multiple verticals leveraging our expertise in building AI/ML driven software services and applications and we wanted to flex our muscles in verticals beyond AdTech and MarTech.

When Matt Kilmartin and Mike Moreau raised their hands and were ready to come on board at super{set}, we revisited the possibility of another MarTech company. Matt brought with him a lot of informed perspective from his ~3 years at Salesforce in the Marketing Cloud sales organization, especially from his role as Chief Customer Officer for the Consumer Engagement Platform. And we were extremely fortunate to have worked with a large group of people who were (and continue to be) very generous with their time and input on the challenges they continue to face in their myriad jobs in Marketing and MarTech. As I compared notes with industry friends, colleagues, and former clients, five themes kept coming up consistently:

1. The last 10 years saw the arrival (and in some cases, departure) of a plethora of marketing / advertising platforms and/or marketing clouds with lofty and ambitious promises of customer/consumer data unification and seamless integration and interoperability. And while a lot of progress has been made, customer and/or consumer data still sits in siloed systems and the various marketing / advertising systems don’t talk to each other as effectively or efficiently as they could or should.

2. Cross-channel orchestration remains an illusory goal. One repeated example that came as a surprise to me was around the integration of email and website channels. A customer signs up for a newsletter with a Brand resulting in the customer’s email address being added to the Brand’s CRM or Email Marketing System. Soon enough, the customer receives the first newsletter which contains a list of offers and recommendations from the Brand that are (supposedly) personalized for the customer. The next day, the same customer shows up to the Brand’s website and you would think that the customer would be presented with the same set of offers as the ones sent in email. But what I heard was that this is a challenge for most of the brands that I spoke to.

3. A very significant portion of a brand’s media budget gets allocated to Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Extracting intelligence from the vast amounts of data generated through those paid advertising is an ongoing challenge for a variety of reasons — some technical, some operational.

4. All the device graph companies from the last 8 years or so have come and gone and yet brands and media companies have not been able to effectively deploy and implement “Identity Graphs” at scale to solve their most pressing business problems beyond Onboarding and activation of PII based datasets into Facebook, Google, etc. An earlier — younger — version of me would have said, “Great! Let’s build a better Identity Graph and companion solutions and compete with the well-established vendors!”. That wouldn’t have necessarily solved the business problems though. Brands don’t need another Identity Graph — they need plumbing and connectors to take advantage of the already excellent ones that are out there and integrate those Identity Graphs into solutions for their business problems. A case in point is the example above (#2) where the offers presented in the email channel are not connected to the web channel.

5. And finally, Privacy. GDPR has come and gone, CCPA too. Most marketing and advertising platforms do not have consent management and privacy by design embedded into them on the ground floor as first class citizens. Brands and media companies need to pay special attention to this because CCPA is just the beginning and data protection regulatory frameworks from 14 more states are imminent.

A sixth theme emerged from conversations with brands and mid to large scale media companies with large technology organizations. I discovered that these companies have spent significant resources to build their own tech stacks to solve some of their business problems related to marketing and advertising. But they had some gaps in their respective solutions and they were looking to fill some of those gaps using a partner. In this scenario, deploying a new mar-tech platform that required all the data to be moved out of the first party data center (private/public/hybrid cloud) into the new platform’s public cloud infrastructure was simply not going to be feasible. Instead, all auxiliary services that filled the solution gaps would have to be deployed in the first party data center.

At Habu, we decided to adopt a fundamentally different approach in order to address these challenges. We realized that we wanted to provide technology to brands to enhance consumer experiences but do it in a way where, if needed, we could operate as an extension of an existing marketing technology stack / platform. The need for a collection of services that could be assembled together into a platform while being modular enough to be deployed independently has resulted in the creation of the Habu Marketing Data Operating System (MDOS)

I am a technologist first and sometimes I get cute with (and am quite proud of) my analogies. We’ve embraced micro-services as a core software architecture pattern and just like our API services, MDOS is modular, not monolithic and is designed as a layered collection of services and applications. We speak Docker and Kubernetes and our services and applications can run seamlessly on AWS, GCP, and Azure. A customer has complete flexibility in choosing what services and applications they want to use — all services can be deployed in headless mode and integrated with upstream applications using APIs.

We’re extremely encouraged by the feedback we’re getting from every conversation we have in the market and our early customer deployments. We’ve also realized that you need a diverse blend of skills and expertise in AdTech and MarTech in order to build solutions that can address the challenges facing our industry today. The Habu team has been doing just that for the last 20 years at Salesforce, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, IBM, and Akamai.

So, yeah. Habu. Another Mar-tech company. Not the platform you were not looking for though.

Serial entrepreneur and technologist; Co-founder and General Partner, super{set} startup studio;