Aqfer: Something Greater Than a Customer Data Platform
Aqfer is a company that "enables companies to get to the truth about their customers and their data" through its customer data platform. The company was originally founded in May 2016, and for this Q&A, I spoke with CEO Marc Sabatini, who joined the company in March.
Alex Culafi (AC): What was your career like prior to becoming CEO of aqfer a few months ago?
Marc Sabatini (MS): For over 20 years, I’ve been working with large enterprises and brands, providing consultation on the implementation of cutting-edge marketing technology solutions. While the technological landscape has changed significantly during that time, many of the underlying objectives such as building lasting relationships and customer loyalty have not. Having worked with many leading brands over the years, what excites me most about my career are the opportunities I’ve had in helping clients to improve the customer experience and to build stronger brand-to-customer relationships leveraging state of the art technologies.
AC: How has the CEO role been treating you so far?
MS: Joining the team at aqfer has been an exciting step for me. My career as a sales leader and entrepreneur has prepared me well for this opportunity. Being involved in the leadership of an early stage start-up allows me to guide our future and establish a framework to drive innovation and lead with customer satisfaction. Our focus at aqfer is creating big data marketing technology solutions that drive incremental value to our customers and their businesses.
AC: What’s the story of aqfer? How did it get started?
MS: During their time working together at Altiscale, Raymie Stata (former CTO of Yahoo and a pioneer of Hadoop and big data) and Daniel Jaye (Founder and CTO of Engage, former President of TACODA and inventor of behavioral targeting) saw that clients were repeatedly tackling the same canonical AdTech and MarTech problems. They started building out a marketing services layer as a complement to Altiscale’s platform and turned it into a stand-alone entity, aqfer, after SAP bought Altiscale.
AC: I’d love to hear more about aqfer and how your solution works. For the uninitiated, what is aqfer?
MS: aqfer is a marketing data lake service designed to create “data-centric marketing architectures,” where marketers can bring applications to their data instead of sending their data out to a hodgepodge of ecosystem applications. The industry has agreed on a label for this kind of solution, a customer data platform (CDP), but it is more than that. It means an environment where one can, in an agile way, implement new solutions and strategies by turning AdTech and MarTech capabilities into “apps” that plug into the platform.
AC: Who are your core customers?
MS: From the beginning, aqfer has been focused on providing our core offering to the AdTech and MarTech communities, as well as helping other marketing service providers with a better core platform to build on top of and focus their internal engineering resources on things that drive real value to their business. This provided a strong foundation for the business coming from an initial set of customers over the first 12-18 months. From there, we have added to that list, including marketing agencies, systems integrators, and marketing services providers. Again, providing other marketing firms with a better core platform to build on top of and drive their business. Recently, we have also had some direct-to-brand relationships come out of our partnerships with some agencies and consultants who chose to have aqfer manage the client facing technology relationship directly.
AC: What does the competition look like? Is there any?
MS: There are certainly other companies that have capabilities for managing big data in a marketing ecosystem; however, many of those solutions require that you license their channel execution or analytic software as well. The aqfer solution allows partners to ‘plug in’ their existing tools directly into their own private data lake.
aqfer provides a unique approach around collecting, managing and enabling big data in a customer marketing data platform. Whether it is a white-labeled CDP toolkit for marketing services partners or a robust CDP infrastructure for brands and marketers, the flexibility, scalability, and repeatability of aqfer set us apart from the competition. Additionally, with a quick and cost-effective implementation, we have positioned aqfer as the solution of choice.
AC: What kind of success have you had so far?
MS: Our business is growing at a strong pace this year, on track for our goals and meeting client demand. New offerings are also on track with our roadmap keeping pace with forward-looking “big data marketing challenges”—just as we were ready for GDPR with our compliant consent layer within the aqfer Data Lake (aDL) and aqfer Tag Manager (aTM). aqfer provides marketers with a partner and infrastructure that is maintaining a forward-looking view around big data marketing challenges.
AC: How big is the team? Looking to hire any particular positions in the coming months?
MS: We have quickly grown to nearly 20 employees, and over the next three to six months we are looking to add to our engineering and client services team, as well as adding the right next addition to our business development team.
AC: What’s next for the company?
MS: We are on an exciting path of growth, and we will continue to focus on delivering for our customers and driving value for their businesses. We also have a strong plan for growth through the balance of 2018 and throughout 2019, delivering on our vision around CDP capabilities.
AC: Any final thoughts?
MS: The marketing technology ecosystem is ever-changing with new tools, techniques, more data, new regulations, privacy and governance that marketers need to be ready to engage and embrace today’s customer. Having a robust and flexible big data marketing platform at your fingertips, allows marketers to be prepared for the next big change without a costly overhaul.