Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain
- Sam Decker is Co-Founder and CEO of Mass Relevance, a social engagement platform that discovers, filters, and displays real-time content anywhere. Prior to Mass Relevance, Sam was founding Chief Marketing Officer at Bazaarvoice, the leader in Software as a Service (SaaS) social commerce technologies serving over 1,000 brands, where he was responsible for building the company’s brand, products and platform.
- Before joining Bazaarvoice, Decker spent seven years of leadership at Dell, Inc. in marketing, online, CRM, and customer-centricity strategy. From 1999-2003, he led Dell’s consumer web site, building Dell.com into the largest consumer eCommerce site with $3.5B in annual sales, and established global best practices in merchandising, analytics, product management, and operations. Sam pioneered Dell’s Customer Centricity strategy and customer segmentation using Six Sigma methodology.
- Prior to Dell, Decker spent more than six years in the Bay Area leading marketing, sales and product strategy at B2B and media startups. He has authored two books on word-of-mouth marketing and serves on the boards of Monetate, Needle, New Era, and on the digital advisory board for P&G.
- [Photo by René Lego Photography]
- WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?
- Me and a friend were coding games, and what was interesting is that he would be the one who would really know how to code, and I'd be the one, I kind of knew how to code, but I was the one over the shoulder saying, "Oh, the game should do this and do this." Ironically, 20 years later, I found out he was a senior programmer at Microsoft, and I was leading a product management team at Dell. So 20 years later, we had the same exact roles we had when we were in 4th grade.
- WHAT DID YOU DO AT DELL?
- I spent seven years at Dell. Dell is what brought me here, made the move really easy. Got here in 1999. I was responsible for the consumer site. At the time, it was a little under a $1 billion website.
- Basically, what we did is we took that site away from IT, turned it into a business, put a P&L around it, and we grew it to $3.5 billion in a period of 4 years. We grew the team from 4 of us to 45 people. I learned so much in those 4 years, from analytics to product management to operations and merchandizing and all the things to actually operate a $3.5 billion online business.
- TALK ABOUT LEARNING...
- I don't think there's any difference in learning. I learn more from failures at early startups than I did a success. But the combination of the two I think is a really good experience to go through because you start to learn how a company scales, and as the company goes, as Bazaarvoice did, I had lessons learned from Dell that others may not have had at smaller companies.
- WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO LEAVE BAZAARVOICE?
- It was hard to leave great people that you've hired and worked with. That's always the hardest decision. But once you've done it before -- I've gone through several startups and changed jobs at Dell -- as soon as you move on to the next thing, literally, and this is good advice for anyone who's thinking about leaving a job or the security of a company, the day you've made that decision or the day that you leave, everything else is rearview mirror, OK?
- Still love the people at Bazaarvoice. I still want them to do successful, but now you're looking forward. Once you know that you're willing to take that risk and there's not a lot to fear, then it's not fearful to take that step.
- WHAT IS AUSTIN TO YOU PERSONALLY?
- I remember distinctly landing and thinking, "Does it feel foreign to me?" And it didn't at all. From the time the wheels touched down, it felt like home, and it has ever since. So that's why investing in the Austin community is important to me because this is where we're going to spend our life.
- ANY NEW STARTUPS TO LOOK OUT FOR IN AUSTIN?
- Cool startups... I'm really rooting for Umbel. They just got backed by Austin Ventures and they have an interesting solution to determine audiences of media companies based on social activity.
- Then I'm rooting for Famigo. Josh and I saw them come out of 3 Day Startup and really believe and passionate about their mission in helping families connect via mobile technology and games and finding family-friendly games, so that we can connect as family. That's near and dear to my heart.
- AUSTIN IN TEN YEARS?
- What Austin might look like 10 years from now? it is I think going to have a higher concentration of high tech at the center of its economy. I think it is going to have a -- the challenges Austin is going to have, it's going to continue to grow, and the challenges are going to be traffic. And so what I want it to look like is to have a lot more options for mass transportation. I want to see easier access points between where people work and where people live.
- ANY ADVICE FOR NEW ENTREPRENEURS?
- Advice I'd have for entrepreneurs: first of all is think big. I think that if you are starting a company and you have an idea, you have to determine if that's a feature, is that a product, is it a platform. Can this be a company, or is it something that you may have a lot of passion about, but is really a feature of something else? If you have that, just spend a little more time thinking through how it could become larger.
- TALK ABOUT MASS RELEVANCE...
- Mass Relevance had a great app that we turned into a platform that turned into, I don't want to say an industry, but a new way of marketing with social. Thinking through that way and thinking big even, if you're bootstrapping, think about how this could be bigger.
- The greatest lesson learned is wrapped up in a quote that my father has said over and over again from Ralph Waldo Emerson, which is: "Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain." Every time I had a chance to do something that I was either fearful of or didn't know, I took that opportunity.
- And if you ever feel like your capabilities and your competencies aren't growing, it's a time to go on and do something else. You're not doing it because you're fearful of it. But once you do it, it becomes second nature. And so everything I've done, I've never done before.