First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nick Jordan: Thank you for asking. We are doing well. We’re very fortunate to have both living and working environments that have been friendly to the lockdown and social distancing.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Narrative.
Nick Jordan: I founded Narrative in 2016 after spending nearly a decade in data-related product management roles because I saw there was a significant opportunity in the marketplace to create a platform that eliminates inefficiencies in data transactions. Participants in the data economy need access to readily available data assets and tools to help them manage their data business. Narrative gives data practitioners full control of their data strategy by allowing them to source, evaluate, buy, process, and activate new data supply in a matter of hours. We’ve just announced the launch of a new category: Data Streaming, which effectively replaces the broken data broker industry model with a transformative solution.
Prior to Narrative, I led Product + Strategy at Tapad, where I helped evolve the company from a media business into a data and technology licensing business before its acquisition by Telenor for $360M in 2016. Before joining Tapad, I ran Product Management at Demdex, the industry’s first data management platform (DMP), prior to its acquisition by Adobe in 2011. I also held roles at Yahoo! running pricing and yield management for newly acquired assets like Right Media.
How does Narrative innovate?
Nick Jordan: Narrative innovates by identifying friction points across the data acquisition lifecycle. For example, our Data Streaming Platform is purposely designed to address the pain points created by having to deal with an outdated and painful, and frankly broken data broker model. Narrative’s Data Streaming platform cuts out the data broker by connecting data users to data originators directly, and giving them the tools, automations, and workflows to make data transactions transparent, fast, and cost-effective.
I’m a big believer in leading and not following when building a product. We look at the fundamental challenges our customers have and then brainstorm how to solve those problems if we were completely ignorant of the existing landscape. That forces us to take a fresh look at the problem, and often the solutions are innovative.
How the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Nick Jordan: One of the challenges with having an innovative product is people don’t yet know they need it. For a B2B product, that means that they haven’t allocated budget, and when you inject the type of uncertainty that comes with a pandemic, you’re naturally going to find it harder to bring on new customers. We saw the writing on the wall in early March that Q2 would be tough, but we treated it as an opportunity. If COVID-19 was going to introduce a form of friction in our sales process that we hadn’t anticipated, how could we remove the friction that we controlled? Our Data Streams Marketplace release was the result of us figuring out how to make it easier for our customers to work with us. In the end, it changed a lot about how we run the company, much of it for the better.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Nick Jordan: We did have to make difficult choices, including doing a small layoff at the beginning of the crisis. Ultimately we needed to make sure that we were viable for the long haul, and being cost-conscious is an obvious albeit painful choice to make. At the end of the day, being the CEO at any company — but especially a startup — is a series of difficult choices. The lesson I’ve learned over the last five years is that the quicker you make an informed decision, the quicker it is in your rearview mirror. Hoping that the tough situations are just going to evaporate isn’t a strategy.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Narrative in the future?
Nick Jordan: Wine. No seriously. Wine.
It’s all about putting situations into context. There is only so much in the world that we control, and getting anxious about the things outside of our control can make the situations worse. That isn’t to say I don’t have stress, but I do a number of things throughout the day (working out, blocking off time on my calendar, so I’m not back-to-back for 12 hours) that allow me to keep everything in perspective. And wine.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Nick Jordan: While Narrative does not currently have any direct competitors offering a SaaS data streaming platform alongside a marketplace, there are competitors across a number of different verticals and companies, including data brokers, point solutions, 1st party data offerings, and data listing services. We plan to remain competitive by developing solutions that radically simplify the acquisition and distribution of data and build transparency, automation, and trust across the data economy.
Your final thoughts?
Nick Jordan: We’ve seen the best and worst of people over the last six months. I will say that I’m heartened by how adaptable we all seem to be. Something happened that was mostly unthinkable this past year, and while tragic, the ability for us to soldier on and have somewhat normal lives is heartening. There is an analogy to be drawn to the startup world insofar that you never know what is around the corner. The startups that thrive are, like humans, the ones that can adapt to the situation at hand.
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