Monetate CEO David Brussin wants to buy you an iPad

By all accounts, 2010 has been good to Monetate CEO David Brussin.

Brussin, an alum of TurnTide, was an advisor to Invite Media which sold to Google earlier this year. And now, Bussin’s own company just received a $5.1 million Series A investment from First Round Capital and others to help the ecommerce personalization company step up its growth by increasing its staff size (See our Shop Talk featuring Monetate here).

“If we had all the right people walk into the office today, we’d hire them all,” says Brussin noting that company is hoping to hire locally.

Up until now, Monetate has been purposefully keeping its client base small as it has built out its technology. But now the Conshohoken-based company is ready to take on more clients, recently announcing that it is now serving PETCO in addition to its current client base of QVC, Sports Authority and Urban Outfitters.

We chatted with Brussin about how Monetate’s hiring approach, a possible IPO and the company’s possible to expansion to industries outside of ecommerce.
As always, the conversation is edited for length and clarity.

Congrats on the $5.1 million investment. What will you use it for?

It’s all about our growth. Monetate is a little unusual for doing a Series A like this. A “Series A” round usually means an early round of funding, but we’re actually in our third holiday season right now. We were actually cash flow positive by mid-2009. For us, it isn’t about starting our growth, it’s about continuing it.

It’s been widely reported that you guys look to nearly double your staff. Why the quick ramp up?

Because we’ve been hiring for a while, it’s not quite doubling.

We’re on a mission to find the people in the Philly area who should be a part of Monetate. We’ve announced a few new programs to help do that. For example, we’ll offer $500 or an iPad to people who refer us to someone who we hire.

But the real reason [for the rapid ramp up] is that we see tremendous demand. We were intentionally working with a small number of brands initially. But now we have to grow the team.

In a way we’re just reacting to what the market’s telling us.

When someone asks you what Monetate does, what do you tell them?

After I left Symantec [after selling TurnTide], I saw something that surprised me: The first promise of ecommerce wasn’t being met. They said businesses could move quickly, make great decisions from rich data and be able to create the right experience for every person who interacts with the business.

The typical web enterprise has two dozen systems. You have CMS systems, checkout systems, merchandising engines, you have site search, you have a ton of systems. When you have to change something, you often have to touch all of those things.

With Monetate, we work entirely in the browser, the only touch point to the backend is a single line of JavaScript. People can change things so quickly that other people in the company may not even notice.

Can’t this technology go beyond ecommerce? Why can’t a news company use this or other websites?

Absolutely, we are certainly working there. Ecommerce just means that there’s a website where there’s a transaction. Retail is just one vertical. Getting away from a one size fits all experience is just as valuable to a media outlet as a retailer looking for a credit card.

You were one of the co-founders of Turntide, which was sold in six months. But you seem to be taking your time with Monetate. Why the difference in approach?

Turntide was a short, wild ride and a great outcome for all investors. But there’s always more to the story. We had a choice between raising more money and partnering with Symantec. We were essentially the last product in a market with 200 competitors. Many of them had a lot more money than we ever did.

Monetate is unique and is the first product to do what we do at enterprise scale. We’re really the only option.

Can you ever see Monetate exiting?

I believe you can’t manage to an outcome. Otherwise you end up making horrible choices that work in the short-term that rarely work out well. Even though an IPO is a rare outcome these days, it’s still a great goal to manage towards. We don’t have plans for an IPO, but it makes for a great long-term perspective.

What would it take to get Monetate to relocate within city limits?

It’s nothing I’ve thought about, so I don’t have an answer for you. I love Philly and I, frankly, think of Conshohocken as a neighborhood of Philadelphia and not a town.