Personal Story

Why I Joined Marqo

May 24, 2024
mins read

One of the most common questions I get asked when I tell people I joined a new startup is “why’d you join”? 

2 months in and I thought I would write down some notes on how I approached my job search, and why I ended up joining 

To start, I put together a list of my hard requirements: 

  • Technical product, selling to technical persona - This is purely a personal preference. The two main reasons - 1) I enjoy working with engineers and 2) If the product I’m selling is easy to understand, I’ll get bored and want to move on. 
  • Raised a funding round in the last 6 months - The 2020-2022 valuation boom has caused lots of companies to be underwater. I wasn’t looking to join a company that would take 3-5 years to grow into their 2022 valuation (if they have enough runway to make it). If the company raised in the last ~6 months, that was a good signal the valuation was realistic. 
  • Seed or A round stage - Again personal preference, but I love the building phase of the company. To me, seed stage to B round are the glory days of a company. No CFO to get budget approvals, no BS politics, just pure building and executing. My personality is also high risk, high reward which lends itself well to the early stage. 
  • Backed by tier 1 VC - While getting funding from a top tier VC doesn’t guarantee success, it does open a lot of doors. Whether with customers, or with other VCs for future funding rounds. 
  • AI focus - I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and watch this massive technology shift pass me by. More on this below.

With that criteria in place, I probably connected with about 25 different companies. Below is why I decided to join

1. The space

Only a few times in your career will you see such a transformational shift in the way companies operate (printing press, personal computers, internet, cloud). AI is changing the game and yet we’re still only in the first inning. I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and watch one of the biggest technological shifts of our lifetime pass me by. Now is the best time to start building domain expertise, because everyone else is also just starting to build domain expertise being a vector search engine is insanely well positioned in the AI vertical to help companies actually deliver on production use cases. 

2. eCommerce is ripe for AI

Speaking of production AI use cases - companies are building tons of cool AI tools, engineers are working on cool AI projects, but a lot of companies are struggling to actually see business impact (shoutout to Klarna). A big part of this is because the data is such a mess. 

With eCommerce, the data is relatively clean and formats are somewhat standardized (definitely not perfect, but better than most verticals). This enables AI use cases to have a concrete impact on the business and can be directly tied to revenue (more on this below). For that reason has made the decision to focus on this vertical (and marketplaces). With my success as a sales leader purely attached to how successful a business is with the Marqo product, this focus pulled me towards Marqo. 

3. Quantifiable and measurable business impact

For the last decade I’ve been building ROI case studies, Business Value Assessments, Total Cost of Ownership, etc. etc. Unfortunately a lot of times it was some wizardry math…’well 12 engineers at $500k, and bad data costs $750k’. 

With Marqo, the proof is in the pudding. 

The CEO showed me a dashboard (our customer’s dashboard, not an internal Marqo dashboard) of a Marqo customer. There was a control group and a Marqo group - being ecommerce, you can easily track all the way to conversion and Marqo was generating an extra $210k in revenue over the control group. This had been running for 4 weeks on 10% of queries…the quick math means Marqo is generating $25.2 million in incremental revenue. Never have I seen such a direct impact of this magnitude. This is something I can sell. 

4. Love displacing legacy technology

At my previous company (RudderStack), Segment was our main competitor. Segment built a great product, but they just had a legacy architecture due to being founded in 2012. Marqo has a very similar story with legacy search providers such as Algolia and ElasticSearch. They have great products for lexical search, but unfortunately it’s near impossible for them to just bolt on vector search to keep up with the way consumers are trying to discover products. It’s easier to be a category enhancer rather than a category creator and that’s what we’re doing with Search. 

Also, beating billion dollar companies as a startup just gets me fired up. 

5. Top tier investor

Lightspeed is a tier 1 investor that has backed companies such as SnapChat, Grubhub, and Carta. With the fund leading Marqo’s A round, it was a strong nod that the team and product was heading in the right direction. 

6. The team

Jesse Clark and Tom Hamer (co-founders) met at AWS. Tom was working on RDS so understands scale extremely well, Jesse was working on the advanced ML robotics team so understands the ML/natural language side of the product extremely well. To me it was a great combo for building an innovative product that we could sell to the enterprise. Even more important, their cultural principles aligned closely with mine (action for bias and disagree and commit to name a few). 

Amazing technology that customers love, huge market, quantifiable business impact, amazing team with strong tailwinds. That’s why I joined. 

Now it’s time to execute. Let’s goooo! 

P.S If this sounds exciting to you, reach out, we’re hiring. 

Brett Umberg
VP @ Marqo, former @Salesforce @Deloitte, cofounded @Clearstory, 2x Ironman