Blueshift Leadership Spotlight: Josh Francia, Chief Growth Officer

My path to Blueshift started way back in 2011 when I was leading the CRM efforts for an online travel company. After several years of double-digit YoY growth, our external technology systems started to break. We went through three ESPs in six years before realizing they were never architected to scale to our innovative aspirations. The solutions on the market at that time simply couldn’t handle the amount of data we were piping in, or what we ideally wanted to do with it. With no suitable options, building our ideal solution was the only approach we had left to try.

With help from my team and our incredibly supportive manager, we identified our needs for real growth and set out to build a system that could accomplish five key goals.

  1. A single profile view for all customers that contained every touchpoint and would stitch together anonymous and identifiable sessions.
  2. Algorithms to run against these profiles to predict future behaviors.
  3. Enough storage for product data from 200k+ hotels, rental cars, and airline deals.
  4. The ability to recommend personalized deals through a lightweight but powerful templating language that supported things like looping and in-memory variable storage etc.
  5. Speed. We wanted to be lightning fast. Like, send 2 million 100% personalized emails out in 1 hour fast.

We got to work and in roughly six months had a system up and running. It was challenging (to say the least) working through petabytes of data and never-ending legacy systems. In addition, it seemed that everyone who knew or built those systems had left the company years ago, leaving us to piece together a jigsaw puzzle of customer data loose ends. Luckily, we had the support of the senior team to fix the system and fix it fast. The resulting platform, and I use that term generously, was rough around the edges and only worked through command line prompts, but it worked.  

To say that taking a risk on a new way of thinking about data and how to use it across our marketing was rewarding would be a gross understatement. We somehow managed to patch together the makings of a CDAP before the industry was even close to defining it. And with this innovative build, the company was able to process 10+ million records, score them, and provide real-time product recommendations every single day.

Ultimately, this meant high double-digit YoY revenue growth for the next four years that I was there.

Building vs. Buying Customer Data Activation

Fast forward to December 2016. I had just joined LendingTree and on my first day, then-CMO asked me to “fix” the CRM system. They too had outgrown their infrastructure and needed a replacement. It all sounded eerily familiar. Because of my previous experience, I knew exactly what they needed, but this time was hoping someone had built it. My previous experience taught me that internal product builds that live outside the core product offering are almost always short-sighted and quickly become a maintenance nightmare.

I started my research and found 30 — yes, 30 — companies that claimed they could help us achieve those same 5 goals I identified at my previous company. After dozens of sales calls, demos, and sandbox accounts, it became clear that 29 out of the 30 either couldn’t or couldn’t do it at the scale we needed. But one company stood head and shoulders above the rest. A startup out of San Francisco called Blueshift, that was founded in 2014 by former Walmart and Groupon marketing and tech guys who’d faced challenges similar to mine.

I was impressed with Blueshift’s technology from day one. It reminded me a lot of the system my team built at previous company but with a UI, production level code, and support. It was built to scale infinitely, which is hard to find in the SaaS space. We signed with Blueshift and in about 60 days were up and running. All our customer data and events were loading in real-time and we were ready to go live.  

Not everyone was excited to bring in a new, unheard of, and untested system. Two executives told me “Blueshift better work” and that I should have considered some of the big marketing cloud players. I told them I had, in fact, researched some of them, but realized their technology wouldn’t scale or allow us to do what we needed to do to drive significant growth. Big cloud players become big through bolt-on acquisitions, not core engineering. It was painfully evident that the bolt-on product offerings were nothing more than a re-brand of the archaic and obsolete architecture that I had broken so many times before. I said, “You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.”

LendingTree launched Blueshift in June 2017 and it was an instant success. We drove more revenue through Blueshift from June 2017 through Dec 2017 than we did the entire year before.

Everyone on the team quickly became a believer and we continued to iterate and evolve. We added predictive modeling, journey flows, and audience syncing with Facebook and Google for our paid marketing campaigns. The results continued to impress with record-breaking YoY revenue growth each year.

Joining a Winning Team  

I’ve been a professional marketer for long enough to confidently say that I know the direction the industry is moving in. It’s not just the companies I’ve been a part of; organizations of all types are finding that their existing systems just aren’t enough, that in-house builds are too demanding, and that big cloud players aren’t all they claim to be. But understanding why they’re not enough and exactly what’s needed to solve today’s and tomorrow’s issues is another story.  

In late 2018, I reached out to Vijay Chittoor, Co-Founder and CEO of Blueshift and I said, “You guys have built something amazing, but the problem is that it’s so far ahead of what most marketers think they need that you first have to educate the market and the marketer. It’s like building a rocket ship when people were just getting used to the automobile.” Vijay asked me to join the team and help them craft that story.   

So that’s what I did. I joined Blueshift as their Chief Growth Officer in March of this year to help other B2C marketers and businesses experience sustained step-change growth year after year.  Combining innovative thinking with AI-Powered scalable technology unlocks the key to unlimited 1:1 personalization at scale. It is, without a doubt, the only way to exceed customer expectations and leapfrog the competition. I’m excited to help your business grow. Let’s get started!