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WebSideStory Mafia Part 2: Tealium

by Neal Bloom

By Andrea Siedsma

There’s no doubt that San Diego tech pioneers gave birth to web analytics, which paved the way for countless like-minded companies today.  (And, who knew the web analytics market would be predicted to be worth $3.09 billion by 2019?).

One of the godfathers of San Diego’s web analytics (and SaaS) family was WebSideStory, which had a $42.5 million IPO in 2004 and is now part of Adobe Systems. Two WebSideStory alumni who decided to carry on the analytics torch so-to-speak were Mike Anderson and Ali Behnam, who created San Diego-based Tealium, whose jam is real-time customer data.  Along the way, they recruited former WebSideStory CEO Jeff Lunsford to join them.

Jeff Lunsford

“We got the WebSideStory band back together to build a company to help our customers solve the data fragmentation problem arising within the enterprise as data sources and volumes explode, and as companies have a strategic mandate to go through what the industry is calling ‘digital transformation,’” says Lunsford, now Tealium’s CEO.

Let’s meet Tealium’s founders and see what they’ve been up to since the company’s launch.

Founded: 2008

Key Players: Mike Anderson, Ali Behnam, Jeff Lunsford

Backstory: Tealium was originally launched as a web analytics consultancy. But soon the company realized that customers were having major problems with their tagging and were not fully leveraging their data. So the team built a solution to help with these challenges.

Mike Anderson, a former Senior Software Engineer of WebSideStory and Co-Founder and CTO of Tealium, dives a little deeper: “WebSideStory had just been purchased by Omniture to dominate the web analytics category. It was clear from Omniture’s perspective they were going to force the WebSideStory customers to move off the WebSideStory platform and on to the Omniture platform. This was going to require a ton of work for our customers, customers that I had spent a good deal of time getting WebSideStory implemented in the first place. We felt that a re-implementation was going to be inevitable, but we thought re-implementing from one proprietary implementation technique to another would not set them up for success in the long term, so we decided to go for a less vendor-specific type implementation and a more company-specific implementation. This technique would use a software layer to map the company-specific data to vendor-specific data and would dramatically reduce the implementation time for companies, and a re-implementation would no longer be needed going forward. This was the birth of what is today known as ‘tag management.’ We also knew that we could build a larger, more powerful business because this solution would put us into the real-time data supply chain for a customer, and if we stayed true to our mission of solving customer pain, we would build a long-lasting business.”

“When we saw this opportunity, I reached out to Jeff Lunsford asking for guidance and money, but mostly money,” Anderson adds. “Jeff saw the vision, helped to get us funded and staffed with some former WebSideStory talent, and then joined as our CEO a few years later.”

Technology: Tealium manages website tags that are often used in digital marketing campaigns. The company’s software, called Tealium iQ, lets firms add, remove, or modify web page tags, which help collect data, measure the results, and drive search engine optimization in web-based marketing.

Kudos: Tealium was named to Forbes Magazine’s list of America’s Most Promising Companies for 2014.

Headcount: Today, Tealium has about 400 employees with offices in San Diego, San Francisco, New York, Boston, London, Paris, Munich, Madrid, Singapore, Tokyo, and Sydney.

Fodder: Another early co-founder of Tealium was Olivier Silvestre, who was director of Web Analytics and Optimization Consulting for WebSideStory and then moved on to become the director of revenue optimization at Certona, which was started by another WebSideStory alumnus, Meyar Sheik. After that, Silvestre joined Anametrix, formed by Blaise Barrelet, founder and CEO, WebSideStory. Silvestre was also the co-founder and CEO of VinoMatch and is currently the head of Professional Services, Transportation Intelligence at San Diego-based SmartDrive Systems.

Mike Anderson, Co-Founder and CTO, Tealium & former Senior Software Engineer, WebSideStory

The Scoop: When asked about his days at WebSideStory, Anderson says, without hesitation, that the company was definitely a pioneer in web analytics.

“We really revolutionized the way data was collected and processed in real time,” he says. “We took what was a batch based system at WebTrends where they collected data for a while, downloaded it and processed it, to a system that could collect and analyze the data in real time. This methodology is the foundation for nearly everything we do at Tealium. Data can and should be analyzed in real time, always.”

Back in the Day: “There weren’t many tech companies in San Diego at that time,” Anderson says of the WebSideStory days (mid 1990s-to-early 2000s).  “It was mostly Qualcomm, and they are a different type of tech company when compared to an SaaS company. It felt like we ran a pretty cost-efficient business back then. Omniture was more the one with Xbox consoles hooked up to large screen projectors. We had bagels on Wednesdays, and as an engineer who traditionally came in later than sales, you had to get there early that day or risk getting the last remaining raisin bagel. For me, it was, however, very much a meritocracy, at least around gear. I remember being one of the first developers to have dual monitors at my desk.”

Entrepreneurial Drive: Tealium is not the first company started by Anderson, whose first business was iDriveSafely, an online traffic school that is still going strong today.

“Working at WebSideStory was more of an educational sabbatical,” he says. “I started iDriveSafely very early in my technical career. I was only out of college for about six weeks when I started it. iDriveSafely grew very fast and it seemed overnight I had 30 engineers under me with little experience on running an engineering team. When I hit my limit, I stepped down and selectively picked data analytics as the next big thing and was lucky one of the major players was here in San Diego, so I went to WebSideStory to learn. Now at Tealium, I’m comfortable managing my current team.”

Learning Curve: “WebSideStory taught me a lot of different things across a vast universe of topics. We were in a heated battle with our main competitor at the time, Omniture. It was during this competitive time I learned that customer is king, and if you build a company that listens to customers and create solutions around their pressing problems, you’ll always build a great business. I believe we’ve built a great business today with Tealium.”

Sunny Diego: “When we took our first round of investment, our VC firm asked if we’d consider relocating to the Bay Area to build the business. We explicitly chose to stay in San Diego and build the business here,” Anderson says.  “We felt we could tap into some of our old WebSideStory colleagues, but also from a relocation perspective, who wouldn’t want to move to San Diego? There aren’t many reasons to even leave San Diego. The weather and scenery are really best-in-class.”

Power Play: “One of my personal goals for Tealium is to take over the naming rights of Petco Park in 2026 when it’s up for renewal.”

Future Road Map: “We’re in it for the long haul. There’s a wonderful opportunity out there to build more data-driven companies to dazzle their customers through better experiences.”

Ali Behnam,  Co-founder, Tealium & former Senior Marketing Consultant, WebSideStory

Intelligence: Before joining WebSideStory, Behnam used the company’s HitBox product, “so I was pretty passionate about what the company did.” While at WebSideStory, he spent most of his time doing product management. “What I loved most about it was the interaction with customers, listening to their feedback and understanding how we can provide them with a better solution,” he says.

SaaS Model: “WebSideStory was a pioneer in two ways. First, we pioneered the web analytics space. Today, just about every company out there uses web analytics. But we also pioneered the SaaS business model. We were providing our software-as-a-service before the term SaaS even existed.”

The OG of SD Analytics: “What was super exciting about the local tech scene (in the early 2000’s) was the fact that we had three web analytics companies in San Diego. In addition to WebSideStory, we also had Keylime Software (which became part of Yahoo!) and Urchin Software, which became Google Analytics. So, the San Diego tech scene really pioneered the web analytics space.”

Paving the Way: One other aspect where WebSideStory pioneered the space was the use of JavaScript tags for data collection, Behnam says. “Today there are some 3,000+ companies that use tags for data collection purposes, which created major data silos and operational challenges. One of Tealium’s value propositions is to fix this problem head-on. So, in that sense, WebSideStory paved the way for what we do at Tealium today.”

Homegrown Talent: “There’s some great talent in San Diego. I think the biggest problem is the lack of venture funds in San Diego and therefore, there is a false perception that San Diego cannot be a tech hub. As an entrepreneur, I’d rather start a company in San Diego vs. the Bay Area where you’d have to compete for talent.”

Read more about the Tealium story in this detailed blog post.

Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a multi-part series about San Diego’s SaaS and digital analytics pioneers who rose out of the dot-com bust of the early 2000’s and went on to build extraordinary companies that still call this region home.  Read Part 1 & Part 3.

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