Tealium CEO Jeff Lunsford brought together a cadre of former WebSideStory executives when he set off to build Tealium eight years ago. The software startup builds customer data platforms, which allow companies to manage marketing data from a host of different sources.
“Every company has about 80 different software packages that they use,” Lunsford said. “You want to combine all of that data so you have a holistic view.”
In early May, Tealium raised $55 million from growth equity firm Silver Lake Waterman. In the future, Lunsford has motivations to take the company public. He, Chief Financial Officer Doug Lindroth and Chief Legal Officer Phil Maynard worked together at publicly traded companies for 12 years.
“We said no to a really nice offer in January,” Lunsford said. “We’re taking more risk. But we’ve seen 10 years of business building and taking care of our customers, so if we sell out now, what would we do? We would do just what we did with WebSideStory: We would get back together and start another company.”
For Lunsford, an IPO is less of a big event, and more of a transition. Tealium is his sixth company, and he’s seen two of his other ventures go public.
“It’s just a financing mechanism,” he added.
In the meantime, Tealium plans to use the additional funds to grow its headcount, and build out its platform and integration with other systems. The company currently has more than 200 employees in the San Diego area; its headquarters are in Torrey Pines.
Of course, building any company comes with growing pains. Lunsford’s advice was to stay focused, separate the urgent from the important, and pick one issue for the company to tackle.
“If you’re trying to get things scaled, it’s a lot easier to keep people motivated when there are 20 people in one room than when there are 200,” he said. “As CEO, you have to choose which mountain you’re going to climb, because you’re in the Himalayas and there are 20 of them. I let the team get together and figure out which course they’re going to take up.”
As the CEO of a growing company, Lunsford said the focus should be on raising funding, hiring a strong team, and delegating that work. When times get tough, focus on the core mission, or the “mountain,” that the company is trying to scale.
“There are always fires. The issues could be, you hit a wall with financing, you missed a quarter on sales, your product release was buggy. All three of those have happened to us at one time or another,” he said. “When fires happen and people are freaking out, you have to be the one that’s positive. …Building a company is a marathon, not a sprint.”