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Habu Blog


2021 is Ready-set to be a Big Game Changer for the Marketing Technology Industry

by: Matt Kilmartin
Blog 2021 is a ready set to be

Exhale. 2020 is over. What a year. What will 2021 bring the marketing technology industry? A look back can give us hints at what to expect in the near and far future.

Here's what's included in this post by Habu's CEO, Matt Kilmartin:

  • Data clean room technology is heating up
  • Four predictions for the marketing technology industry in 2021
  • Our journey to data clean rooms
  • A focus on engineering ... and culture
  • The year cried out for Habu Helps
  • Launching an innovative software solution in 2021

"As a company, we founded on the promise that we would be dedicated to our customers, our communities, and our employees. In 2020, we had many opportunities to live up to that promise."

Data clean room technology is heating up

Today marks the one year anniversary when we revealed Habu to the market … what a year! When you are building an early stage company, the best signal that you're on the right path is when two things happen:

  1. Discerning brands, which you have no history with, license your technology and
  2. A clear set of competitors emerge.

This is validation of all your hard work and that a market is on the move.

I saw this first hand with commerce software at ATG (now Oracle), at Akamai who invented the CDN, and at Krux (now Salesforce) at the inception of the DMP market.

Today, Habu is leading the charge as brands embrace data clean rooms as the new standard for secure data collaboration in a world of distributed data.

In the marketing industry, Google was the pioneer of the clean room when it launched Ads Data Hub in 2016. Amazon and Facebook have followed suit and are now also replacing APIs with their own data clean rooms.

The major evolution in 2020 was when brands, both marketers and publishers, began investing in and setting up their own data clean room environments. To thrive in this privacy-first, cookieless world, a neutral data infrastructure is required.

In the past few weeks, I took a long look at how much has happened and how far we've come as an industry – and as a company -- in just the past year. It has been a year full of difficulties, yes, but also a year full of connections with smart people, enlightening moments, and innovations that we are very proud of.

Before looking back, let's take a look ahead at 2021.

Four predictions for the marketing technology industry in 2021

I may not have a crystal ball, but based on 2020 experiences in this industry, I suspect a few of these predictions might be on the mark for 2021:

  1. Identity will remain cloudy. 2021 will be the year of identity, but there will be no clear winner. One year from today, we predict that the identity landscape will be less clear. This makes it even more important to have a flexible strategy for identity.
  2. Companies will invest more in first party data. No big shocker here … every brand (CPG to Publishers to Financial Services) will invest in first party data in 2021. I am surprised to see companies still not doing enough in this area. The three letter acronym du jour, CDP (Custom Data Platform), is not the silver bullet answer either; you need a first party data strategy first.
  3. Privacy matters more than ever. GDPR, CCPA and emerging regulation are here to stay, and will only get more complicated. Companies will come to grips with the fact that compliance is hard. 1:1 marketing is also quite difficult and companies might have to adapt to 1:100 as cohort analysis becomes more meaningful.
  4. Data clean rooms will become a must-have. Just like the walled gardens, brands have built trusted relationships with their consumers and are not going to share that data freely or carelessly anymore. They are simply the more robust, privacy safe way to collaborate around data. With more brands licensing their own clean rooms, distributed data is here to stay.

Our journey to data clean rooms

We understand that predictions are only as good as the source they've come from. So how did we choose these?

First, it's important to know a little background about us.

In February 2020, Habu came out of two years of market research, testing, and development in stealth mode. The public announcement coincided with an article about us in TechCrunch, a Series A funding, and our public-facing website.

I had joined Habu right before this big moment. In late 2019, I was all ramped up to get back to early stage company building, so I left Salesforce to join the Habu team.

And what a team it is. I am so proud of their accomplishments this past year, especially with the amount of struggle the world has been experiencing. Not only did we launch at the start of a pandemic and increased social unrest, but also the magnitude and rate of change that was disrupting data driven marketing in early 2020 was difficult to stay ahead of.

The marketing tech industry was screaming for innovation, and data clean rooms were the answer.

And the Habu team was already on it.

When I linked up with Habu co-founder Mike Moreau, Habu had been incubating inside of the super{set} venture studio alongside Tom Chavez, Vivek Vaidya, and an all-star team of engineers to develop what eventually would become Habu Data Clean Rooms.

We entered 2020 chock full of optimism and ready to launch our solution commercially, but the pandemic had other ideas.

A focus on engineering ... and culture

Innovation does not happen in a vacuum. It relies on the people who are making it happen, and people's lives were being disrupted even more than marketing technology.

Instead of plowing ahead with a commercial launch at the wrong time, we instead turned inward. What do our customers and communities really need? What do our employees need? What can we do to help small businesses thrive?

These questions not only led to important insights from prospective clients on how to shape our engineering efforts to best support them, but it also helped improve the world around us. And improving the world was something that the entire team cried out for.

We didn't know it then, but our largely organic and "grass roots" philanthropic efforts in 2020 led to an ongoing initiative that we call Habu Helps.

The year cried out for Habu Helps

As a company, we founded on the promise that we would be dedicated to our customers, our communities, and our employees. In 2020, we had many opportunities to live up to that promise.

I'd like to share just a few of these moments, because I believe they'll not only help you understand who we are as a company, but also how we work and interact with the world around us.

When COVID-19 shut down businesses in late February 2020, our team of 20 employees pooled funds together to donate $50,000 to local charities. By giving together, we felt we could have a greater impact on those causes that meant the most to us, and really needed our support.

As the year dragged on and Zoom fatigue set in and everyone was feeling down, we realized our own team needed extra support.

A gift of FitBits and a team competition got everyone out and moving. Over a 30-day challenge, we walked 4,774 miles, the equivalent of Boston, Massachusetts, to Anchorage, Alaska. The response was tremendously gratifying.

We also took steps to help causes that support racial and social injustices. Gratitude and supporting small businesses was the Habu Helps theme as we ended 2020. Giving back is and will continue to be a core tenet of Habu.

Launching an innovative software solution in 2021

As the pandemic continues to create disparate working conditions, and tectonic industry shifts are creating more disparate data sets, our company culture is stronger than ever.

What has become abundantly clear in 2020 is that data clean rooms are here to stay. And it is exciting to see so many smart people fired up about developing a new breed of technology to help make the work of marketers easier, more collaborative, and more privacy safe.

I'm not only talking about our own team: our clients, colleagues, partners, and vendors have been offering up some exciting ideas and insights about where this can go. We are all ears.

Applications, like Habu's, are required to support ongoing critical analytics, insights, measurement, and targeting use cases in 2021 and beyond.

In this past year alone of software development and refinement, it has been rewarding to see Habu's customers driving expanding data collaboration use cases and company value with Habu's software. And it just keeps getting better.

We now have enterprise customers across CPG, Financial Services, Media & Entertainment, Retail, and Gaming.

As we increase our sales and marketing efforts, we look forward to connecting with more organizations that not only want to future-proof their marketing technology, but also help us make the world a better place, one step at a time.