To prevail in today’s scenario, acceptance of disruptive technologies in businesses is essential. An adequate collaboration between both the business ideologies and technological advancements boost a business to its enormous heights. The market is astonishingly accumulated by the avid leaders, possessing certain skills and attributes to drive business more efficiently. By emphasizing on a go-to-market business forerunner with proven acumen to create and build high-tech companies and markets, CIO Look presents you a passionate leader, Amy Guarino, Chief Operating Officer at Kyndi Inc.
Following is Amy’s story narrated in her own words, and possessing the potential of inspiring and motivating everyone.
Pioneer Woman: Thirty Years in the Silicon Valley by Amy Guarino
I grew up all up and down the East Coast. My dad was a sales leader at IBM, which at that time was known as “I’ve Been Moved.” I always admired the pioneers that settled the west but never dreamed that I would end of spending most of my business career in California and the Silicon Valley.
My first move towards the west was to attend the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. I was the tenth class of women at Notre Dame and graduated with a degree in Government and International Relations. My class was twenty percent women and eighty percent men. The experience prepared me well for life in tech.
After Notre Dame, I continued to head west. IBM hired me for a beginner sales role in Sunnyvale, California. Sunnyvale was the in the center of the burgeoning Silicon Valley and it certainly was an exciting time with the big chip companies plus Apple, Oracle and Sun all starting to take off. My first IBM boss offered me some great advice on how to be successful –
- Do your best,
- Develop an expertise (today we would call it a brand),
- Publicize your success.
Over the next 13 years, I developed my career at IBM in sales and sales management. I also got married and we had two sons. By the late 1990’s – the start of the dot com, I was ready to try the real Silicon Valley and moved into software. Based on some advice from a venture capitalist friend, I approached my startup career like an investor. I learned how to improve my odds in picking the right companies by looking for companies that have a big market, have a great management team, have strong financial support, must-have versus nice to have products, and are able to create market buzz.
In addition, I looked to build a diversified portfolio of equity by carving up my engagements to two or four-year commitments. I developed an expertise in cloud/SaaS and became known for building indirect channel sales organizations and creating diverse revenue streams for organizations. My first startup was iPass, which went public. I built an indirect sales channel for Latitude Communications based on Cisco resellers. The company was then acquired by Cisco. I was the VP of Sales and VP of Sales and Marketing at a couple of other startups which were ultimately acquired.
One of the most important aspects of building a successful company is hiring the right people. One needs to build a strong network that you can leverage to bring in the right people. In a startup or a smaller company, the key is to hire “surgeons, not interns.” Unfortunately, in an early stage company, you typically don’t have time to teach a skill or capability and need to have experts that can address a specific need quickly. In addition, you need to develop hiring skills to assess potential employees. I look for three things: (1) be sure that the person has the intellectual capacity for the specific role; (2) has a passion for the role and space; and (3) has strong business judgment. You will be reliant on that person making decisions without your guidance at times so you want to be sure that they are thoughtful and logical in their approach to do the right thing.
In 2009, I joined Marketo as the 25th employee as the VP of Business Development. We were the first “Marketing Cloud” company. When I joined, we had less than 100 customers and less than $1M in revenue. The engineers built a great product that just worked. We recognized that the way people bought software in a business to business environment had fundamentally changed. Customers wanted to be able to educate themselves about their needs rather than engage early with sales. Sellers and marketers needed to adapt to make the buying process easier. Marketo made that happen. By 2013, we went public with a $1B valuation. At the end of 2013, we developed a Joint Venture with Dentsu, Sunbridge and Marketo Inc. to bring Marketo to Japan. I was asked to move to Tokyo to launch the business and recognized that I needed to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” We loved getting to know the Japanese people and culture and the business success far exceeded any of our expectations.
Shortly after returning to the US, we sold Marketo to Vista Private Equity. I decided that after eight years at Marketo, I wanted to return to an early stage company with a disruptive technology. In 2017, I joined Kyndi – an Artificial Intelligence (AI) company focused on Explainable AI. Our solutions are used by government, life sciences and financial services companies to unlock value from unstructured data or text. Our approach combines machine learning, Natural Language Processing and Knowledge Representation or graphs which gives us the unique ability to understand text without requiring large, labeled datasets and provides an explanation or why for the results.
I am thrilled to have an opportunity to participate in another big technology transformation (AI) here in the Valley, one that will impact all of the business and all of our lives. It’s exciting to once again have an opportunity to build a company that will help customers transform their organizations and their careers but also help our team learn new things and build their own skills and experiences to help them further develop and grow.
As a “pioneer,” I definitely learned to enjoy the journey versus focusing on the destination. That focus makes you appreciate each day and appreciate each customer and colleague and partner along the way.
Emphasizing On an Overview of the Leader
Amy is passionate about helping customers and partners transform their organizations. Prior to joining Kyndi as Chief Operating Officer, she spent eight years at Marketo, which she joined in early 2009 as the Vice President of Business Development (employee #25.) In 2014, Amy moved to Tokyo to start Marketo KK, a joint venture with Dentsu and Sunbridge. That organization is now the fastest international region for Marketo and was recognized as the #8 Best Places to Work in Asia. During Amy’s career at Marketo Inc, Marketo grew from less than $1M in revenue to almost $300M went public in 2013 and was acquired by Vista Private Equity for $2B in 2016. Recently Adobe acquired Marketo for $5B. Over the past 30 years, Amy has been an accomplished business leader who uses sales, marketing and management methods learned at IBM to quickly drive results at startup and mid-size companies.
Amy has a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame. She has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Women of Influence in the Silicon Valley, as CRN’s Top Women in the Channel and as one of the Forbes’ Forty over Forty. She has served on numerous non-profit boards such as Oakland’s Elizabeth House and the Notre Dame California Advisory Board, as well as acts as an advisor to a number of Silicon Valley start-ups including UserTesting and Survata.