I sat down with Craig Harris and Elizabeth Cholawsky of HG Data last month. Elizabeth had joined HG Data as their new CEO eight days earlier with Craig shifting from CEO to R&D Leader and Chairman. We discussed the transition, partner management, product planning, and the entry into other information verticals. The interview has been edited for length and will be published over the next few days. [Part 1; Part II]
Michael: As you continue to build out the IT vertical, do you see yourself beginning to compete against your partners, and how do you anticipate that playing out in the coming years?
Craig: I don’t see that being an issue. If you actually map out our partner ecosystem, what you’re going to find is there are about 12 to 15 different applications of data that these partners deliver. There are some companies that try to be a Swiss Army knife – shallow amongst lots of different applications. Most of our partners are really domain experts in a focus area.
Look at where we are anchored currently, HG Data for Salesforce. Many of our partners are also inside the Salesforce ecosystem. We don’t compete with our partners that have managed applications, even our partners that have Lightning Data apps. We are still solving different types of problems with our Salesforce applications.
Our focus right now is really on the systems of record. There are a few other CRM systems that we have our eyes on as well as marketing automation. We are looking for a way where we can be embedded in the systems of record and be synergistic with partners as opposed to competing with them.
Michael: When you look at some of your key partners like DiscoverOrg or TechTarget, they built out other content functionality that you don’t have. It seems like you will not be looking to build those in the next two to five years. When you have those shallower applications, they are just licensing technographics and putting it in with your basic prospecting. I could see those less inventive platforms becoming more competitive with you as you build out some of your functionality there.
Elizabeth: There is a complementary strategy consisting of a really strong partnership and channel strategy, combined with still going the route of allowing our data to be productized through leading systems that people use. There will be conflict with some. That’s just the competitive situation that’s been endemic to the technology industry broadly, forever.
The issues are solvable when you have a good strategy laid down. You go into the partner relationships explaining that strategy and where you want to play and why you want to do that. To me, that comes back to the customers, their use case and how they want to consume the data that we’ve got.
It’s a big expanding market out there. I think there is a lot of room for really high growth, with both vital channel partners, as well as doing what we’ve embarked on with the systems of record.
Michael: What size and growth metrics are you comfortable disclosing?
Craig: Not much. We’re 57 employees. As I alluded to earlier, we have an eight-figure run rate, so that leads to a pretty big range. We’re not disclosing [revenue] publicly. I will say, anecdotally, we had a great year of revenue growth.
Michael: What is your split today between content licensing and direct sales? Do you see that shifting much going forward?
Craig: Probably close to the 50-50 mark.
Michael: Probably wasn’t 50-50 two years ago. That’s a significant gain on the direct sales side then?
Craig: Yes. HG Data for Salesforce has been a very nice contribution to that as has our display advertising and HG Data Audience product line. The end user, they don’t necessarily want to go log in to ten more systems when they’re trying to solve a very specific problem. Who are my best prospects? Who should I talk to? What types of conversations should I have and what types of key strategic insights can I use and when? For us, this is all about having our data at the right place at the right time for the right person – to help them solve the thing that they care about which is: Who’s my next customer?
We are not going to do this alone. We are going to need partners for that journey.