Web Hosting Interview - Verio July 2008

Web Hosting Interview - Verio July 2008

Wendy St. Clair Pearson and Ken Giffin of Verio

A web host and web-based solutions provider targeting the small to medium-sized business market, Verio is a product of the vision that fueled the original Internet boom. Starting in 1996 with investment from a number of sources, including Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Communications (NTT), the company bought up around 50 ISPs both in the USA (and Europe) and drew them together as a single entity that ultimately traded on the NASDAQ. In 2000, NTT America became full owner of the company, spending around $5 billion for the privilege. Today, Verio caters to a global customer base providing services that include UNIX and Windows shared hosting, Virtual Private Server options, and dedicated servers. But they just aren't satisfied! Late last month the company announced that Wendy St. Clair Pearson and Ken Giffin had joined the company to lead the ''relaunch'' of its global marketing strategy. Obviously intrigued, we got together with Wendy and Ken to find out a bit about them, what it's like working at Verio, and what the company's plans are.

  • HOSTSEARCH: Wendy, Ken  thanks for meeting us like this today. How are you new positions? Settled in?
    WENDY ST. CLAIR PEARSON: To say we're settled is relative!  We are immediately diving in and we are very focused on honing Verio's marketing message, the marketing mix and plans for the rest of 2008 and beyond.    
  • HOSTSEARCH: For the benefit of our visitors, why don't you tell us briefly about your positions at Verio and your roles?
    WENDY ST. CLAIR PEARSON: As the senior director of marketing and communications, my role is basically to lead the charge and develop a team to tackle Verio's marketing and marcomm initiatives.  Ken and I are working in tandem to achieve a number of key initiatives at Verio this year that set the company on a clear and positive course for growth in the future.  
    KEN GIFFIN: My role as director of marketing has two primary areas of focus.  The first is on the indirect channel, which is been a focus in my marketing technology career path.  In addition to the indirect channel, I will also be working with Product Management at Verio to provide a direct link to plan initiatives between the two organizations.  
  • HOSTSEARCH: What are you looking forward to in your new positions?
    WENDY ST. CLAIR PEARSON: I am a builder at heart.  I thrive in environments where I have the opportunity to create something new  and that is exactly what we are doing here at Verio.  While the company has been in existence for over ten years, its known presence in the hosting industry has waxed and waned.  What we have been charged with doing is basically dusting off the logo and re-building Verio's market presence, reputation and future market potential from the ground up.  
    KEN GIFFIN: The great opportunity with Verio is being able to work in an established company that has a start-up mentality about the future.  That brings out a great deal of enthusiasm for evaluating possible changes of direction.  In marketing, it is always better to find an organization that is evolving and applying marketing principles to lead the charge.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Verio is located in Centennial, Colorado. Breakthrough Management Group International, where you were previously, Wendy, is in Longmont, Boulder County, Colorado, and Quark's headquarters, where you were, Ken, is in Denver, Colorado. So you haven't had to relocate to take up your new positions? Or have you?
    WENDY ST. CLAIR PEARSON: No,  I just changed my commute from 40 minutes one way to 40 minutes the other. I have always lived in the middle of town.
    KEN GIFFIN: I've been working in the Denver/Boulder area for the past decade and very committed to the Colorado lifestyle.  It's a great place to live and work.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Could tell us a bit about your careers before you arrived at Verio?
    WENDY ST. CLAIR PEARSON: I've been in marketing technology services for almost 20 years. In my most recent venture however I was in the process improvement world, working as marketing director for a global Lean Six Sigma and Innovation consultancy, Breakthrough Management Group (BMGI).  I helped extend that company's brand outside the Six Sigma space into a more global and broad consulting arena, but more importantly I had the opportunity to hone some new skills in process excellence.  Leading complex projects and implementing organizational change requires an understanding of data-driven decision making rather than making decisions based on gut or emotion.  The tools I learned there are ones I've put into my marketing satchel at Verio.  Before BMGI, I was part of the team that initially launched the regional hosting and collocation company, ViaWest.  I spent the earliest days of the Internet boom leading marketing for the now defunct Rocky Mountain Internet, a company that was one of the first ever Internet IPOs.
    KEN GIFFIN: Marketing has been a consistent core in my career path.  Like Wendy, I have nearly 20 years of experience, most of which has been focused on technology and channel partners.  On the agency side, I worked with large companies such as American Express, Alcoa, 3Com and Sears with a focus on database oriented programs.  Prior to joining Verio, I worked on the client side both at GE and Quark.  In both cases I was responsible for building marketing teams and overseeing all facets of marketing from demand generation to marketing communications.  Both client and agency side experiences revolved around the fast pace of change.  In technology, change is the constant for marketing and seems to accelerate a bit faster each year.  
  • HOSTSEARCH: A news report we put out last month suggested you both have been brought in to "relaunch" Verio's global marketing strategy. What has Verio's strategy been to date?
    WENDY ST. CLAIR PEARSON: Verio is at a major turning point in its evolution.  The hosting industry is changing rapidly and innovation is happening all around us.  Cloud computing, Software as a Service, free hosting plans and new business models - companies are coming to market from every direction.  Through all of this Verio has been simply watching from the sidelines, focused internally.   This year, NTT put a stake in the ground and gave Verio the edict  NTT wants Verio to be its global hosting platform to the SMB market.  This is important because NTT has the financial stability to support Verio in making that a reality.  The challenge facing us in marketing is to figure out the best way to make that happen.      
  • HOSTSEARCH: And in the same vein, Steve Renda, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Verio was quoted as saying recently that you both have specifically been brought in to support the expansion of Verio's hosting and SaaS initiatives worldwide. We have heard the term Software as a Service for a number of years now, but it seems that there are a number of interpretations as to what Software as a Service entails. What is Verio's interpretation?
    KEN GIFFIN: Verio looks at SaaS in two ways  first as products and services Verio can offer its SMB customers to drive the evolution of their growing businesses.  These are products such as PC-backup, Exchange Mail and CRM solutions that the company can offer either direct or through a reseller channel.  The second and perhaps more intriguing opportunity for Verio in the SaaS space is that we have the ability to be a technology platform for SaaS providers, to partner with them as they go to market selling their complete solution to end users.  
  • HOSTSEARCH: How important is Software as a Service going to be? How important is it going to be to people's lives?
    WENDY ST. CLAIR PEARSON: Forrester recently quoted a double digit growth rate from organizations adopting SaaS, and while only 16% of companies reported using it, another 46% were planning on using it soon.  True, much of this has been driven by the success of companies like Salesforce.com and Taleo, but as more companies become comfortable with this model, we anticipate much of all software adoption models will eventually go this way.  Verio is well-positioned to provide organizations direct access to these products through us.  
  • HOSTSEARCH: So, I guess I have to ask - what's the game plan? How are you going to get small businesses everywhere to think of Verio as their automatic choice? What have you been brought in to do  as precisely as company policy permits (smiles)!
    WENDY ST. CLAIR PEARSON: It is an interesting challenge  some might think you simply spend your way to the top. But our goal is going to be to work smarter  not harder to build a strong brand awareness for Verio and then to focus on automation where most appropriate. Our long term marketing plan is still in formulation but we have made incredible progress in just a few months.  
    KEN GIFFIN: One thing to consider is the wide variety of small to medium businesses, from a technology perspective.  For Verio, we have a broad range of web based business solutions that address the market.  The key is to find groups of customers with specific technology needs and link them to subsets of our portfolio.  That's something we've been actively addressing in our first 60 days on the job.
  • HOSTSEARCH: And once all that has been done, where is that going to put Verio?
    WENDY ST. CLAIR PEARSON: NTT's goal is clear  they want Verio to emerge as a premiere SMB hosting platform serving the global SMB market
    KEN GIFFIN: And that's exciting for us.  NTT has a huge global footprint and being part of their infrastructure and vision is a great position for us.
  • HOSTSEARCH: I guess this might be a bit too early to ask you, but what plans does Verio have beyond, or alongside the initiative you will be working on?
    KEN GIFFIN: We are working in conjunction with the sales teams, product development and management leadership, sales operations, customer service, and more. This initiative is not simply isolated to what many consider traditional marketing.  This truly is part of a global transformation for Verio.
  • HOSTSEARCH: So, alongside Software as a Service, what are your predictions for the next big thing to hit the Internet, and how will it change people's lives? Any aspect of the Internet
    WENDY ST. CLAIR PEARSON: Technology has quickly shifted from being a tool we all use in business to the backbone of how all business gets done.  With this, consumers are expecting more from their vendors from an online perspective.  As an example, today I can order six sandwiches from Jason's Deli and have them delivered to almost any address in the country within 15 minutes  and pay for it all without taking out my credit card.   I'm getting pretty used to that, and if local Joe's Deli wants my business, they need to find a way to keep up with the times. But that is an increasingly complex proposition for the small and medium sized business owners who have neither the technical sophistication nor financial resources to create these automated systems on their own.   Finding ways to enable small and medium sized businesses to excel and evolve online is where Verio is shifting its thinking.    
  • HOSTSEARCH: I am sure being in top executive positions such as yours, business can take up quite a lot of your time. How to you redress the balance? What do you do when you aren't working?
    WENDY ST. CLAIR PEARSON: First, building a healthy work environment based on mutual respect and open idea sharing is critical.  If you're going to work 10+ hours a day and you're expected to deliver results in short order, you better be passionate about it.   That philosophy is core to our team building approach at Verio.  Beyond that, balance is key. Learning to live in the moment outside work is something I'm focusing on  and also making sure I find time to get to the gym a few days a week.  
    KEN GIFFIN: As we build a team here, the exciting part is integrating all of the new personalities and making sure we all enjoy working together.  That definitely keeps the energy high during the day.  The great thing about Colorado, is that you can be literally in the mountains within an hour from Denver.  So once the day or week is wrapped up, you can quickly escape and feel like you are a world away from home.

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