Value Prop Twitter-Style: “@RingRevenue’s call-performance marketing platfrm enables ad ntwrks, agencies, advertisers & publishers 2 generate more inbound sales calls.”

Ten questions with Rob Duva, co-founder and chief operating officer of RingRevenue.

John Greathouse: Rob, why does the world need RingRevenue?

Rob Duva: In today’s market, so much focus is placed on transacting business online. But consumers don’t always want to buy that way. And for many companies, a good deal of their business is still closed over the phone, through their call centers. This is especially true for companies with expensive and complex products or services that are more consultative in nature, like insurance, financial services, home services, education and travel, etc. For businesses like this, finding new ways to drive more of these high-value inbound sales calls is key.

But, when it comes to tracking what ad placement or publisher was responsible for getting a consumer to pick up the phone and call, that’s pretty difficult. And then there’s the bigger issue, which is that companies like this want more calls. But they don’t really have an easy, cost-effective way to drive more calls to their business.

At RingRevenue we’ve created a call-performance marketing platform that at its core is all about getting more high-value calls to advertisers who want them. Leading advertising networks like Commission Junction, LinkShare, Google Affiliate Network, ShareASale and many others license our platform to help their advertisers and publishers easily create, manage, track and optimize call-based advertising campaigns.

JG: In Getting The Band Back Together, I write about the power of serial founding teams. How has your history with Jason Spievak, Colin Kelley and the rest of the former CallWave team shaped and benefited the company? Do you have any words of caution or advice for entrepreneurs who attempt to “Get Their Band Back Together”?

RD: In my experience, a big part of building a winning team is recognizing who the MVPs are from the start. Knowing who gets the job done, who you can trust and count on, who wants to win and isn’t just along for the ride, and who is the most passionate. I think these personal traits are what reunited us; even more so than our vision for RingRevenue.

We each also bring very different career experience and perspectives to the table. At CallWave, Colin was CTO, Jason was CFO and I was in charge of product marketing and customer acquisition. None of us are shy about sharing our opinions or perspective into the conversation. It’s these different perspectives that have allowed us to create a great product and great partnerships.

We are fortunate to have a talented group of co-workers or former co-workers to draw from, but that’s not always the case. When assembling a team, I encourage entrepreneurs to seek out the MVPs, and look to build diversity into the teams they assemble.

JG: Click-to-call has been around for years, yet RingRevenue has secured nonexclusive relationships with the five largest affiliate networks. Why aren’t there a half-dozen well-funded startups running up your tailpipe? Who do you view as your biggest competition?

RD: You’re right. Call tracking isn’t new, but the way that we’ve built it into our platform is. As a team, we bring a powerful combination of telephony and performance marketing experience to the table. In our past lives, we built businesses that scaled to handling over a billion calls per year and used performance marketing to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. I think you must have intimate knowledge and experience in both of these fields just to enter this market. But to be successful, what’s worked for us is a laser-like focus on ease of use and building trusted relationships with our partners.

Our motto is, “ease of use equals use and use equals revenue.” We spend a lot of time listening to our customers and working with them to build the right solutions.

When we entered the performance marketing space, pay-per-call and the concept of call performance marketing was pretty new. We were the first to develop solutions purpose-built for this industry, and with a lot of hard work and a lot of feedback, we’ve gotten things mostly right. Many advertisers and publishers use our services across multiple network partners and love the interface and the consistency of the experience across networks. We’ve partnered with most of the leading networks in the space, so I don’t imagine that it’s a very attractive market segment for someone else to compete in.

As we expand our platform and customize it for additional segments of the industry like search agencies, mobile networks, multilevel marketers, local advertising networks and more traditional media agencies, I expect we’ll see a bit of competition from traditional call-tracking companies that have already established some relationships.

JG: You spent nearly 12 months defining your next adventure after you left CallWave. What did you learn from that experience and what advice would you give an entrepreneur who is trying to figure out his or her next gig?

It's not all work and no play at RingRevenue. Taking a break at Shoreline Beach Café are, from left, Bob Smith, Scott Herriman, Vu Ngo, Nick Burwell, Colin Kelley and John Herman.

It’s not all work and no play at RingRevenue. Taking a break at Shoreline Beach Café are, from left, Bob Smith, Scott Herriman, Vu Ngo, Nick Burwell, Colin Kelley and John Herman. (RingRevenue photo)

RD: Clear your head, have fun, re-connect and decompress. Be prepared to iterate. Constantly solicit feedback. Meet as many people as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for introductions. Have go-to people you can trust. Get the math to work. Realize that your first assumptions are likely ridiculously high and overly optimistic. Cut them by 80 percent and see if you still have a business. If you believe in it, don’t take no for an answer. Be persistent. Be prepared to take heat … from your wife, your family, your friends, etc. No matter how much they love and support you, they’ll only deal with you mooching off them for a short period of time. Work hard to get the right people on your team. It won’t be easy.

JG: Accountability is the core value upon which your corporate culture is based. How does this core value manifest itself in terms of customer and employee interactions? Is there a downside to accountability?

RD: Accountability starts at an individual level. For me, I need to believe in what I’m doing, I need be passionate about it, and I want to be the best at it. I wake up each morning driven by that accountability to myself and I know that many of my co-workers have this same sense of individual accountability and determination.

Performance marketing also demands accountability. The reason advertisers use our platform is because they want to know where their dollars are going and exactly the value it is driving to their business. In reality, they want to buy customers, not ads. They want to partner with publishers who deliver results and weed out the ones who don’t. Our platform helps them do that.

If there’s a downside to accountability, it is that it takes a lot of time and effort to be accountable for what you do. Our partners put a lot of trust in us. We don’t take that lightly and we work hard to ensure that we are delivering the best in call-performance marketing for their clients.

JG: What are the characteristics of the ideal RingRevenue advertiser and what type of advertiser is not a good fit for your solution?

RD: The ideal advertiser transacts a decent percentage of their business over the phone, has a call center and wants more inbound sales calls. They understand performance marketing and want to spend more of their budget on it. Those are the two main criteria. Additionally, they might do a lot of paid search advertising and, as a result, want to get better ROI on their paid search and see which keywords are generating phone calls and revenue for them. They are also often looking for more cost-effective ways to advertise to mobile users.

If they don’t have a call center already with trained sales reps answering calls, they’re probably not a good fit.

JG: You recently raised a Series B financing round from the same venture capitalists who participated in your Series A (i.e., Rincon Venture Partners and GRP Partners). You have tremendous momentum and clearly could have raised capital from a variety of sources. As such, why didn’t you bring outside investors into your latest round?

RD: When we raised our Series A, we put a lot of effort into meeting with VCs to find the right fit for us. One of the many great things about having Jason on our team is that he’s got a lot of experience raising money and many contacts in the VC community, so he was able to set up all the right meetings. We met with a ton of VCs and angels.

We wanted investment partners that understood performance marketing and what it was like to be an entrepreneur from having done it before themselves. We wanted our investors to have great reputations among their portfolio companies and we wanted a fair set of investment terms.

Rincon and GRP are both great firms, but for us the decision to partner was more about the prospect of having you and Mark Suster join our team.

When it came time to raise our Series B, it was an easy decision for us to take it from Rincon and GRP. They wanted to own the round, we had a great thing going, the partnership dynamic was working well and they offered up a set of investment terms that were easy to say yes to. Plus, raising money and adding new investors can be a distraction. It was nice to avoid that and put the energy into growing the business.

JG: Besides RingRevenue, what other emerging, online marketing tools and technologies will define users’ Internet experience during the coming decade?

RD: Mobile, social and video are changing consumer behavior and advertising as we know it. While the older generation may still not get things like Twitter and still wonders why a person wants to be connected to everything and everyone all the time, the younger generation is growing up in a world that revolves around it. We’re going to continue to see a lot of innovation in these areas.

The more fascinating thing to me, though, is how agile development and cloud computing are influencing how these technologies are brought to market. Through companies like RightScale, we can deploy a new server or 10 of them in five minutes and only pay for the capacity we use. That’s huge.

Up until a few years ago, most software companies used the “waterfall” method of development that required lots of documentation (detailed marketing requirements specifications, functional and design specifications, etc.) and long project release cycles measured in months or years. Agile development is much more customer driven and focused on getting useful software in the hands of consumers quickly and iterating on that with them to make it better.

It’s that process that’s leading to more rapid innovation and will drive the new technologies and tool sets that marketers use to drive their businesses over the next 10 years.

JG: A handful of uniformed people from the Bay Area and beyond still believe that you cannot build a world-class tech company in Santa Barbara, despite our numerous successes over the past 15 years. What are your thoughts regarding Santa Barbara’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and what special accommodations, if any, have you made to keep RingRevenue in Paradise?

RD: Good ideas, great people and access to capital are key to any thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. We’ve got tons of young talent emerging from UCSB and we’ve got a very supportive community of successful entrepreneurs and investors.

The weather is perfect, it’s a tight collaborative and smart community, it’s a great place to raise kids, and many of us can walk, bike and even skateboard to work. It is a very desirable place for people to live and work.

Other than selecting a downtown office location on State Street that lets our employees take full advantage of all that Santa Barbara has to offer and putting a bike rack in the office, I can’t think of any special accommodations we’ve had to make to grow the business here.

JG: The economy sucks, but you guys are killing it month after month. What positions are you recruiting for and how can would-be employees, publishers and advertisers get in touch with your company?

RD: We’re always hiring great people. We’re actively recruiting for the following positions: VP of marketing, director of finance, account management, and as we expand into the UK, we’ll be hiring for business development and account management positions there as well. You can check out our jobs page for more details and the latest job postings.

If you’re an ad network, agency, advertiser or and you want more phone calls or you’re a publisher who knows how to generate calls, we’d love to talk to you. There’s lots more info including videos, case studies and more at Click on Get Started to get into touch with us. Or if you prefer the phone, we can be reached at 888.675.2007.

Liftoff: Rapid-Fire Answers to Various Irrelevant Questions

» Jobs or Zuckerberg? “Zuckerberg. I use Apple products as a tool to get things done and they are great, but Facebook is a more emotional experience each and every time I log on.”

» Scuba or skydiving? “Loved them both, but wouldn’t go skydiving again.”

» Tom Brady or Michael Vick? “Brady.”

» Batman or Superman? “Batman. He doesn’t need ‘super powers’ to get his work done and when he’s not working (fighting crime) he’s a billionaire playboy.”

» Deaf or blind? “Deaf. I’d learn to read lips.”

Full disclosure: I am on RingRevenue’s board of directors, representing Rincon Venture Partners’ investment. I conducted this interview because I have known the RingRevenue founders for nearly 10 years and I am genuinely excited about their mission.

John Greathouse has held a number of senior executive positions with successful high-tech startups, including Computer Motion, Expertcity and CallWave. An angel investor, he is a partner at Rincon Venture Partners and is a co-founder of RevUpNet. He is a member of the UCSB’s Technology Management Program faculty and teaches courses on New Venture Creation, Entrepreneurial Leadership and Entrepreneurial Selling.