Wildfire founder star draw at summit
A young New Zealander who this year sold her company to Google for over $300 million was the afternoon’s star draw at today’s Web Summit.
Victoria Ransom, co-founder of social marketing company Wildfire told a packed auditorium how her company went from six employees in 2010 to the multi-million dollar deal in just two years.
“It’s a fairly common story for entrepreneurs, Wildfire came from our own need,” explained Ransom. Wanting to use Facebook’s fan pages to promote her adventure travel business, she realised she needed to develop an app to do so.
“We thought that was kind of a barrier to entry, I bet other companies will have that problem.”
Using LinkedIn and informal networks to attract early customers, the company extended into offering more social media marketing services, winning Pepsi, Unilever and Sony as clients.
Ransom credits the viral nature of the product with its success.
“Any time someone published a campaign via Wildfire, there was ‘powered by Wildfire’ at the bottom. Thousands of people might be engaging with that campaign and they’d click through and use the product as well.”
“We also built a sizable sales team and that was really a significant part of our success.”
Profitable in the first year and growing Wildfire to 400 employees in two years, Ransom said she had to make a concerted effort to preserve the company’s culture.
“You can come up with as many cultural values and mission statements, but at the end of the day, it’s the people in the company that make the culture.
“We were vigilant about who we hired…It was a fun place, a passionate place. We didn’t hire people with egos.”
Selling to Google earlier this year, Ransom said, “I really feel good about the decision we made. I don’t think there was a better acquirer in our space than Google.”
With her company now a division of the global giant, she said she was now, “figuring out that we need to be careful not to hold on too tightly.”
“We are a part of Google now and a part of our success will depend on us leveraging the power of Google. If we tried to stay really isolated and said ‘don’t touch us, don’t change us’, we’re not setting ourselves up for success.”
“A lot of acquisitions go south where there is not that cultural fit.”