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Datto Veteran Ian McChord Launches Collective Intelligence

Datto veteran Ian McChord has launched Collective Intelligence, a software company that enables marketing departments globally to create product content in real time.

McChord previously was VP of product management at Datto, the MSP-focused technology company that Vista Equity Partners acquired in October 2017. He exited that business in October 2018, and recently re-emerged to launch Collective Intelligence.

So what inspired the launch, and how exactly will the company help marketing teams to create product content in real time?

McChord answers those questions and more in this ChannelE2E interview.

ChannelE2E: What inspired Collective Intelligence’s launch?

Zorus CEO Ian McChord
LinkedIn: Collective Intelligence CEO Ian McChord

McChord: Leading the product management team at Datto taught me so much about the power of collective. When I say that, I mean just how much a group can do compared to one person. Product managers are like aggregators in the company. They take ideas from customers, executives, competitors and the market to then create a roadmap which is built by a group of engineers. Nothing in product management is solo and to be honest that's what makes it so powerful.

The only part of the process that didn’t feel collaborative is the final part. Marketing. Now I believe Datto has the best marketing team on the planet but even with that I always felt products were marketed and sold from a singular perspective.

As I researched this challenge I realized it wasn’t Datto but instead the market and industry as a whole. Product and company content across the board is usually written by content marketers. These content marketers reach out to customers and the organization but it’s typically one to one meetings. There is a no great tool for marketing to go one to many to collect feedback, ideas and content from the entire organization. That’s the problem we are trying to solve.

ChannelE2E: This is more than a channel play. Who are your target customers?

McChord: For us the saying “the more the merrier” is gospel. Our product works best with a bigger pool of contributors. While I do believe small businesses can gain value from our product I know that the amount of voices matter. I see small to medium enterprise as a sweet spot for us but as any business owner knows that can change as time goes on.

ChannelE2E: Is the business a consultancy, some sort of SaaS tool(s), both, neither?

McChord: We’re a SaaS tool that looks to plug into existing workflows and tools. Our goal is to fit seamlessly into marketing and provide them with new content without taking their precious time or distracting them.

ChannelE2E: You vow that customers can create real-time marketing materials -- using the power of their employees – in real-time. Can you give us a simple example of how that’s done?

McChord: Absolutely, imagine asking your employees “What’s one thing you wish all of our customers knew?” As executives we often view the company and products in one way which means we can benefit from another perspective.

Departments like sales have a strong understanding of what matters to customers. There is a good chance they have tried a new angle to your services that hits home with their prospects. Do you know what that angle is? Can you collect that now?

Support, on the other hand, talks to customers everyday and while they focus on helping customers’ problems they also see how customers use the product/service. They see problems that use to come up everyday get fixed and don’t see that instance anymore. A black spot to your offering has now maybe become a shining star. All these cases are common but their incorporation in marketing materials currently is rare. After you collect the data then what?

It would be simple to send a survey to employees but the data you collect needs a filter and way to organize it. We’ve built a quadrant structure that the data lives in and can be used. The two axis on the quadrant are actionable and insightful. All responses are rated by these metrics to give marketing the content it needs for the different materials they are creating. An example is when you want to create a thought leadership piece you would use feedback high on the insightful side or in contrast if you are building web content for your public facing site then you would want to shade more to actionable feedback that explains the value you currently bring.

This process isn’t impossible to do without a tool but it’s much more time consuming. That's the basis for why we describe it as real time because you can turn around a success story or new idea in hours or days instead of weeks or months.

ChannelE2E: How are you funding the business? Boot-strapped? Any outside or seed money?Also, what are your key business priorities for the next three months -- and for the second half of 2019?

McChord: Like Datto, Collective Intelligence is starting boot-strapped. Let’s be honest, investors can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Early on at a company your vision needs to be precise and too many cooks in the kitchen can cloud that vision. While I do think investors are critical to a fast growing company I believe bringing them on later when your vision is established helps both parties. We are in beta now and launching in the next few months so the goal is to get the product out and start providing value to customers. After that you get in listen mode and incorporate feedback to tailor the solution. Beyond that is to expand and keep building.

ChannelE2E: Any other key items you wanted to cover while I have your ear?

McChord: Recognition is a struggle at many companies. A common complaint is that employees feel pigeonholed and their feedback is not heard. I think future companies will look at employees as more than filling a role and use their skills in new and challenging ways. Tools like this are in my mind a win-win because while you get new content the employees also get a chance to help the team in a new way. Give your employees a new voice and you may be surprised how much value they can bring to your company. If I was to look into the future I would imagine we see more tools that use the power of collective.

I appreciate the time and if anyone reading this has feedback or questions they can reach me directly at [email protected].

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.