This week we had the chance to sit down and talk with one of our BASES alumni – Adam Marchick. He has had a rich career, starting his own company Kahuna, and serves as a great inspiration to the rest of BASES. See the full interview below!
Can we have a quick introduction?
I was born and raised in Palo Alto and graduated Stanford as a CS major in 2002. During school I was a part of BASES, where my team was in charge or running the E-Challenge and Social E-Challenge program. After college, I joined Oracle as a programmer, then worked at a VC, attended Stanford Graduate School of Business, worked in Bangalore, India, running a sales team, then worked in the product/growth team at Facebook. I also started a non-profit called Glow Foundation, which supports financial literacy for over 15,000 kids.
Thereafter I started Kahuna, a mobile marketing automation company that helps increase revenue. Mobile applications are taking over the world, and as a result web companies are getting disrupted by mobile applications. It was interesting to see that companies had 30 people focused on sending emails but none of them really focused on push messages. When you get messages you like, you expect a 30% expect rate compared to 1-2% response rate with random marketing. The idea is to send one good message rather than 10 generic messages.
How did BASES help you get into the world of start-ups?
I started off as a freshman in the E-challenge team. We had a great mentor, Othman Loraki, who guided us along the way. Through him, I learned how great getting mentored was. Within 3 months, I was sitting and watching people pitch to VCs and also hearing how VCs evaluate companies. It was an opportunity to help me dream bigger. Later, I entered E-Challenge because it was an unbelievably low-risk way of getting a ton of experience. We pitched to Sequioa, but didn’t get any funding because they already invested in a company who was in the same space. It’s a small world – 12 years and five companies later, Kahuna is funded by Sequoia!
Did your view of the startup culture and Silicon Valley change as you moved from joining a startup, working at various companies as an engineer, working as a venture capitalist and finally landing at Kahuna?
My view totally changed. In terms of thinking of VCs, when I was a developer at Oracle, I thought all VCs were the same. When I started working at a VC firm, however, I realized venture capital is actually an industry, rather than one firm.
It was also interesting to see how every company was different, fundamentally in terms of each of its culture. For example, Oracle is a sales driven culture while Facebook is an engineer driven culture – they operate very differently. So when creating Kahuna, I strive to have a balanced company, valuing both sales and engineering.
A lot of the advice I would give stems from what I saw in BASES. First thing: the biggest determinant of success is believing in a person when he/she takes responsibility and says “I’ll do it”. When you find someone for whom when they say it will get done, you have 100% confidence it will happen, you have an A+ team member. What’s most important is perseverance, follow through, and driving towards completion.
If you are thinking of starting a company, focus on a problem that you are passionate about, and get conviction – i.e. be proud of your 30 second pitch. Your conviction, your understanding and your passion will come through when recruiting people and good people will come through the good work. So you need to stick through and fuel your idea.
Lastly, you don’t have to wait for your career. If you see something, take initiative and follow through.