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April 8, 2019

Five Questions with… Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt

"It was a total disaster: students went straight to Facebook..."

By CBR Staff Writer

Every Monday morning we fire five questions at a C-suite tech industry interviewee. Today we’re pleased to be joined by Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt.

Biggest Challenge for your Clients?

We work with a really varied mix of businesses, from early stage startups to global giants like IBM and 21st Century Fox. But no matter their industry or size, our customers all share a common challenge: they need a consistent, holistic record of their interactions with their customers.

Segment CEO and co-founder Peter Reinhardt

As we’ve moved into an increasingly digital world, that’s not as easy as it sounds.

The number of potential digital touchpoints and engagement channels is increasing, and the result is massive volumes of inconsistent data in countless legacy tools and siloes. This means that, through nobody’s fault, every company faces a mess of customer data on the one hand and increasingly impatient customers on the other.

We see companies trying to rapidly adapt to this challenge, but the traditional way of capturing and managing customer data—the CRM system—is no longer enough. These legacy systems were built for an era when customer interactions took place offline, with manual data input to summarize a meeting. Today’s interactions with customers are happening across web apps, mobile apps, email, push notifications, ads, phone, and dozens of other channels. The legacy CRM and suite no longer fit the challenge at hand.

That’s where we come in. We are focused on solving this problem in a new way; by providing the infrastructure for customer data that allows companies to regain and centralise control of their own data; a “hive mind” for the customer data within their four walls.

Technology that Excites you Most?

As an aerospace engineer in the internet industry, I’m most excited about SpaceX and Rocket Lab’s breakthroughs on reducing the cost of access to space.

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Why? Because the primary application of space technology is to provide incredible services back here on Earth. Low-cost internet covering the entire globe like Astranis, remote sensing of methane leaks like Bluefield… we’re on the verge of bringing free knowledge like Wikipedia to all of humanity, and understanding our planet and our impact on it better than ever before.

Greatest Success?

Segment has come a long way from a dorm room in 2011. We now help 19,000 companies in 70 countries regain control of their customer data and deliver a better customer experience with that data. But we still have an incredibly long way to go. The vast, vast majority of companies in the world are still working with legacy CRM tools that lead to a subpar customer experience. Our $175M Series D announced last week will help us bring the next generation of customer data infrastructure (and the surrounding ecosystem of 7,000+ customer-tech applications) to the rest of the world.

Worst Failure?

Before Segment, our first idea was to develop a classroom analytics tool that could show professors when students did not fully understand a concept in their lecture, in real time. Our goal was to create a tool that would spur deeper classroom engagement.

We took this idea with us across the country to Y Combinator’s startup program in Summer 2011, and raised $600,000 in funding in hopes of building out our vision. After a few months of hard work, we realized that the idea had no product market fit or potential–it was a total disaster: students opened their laptops and went straight to Facebook rather than engaging. We called back our investors to give them the news, but they urged us to return to the drawing board and try something else. After much deliberation, we settled on our next idea–a powerful data analytics tool–but this, again, completely failed to take off in such a crowded market.

At this point, we had been working on this project for over a year and a half, and had spent $500,000 of our investors’ money with nothing to show for it. So we revisited a few of our older ideas ideas, found a small piece of internal code that ultimately became Segment. Those two years of failure to find product market fit still sting, but ultimately we found a deep-seated problem to solve for businesses everywhere.

In Another Life I’d Be…

An aerospace engineer at JPL working on deep-space missions. Before founding Segment, I studied aerospace engineering at MIT.

See also: 5 Questions with… CEO Julian Ranger

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