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Silversmith Founder Spotlight: Per Pettersen, Founder & Executive Chairman, impact.comRead More Here
Silversmith Founder Spotlight: Per Pettersen, Founder & Executive Chairman, impact.com
Silversmith invested in impact.com in 2016, and has helped the platform grow from approximately $20 million of revenue to over $125 million of revenue today
impact.com, a partnership management platform, is focused on transforming the way businesses manage and optimize partnerships—including traditional rewards affiliates, influencers, commerce content publishers, B2B, and more. The company’s powerful, purpose-built platform makes it easy for businesses to create, manage, and scale an ecosystem of partnerships with the brands and communities that customers trust to make purchases, get information, and entertain themselves at home, at work, or on the go.
Silversmith first partnered with the impact.com team in June 2016 to support the company’s rapid growth. Since then, Jim Quagliaroli, Sri Rao and the Silversmith team have worked with impact.com Founder & Executive Chairman Per Pettersen as the company transitioned from a founder financed company to a founder-led scaled global company in the partnership economy. Over the past six years, impact.com has successfully integrated six (6) acquisitions, surpassed $125 million in ARR, grown its employee base to just under 1,000 worldwide, and closed additional growth investments, including a $150 million round in July 2021 at a $1.5 billion valuation. As impact.com continues on its mission to transform the partnerships ecosystem, Jim sat down with Per to discuss his journey as an entrepreneur, the company, and his vision for the future.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your career, and how you originally came to found impact.com in 2008?
Although impact.com was founded in 2008, my vision for it dates several years prior. I started what became Commission Junction (CJ) in the dorm room at UCSB in 1998 at the same time I was earning my Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and Master of Science in computer engineering. Since CJ’s founding, I have been a parallel / serial entrepreneur as I started the incubator that spun out impact.com.
Because we had great success with Commission Junction and had the opportunity to learn much in the process, we set out to build a better product that gave customers a flexible, nearly ‘customizable’ software experience with the tremendous value of a marketplace model. That strategy positioned us for significant scale and what is today called product-led growth.
Every business venture is about anticipating the market opportunity and then launching a product that evolves at the pace of innovation. One big challenge is timing. I’ve sometimes introduced solutions ahead of market readiness. I’m always learning, which is why my leadership style has shifted from highly entrepreneurial to highly strategic.
What’s a good example of how impact.com can help an enterprise manage its partnerships?
Before diving into how we can help enterprises manage partnerships, it is important to understand the challenges that enterprises face. Typically, they have a challenge driving growth with traditional selling and advertising. The skyrocketing ad prices on the big tech ad platforms are part of the problem, but the reality is brands are finally starting to realize that they should stop interrupting the behavior of people online. Consumers won’t stand for it, which has led to an entire advertising ecosystem being disrupted. Enterprises today should be part of the commercial information that their consumers are seeking, through partnerships with these publishers, creators, and businesses who are in a unique position of trust with their audience and customers to refer business. And if brands can successfully tap into this channel, they will be significantly more relevant in the eyes of their customers.
While partnerships have been around for a long time, they’ve been in ad hoc agreements, ad hoc contracts, and fragmented teams. Now, the rising demand and opportunities for partnerships are creating a problem for them because they don’t have an operationalized, well-oiled machine for scaling a partnerships-led growth engine. They don’t have a way to consolidate and manage everything — to find new partners via a marketplace and leverage a platform that manages the entire lifecycle and is much more streamlined and comprehensive than what they may be used to. We solve this by providing tracking, crediting, and payment processing. We’re processing several billions of dollars in payments this year to partners and have created over a million partnerships today resulting in $70B in annualized sales in the 2021 shopping season.
impact.com is the third time that you have founded a company. You successfully co-founded Commission Junction back in 1998 as one of the first affiliate marketing platforms. What has been the fundamental change in your operational approach from Commission Junction to impact.com?
I was in my twenties when we launched Commission Junction. Even in those early years, I understood that technology products and marketplaces would fuel significant growth for business customers. But for the business operations to scale, we need a strong base of customers who value what we currently offer, while simultaneously pushing us to level up the product. I’m also a big fan of continually improving our organizational design and operational processes until the business itself is running as optimally as the software.
After successfully leading impact.com for 9 years, you proactively approached me and the Board to say that Dave (Yovanno) should be our next CEO. How hard was that decision—and what specifically led you to such a pivotal moment?
About 5 years ago, I realized the best way for me to continue to lead the vision and strategy for impact.com was to find a strong and experienced GTM focused CEO. Dave is a leader who not only created a lot of momentum for growing our customer base but also worked with the team to develop an organizational structure that enabled us to scale. Ultimately, we’re a market network business model that employs PLG (product-led growth) with an incredibly scaled sales organization. It’s a winning combination that allowed us to achieve growth metrics that few SaaS companies attain.
impact.com was operating in a distributed, global fashion long before the global pandemic. Prior to COVID, the company had hundreds of employees in 10+ offices across 5 continents, and hiring has only accelerated this past year. How was the pandemic altered your approach to management?
We’ve learned that remote works. We can source talent without the imitations of geography which has allowed us to successfully onboard over 300 employees during COVID, for a total of just under 1,000 globally. It’s a big shift for us and how we think about running the business, but we need the best talent as we move to the next phase.
We’ve also seen that remote work can cause burnout at a higher rate. People find it hard to disconnect; the morning commute and drive home are now replaced by meetings and a long workday. It’s a global problem, but when you have high achievers in a situation of being home, and for a long-time being home without anywhere to really go, you see stress and exhaustion on the rise. This doesn’t make for a productive workforce. Without work-life balance, our employees won’t be happy people. Our job as leaders is to set our team up for success - in work and in life - and it’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. So, to help facilitate these needed breaks, we’ve created several global company holidays and a mandatory 2-week break over Christmas and the New Year. Without this, our team may be reluctant to take a vacation for fear of what they’ll return to: a full inbox, delayed projects, Slack full of messages, etc. We want people to take a break with no strings attached in addition to encouraging them to take time off throughout the year.
impact.com just celebrated its fourteenth anniversary. As you look back at how much you have accomplished during this time, what is your vision for the future of the business?
impact.com has established itself as a partner (no pun intended) for anyone that desires to fuel their growth through critical partnerships with enterprises and other businesses that want to diversify from sales and marketing to leverage partnerships and ecosystems as a core strategy for growth as well as a core monetization engine for enterprises and publishers that seek better and more durable ways to monetize their audiences.