The Startup Mantra: Just Ask

Tom Coburn, CEO of data and insights startup Jebbit, is used to getting a lot of attention. He’s already been named to Forbes “30 Under 30” and Boston’s “25 Under 25.” And after listening to him for a few minutes, you’ll understand why.

February 6, 2020

 

Tom Coburn, CEO of data and insights startup Jebbit, is used to getting a lot of attention. He’s already been named to Forbes “30 Under 30” and Boston’s “25 Under 25.” And after listening to him for a few minutes, you’ll understand why.

Jebbit is “the world’s first declared data platform.” It lets brands create interactive experiences which transparently collect data directly from consumers about their intentions, motivations, and preferences.

Everyone benefits, Coburn explains to John Battelle in this month’s Startup Spotlight. Ordinary people engage with an interactive experience that saves them time or gives them advice. Data is collected as part of the process, but the consumer would never call this a survey.

Businesses win, too. Marketers don’t have to rely on untrustworthy third-party data they don’t own and cannot analyze or correlate.

Coburn’s practice, in both the business and his own startup and networking skills, is to just ask. Everything he does is based on asking people to share information they want to share. That’s the Jebbit business model: “Just interact with customers and ask them.”

But that practice applies equally well for starting a business. “Take the time to learn the customers’ challenges,” he learned. Ask corporate execs, “What would we need to do to get you to spend 10 times the money on us?” They’re happy to tell you, he discovered. And it’s not just a sales technique; as Jebbit grew from a handful of people to 60 employees, he asked a lot of CEOs to have a cup of coffee – and then gained insights on what  he ought to be doing.

Just ask people. How simple.