Build or Buy? A Scaling Brand’s Million-Dollar Question
One of the great debates in “startup land” is whether you (an early-stage company) should “build or buy” a piece of software.
For Steve Simitzis, former CMO of Wild Earth, this is a question he’s racked his brain to answer (and probably lost sleep over, too).
Having been with the company for over four years, Steve has been the caretaker of all things data at Wild Earth, from joining when there was no access to reliable attribution and retention data to creating running queries and pulling Shopify reports.
And ultimately deciding whether it was Wild Earth’s (a now 9-figure brand) time and money to build their own data solution.
We sat down with Steve to talk about his journey to Wild Earth, the lack of access to quality data, the challenges of balancing the ROI of building a data company within a company against the backdrop of hiring and outsourcing decisions, and more.
Piecemealing spreadsheets together
Wild Earth needed the initial technical infrastructure to know what core levers were driving the company forward.
“When I first got here, there was absolutely nothing from a tech and data perspective,” admits Steve.
“I remember we had this Geckoboard on a flat-screen TV in the office showcasing random sales graphs daily. The CEO would walk past it, notice that numbers were in the green, and shout, ‘It’s a good sales day!’ The next day, he’d see numbers in the red and tell us that we should be concerned about sales being down.”
But Steve knew there was more to the story.
As he dug into the details, he discovered that much of the sales data reflected customer subscriptions, creating a false perception and narrative of how the marketing team performed with sales.
So, Steve set out to hack together a DIY way of pulling data from different sources to understand better how the company was performing and what changes they could make to fuel future growth.
“My first ‘innovation’ at Wild Earth was to take Shopify data, send it into BigQuery, and categorize by first-time customers, new subscriber customers, and recurring customers.”
Looking back, Steve believes that that simple decision changed Wild Earth’s approach to business in many respects, all for the better.
Going forward, it set a standard for how each department used data to make decisions, from finance and operations to brand marketing performance and ad buying.