Startup Q&A with Sonar Founder, Brett Martin

Last month, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Brett Martin, CEO of the hot geo-based mobile application Sonar. Take a look at our conversation, as we dive into several topics including:  becoming an entrepreneur in the New York City startup scene, hiring for a startup, and experiences along the journey…

What has been your experience as a startup in New York City? What are some of the great things about it, and what are some of the challenges?

Every day is a new challenge. As a startup, you start from scratch where nothing exists, and everything needs to be looked after and fixed daily. New York is an amazing place with a small community where everyone is very supportive, and you can get advice from anyone. Sometimes the beginning of the startup process can feel isolating, but here in NY…there’s a whole community doing the same thing. Everyone is in it together.

What was the transition like coming out of the incubator?

Sonar was started out of the incubator, Appfund, which I helped set up. When we got off the ground and got funded by a west coast VC, that’s when Sonar became its own company. Today we are still tightly connected to the incubator, and share an office with another company that’s also part of Appfund. It’s a collaborative environment and Sonar is tuned in with “sharing the knowledge.” We occasionally pull people out from other teams to help get stuff done.

Mayor Bloomberg is proactively trying to make NYC the biggest tech hub. Have you seen any changes yet from your perspective?

The NY startup scene is not this “top-down” mandate from the government wanting a bigger startup scene. Quite the opposite – it emerged organically, because New York City is a perfect petri dish for mobile innovation. The high density of users–everyone’s on their cell phones, everyone’s trying to find stuff, and your friends are almost always nearby–that’s why Foursquare works, and Gilt Groupe works because all the fashion companies are here, and Etsy because there’s a cool DIY culture. So I wouldn’t say the startup scene is taking cues from the government, but the government is wisely looking and seeing what’s happening, then doing their best to accelerate and facilitate it.

It seems like you’ve had the entrepreneurial spirit for a long time. At what age did you start thinking about becoming an entrepreneur?

For me it was pretty early. Growing up in Ocean City Maryland off the beach, I would sell sea shells to my sister at a high cost to earn a few bucks. I always liked the idea of side hustles, and seeing the opportunity to make a quick buck and then capitalizing on it. Building companies has a much longer term view. Over the next few years, everyone is going to become increasingly networked with everyone else around them. We’re going to be socially networked just on the basis of proximity and location. That’s all Sonar is…this is how we’re going to position ourselves to take advantage of it.

I see that you were very active in sports in high school and led your teams as captain…would you say that being involved in sports was a major catalyst for your drive today?

Absolutely, but I think it’s the teamwork part of it that can’t be underestimated. Some people can come into the workforce without experience in a coordinated disciplined effort. Like we are all going to get to practice on time and run laps… because if you’re not there, the rest of the team can’t get started practicing. Similar to people who are only used to working individually–they don’t understand the need to follow a time table, because they have little experience with someone counting on it. But in a startup, everyone counts on everyone else, and if any one person stops, then everything falls apart. Understanding the need for and the power of teamwork is probably the biggest gift sports gave to me.

Who has been your role model to help guide you in the startup process?

I always wished I had a mentor or a role model, but my dad was an entrepreneur always building his own things. For me, it was more of solving my own problems…I just wanted to connect with people where ever I go, and Sonar is the tool that helps you do just that.

At the NYU Startup Week Panel, you mentioned that when you look at someone’s resume, you look to see if they’ve developed anything on their own. Aside from that, what is the biggest hiring attribute you look for: a hard skill or a soft skill, to hire in a startup?

Do they care about my startup? Are they interested in it? Have they downloaded and tried the app before walking into the door?  Are they self-starters? Have they already come up with ideas for what they’re going to do here?  I’m not in here in the business of telling people what to do….everyone I hire needs to be able to figure it out, what they need to do to make the product better. I am hiring them to figure out the problem, not just to do the work. Everyone is doing their best, so if I pull someone in, I expect them to make it better than what we’ve done by ourselves. The ability to come in with ideas and a plan for what you’re going to do the moment you walk through the door–that’s what you need to be successful at a startup. Big companies already have the processes in place and only need the human capital.  Startups don’t have any processes, so there’s nothing in place to ensure there’s a uniform output and no system to make sure they got it done. I look for people that will build their own processes to help themselves excel.

Your career page on your website is very unique and different from the standard job page, listing all its perks, focusing on company culture. Is the company culture something that evolved naturally?

We thought, “what would the person we would love to hire like?” Then we thought about some of the cool things we’d want to do and just threw them all up on the site. So it’s basically a reflection of what the team thought was cool and what we thought would interest people that we’d like to work with. It’s more like a wish list: if you come here, we’ll give you all of this.

The word “entrepreneur,” sounds like a very lonely word every time I hear it. After my talk with Brett, I realized just how much deeper it can be interpreted, based from his experiences. An entrepreneur intertwines their ideas within the startup community to help develop better processes…then hires the right people who can execute the idea beyond the entrepreneur’s wildest expectations. In the end, it all comes down to teamwork, dedication, and communication for a startup to persevere.

 

Brett Martin is the Co-Founder and CEO of Sonar. Prior to founding Sonar, Brett conceived of and built game-changing mobile technology companies as the Director of K2 Media in NYC. Prior to K2, he and a college friend moved to Austin, taught themselves how to code, and built the Data Owl, the world’s first automated social media monitoring service for small businesses. Before that, he researched start-ups as a Fulbright Fellow in Milano, Italia.

In his previous lives, Brett has worked at VBS.tv as an Internet marketing associate and on Wall Street as an equity research associate. Other things he is proud of include getting published by Harvard Business, founding a rock band, starting a non-profit, earning a B.A. in economics from Dartmouth College, and sailing thousands of miles from Maine to Dominica in a 30ft ketch.

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Regional Sales Director – NYC Area

Whiting Consulting is searching for multiple Regional Sales Directors to be based on the New York City area. Our client is looking for these dynamic Regional Sales Directors to join a high impact team that is on a relentless mission to revolutionize online recruitment advertising. These positions will report to the Vice President of Sales.

Our client’s sales team develops affiliate relationships with local media and advertising companies by providing them with technology, products and tools to grow their business and become more competitive in their local markets. They are in need of professional, creative and hardworking sales directors to help them sign-up additional partners and maintain the level of personal service they demand of themselves for our partners.

The director will develop strategies for his/her territory and work together with the company’s Affiliate Development function in order to maximize resources and sales impact in the region. Key to the success of this position is maintaining the unique values and culture of our client’s organization.

The ideal candidate will have proven experience with sales management and possess a demonstrable process-driven approach to developing his/her own sales pipeline while embracing compliance of established sales management processes. The candidate must thrive in a start-up environment and embrace navigating through constant change productively. Building a business requires the ability to patiently pursue the bigger opportunities, while still delivering on stretch short-term goals.

Responsibilities

  • Build and develop a territory establishing for our client and their affiliate partners in their specific locations.
  • Analyze local markets and formulate sales strategy.
  • Together with our client’s Marketing department, identify local companies that have the highest potential to partner with our clients.
  • Contact prospective trade publications and sign partnership agreements that will drive revenue and result in local dominance.
  • Maintain relationships with local affiliates to ensure their success and introduce new products.
  • Grow sales in the region, meet sales quota and manage priorities per the company’s strategic plan.
  • Identify and pursue strategic partners that are headquartered in the territory.
  • Manage an annual budget plan on a monthly basis.
  • Maintain an up to date pipeline, activity and contact information in our client’s Sales Force Automation System (Salesforce.com).
  • Work closely with Affiliate Development and Marketing departments in order to advance and support sales activities.
  • Provide feedback to Product Development with regard to affiliate experience with the product/service.

Requirements

  • At least 5 years of sales experience in Internet/Software sector (preferably in media technology/internet advertising).
  • Experience is selling to “C” level decision makers.
  • Experience is territory sales management and strategic selling.
  • Experience in funnel management and selling process.
  • Demonstrated success working with Regional Channel/Affiliate Partners (a plus).
  • Experience in recruitment advertising or HR related product sales (a plus).
  • Ability to work independently and provide timely and accurate status via established management reporting processes.
  • BA Degree.

Apply by sending your resume to resumes@whitingconsulting.com.

Whiting Consulting is a recruiting firm specializing in placing highly-qualified candidates for: Executive-Level Roles, Marketing / Sales Engineering / Inside Sales, Product Management / Product Marketing, Software Development & Engineering / QA, Implementation Consultants, Production Support, and High-Tech Public Relations.

Director of Marketing (New York, New York)

Whiting Consulting is searching for a stellar Director of Marketing to join our client’s high-impact team, which is on a relentless mission to revolutionize online recruitment advertising. This position offers the opportunity to make tangible, highly-visible contributions to their success and will report directly to the company’s CEO. If you are a passionate marketing professional who relishes crafting value propositions, competitively and efficiently positioning products/services, and amplifying an organization’s awareness in the marketplace, then we want you to join their team! The Director of Marketing will develop impactful marketing strategies and tools, in context of the four-P’s, in order to drive measurable business impact for our client and their network affiliates.

The candidate must be able to demonstrate:

  • The ability to develop marketing strategies across the four-Ps.
  • Entrepreneurship, resourcefulness, and creativity in achieving objectives.
  • Leadership and self-organization skills in developing, organizing, and executing objectives.
  • Stellar written and verbal communication skills.
  • Fact-based, premise-building supported by strong analytical ability that embraces data.
  • In-depth sales and marketing techniques with ROI clarity.
  • The ability to communicate cross-functionally with the executive team, management peers, and internal and external customers.
  • Accountability through performance metrics and process efficiency.

 

Responsibilities

  • Serve as a key member of the executive team and help set the company’s strategic direction.
  • Spearhead global marketing initiatives that are consistent with the company’s overall strategy.
  • Manage contract negotiation with marketing-related vendors.
  • Manage the company’s marketing communications strategy and plan, including PR, newsletters, etc.
  • Plan and oversee advertising and promotion activities.
  • Coordinate market research and adjust marketing strategy to meet landscape and competitive conditions.
  • Monitor industry and competitor developments monthly in a structured analytical manner.
  • Establish and maintain a consistent corporate image and brand throughout product, promotional materials, events, and corporate website.
  • Develop marketing tools/collateral for the New Business Sales team.
  • Develop marketing tools/collateral for the Affiliate Development team.
  • Ensure effective control of marketing results, and take corrective action to manage the achievement of marketing objectives within budget.
  • Develop and manage the marketing department’s operating budget.
  • Identify and facilitate appropriate trade association relationships and trade shows at which to promote the company.
  • Establish and maintain relationships with industry influencers and key strategic partners.
  • Prepare and deliver periodic marketing update reports in an executive team setting.

 

Requirements

  • Bachelor’s Degree, preferably in Marketing or Business, with a minimum of five (5) years of related experience managing a Marketing function.
  • Experience with and interest in strategic marketing communications is a must.
  • Previous marketing experience in an Internet and/or software context.
  • Deep understanding of the online space.
  • Experience with Internet delivered services or products.
  • Experience with social marketing.
  • Experience with sales automation and analytics tools.
  • Understanding of online advertising.
  • Understanding of the recruitment advertising and or HR space a plus.
  • Experience with Ad Tech, Ad Network, and/or Digital departments of Traditional media entities a plus.
  • Experience in working in a startup environment a double plus. The candidate must thrive in a start-up environment and embrace navigating through constant change productively.
  • The individual should possess a demonstrable, process-driven approach to developing his/her own marketing management process, taking into account the organization’s priorities and proactively reaching for stretch goals.

When applying for a position, send your resume electronically (in Microsoft Word format) to resumes@whitingconsulting.com.

 

Please ensure to note the position name in the subject line of your e-mail.

Financial Controller (New York, New York)

Our client, a high-growth enterprise software company in downtown NYC seeks a hands-on Controller who will excel under pressure, consistently meet deadlines and ensure a high degree of efficiency, organization and accuracy. Must have 10+ years relevant experience in a similar environment. Should have a willingness to learn, a flexible approach, and the ability to multi-task and prioritize. Global experience a plus.

Responsibilities

  • Provide monthly financial statement reporting and analysis, cash flow analysis, budgeting and forecasting
  • Manage accounts payable, receivable, budgeting, planning, financial reporting and general ledger activities
  • Ensure accounting records are in accordance with GAAP and corporate policy
  • Prepare monthly tax payments and reports for North American operation
  • Keep transfer pricing documentation current
  • Manage audit process with external auditors and tax professionals
  • Manage special projects assigned by upper management
  • Manage Finance and Administration team members
  •  

    Required Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in Accounting or Finance
  • 10+ years of general accounting management
  • Strong analytical and technical accounting skills
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Strong time management and organizational skills
  • Excel, Word, PowerPoint proficiency
  • Required Qualifications

  • Knowledge of finance or software industry
  • International experience
  • External audit experience
  • IFRS knowledge
  • CPA
  •  

    Apply by sending your resume to resumes@whitingconsulting.com.

     

    Product Manager (New York, New York)

    Whiting Consulting is searching for a Product Manager for our client in the New York City area. As a product manager, you will build products from existing and new ideas, helping develop new concepts based on your industry experience and your contact with customers and prospects. You must possess a unique blend of business and technical savvy; a big-picture vision and the drive to make that vision a reality are essential. You must enjoy spending time with customers to understand their problems and find innovative solutions for the broader market. You must be able to communicate with all areas of the company. You will work with engineering counterparts to define in details the product release requirements. You will work with marketing, helping them with product positioning, key benefits, competitive analysis and target customer profiles. It’s important that you will serve as the internal and external evangelist for your product offering, advocating for the product in social media, speaking at conferences, and occasionally working with the sales team and key customers.

    RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Specifying market requirements for current and future products by conducting market research.
  • Driving a solution set across development teams (primarily Engineering, Marketing, and Sales) through market requirements.
  • Review engineering deliverables; represent Product Management team in product design reviews.
  • Managing core aspects of the product life cycle from strategic planning to tactical activities.
  • Working with an experienced Product Management team to plan the product’s roadmap, execute product launch activities and follow up on existing product releases with the field.
  •  

    REQUIREMENTS

  • Three-plus (3+) years of enterprise software marketing/product management experience.
  • Knowledgeable in technology. Domain expertise: enterprise architecture, application servers, Web servers, message buses, and databases.
  • Very good verbal and writing communication skills. Experience in blogging and social media participation is a plus.
  • Computer Science or Engineering degree or work experience. MBA is a plus.
  • This position requires travel to customer and non-customer sites in North America, Europe, and Israel.
  •  

    Apply by sending your resume to resumes@whitingconsulting.com.

    Marcom Manager (New York, New York)

    Whiting Consulting is seeking for a highly-motivated Marcom Manager for our client in the New York City area. This individual will report to VP of Marketing and will be responsible for running day-to-day marketing communication activities including PR, AR, Social media, Events management and more.

    Responsibilities

  • Develop and execute marketing communication programs to drive awareness, support demand generation and assist sales in closing deals.
  • Provide initiative, creativity and content for marketing collateral, including sales tools, product presentations, product demos, white papers and blog posts.
  • Manage the company’s social media profiles to collect data and feedback from the marketplace while generating leads, increasing organic traffic and establishing thought leadership positioning for Company.
  • Full responsibility on the Company’s website including content development, management of 3rd party designers, implementation of SEO practices, tracking and measuring success and producing periodic analytic reports.
  • Develop tradeshow strategies and execute from concept to completion.
  • Keep up-to-date on technology trends, developments & best practices.
  • Requirements

  • At least 3 years experience in Marcom for high-tech companies, with experience in planning and executing Marcom strategies.
  • Preferred: at least 2 year-experience in an internet services company.
  • Bachelor’s degree in business, marketing, or technical field, or equivalent work experience…
  • Outstanding written and oral communications skills.
  • Demonstrated delivery of world-class materials – collateral, presentations, advertising, etc..
  • High level of creativity and initiative.
  • Strong graphical sense and knowledge of mainstream graphic/web programs (Photoshop, Flash, etc.)
  • Preferred: experience in e-commerce.
  • Apply by sending your resume to resumes@whitingconsulting.com.

    Business Development and Channel Director (New York, New York)

    Whiting Consulting is searching for a high-energy, aggressive, results-oriented, and over-achieving individual to join our Business Development team as Business Development and Channel Director. The key responsibility for this position is driving new revenues and increased sales through the company’s existing SI and channel partners as well as identifying and signing addition channel and partner relationships.

    Duties and Responsibilities

  • Responsible for developing the strategy and execution of our channel partnership program focused on financial and insurance sector.
  • Maximize revenue by effectively recruiting new channels and managing the channel account relationship process.
  • Conduct needs analysis to understand client’s business objectives.
  • Create detailed channel account plans, potentially including: customer overview, business objectives, strategies, competitive situation, SWOT analysis, identify top opportunities, and able to initiate executive involvement when required.
  • Establish strong relationships with key channels, SI and consultant partners.
  • Creating and executing partner enablement plans.
  • Working closely with partner field organization to drive partner leads, qualified joint opportunities, and deals.
  • Presentations and meeting with customers together with partners sales teams.
  • Attaining an annual quota of qualified opportunities, successful POVs (Proof of Value), and revenue via partners.
  • Integrate into partner sponsored customer and partner sales events, training, sales meetings, etc.
  • Training to Company sales organization on working with the resell partner on opportunities.
  • Ability to work independently.
  • Essential Education, Experience and Skills

  • Require minimum 5 years of industry experience.
  • Comfortable negotiating multi-million deals, managing a complex sales process involving multiple stakeholders.
  • History working for a start-ups.
  • Proficient at building relationships and partnerships with senior level executives.
  • Experience identifying/initiating/developing partnerships and alliances with resellers, system integrators or solution providers in the financial services industry.
  • Experience in driving revenues through channel partners.
  • Successful experience creating strong pipeline together with Global SIs.
  • Exceptional presentation and interpersonal skills; Excellent relationship-building ability..
  • Familiar with the IT management, performance management, Application Management space.
  • Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Eng. or related fields, MBA a plus.
  • Profound experience and relationships with Financial service providers and Financial vertical in the Global SIs.
  • Advantage for previous experience with: Accenture, Cap Gemini, FIServ, FIS Global, Jack Henry, S1, Open Solutions.
  • Apply by sending your resume to resumes@whitingconsulting.com.

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