Found In The Rockies

Sam Fonoimoana (Datajoin) \\ Transforming B2B Sales & Marketing Teams One Micro Integration at a Time

December 07, 2022 Les Craig Season 3 Episode 7
Found In The Rockies
Sam Fonoimoana (Datajoin) \\ Transforming B2B Sales & Marketing Teams One Micro Integration at a Time
Show Notes Transcript

In today’s episode, we have Sam Fonoimoana Sam is the founder and CEO of Datajoin, which is a b2b SaaS company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, that allows enterprise customers to connect their customer behavioral data across their marketing platforms to enable truly full funnel personalization, with Datajoin’s proprietary micro integrations.

Here’s a closer look at the episode:

  • Growing up in a Polynesian family in Hawaii.
  • Moving to Salt Lake City
  • The path that led him down solving data problems.
  • What is mico-integration.
  • Top of funnel focus.
  • Customer data activation and marketing data activation is where the company is now.
  • How Sam’s previous jobs highlighted the problem. 
  • Launching a social media marketing agency with Adobe.
  • Moving from a service to a product. 
  • When COVID dried up the pipeline.
  • How the network is needed to get the round done.
  • Always take the potential investor meeting. 
  • Advice about being a trailblazer in your region.
  • Sam’s message for investors in the region.
  • Exciting things on the horizon.


Datajoin Website:

Sam Linkedin:

Sam Twitter: 

Datajoin LinkedIn:

Datajoin Facebook: 

Sam  00:00

What I would say, you know, it's much easier looking back on it now, I'll say that. Then when you're in the middle, when you're in the middle of it and things aren't going your way, your mind starts playing tricks on the right, you start thinking a lot of different things. But what I would say is that, you know, I didn't have any built-in network, but I didn't know people who know someone like second degree connections, third degree connections. So I would just say leverage every every connection you have, in order to have a connection, though a good connection that is willing to introduce you to someone you needed to provide, you know, value and good work in every job that you're at. And so that's what I would say.

Les  00:45

This is Found in the Rockies, a podcast about the startup ecosystem in the Rocky Mountain region, featuring the founders, funders and contributors, and most importantly, the stories of what they're building. I'm Les Craig from Next Frontier Capital. And on today's show, we have Sam Fonoimoana Sam is the founder and CEO of Datajoin, which is a b2b SaaS company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, that allows enterprise customers to connect their customer behavioral data across their marketing platforms to enable truly full funnel personalization, with Datajoin’s proprietary micro integrations. To start off, Sam, why don't you tell me a little bit about your story, and just kind of where you grew up and what led you to present day?

Sam  01:33

Yeah, sure. So you know, my, my name is a Polynesian name, which you did ab awesome job. Let's say my name is Samoan. My mom is Hawaiian. My dad is Samoan. So I started way back when back in Hawaii, that's where I was born. And that's where most of my family lives today. And yeah, I just grew up in a Polynesian home. I have nine sisters and two brothers. So had a big group always always fun. Fun and fighting. I don't know like those two kind of go hand in hand with there with my siblings. But yeah,

Les  02:07

so fun. Which island Did you grow up on in Hawaii?

Sam  02:13

So I grew up on O’ahu in Lai which is up on the North Shore.

Les  02:18

Oh, yeah. Beautiful area.

Sam  02:21

Best best place on the island. You know.

Les  02:24

It's gorgeous up there. Big Big Surf too. Are you surfer?

Sam  02:29

Yeah. I love the waves.

Les  02:31

Stupid question. Right. I know. I'm sorry. I had to ask it.

Sam  02:35

No, you know I mean, we were living out there for a few years to give give my kids a taste of the island life and I loved it because I was taking my my meetings in the in the beach parking lot, got my board in the back of the truck, and I couldn't help it I had to end some of those meetings early so I can make sure I didn't miss the swell, you know,

Les  02:53

But what a life well, that's incredible. So what what led you I mean, growing up in a big big Polynesian family in Hawaii. I think we're gonna be really curious all of our listeners curious to hear how this story unfolds? Because you you ended up today you're in Salt Lake City, what was the path?

Sam  03:10

So I went to high school in LA we moved from Hawaii to LA when I was eight years old. And you know, from LA to college here in Utah and BYU which is right down the road from us, you know, love my university, even though we're having a little bit struggles on the football field the season. But no, what took me there was you know, I was a Mormon kid growing up in, in, in Southern California. And when you're a Mormon kid going to high school in, in, in LA, in Southern California, like BYU is the place where everyone wants to go to. I remember coming up here for for football camps, you know, and for different conferences like that. And just saying, wow, like, the air is so clean over here. You know, these mountains are or something else. And everyone, everyone's nice to me over here and says hi to me walking down the street. So it was a lot different, you know, a little bit similar to Hawaii in the friendliness, but a lot different than LA where I spent my high school years, right. I was I was really happy when I came up here and started going to school didn't have any idea what I wanted to be. I didn't have any idea, right? Just taking my generals. If you would ask me, if someone asked me what I wanted to be, I would tell them, hey, you know, I want to be a football player. Or I just want to be a businessman because I didn't know what else to say. Right? I didn't really know what I wanted at that point. But taking my classes here at school. I studied entrepreneurship as an undergrad. And I did finance for my MBA program coming back here. And in the midst of, you know, learning about EBITA and debits and credits in my, in those accounting classes. I took a couple of classes, ISIS classes, I took an Excel class on spreadsheets, and another one on VBA. And I remember thinking like, first of all, like, I had no idea what a what a cell was, I remember the first time I opened up a spreadsheet and like, what is what is this I'm looking at here. But once I was done with the class, I was like, wow, this is pretty cool. This is pretty powerful. And then once I was done with the VBA class, I remember thinking, I don't know how but like, I like this idea of being able to automate things and being able to code things up to do a lot more things than I could do on my own. And so I kind of filed it away in the back of my head, saying one day I'll use these principles. So I think that was my early seeds that were planted to go into tech long before I ever worked for a tech company. You know, probably 10 years before. My first tech company.

Les  05:54

Yeah, started the seeds planted at BYU. You know, you're the second BYU grad we've had on the podcast. I don't know if you know, Rilee Buttars, the founder of donde but she was a BYU grad and she ran track at BYU. Yeah, and you so did you play football? Or did you play football at BYU as well? Or?

Sam  06:15

No, you know, I started playing football. My dad showed me and my brother when I was eight years old, the flyer for for tackle football and I was all in. And so I had been playing tackle football since I was eight years old. And I did I did well in Southern California, you know, and I had opportunities to continue playing football, but I don't know if I'm gonna just say I had asthma. I guess I don't like running.

Les  06:40

Altitude. It was altitude. 

Sam  06:44

I was done with if I had to do any more conditioning. But you know what, I'm gonna take my chances with the books. You know, I love you. I'm gonna watch you from from the TV now. Right? So

Les  06:54

Yeah, definitely. And speaking of that, I remember when we first met you, you you joked you do have a you do have a doppelganger in Salt Lake. Is that not true?

Sam  07:04

Well, you know…

Les  07:07

Who is it? Come on? Tell us.

Sam  07:08

I guess. I mean, I was just going through the through the McDonald's drive thru just right there. Next to BYU campus. And yeah. Anyways, I go pick up my food. And then the the person that the worker hands my food said, Hey, I just want you to know I love thank you so much for everything you've done for our football team here Coach Sitake.

Les  07:32

Coach, I could see the resemblance. I mean, for our listeners, they're probably like, what is going on right now? You're a big guy, though. Do you do you do favor coach? So yeah.

Sam  07:41

You know, I played with the I remember playing basketball with Kalani back in the days and the Fieldhouse, but yeah, I took it as a compliment. I didn't tell the the waiter that I wasn't Kalani. Oh, you're welcome. No, that's fine.

Les  07:55

That's awesome. All right. So you graduated you you finished up at BYU? And then kind of what was the path? What was the, you know, what kind of what was the inspiration or kind of early on in your career?

Sam  08:05

I think it's well, I mean, part of it for me is just purely by by chance. Maybe it is definitely in my plans. And let me explain why when I think that, so I started off my first three jobs out of school was export company, you know, exporting leg quarters and cereal to Tahiti, French Polynesia, which is where my wife is from. My second one was working for for turbo shop, you know, mounting turbos on everything from Mustangs to minivans, and then no joke. There's this mom's ready to go on the freeway. Yeah. Wow. And then my third job out of college was working for a scrapbook company. So all of these three companies are a far cry from the, from the world of tech that I am in today. But all of them are is the path that brought me to tech. And like, I'll say that I had that curiosity, of you know, how to automate and use data just from those ISIS classes. And I graduated as a Finance, right from my MBA program. And I remember going into to that company, was in charge of running the budget. And basically talking to marketing at the end of each month, saying, Hey, you told us you're going to generate this, this many new subscribers. And you want to generate this, this many subscribers. Let's talk about like, why why the delta, which that started leading me down this path of data, which, you know, that's our company, today's Datajoin, but that's what led me down the path. So even though I'm working for scrapbooking company, yeah, I was already digging in talking to the BI team, and learning SQL queries, you know, so I can pull a better data. I'm the finance guy who can't get the answer that he's looking for like an answer that that's a good enough answer for me. And so that really started me down even working at the scrapbooking company, when you know, when we got acquired by by another company, then they let the entire finance team go. And I was looking for a job for, you know, one month, two months, three months, four months, five, six months. And, you know, I started started getting really desperate, you know, at that time, and my cousin called me up and he said, Hey, are you uh, are you a statistician? And I said, Yep, I'm a statistician, right?

Les  10:36

Not only am I a statistician, but I'm a scrappy statistician who used to work at scrapbooking company. I mean, you were, you're really hacking some stuff together, right? You were scrappy. You're scrappy. You're that kind of guy like you're you get it done.

Sam  10:50

Yeah, true. True Grit. You know, I was like the movie The name because I like to fancy myself like that I will find a way. And they're not necessarily the flashiest guy. But yeah, I can Google better than then than anyone else. I'll say that right? How to figure something out.

Les  11:10

You don't say I'm speaking of speaking of you, your name you and Googling. Actually, if you Google micro integrations, and I challenge all of our listeners to try this out, like you're one of the first names that pops, like did you coin that? Or like how did how did you get the SEO on? Like micro integrations? Like, I don't know, did you trademark it? Or coin it? Or like, what? Where did where did you come up with that?

Sam  11:33

Yeah, so this is, this is something that we came up with no one else was really using it. This is probably two years ago now that we came up with this term. And I said, You know what, like, everyone hates integrations. Because when they think about them, they get the blood pressure goes up, right? It's gonna take a long time to get the integrations done, but not us. Like, we're micro integrations, like we can come in and out. And we'll just we'll get this thing done in like, two days, right? Once we get access to the systems, we'll be in and out. So yeah, I mean, we looked into a trademark lawyer. And, you know, they said, hey, it's gonna be hard, tough to trademark that term. But the next best thing you can do, like you guys are the only ones out there. So just keep just keep term everywhere. And so that's, that's our term. Yeah. I still don't know if a lot of people know about it. But that's what we're trying to change.

Les  12:25

It's funny since we've met, and I met Sam, over the summer, so about six, six months ago or so. But I've been using it all the time, because it is so descriptive of what you do. And could you kind of maybe talk us through that a little bit, just kind of, what are we when you say micro integration? What do you mean, like, what's a nuts and bolts kind of example of what you do?

Sam  12:46

Sure. So I think for a typical integration, like if, if you were to buy MuleSoft, that used MuleSoft, quite a bit. That's, that's a big system where you can, it's like earthmoving system, right, you can move tons of data from one system to another, as long as you want to, as long as you have the time and the skill to be able to code it up, right in which that, that is a high learning curve, right to be able to use that system. So for us, we're like, you know, what marketers need the data, right? More than anyone else. They're the biggest consumers of data, you know, for these large enterprises. And they need data, you know, we argue more than any other team that's inside the company. And so what we're doing is we're making it very simple for a marketer to just pick any two systems. So we take two systems at a time. And we have a very select group of use cases for them, right? Like, for example, I want to be able to measure my Salesforce opportunities, the number of Salesforce opportunities, but inside of my web analytics platform, right? That would be one use case, we have a micro integration that sends Salesforce opportunities back into your web analytics platform tied at the visitor level. So then you can do you know, full campaign tracking, not just to, like a form, fill on your website, but past the website and into Salesforce, and say, Hey, this campaign drove this many form fields, and also this many opportunities, which is beautiful for like an attribution, or you could walk into a stakeholder meeting with that, like, that's exactly what you need if you're a marketer, right? So that would be an example of macro integration, just taking specific data from one system to the other. We're not trying to move every piece of data. So the earth moving solution, like MuleSoft, but very specific, but very powerful data points for marketers,

Les  14:33

For sure. And you know, I think, not not to, I mean, this, these, these are, these are challenging. On a micro scale, these things are challenging, like, and they're not trivial. But I think most people will probably be surprised to know that, like, data isn't as portability, as you might suspect, right? I mean, it's not from system to system. What, you know, how has that evolved? Have you seen that space evolve over the past few years? 

Sam  15:01

Well, there are a lot of integration tools out there today and more and more, you know, by the month. So, for us it's at face value, it's a little bit of a crowded space for us. But we've seen the integration space really take off is what I like to say, you know, there's top of funnel, you know, where you've got an anonymous visitors to the company, they're anonymous, right? And then you got middle of funnel, like once they submit the some sort of a form on your website, or they call up a sales rep, because because they want to know more. And then you got bottom of funnel when they're trying to close them. So what I've seen is like from the middle and the bottom of the funnel, you see a lot of tools out there like Zapier, right, they're very good at connecting data from your, your marketing automation platform, you know, to Salesforce, for example, right. And then you've got other tools out there, you've got so many tools out there Tray, you know,, you've got Workato, there's new ones coming out all the time. And so that's why I've seen like an explosion of these integration tools, because from middle of funnel to the bottom, that's an easier problem to solve, because they've given you their email. So it's easy to say, hey, there's an email in this system, instead of, you know, let's say, tell your marketing automation tool in MailChimp or whatever, there's an email inside of Salesforce. So that's an easy match, right? Like, you can just match data across those two systems. So, so for me, it's no surprise to see that that space has exploded, where it hasn't exploded, and we're playing. And maybe we're either, you know, smarter than everyone else. We're just crazy or more more stupid than everyone else. At the top of the funnel, we're playing at the top where it's anonymous. And we're really good at saying, Hey, you got anonymous visitors on your website, we can match them to emails, in your marketing automation system, we can match them to emails in your CRM better than anyone else. And it's a harder problem to solve Zapier and Tray they don't touch that, right? Because it's, that's not automation right there. You can't hire an intern to do that. You need technology to go in and do that. Yeah, so that

Les  17:07

in terms of like, customer data activation and marketing, data activation that you really are focused on now. Is that where the company always is that sort of where you always sort of buttered your bread? Or did it? Did it start there? Is that what you've evolved to as kind of a focus mission?

Sam  17:24

I think it's a little bit half and half. I mean, we're definitely messaging it differently today than when we were in the early days. At the beginning, though, even back before I started data joining the back when I was at Domo, we're back at Ancestry back at one-on-one marketing. But I was always in the work of stitching together your Salesforce data, you know, bottom of the funnel for b2b is with your top of the funnel data. So Google ads, right back into Google ads, you know, with your Google Analytics or or Adobe analytics. And so before, we used to position it, like, Hey, we've got a Salesforce and Adobe integration like that was, that was the only integration that we had. Right. And that was the one that we won that first Adobe competition, we got second place, in that, you know, few years ago. And but now, the messaging has evolved, like I've been, I've been thinking about this more than when I said, you know, what, like, first it evolved to all the systems need to talk to each other. And then now it is evolved to like, I mean, I just got off a call before this. The one that made me late was I was talking to our, to our marketing team, because we're changing the positioning again, right? And what we're saying is that, you know, today, marketers, they can't personalize, they can’t activate, like, not not really, because they are not going off of the behavioral data, the first party behavioral data that they have, we're saying that you guys are sitting on a mountain of behavioral data in your web analytics inside of Adobe, or Google. And you guys are just using it for measurement. You guys are not sharing that data, to your ads to your CRM to your to your email platform. And because you don't have the behavioral data, you guys are spamming everybody, right, based on their job title, or based off based off of the company they work for, even though they showed zero intent in their behaviors. Right. So that's kind of where we're at today.

Les  19:18

So very cool. Well, I wanted to kind of get that just just to get some context for everybody in terms of what what you're doing and what what Datajoin is, is focused on. I'd love to go back a little bit though, because we jumped over. You just referenced a couple you know, this Adobe competition you referenced Domo. Bring us up to present in terms of so you said it was your brother Brother in law that called you and asked about your skills as like a data engineer?

Sam  19:45

Yeah. So so my cousin called me. Yeah. He asked if I'm a if I'm a statistician. And I told him so I started at One-on-One Marketing. That's why That's where I took the job. I was so happy to work there. I didn't actually do any statistics there, when I was there, I ended up just doing data engineering because they needed their, you know, this company worked on, on lead gen for for-profit University. So we would sell leads of people who are interested to go to school, the University of Phoenix, or Western Governors University, for example. And the marketers are spending so much money every month, and really optimizing their spin to cost per lead, when really the best success metric for our leads was if they became a student or not if they actually enrolled. 

Les  20:36

That’s all that matters.

Sam  20:39

Yeah, that’s all that matters. You can generate, you know, as many leads as you want. But if all of them dropped in, none of them enrolled, and they were garbage leads, right? So at One-on-One Marketing like that was the main problem that I solve was, hey, how do I get the this data back from from the customers, and then I stitch it with the marketing spend data inside of Google ads. And then that way, we can generate a cost per student enrollment, right. And so I learned how to stitch data systems together and One-on-One Marketing, my first tech company, that is really the foundation of Datajoin what it is today, it wasn't Salesforce, and it wasn't web analytics. But the concept was still the same, you know, marketing data over here. Sales final outcome did over here, stitch them together. And that's what I saw at One-on-One and I left when I went to Ancestry, I saw the same issue over there. Right, two different systems, but the same issue, right? And then at Domo, like, same thing gonna go into a data company, I'm like, okay, these guys are probably gonna, you know,

Les  21:43

If anybody's got to figure it out, these guys have to have it figured out, right? And they didn’t.

Sam  21:49

And they didn’t. I was just wow, I was pleasantly surprised. Because for me, it meant, okay. Like, this is good, because I feel like I know how to solve this better than anyone else. Now, like, if Domo was not doing it. Don't most customers, they would bring me into the sales calls, you know, to coach them through it, or like, you know, what, um, I think I'm not trying to get a big head right now. But I think I'm probably the best one in the world. Like, who knows the problem, you know? Yeah, what's data associated with visitor IDs? And there's other systems. Like, I think I know this, like, I'm feeling pretty good about my skill set right now, honey, that's what I told my wife, right.

Les  22:27

I love it, Sam. But I mean, that's so I think it's a really important takeaway for founders, especially in our region, it's like, you you saw this problem, not once, not twice, but three times, with with three, you know, significant companies, especially the last the third of the three. And it's like, that gave you the confidence to say, you know, what, I'm the I'm the best guy in the world. Let's do this. Right. And you did, and you did. So what was the there was the inspiration, I guess, what was like the spark to just say, you know, what, I'm, I'm off, I'm gonna do this.

Sam  23:02

So the, the stars, the stars lined up, you know, back in, I think it was 2016. Just for family reasons. You know, my, my mom and my dad, were going through some health issues. And I decided, you know, I mentioned earlier I decided to take my kids back to Hawaii, my wife and I, and just to be able to support my family for a little bit and be there for for my dad and for my mom. You know, it was at that point, that I ended up just leaving Domo because I couldn't work from them from from Hawaii back in those days. And I was able to, you know, get get one client, Franklin Sports. And that was really it. And I said, You know what, I have one client. Let's see if I can go get Polynesian Culture Center here across the street from my house, see if I can get BYU Hawaii. And I was able to get them as clients. And so I said, okay, I think I can I can do this. Now that I've got enough business. I was flying back to Utah, I had a couple of smaller side hustle deals from back when I was, you know, working for Ancestry, and Domo, Salesforce and Google Ads data. So like, Workfront, it wasn't very much money, but it just gave me the confidence that hey, I think I can I can do this now. And just be on my own full time. No longer a side hustle.

Les  24:23

Amazing. And it was literally, I mean, it was this was a, you were a solo entrepreneur going at this. I mean, you were building these solutions you were delivering, probably writing your own proposals, right. Like, I mean, you were you were doing it all at that time, right?

Sam  24:38

Yep. Just just Googling boilerplate templates, you know, for SOWs and things like that. But yeah, just just solo I said, no one else right.

Les  24:50

That's incredible. At what point so what give us a sense timeframe wise what year was this?

Sam  24:57

So this was 2016. Okay, this was I remember it was my birthday August 2, 2016 that I bought my first you know, computer that was dedicated to my 100% full time consulting.

Les  25:12

milestone. Yeah,

Sam  25:13

I just barely retired that computer just just last month actually.

Les  25:19

you really got really stretch the value out of that baby

Sam  25:24

care. You know, I gave it to my daughter who started college as a hey, this is a legendary computer right here, right? Might be a tad bit slower than your classmates. But he's just done a lot of things. So you take good care of it. 

Les  25:37

This has seen some greatness already. That's cool. That's awesome. Sam, thank you for sharing that. Um, what? So what was at what point were you like, you know what, it's time to scale time to hire like when did that happen?

Sam  25:53

Yeah. So I went to go fundraise back in 2018. Well, I guess let me back up. So So before that, I had a friend who introduced me to one of his friends who ran who started a content marketing agency called Stoke. So I met David Acheson, and Laurie Lohner, awesome people. And they said, You know what, like, let's just run this, this project with Adobe, you know, we'll go ahead and just split it right down the middle with us too. But we measure, you know, we write content for them, they want to be able to measure the value of the content, we're doing all the content on their blogs, and you have the skill set to be able to measure it. And so that was really my first kind of, you know, workings with with Adobe. And this is probably 2017, early 2018. And so, we're, you know, we're working with Mark Booth, who ran the paid social team over there. And he loved it, he's like, wow, like I can, I can go in and justify all of my social campaigns, he was able to like triple his budget, just because he was able to show like, like, not just how many visitors but how many deals that he touched. And there were some big names in there. Like there's some big deals, and he had, like some very valuable touches that happened within weeks before the deal closed, in content that he was pushing out. And so that that really, that really, you know, started the path working with these bigger companies such as Adobe, we went to go fundraise this was going to say, so we went to go fundraise around 2018, we had a we had a good amount of revenue. You know, we were doing to somewhere like right around $800,000 in revenue, annual revenue, it was 100% consulting. And, and I remember a fundraising we went to talk to everyone here in Utah. And they said, Hey, like, this isn't really like a software, though. Like, this is good. Like, this is services. And it was at that moment, I was like, Wow. I said, Yeah, we probably have to build something that's more scalable than this. And even I was tired of having to do 20 custom reports every month, right for for my customers.

Les  28:08

If only you could build a machine that just spit out those reports, right?

Sam  28:15

A machine that can listen to the customer what they want, and then spit it out. That'd be awesome. But yeah, so I mean, so that really led me down the path. I mean, I stopped fundraising actively, probably at the end of 2018, 2019. And that's when we entered that contest with with Adobe, I talked to my friend on the product marketing team. And, you know, I said, Hey, like, what if we just stitch together the data from the systems, I forget about the reports, forget about all the dashboards, I'm tired of making a new dashboard. You know, like, every time someone has this, like, the tiniest idea, and I mean, I get it, I mean, analytics, I get it. But like, what if I just connected the data? And he's like, like, you know, what, there's a lot of, there's a lot of demand for that, you know, we're trying to battle against Google. Google, you know, says that they can integrate with Salesforce, if you build something, we have nothing. And so I built that, that launch extension. And, you know, we took second place in the contest, we paid $0, and I was there like in Las Vegas, you know, at the Venetian on stage, and like presenting it, and I was like, I can't believe I'm over here. And like, we didn't have to pay anything. We just had to just pay through our good work. And that was it. So that's, that's really what set us down the path. I'm like, You know what, let's just push this and then, and then our customers started saying, Hey, can we get the data now from Salesforce, but can we push that now into Facebook, or can we push that into Google? And so we started seeing, like, hey, there's a lot of systems that can be connected here. And we don't need to solve everything. We just need a few use cases for every pair of systems and The views are super valuable and they're scalable. So that's, that's where the micro integration division. Yeah, that's where it was born. 

Les  30:07

That's awesome, Sam, you know, I love with your origin story. I love how I mean, you, obviously, from the very beginning, we're super scrappy. But you, you know, it's just a constant pursuit of answering those customer questions, right? It's a constant pursuit of driving a return on investment, demonstrating value to the customer. And it's like, step by step. It's like the epitome of bootstrapping. I mean, you, you for what like really the first six year five, five years, four or five years? I mean, you you focused on the customer and deliver value. I mean, it's incredible. And then, you know, so with with Adobe, with this 2019 Adobe contest, would you say that that was, that was really when you kind of flipped the switch and said, All right, let's go product, it's time to now we, we've got enough subject matter expertise, let's build that this product. Is that, is that fair?

Sam  31:03

Yeah, that's fair. That's fair. Like, that's what happened. And, and I said, you know, what, let's go ahead and build out like a nice interface, you know, so that we can make this integration really easy. And even though in those early days, it wasn't really a built out product. I mean, it was a was a product that only that only I or my, my other partner could use, you know, we were demoing it as if the customer could use it. But, you know, I am not a full stack developer, right. I mean, I can, I can Google and I can do the best that I can. But yeah, but that's where I knew like this is, this is where it's at right here, like, look at how easy this is like this would have taken, you know, a team, you know, at least a year to build out this type of integration, like everything start to finish. And I can get on a call. And within an hour, like literally an hour, like if I have access to the systems, like we can be done and have data passing between both systems. And so I'm like, this is something we can sell, you know, 10, 20, 100, you know, people per year. And, you know, our goals are, the sky's the limit for us. So that's what we're trying to build out right now.

Les  32:12

Exciting. And, and kind of in the midst of all this in this transition was was COVID. Right? I mean, 2020, March of 2020 kind of the world shuts down. What was sort of your journey through that time period through that, you know, 2020 into kind of like, you know, early 22

Sam  32:30

It's like, it's like, I don't want to quote the scriptures, but it's like the valley of the shadow of death, right. That was a hard time, like we, you know, we needed every dollar of PPP that we could get our hands off. Immediately what happened, we were about to go. We were about to present at, at Adobe Summit again. That 2020, this is a year after our launch extension was lined up. We had a full pipeline, which is great. And then like it all just evaporated, like, like water in the desert. No, it was it was literally all gone. So we you know, we couldn't go to the to the summit anymore. It got canceled. Everyone backed off. And you know, we went about eight. You know, we went about eight months without generating a sale. At that point and so that was tough. I mean, we had to take and I had to go back and take a side hustle again. I'm like, wow. Like my main hustle now requires me to have a side hustle now. I was just, you know, taking take another contracting jobs that I could get. Yeah, through it all. Like we had customers that were happy, like the ones that we did have kept renewing. And I said no, like, we're not going to fold this up. And I would go Google search for a job. And I ended after like, 10 minutes of searching for a job and like, no, like, we've got something here. Like we've gotten this far. Like, I'm not going to drop it right now. I'm gonna hustle, take whatever it takes, like we've got something here. I just need to ride through the storm. And that's what we did. 

Les  34:15

So you got through, you got through the storm. And then when did you launch you? You ended up launching, eventually launching a fundraiser Seed raise. Right. And it was it summer of 22?

Sam  34:26

Right. So then, so we went. We said, You know what, we have enough customers we picked up. We picked up Comcast, we picked up Quicken Loans. We picked up a lot of great accounts. And we were feeling like very, very strong at that point. Even to the point where we knew we would keep growing even if we did no fundraising. But I don't know in order to hit the goals like I felt this was the best chance like we just won't get there fast enough to be able to jump on and own this idea of being able to micro integrate your stack. And so we started fundraising we went back to all the same people that we that I had pitched back in 2018. And, you know, it was it was better, but I think the space was too crowded at that time, and we just, you know, had a lot of people pass us up. But I was talking to everyone like everyone, like, you know, like one of my guys was, he was in the MBA program. He was introducing me to his professor, Tom Peterson, and Tom Peterson introduced me to this person, this person introduced me to this person. Long story short, and I've got this, this lucid diagram. And it’s awesome, this shows like all the connections like the road that it took, I wanted to make sure that I journaled that. So I so I remember, like, you know, like what it took to get there, right? 

Les  35:44

Yeah, Sam, I'm really glad you said that. Because I think that's another great takeaway for founders in our region. You know, sometimes there's an expectation that, you know, with sort of a handful of direct intros, like, that's what happens. That's how a fundraise gets done. But you you're so I mean, as a data guy, you get this, and you've painted the picture with data. So you definitely understand it, now that you see it, but it's like, it often is like the second or third degrees, right, that lead to the commitments that lead to the momentum to get the round done. So I'm glad you said that, because I think it's really important consideration for founders.

Sam  36:19

Oh, thanks, Les. You know, it's interesting. So Mitch Rencher from Sepio, right, I already already had, you know, basically two verbal commits from from these other funds. And I had had my friend say, hey, still still talk with this person. And so I said, Oh, sure, go ahead and do the intro, In my head I thought, you know, that wouldn't be the one. So long story short, I, those two people dropped out the ones I had the verbal commits, and Mitch ends up being the guy, right, like, wow, you hands up, you know, those two are just taking too long, like they couldn't travel out to Japan or something to close the front. And then Mitch ends up being the guy. So never take any, any lead for granted, right until you have your goal. Like, just be grateful and just take any take any lead that comes your way. 

Les  37:05

More great advice. And, and, you know, I think just just to put a cherry on top of that, I mean, you ended up I mean, Mitch is a great partner, a great co-investor we've co invested with, with with Mitch before, but it just goes to show you it's like, if you stay true and stay strong in a fundraise process, like, generally speaking, you end up with the best, like the best syndicate for your needs. So well done. So Mitch, led the round, Scipio led the round, I guess, and then what did end up with the seed round raise end up being for you guys?

Sam  37:36

$3.5 million seed round. Which was great. 

Les  37:41

I mean, let's just say like this was in the summer of 22, when a lot of this sort of activity came to a grinding halt, like probably one of the more difficult times to raise in recent history, right. Am I lying? I mean,

Sam  37:58

No, I mean, yeah. I mean, that's, that's what it was. That's what it was. I didn't even think about it that much. I just thought of kind of the long grind, but you're spot on. Like, everyone, everyone's kind of staying on the sidelines. So yeah,

Les  38:16

Well, it's, you know, that's, that's another thing, too, is another thing worth noting to founders, like, don't, don't let the circumstance get in the way or get in your head, right? Because that can prevent you from having the confidence to get the raise done. So it's like, I know, there's a lot of uncertainty ahead for founders, you've got, you've got cash on the balance sheet, which is great. There's other founders that maybe are going out to raise in the coming months and who knows what the what the financial future looks like, with with the current macroeconomic trends. But yeah, keep stay out of your head and, and just get it done. Like, like Sam did.

Sam  38:51

Yeah. Oh, man. Yeah, there was plenty of, yeah, this has been the this has been the toughest stretch. I think, for me mentally back in the Domo days and Ancestry that, you know, everything's really easy. But this is, this has been awesome. I mean, this is a faith building, exercise and to be an entrepreneur, and I had to really just go off of any little wins, I could get right. Like, if I wasn't getting deals closing, but I had a good conversation with my customers. And they said how much they loved it. So like, that's a win, right? I take that as a you know, no, like, I got something here, right. So I think entrepreneurs who are struggling, like take, take the little wins that you have, like, you'll need it right. You'll need it for your momentum and for your sanity to keep moving forward.

Les  39:35

Yeah, awesome. So tell us what's ahead. What's I mean, it's really exciting. You've got this fundraise behind you what's ahead for Datajoin. What can we get excited about? Just as as we keep keep apprised of your your future here with the company?

Sam  39:52

Yeah, so next year, we have our roadmap. I've got I've got a legitimate development team now, right? And so it's not just me who's building out the Python scripts anymore, right. And so I think we're gonna have an awesome product to show New Years where we can connect your web analytics to multiple systems, and do it by logging into our system. I mean, we're really trying to get appeal G type of product out there that's friendly and attractive to marketers for them to be able to use. So you don't have to talk to Alex, my sales guy, you know, even though he's a good looking guy, you don't want to talk to him. You want to do it on your own. A true product where you can go in and just do it yourself. 

Les  40:41

your product lead growth.That's super exciting. What about Sam in terms of, you know, I'd love to, I'd love to ask you a question just about, you know, being on your website, you mentioned as a first Polynesian lead technology startup, we start with Aloha, and I love that it's great. But But tell us about the challenges of being like a trailblazer. As a as a diverse founder in our region, like any tips for other diverse founders, and how, just how they can get it done like you, you've you've to, like trailblaze, this amazing path? What advice do you have for others?

Sam  41:21

I mean, what what I would say, and, you know, it's much easier looking back on it. Now, I'll say that then when you're in the middle, when you're in the middle of it, and things aren't going your way, your mind starts playing tricks on you, right, you start thinking a lot of different things. But what I would say is that, you know, I didn't have any built in network. But I did know people who know someone like let's talk about earlier, right, second degree connections, third degree connections. So I would just say leverage every every connection you have, in order to have a connection, though, a good connection that is willing to introduce you to someone, you need to provide, you know, value and good work in it in every job that you're at. And so that's what I would say, I like to believe that I was an entrepreneur way before I started my company, I was solving problems, and I was solving problems with with other people. Right. And so that person that Adobe, who opened the doors for me there, I had worked with him back at Domo, helping him get the LinkedIn, you know, I was helping him do attribution reporting to his LinkedIn campaigns that would win him, you know, success at Domo, right? So he trusted me he knew what I could do. You know, we would go play horse, you know Domo has this basketball court. I wouldn't take it easy on him. I trashed talked him. I beat him every time. But but we have a good time right out there playing but so for those who think they have no network every day, everyday, build that network, right? Spend time with those colleagues, solve problems with those colleagues, you know, have that Aloha, be good to people, right? Just just just be good to people. And later on, it might be one year, it might be five years later, you may be able to open a door for them, they may be able to open up the door for you. So that's my first tip of advice right there for strugglers, who are founders who are struggling, I think. Yeah, I mean, I did have those feelings, to be honest, Les sometimes that hey, I think it's harder for me, because I'm a Somoan I remember going into to one pitch, and this is probably like my 80th pitch, right that I'd gone into. And I was in an office right across the freeway from the Adobe buildings. And I remember getting the question from from the from the man. He said, hey, who built this software? And I looked at him and I already thought in my head, I'm going to tell him that I built this, but he's not going to believe me, because I'm a Samoan, right. That's just now. whether that's true or not. I don't know. But that's just what I felt right? And so I told him, I said, I built this. And then, and then I told them right after I hesitated for a split second, and I said, Now I know you've never known a Samoan to build something like this. But I built this. And if you need someone to vouch for me, I pointed out the Adobe building. I'm like those guys across the street. I said Salesforce tower. They will vouch for me. I built this, this is what I built. 

Les  44:21

Good for you, Sam. I love it. Yeah. And just to say it, I mean, you use you, you stood up for yourself. They're like you have you and I really like that is that is so important in that story that you just hold us told because on one hand, I know you as a guy who brings humility to every conversation. I know you as a guy that follows through I know you as a guy that brings value, right? That's what your whole career is. But in that situation, you had to stand up. You had to stand up for yourself. And it's it's unfortunate that that's how you felt but the reality is, is if that's how you felt in that conversation, that perception is reality. So I'm glad you I'm really glad you shared that because that It's also a very important message for investors in our region who are supporting, looking to support diverse founders is create a positive perception and ask positive questions. It’s positive questioning, right? You shouldn't have to stand up for yourself in that situation. But you did. And I'm thankful that you did. That's amazing.

Sam  45:22

Well, well, thanks, Les. I think. Yeah, I mean, that's my natural nature is to is not is not that right. But I mentioned that it was my 80th pitch. And I said, you know, I can already I've already been here before, and they need to know, right, that, that we don't do it that I know what I'm doing here. And that was the best way and it ended up great. That was one of my my verbal offers that I talked about. We had, we had teary eyes he and I like as we had that conversation, and it was something I'll never forget.

Les  45:55

That's incredible. Sam, I'm really thankful that you shared that with our listeners. What about kind of as my last question, I always kind of like to jump into a fun topic, anything that you're looking forward to in the next 30 days anything with your family or anything exciting in your personal life that you're looking forward to?

Sam  46:14

Well, man, we just we just had Halloween last night I think a little bit vacation from from that. We had we had the whole….

Les  46:24

So what everybody dressed up as? Could you share? Would you be willing to share? Did you get a costume?

Sam  46:30

So for me, I was. I was a construction worker. That was kind of the lazy, you know, I was the lazy one. Out of the way I get to the get to the better costumes. So my youngest son was he's three years old. He was baby Grogu. So he's Oh, yeah. He wasn't the only group who out there like walking around the block was awesome.

Les  46:52

You could have been the Mandalorian. And you could have carried him around, right.

Sam  46:59

He’s gonna be too big next year, and I'm just kidding. It'd be too bad. Yeah. So so he was Grobu I had Lena she was a witch. So that the cutest little witch. That's the one that just came in here. And, you know, just walking around with her broomstick. And then we had Roger who was a Knights Templar, you know? 

Les  47:18

Wow, quite the crew for trick or treat.

Sam  47:22

He looked like that movie Assassin's Creed. It was looking pretty good. And then. And then Johnny was was a scarecrow. A 300 pound scarecrow. That's That's my 15 year old boy Johnny.

Les  47:34

That’s a big scarecrow. That would scare me.

Sam  47:38

All of my sons. So I have four sons. They all have autism. Right. And so, so we're walking around. So Johnny's just this friendly scarecrow. You know, he doesn't talk. Roger doesn't really talk. You know, Roger is trying to take the whole bowl of candy every house I have to be, that's just how his mind thinks he's like, more and more and more and more. You know, this is this is the autism right there. But and then, yeah, and then our oldest son Tom was at home. He was passing out candy.

Les  48:08

He's graduated to that stage. Yes. I have one of those too.

Sam  48:14

It's, it's great. We had someone at home and then me and my wife, Sabrina, we could go out with the kids. So

Les  48:19

Super fun. Well, it's always it's just so much fun to share those personal details I thank you for sharing that as well. Because, you know, it's like our founders are real people like this incredible career you've had this incredible platform you've built in now with a seed raise behind you. And yet, he still goes out and trick or treats with the family. He's a family guy. I love it.

Sam  48:42

I love it. I wouldn't have it any other way that my script is rolled in from out of town to right now. That's where Lena came in. So Oh, great. Go figure out what to do right now.

Les  48:51

All right, Sam. Well, look, I really appreciate you being on the episode today. Thank you so much for telling an amazing story. And just to conclude, why don't you let our listeners know where they can find out more about you and more about Datajoin online.

Sam  49:06

Yeah, if you want to find out about Datajoin, just go to we got that domain, right. So just check check us out there. If you want to learn more about me or connect, I'd be happy to connect with with you on LinkedIn. I'm the only Sam Fonoimoana on LinkedIn. So you'll be able to find me pretty easily as long as you spell my name right. So

Les  49:26

all right, Sam. Well in the spirit of Hawaii and your upbringing, I would just like to say Mahalo. Thank you for being on today's episode.

Sam  49:33

Aloha, Mahalo to you guys. 

Les  49:36

Thanks, Sam. Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Found in the Rockies. You can find links in the show notes or go to to get transcripts, links, and contact information for today's guests. If you like what you heard and want more, please don't forget to rate review and subscribe to get notified as our new episodes drop every two weeks. We'll see you next time.