Gina Trapani: My mom is really good at visual guilt, by the way. That’s how she would get me to do anything I didn’t want to do.
Mark Orttung: It’s a powerful force. It’s…
Chris LoSacco: It’s a powerful force.
Gina: It really is!
[POSTLIGHT INTRO MUSIC]
Gina: Hello everyone. Welcome to the Postlight podcast. I’m Gina Trapani, and as always, I’m joined by my business partner, Chris LoSacco. Hey, Chris.
Chris: Hey Gina.
Gina: How’s it going?
Chris: Great. It’s great.
Gina: We’ve been prepping for this episode for a year now.
Chris: I was just gonna say. We’ve been gearing up. We recently ran a few greatest-hits episodes in the feed.
Gina: We did.
Chris: Um… so that was cool.
Gina: Uh huh.
Chris: We’re about to turn the page into a big new thing.
Gina: We are.
Chris: For our team, and for the… I mean, the whole Postlight brand.
Gina: It’s super exciting. I’ve like… it’s weird. We got here! We’ve been talking about this for months.
Chris: I know.
Gina: And, to help us talk about this, we have a very, very special guest on the show today. I’m very excited to introduce Mark Orttung. Hey, Mark.
Mark: Hey, how are you?
Gina: Great! Great. I’m so happy to see you in the recording boxes here on the show.
Mark: Great to be here.
Chris: So, we have some news to share. A few weeks ago, Postlight became Launch by NTT Data. We joined forces with a few other groups within NTT and launched a new thing into the world, appropriately titled Launch by NTT Data. And we asked Mark to join us on the show because Mark, you are the president of Launch. Gina and I are taking product leadership roles. And we’d love to talk about how we got here. This is something we’ve been building towards for a while. So it feels very natural that we’re landing here, but for the folks listening, they don’t know the backstory behind why we made this thing. Postlight is just one puzzle piece in this greater puzzle. Do you want to talk a little bit, Mark, about your history, and the company you come from, Nexient, and how that sort of plays in with all these different groups that are forming Launch?
Mark: Well, first off, my background is with a bunch of product companies prior to Nexient, so let me talk about that first. I started my career with what’s now Accenture, did a number of sort of advanced technology things there. The last two years there I wrote a business plan and did a spinoff startup from Accenture, and I learned that they’re a fantastic consulting firm and a terrible venture capital firm.
Mark: And, uh, so that gave me the bug, though, to go do startups. That experience of building something from nothing, and we have… we were trying to do, effectively, a SAS product in 1995 and we didn’t have the word SAS yet, and we were a little bit ahead of our times. This was an HR product. We were trying to convince people to put their HR data into the cloud in ‘95 and people thought we were nuts. So we didn’t make it, and Accenture shut it down when we weren’t profitable by about 18 months in, but that gave me the bug to go do startups. So I went to a series of four product companies. The first one was called Genesis, we did call center software and software that’s up in the telephony clouds. You know, sort of, think about routing 800-number calls and those kinds of things in the old-school world. And we went from about 30 million to about 120 million in two years.
Mark: We went public the second day I was with the company, so I can’t take a whole lot of credit for that. But…
Gina: That’s a hell of a second day!
Chris: (Laughs) Wow.
Mark: Yeah. They… I was supposed to start the following week, and the guy that hired me said, you know, “Can you just come in today and start?” And he didn’t really explain why, and when I got there they explained what was happening.
Gina: Good thing you said yes. (Laughs)
Chris: Oh, my God.
Mark: Yeah. And we had all kinds of crazy, sort of, infighting in the company, there was sort of a coup between the CFO and the founder…
Mark: And so they pushed out the CEO 30 days after we went public.
Mark: And then he created a new management team, and then he and the other founder pushed out the CFO who had taken over about 9 months later.
Gina and Chris: Whoa!
Mark: All this happening while we’re going from 30 million to 120 million. So I learned a lot about products and scaling and Silicon Valley and proxy fights and…
Chris: Yeah. Geez.
Mark: All kinds of things that I never… never knew I was going to learn about. But I was… I was hooked. You know, the adrenaline and the fun of creating something in the market. And that one, from a product perspective, what we really did that was fun was we took this kind of toolkit that was this grungy telephony, telephone-oriented technology and turned it into something in English words that our customers would use and could buy, and so we did a lot of packaging and a lot of, sort of, taking tech and turning it into a product, and I really think that helped our team sell it much more effectively, and that really helped us hit that scale. So it was more packaging than tech, but there was a lot of deep technology there. It was two guys that came over from Russia that started the company, and they had all of these guys that came out of the Soviet Union that had PhDs in physics, and you know, one of them had been handed a DEC computer when he was in the Soviet Union and told to, you know, effectively reverse-engineer it, so they did. They created a copy of this hardware and software. If you guys remember, the DEC was sort of before Sun and Silicon Graphics…
Mark: It was kind of like the first, sort of, almost workstation-like computer. So…
Chris: That’s fascinating.
Mark: Just a wild, talented, fun group of people.
Chris: I’m sure.
Gina: You can’t get that education at school. (Laughs)
Chris: Yeah. (Laughs)
Mark: No. No. (Laughs) Lots of fun and lots of crazy stories. And from there, I got a chance to go to another startup, which was getting into the internet, which seemed like a good thing to me, to kind of get deeper into the internet. So this was, like, 1999. It was called GetThere, it was a corporate travel procurement platform, and we were able to help drive the transformation of corporate travel. So when I started, the way you booked a airplane trip or a hotel for your trip was, you would call Carlson Wagonlit or American Express or one of these travel agencies and they would book it for you, and that was just how it was done. And by the time I left five years later, we had about 53% of all bookings in the industry going over the internet first, and then winding up in one of those agencies in the backend. So we got to drive this transformation of an entire industry from pure phone-based to majority internet-based bookings.
Gina: Very cool.
Chris: That’s awesome.
Mark: It was… yeah, it was a great run. That one, also, we got a chance to take it public, and then we were acquired by Sabre, and I stayed for about a year and a half after that. So I learned a lot about getting acquired and what that’s like…
Mark: …and all of those things. But it was another one where we got to create something that, really… from scratch. And drive it. And I think we ultimately got bought by Sabre because we tried to create a plan where we disintermediated Sabre, frankly.
Mark: We signed up a bunch of airlines, hotels and rental cars to book… allow bookings directly between our large corporate customers and the airline, and then, you know, we had enough volume that we could make that work, at which point we became a threat to the global distribution system, so then we became a good target to be acquired.
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Gina: That was a competitive… a competitor acquisition, right? (Laughs)
Gina: Mitigate the threat.
Mark: Yeah. Exactly. From there, I went to another one which at the time was called Reardon Commerce. It had a number of names over time, but its best name was its first one, which was Gazoo. Which is the little character from the Flintstones.
Mark: He’s like, a little… like, space alien.
Chris: I love it.
Mark: For whatever reason, all these startups I’ve been with have all had three or four names.
Gina: Naming is the hardest thing.
Mark: It is. It is. And, um… yeah. So with that one, we tried to do what we did at GetThere but apply it to all services. So, at GetThere we primarily did flights, hotels and rental cars. Here, we tried to do flights, hotels, rental cars, events, like… dinner, sporting events, concerts, we also included web meetings, which back then was kind of a new thing, so at the time it was WebX and there were a few others. We did package shipping, so you could say “I wanna send this package overnight,” and we would give you an Orbit-like matrix that had FedEx and UPS and DHL and all the different service levels, and you could see… we had a concept we called visual guilt, that we invented at GetThere. So when your corporate traveler is booking their trip, if you show them the options and one of them is a lot cheaper and it’s only a half hour later, they’ll pick it, right? They kind of have this guilt, and they say “Well, I should adjust my schedule by 30 minutes and take the better flight because…” you know, the cheaper flight. So on average, at GetThere, we were able to lower the cost of a corporate trip by about $100.
Mark: Versus, when you call on the phone, you say “I wanna go to Chicago, I wanna fly United, I wanna leave at 8 AM,” they would book you the 8AM flight.
Gina: Book you the 8 AM.
Mark: They wouldn’t walk you through, like, the price comparisons.
Gina: They wouldn’t show you the 7:30. Yeah.
Mark: So we applied visual guilt to lots of different services categories. This one I learned a lot about focus and not trying to… like, effectively, each one of those categories is a whole company.
Mark: We tried, as a small company, to do all of them, and ultimately we failed. Like, we… I always say, either you succeed or you learn a lot. Um… and I learned a lot. With this one.
Gina: I’ve learned a lot, too, Mark, over my time. I’m gonna take it and steal that. (Laughs)
Mark: Yeah. Then I got lucky and I went to another one called bill.com, B-I-L-L, and I got to join there as employee number 12. And there we were creating a SAS product for small businesses to pay their bills and to get paid. When I joined we had, I think, eight customers. We did not have a way to charge our customers so we had zero dollars in revenue.
Mark: And, um… we… you know, the company was, like, 11 months old.
Mark: So, they kind of had a… they were like, they were all excited, they were like “We’re ready to come out of beta,” and I was like “Okay, how do we charge our customers?”
Gina: How do we charge our customers?
Mark: …is one of the… They’re like, “We don’t. We haven’t built that yet.”
Chris: We email them and ask for a check.
Mark: Yeah. It was… so we built that, and it took… it took a long time. That one, I learned a lot about… I call it the man behind the curtain. So, one of the things that attracted me to this company was, it had this kind of web veneer that you could put in your bills and have them paid. So when I joined there was still, like, a spreadsheet being generated by the website, and then the payments were all being done manually.
Gina: Wow. Yeah. This is a model for, like, lean startups especially, right?
Gina: Like, just get a nice frontend up, and then just do whatever you have to do on the backend. See if people use it. You know?
Mark: Yeah, exactly, and how do they use it? And so then we just very slowly and bit by bit, we would automate parts of it. So, we started to automate an ACH transaction that would pull the money from our customers’ account to our account, and then we would still write a bunch of checks by hand off of our account to pay their bills. And then we automated the checks, where we would print our own checks using this magnetic ink…
Mark: …and MICR font at the bottom.
Mark: So then every day, we would print 50 checks, and then 100 checks, and then… so start… and we had this person who worked there, she would fold the checks and put ‘em in envelopes and drive them to the post office.
Mark: And this was kind of, like, part of our daily ritual.
Mark: And then, um…
Gina: Life behind the scenes at bill.com. (Laughs)
Mark: And so then, as it got more and more volume, we would pull everyone in. You know, the developers, the customer support people, everybody, we would sit there and we would fold checks and stuff them in envelopes. And so that, you know… nobody wants to be doing this. So the first innovation we had is, somebody went on eBay and got this crazy machine that would fold checks into thirds.
Mark: It was like this, like, sort of this metal clanky thing that would do the double fold really quickly and consistently, and so that lasted a week or two. And… you know, ‘cause all the software developers, I think the best software developers are fundamentally lazy…
Mark: And they did not want to be folding checks, right? So they all worked out how to automate this, and how to, you know… (Laughs)
Chris: They solved the problem.
Gina: It’s true. The best way to motivate an engineer, make them do an incredibly tedious task over and over and over again, until they…
Chris: That’s right.
Gina: …they’re staying up all night writing the shell scripts that’ll, like, do it for you. Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. Amazing.
Mark: Exactly. So, yeah. So over time we automated that way, we got a third-party partner, and for a while there they were sending millions of checks a year, and then we began the move toward trying to automate all the payments into ACH, which requires a whole sort of business network because it… there is no directory of how to pay companies in the US over ACH, so we had to build that. So we effectively built a… kind of like a LinkedIn sort of a model, where companies could connect with other companies and share the payment information via this network. So over time we were trying to move away from checks entirely and make all these payments happen electronically. And it was a great group of people. When I left we were in the 20-plus million dollar range on revenue. So I left there to become CEO of Nexient. Company kept going, and now they’re over a billion in revenue.
Mark: So, it’s just fun to see what that became, like what those crazy early, you know, man-behind-the-curtain days turned into. It’s a…
Mark: I think their payment volume is public. It’s like, 40 billion a year or something that they run through this machine now.
Gina: That’s crazy.
Mark: So yeah. It’s just fun to see that… that happening.
Gina: And you all built a social network for banks to share ACH information. That’s amazing. (Laughs) That’s…
Mark: Yeah, yeah. It’s… as far as I know, it’s the only one that exists.
Mark: Yeah, for small businesses to share that. So yeah.
Gina: So you left to join Nexient, which is now Postlight’s sibling company and part of Launch. Yeah, tell us a little bit about, why would you… you went from the SAS product world and watching these incredible multiples, and just scaling at, like… you know, I’m doing the hockey stick motion, to professional services. (Laughs)
Gina: Which involves selling teams of human beings to solve problems and deal with clients. (Laughs) Like, what was your thought process there?
Mark: So I was… I got the bug, I wanted to be CEO, and I was looking at various CEO opportunities, and in the product space, if you don’t start the company, that’s the best way to become the CEO of a SAS company is to start it, right?
Gina: That’s right. Yes.
Mark: You can come in… I talked to some venture capitalists, and I was looking at some various early-stage opportunities, and so, whenever they need a CEO, the script is effectively “You will join, the company needs money, so you have about 90 days to raise money…”
Gina: To fundraise, that’s right.
Chris: Yep. Yep.
Mark: So you don’t really know if the product’s any good or if the team’s any good, you’ve gotta just come in and assume that’s a given and then go raise some money, and if you succeed then you and the team go forward. And if not, then you will, you know, wrap up the company, and…
Gina: (Laughs) Right. Right. You get to sunset the thing. You basically, you earned yourself permission to keep your job.
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Gina: If you raise the money. Right, right. And otherwise you get to just roll the, like, lay everybody off and shut the whole thing down and put a public failure on your resume. (Laughs)
Mark: Exactly. Right? So, as an aspiring CEO this didn’t seem like the best odds, right?
Mark: Like, I just… it might work, but it also most likely won’t.
Gina: It most likely will not, that’s right.
Mark: Yeah. So… I was talking, I was working with one venture capitalist who was the founder of what became Nexient, and he kept saying throughout this whole process, every time I’d look at a SAS company, he kept saying “I have this services company, and I think it’s a good fit for this…” You know, ‘cause I had this kind of random background with some consulting and then some telephony and then some banking and some travel, and I’d just been in a lot of weird industries, and he kept saying “I think you’d be a good fit for this.” And in the beginning it was like, “No, I don’t want to do that, I want to do SAS.” But after looking at two or three of these SAS places, and they were all the same script, I said, you know, maybe I should go look at that services company and understand it. And it was profitable, and can support itself…
Gina: Profitable, right, business, where you provide services, and you charge customers for it, and you receive more money than you spend, and then you keep growing!
Gina: Right? It’s something extreme… as someone who worked in the startup world for years, where it’s like all funny money and runway and whatever, let’s see if we live or die, it’s like “Oh! This is amazing! A profitable business that just grows, because money’s coming in and money’s going out, and we get to solve some problems together.” Like, yeah. It’s very attractive.
Chris: It’s reassuring in its boring-ness.
Gina: (Laughs) Yes, it really is.
Mark: Yeah. (Laughs) And it’s also, the services side, like at bill.com I worked on one problem for seven years.
Mark: Right? On the one hand I loved it, but on the other hand, like, at times you’re just like “I kind of want to work on a different problem. You know?
Mark: In services you get to work with a lot of great clients, and you work on multiple challenging problems, and that variety is attractive. So kind of putting all that together, I thought… I thought at the time, this was 2014, that the corporate world had swung too far into taking development offshore, so one of the things about Nexient was it was 100% US-based. All of the resources were in Michigan at the time, and at the time that was, you know, there was not as big of a tech scene in Michigan. And it felt like a… kind of a counterplay to what was happening in trends. If you looked at the trends between, I think it was 2000 and maybe 2014 or 2015, at the beginning of 2000 there were 42 in the US for every one in India. And then by 2015 I want to say it was like 0.4 in the US for every one in India. So from like 42 to 1 to 0.4 to 1.
Mark: You know, the entire corporate IT had just moved offshore.
Gina: Just shifted. For cost-saving.
Chris: Yeah. Totally.
Mark: One of my guts was, we might have overdone it, and there’s going to be a niche that is a good fit. Like… and it’s not all coming back, it’s never all coming back.
Gina: That’s right.
Mark: But there would be an opportunity to build a contrarian view of, “Hey, we can build tech talent in the US, and if we’re in market on your time zone, willing to work on sort of less well-defined problems because we have overlapping business days and we know your brand and what you stand for, there’s going to be something there.” So that was kind of what attracted me to that model. So… and when I joined we were primarily engineering only. We didn’t really do anything other than the software development itself. And I wanted to bring us to be more strategic to our clients. Getting first into user experience design, and then adding product management, because that was my background. And I felt like, without those two you’re not going to really be doing great development of product. So we kind of had this DNA of lots of engineering, and we added UX and we added product and began to sort of pitch that as our differentiator, this kind of cross-functional product team. And, you know, somewhere along the way, one of the guys that worked for me really started pushing me on Simon Sinek’s, you know, “You need to have the why…”
Mark: And we spent a lot of time on “Why are we here as Nexient?” And we landed on the saying “Life’s too short for crappy software.” Right? That kind of encapsulated our mission, that the world had all this just terrible software in it.
Mark: If you think about, like, if you have like a… you know, a thermostat in your home, and you want to program it, like… the software’s generally terrible on those, all these devices.
Mark: Right? And you’re going back and forth, and… that was something that really seemed to resonate with everybody. That everybody had had an experience in the last 48 hours, no matter who they were and where you talked to them, they could relate something from within the last two days that they had all this frustration built up. So it seemed like we could come at that and say “Hey, we’re going to try to build software that people love to use.” We put that right at the top of our website, “Life’s too short for crappy software,” and it became a rallying cry both for employees and for prospects and clients. Most people would agree with it right off the bat.
Mark: So it just kinda opened doors and got us a lot of conversation with clients and prospects.
Gina: I remember the first time that I saw it, right? So, we were in talks with, Postlight was in talks with NTT Data, we met you and we heard you were from Nexient, and I remember bringing up Nexient.com in my browser tab, and seeing “Life’s too short for crappy software” across the top, and I remember, I was like “This is gutsy. Who puts the word ‘crappy’ on their homepage? Like, in their tagline?”
Gina: Like, that’s gutsy, I like it. And also, true. It’s funny. Chris, do you remember when we did the mission and values, um… obsession…
Chris: Oh yeah.
Gina: And one of our top candidates was like, I think we had worded it like, “rid the world of bad software,” as like part of our mission, and we wound up sort of reworking it because we wanted it to be a positive versus a negative. But I was like, I was nodding my head and going, like, “Yeah, this is exactly what Postlight’s trying to do too,” which is… that, “Life’s too short for crappy software” really spoke to me. I was like, I get it, yeah. Nexient and Postlight are the same roots.
Chris: Totally, and it’s a very fundamental thing, and everyone can relate to it. I mean, even as we sit here today, talking today, I can think about, you know, 3 or 4 things, and I’m like “Oh God, that is such a pain to use.” And so it’s a very connecting mission. And I also think one of the reasons why Nexient saw growth, and why we see growth, is that it’s pervasive in the enterprise, right? There’s so much inefficiency that is because of this, like, really poor software that is out there, and if we can fix it, it can unlock some really amazing things. So I connect to it. I remember seeing it for the first time too, and thinking, like, “Oh, this is a kindred spirit.” Like, this company gets it in the way that, what we were trying to put out there as Postlight for sure.
Mark: And actually, one thing that was really amazing to me as a first-time CEO is how much things got simpler once we were super-clear on our mission, right?
Mark: Like, ‘cause people would bring me… as a consulting firm, you kind of can do anything. If somebody brings you a problem, you can say “Well, we could do that. We could do a Sharepoint appointment, or we could do this or that.” But at the end of the day, when we started to get really focused on “We’re going to do product and design and engineering of custom software, and we want it to be a great experience,” it just simplifies. You can say no to a lot of things that you should say no to.
Gina: Yeah. It helps you plant that flag. ‘Cause in a lot of ways, you know, with Postlight, right, we’re like “Yeah, we build custom software solutions, we’re not pitching you on a particular method, we’re not pitching you on a particular thing off the shelf, we’re saying we’re going to bring you the best experience.” Like, that’s the differentiator, right? But when you work with clients, you know, you can so often be like “Well, what do you need from us?” You know? (Laughs) Right?
Gina: But, so, that’s why it’s so important to say, well, this is the thing that we care about and that we’re best at. And also, knowing the work to say no to, or “We’re not best suited for this, you should go here,” is, I think, so critical. Even just to building the team, and building your reputation.
Mark: Yeah. Agreed.
Chris: So, talk us through, Mark, how Nexient landed at NTT Data.
Mark: Yeah, so we had grown quite a bit between 2014 and 2021. We were about 1100 people. So when I started we were about 250 people, and we had gotten to about 1100 people. And we were beginning to hit just the realization that to scale even more, we needed to make some big investments in infrastructure and systems and processes, and we felt that it was a good time to go look in the market and see what it would be like to become acquired, because whoever acquired us would have a lot of those systems in place and we wouldn’t have to go do the investments and kind of build them ourselves. So, we looked and ended up running a process, and met the folks from NTT Data, and it was a really good fit. It was kind of, as you said, kindred spirits on how we looked at the market. So for us, it just became a very natural decision to become part of NTT Data, and something that we felt could accelerate us and what we were trying to do.
Gina: When Nexient was acquired, was what became the Launch strategy, was that kind of fully formed? Like, did NTT already have that theory and that approach?
Gina: Oh, interesting. So you watched the strategy that lead to Launch kind of come into being during your time. So Nexient was acquired in… ‘21? Is that correct?
Mark: ‘21, June of ‘21. Yeah. So I think, you know, maybe the strategy was there and a couple people might have had it in their heads, but it wasn’t clearly articulated yet. And they asked me in July of ‘22 to step away from running Nexient. ‘Cause the first year, Nexient was a part of NTT, we kept it as a somewhat separate operating unit and just ran it on its own and I did that for the first year. But in July of last year, they asked me to start looking at this problem of, they have these seven groups. Five acquired companies, two internal groups, one of which was Nexient, one of which was Postlight, and you know, three other acquisitions and two internal groups. Can you help us think through, how would we put these together and what is the right way to do it? And so, we went into that not having a foregone conclusion on the best way to go. You know, one way you could do it is to merge them all into the NTT Data brand. Another way to go might be to pick one of the brands of one of the five acquired companies and merge everyone into that. And it quickly became clear that either one of those both had some downsides to them in terms of, sort of, getting everybody excited about the new mission and how we’re going to put it all together. And so, we kind of landed on, if we could create something new that really compliments NTT Data… and you could see this in other large global system integrators are doing similar things, where they have a design-led group with, effectively, a sub-brand.
Mark: And so, we landed on this idea of creating a new sub-brand, and creating one that was new to everybody, so that all of the acquired companies and the internal groups felt like they were ground-floor, they were founders of this new thing, rather than one of the seven was the winner and the other six were getting kind of rolled into it.
Mark: Like, nobody really wanted that, right?
Mark: Didn’t matter which one you’d pick, you’d have six unhappy groups if you did it that way.
Gina: (Laughs) Right.
Mark: So, it just kind of worked out, and then we got… I think we got lucky. We looked at, what is it we do? And it’s really, helping our clients come up with a strategy, ship software really quickly, and then scale it, right? And so, a lot of the essence of that is, to ship software really quickly is kind of launching a new product into the market. And that felt like just a very sort of central part of our mission, was to take ideas and get them launched, and then scale them.
Mark: And I knew… I always like a short name, because if you have a long name you have to figure out what your nickname’s going to be, because nobody will say it, the long name, right?
Chris: (Laughs) It’s true.
Mark: So, like… Nexient had, when I arrived, was “Systems in Motion.” Every interview I’d have for the job asked me what I thought of the name. So, the first person that asked me, I thought “Oh, that’s just a question.” The second person asked, I said “It’s kind of weird that they both asked me this question.” And then the third person asked, I was like “Okay, there’s clearly, like, a family problem here.”
Gina: Like, a squabble happening. Were you honest about the name Systems in Motion during your interview? I’m curious.
Mark: I was, yeah.
Chris: Good for you!
Mark: To a fault, I’m honest.
Gina: You are honest and direct, it’s why we love working with you, honestly. (Laughs)
Mark: Yeah. This is… this was back when BlackBerry, which was Research in Motion…
Mark: …was kind of beginning its swan song, and becoming, it was becoming clear that it was going away. You know, sounded a lot like Research in Motion. But nobody wanted to say “Systems in Motion,” and so it became SIM, S-I-M.
Gina: SIM. That’s what happens!
Mark: There were, like, at least two other organizations with SIM as their acronym, and one of them was even, like, a group of CIOs. There just… it was like, this doesn’t seem good. And also, I wanted to use all SAS software ‘cause of my background, and so your login would be your name at systemsinmotion.com, which is just a lot to type every time you go to login.
Chris: You’re clackin’ away on the keyboard.
Gina: I was going to say, how many keys do you save when you take, pick a short name.
Gina: It’s… the other thing I really, I like about the name, is it’s a real word. Like, if you look at the list of acquisitions, Postlight and Nexient and Umvel and Vectorform, they’re all sort of made-up words. Right? Which is what agencies do. You make up, you know, you make up a word…
Gina: And you say, because you need the domain name and you want to be kind of unique. But I like Launch, even though it’s sometimes confusing that it’s a verb and a noun, I like it because it’s a real word, and it says what we do. We can add that “by NTT Data” on there without it being too much of a mouthful, and it really gets to the heart of what we’re trying to do.
Mark: Yeah. The other thing I like about it is, this happened once previously in my career, so when I joined what was GetThere, ultimately, it was called Internet Travel Network. We did this whole… which, soon enough, if you know the history of the internet, the Internet Travel Network and Expedia argued over who was the first travel site. When we pivoted from being a consumer site because we didn’t have enough money, we changed the name to GetThere, and we may have bought that from a porn site, but, um…
Mark: …to get the URL, but the thing that I really liked about it was, you couldn’t talk about travel, planning and trips without using the word “get there.”
Mark: Like, people just would always use it in a sentence, and it would trip them up. And the same thing happens with Launch. It’s kind of fun to watch.
Gina: Right. “When are we gonna launch? When does it launch?” Right. “Launch day is here.” Right.
Mark: Yeah. So, it’s… I don’t know. For me it’s just kind of fun to see that stuck in the language, just an aspect of it.
Gina: It’s true.
Chris: Yeah, I think it’s a good thing. It turns the brain on in a weird kinda way, you know?
Gina: Well, Chris and I have really enjoyed just getting to know you and the rest of the leaders of the acquisitions and the groups that are coming together, and I think… I think why I’ve been really excited about finally sort of announcing Launch to the world, and coming out on our web… our new website launched on NTTData.com is like, “Oh! These are a bunch of really smart people who have, like, different specializations but are very much aligned in spirit.” Tons of overlap. Chris always talks about the Venn Diagram, like, there’s a ton of overlap in the middle there. But we’re all, like, coming together as one group, just brings just a ton of, just like, breadth and depth across the whole thing. Which is that we want to build, just, great products and platforms. You know? Totally… have to admit it, it’s hard to let go of a brand that you spent, you know, years and years building, you know? Eventually the brand will sail off into the sunset and will be completely launched. It’s still really exciting to just be this new thing, and I look at our new site, I look at our case studies and I look at our leadership team, and our… I look at the list of capabilities that we have, and you know, we’ve got decades of experience across all the different groups coming together, and it just seems like there’s so many, you know… just incredible possibilities. Also, it just feels so great to ship something new out in the market.
Chris: (Laughs) It does! No, it does!
Gina: I mean, ultimately I just love shipping stuff.
Mark: It does.
Gina: And so that’s a lot of fun. It’s a little nerve-wracking to just start a new brand and say “Okay, we’re now this thing,” and put all the muscle behind the marketing and all that. But I think this is the moment in the market, and I think even for all of our different trajectories, as leaders of these different companies and groups. And NTT. I’ve been excited about NTT Data’s being like, “Okay, we’re going to, we need to do this new thing, and we’re going to give you all this space to do this here, together.” But… it’s a little bit of a mess, too. Like, it’s seven groups. (Laughs)
Chris: We’re figuring it out as we go.
Gina: Figuring it out as we go.
Gina: Building this airplane, we’ve all got our own, you know, businesses that we’re running, and we’re coming together at different times, so we have lots to figure out, but it’s, like, fun. This is, like, a fun business problem to figure out. A different one, I think, than starting from zero. Zero money, zero people, zero anything. It’s really interesting. It’s been really interesting for me to come together with a group of people. You know, everyone’s in flight at the moment, coming together in the air.
Mark: Yeah, no, same for me, it’s been just a blast. And you guys have been great to bring onto the team, and some of the things you guys did at Postlight are fantastic, and just… you know, I’m kind of in awe at some of what you guys were able to accomplish. So, for me it’s fun to get to bring these groups together, and each one of them brings something unique, or multiple things that are unique that they were able to do, and then also a lot of overlap, too. So we do a lot of things that we all sort of know how to do and we do well together, but then each of us brings something unique as well. It’s been just a lot of fun to work on that.
Chris: I feel like the common through line for me is thinking about product, and it’s been so reassuring to know that we’ve got product-minded people across all of these organizations, and I think that’s what… I mean, it’s what makes a difference for clients and prospects, but it’s also what, I think, unifies us, because we all want to create those amazing digital experiences. And yes, it’s great that we now have, you know, a machine learning team, and a VR team, and we’ve got all, like… content strategy. Like, we’ve got all of these expanded capabilities, but product is at the heart of it, and I think it’s been so tremendously satisfying to know that, you know, what Launch is going to put forward is amazing digital experiences that come back to product and platform thinking. So, I’m super excited about it, and it feels like while we’re… what did we call it, Gina, at the all-hands? Graduating?
Chris: We’re graduating.
Gina: (Laughs) That’s right.
Chris: We’re… we’re not…
Gina: It’s graduation day. (Laughs)
Chris: It’s graduation day. We’re going from Postlight to what feels like a bigger, better thing, and I’m just super excited that Launch is out in the world now.
Mark: It’s good timing for graduation. I was in New York over the weekend, and…
Chris: It’s true!
Gina: It’s perfect. (Laughs)
Mark: There were people in caps and gowns everywhere.
Chris: (Laughs) Totally.
Gina: It’s graduation season for sure.
Gina: And I’m really looking forward to just having… there’s so many new and interesting voices at Launch, we’re going to have them on the show. I think there will probably be some graduation changes coming to the show in the next couple of months, but definitely stay tuned. Same feed, same subscription, and… yeah. We’re just excited to… there’s so many interesting people and projects and capabilities that I just can’t wait to bring onto the show and talk more about.
Chris: Thanks for joining us, Mark. This was wonderful.
Mark: Oh, you’re welcome, thank you for having me. It’s been a lot of fun.
Gina: Congratulations on launching Launch. Launching Launch is the phrase that’s come out of my mouth, I’ve said a million times…
Gina: …over the past many months. (Laughs)
Mark: I love it.
Gina: Do check us out, launch.nttdata.com. Yeah, we’re really looking forward to a fun new adventure as Launch. In the meantime, if you have questions, thoughts, feedback, you can always get in touch with us. Send us a note at email@example.com. We would love to talk more, and we are going to talk more, a little bit more, about Launch’s approach, about Launch’s capabilities, and what we’re trying to do out there as we come together with our amazing sibling companies and groups at NTT Data. In the meantime, as always, we read every note that comes in, firstname.lastname@example.org. And thank you again to Mark. Thanks, Chris.
Gina: Talk to you soon.
Chris: Bye, everyone.
Mark: Thank you.
[POSTLIGHT OUTRO MUSIC]