A Q&A with Rivet Works founder and CEO Mike Svatek. The Austin-based marketing services startup launched to the public last week. It was founded in 2013 by Svatek and Ben Lail, and the team has raised $8.8 million in funding to this point.
SUB: Please describe Rivet and your primary innovation.
Svatek: We help brands get to know their customers by engaging them to natively generate photos, videos, preference and intent data, then using that data to intelligently place content throughout the web to drive commerce and loyalty.
There are two innovations that our customers—digital marketers—love about our platform. The first is the ability to place content anywhere using an architecture that works more like Twitter rather than a traditional feedback or content management system. The second is the ability to visually build experiences in a matter of minutes to capture nearly any type of content or data a marketer could want.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Svatek: Currently we are focused on targeting heads of ecommerce in travel and retail as well as digital marketing leaders in major consumer brands.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Rivet from the competition?
Svatek: Our primary competition is a marketer’s belief that most of their marketing or commerce objectives can be reached using social only. Many providers focus only on engaging consumers in social networks or culling their content. Our approach demonstrates how marketers can be more successful by using primarily owned channels and augmenting it with social channels.
SUB: You just announced your public launch. Was this a launch out of beta?
Svatek: Yes! We spent the last year building a differentiated solution that solves a wide range of problems for ecommerce and marketing professionals. Our beta customers included JanSport, Viking Cruises, Build.com and several others that helped refine our capabilities. We are confident and excited in scaling the solution beyond beta now.
SUB: Why was this the right time to launch?
Svatek: We are at the intersection of three powerful trends: User-generated content (UGC), mobile connectedness, and the continued shift of commerce online from offline. In particular, the desire for consumers to generate and share UGC combined with mobile connectedness are at the point now where global brands can tap into UGC to treat it as a first-class citizen and a core component of their marketing and commerce objectives.
SUB: Have you raised outside funding to this point?
Svatek: Yes, last year we raised $8 million through private equity.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Rivet? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Svatek: Well, I guess it’s best described as gradual thinking that culminated into an ‘aha’ moment. I have been designing and building large-scale content and engagement systems since the 1990s for global brands, and one of the key questions that I start with is: “What would an average person want?”
When you consider the rapid rise of mobile connectivity, content, and online commerce, it seemed obvious that an average person would want to visualize a trip before they take it or experience a product before they buy it. The ‘aha’ moment was discovering that the best path to give people what they want was not an app, which several years ago may have been considered counter-intuitive to many. That said, we decided to build our platform with open principles so that it could be leveraged across various devices—from desktop to mobile to wearable.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Svatek: Once we sketched out the business model and hacked together some early concepts, Ben and I, as co-founders, quit our jobs.
That was the gamble, to bootstrap the company with no personal income or outside investment. But it gave us the time, focus, and energy that we needed to articulate the vision to other people, establish a prototype, and talk with investors. We were fortunate to have a talented engineer join us with no salary for the better part of a year to help put the pillars in place.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Svatek: We started as ‘Together Mobile,’ a name that conveyed bringing consumers and brands together to create a shared understanding of what the person wants and what the brand can deliver back to them. At the time, we felt it was important that our customers understood that we used the most progressive mobile techniques to connect the two. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, Ben and I thought through hundreds of names using all sorts of word combinations and translations.
We have recently rebranded as ‘Rivet,’ which I’m thrilled about because it better represents what we are doing from an omni-channel perspective versus strictly mobile. The name Rivet illustrates how we compel people with riveting experiences to capture data, content, and preferences, and further engage shoppers by seeing rich media that inspires purchase.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Svatek: Market timing has been the trick for our business. We have a great team, great technology, and great investors, and we’re blessed to have been able to swiftly establish those. I’m pleased that large brands are joining with us now, and I’m excited to see the timing in terms of buying cycles and prioritization line up in 2015.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Svatek: We are a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) business and enter into annual subscription with our customers.
SUB: What are your goals for Rivet over the next year or so?
Svatek: Keep innovating ahead of the consumer. Keep scaling the business. And keep building a great culture that makes the first two possible.