Segment: Putting Customers First

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Peter Reinhardt, CEO and Co-Founder, SegmentPeter Reinhardt, CEO and Co-Founder  
Atypical visit to the Segment office in San Francisco, CA will showcase a brainstorming Peter Reinhardt, the CEO, and Co-founder of the company all maniacal about cutting distractions. “Unsubscribe, delete, revisit whether you need that meeting, revisit whether you’re the right person to manage a project. Distractions will keep creeping into your workday unless you carefully but methodically prioritize and redirect them as necessary,” he mentions. Having dropped out of college in his junior year to start Segment, then scaling the company to new heights in not an east deed indeed and of course you can expect a mad genius behind this.

"At Segment, we're one tribe. We are open, collaborative, and take the initiative to drive big meaty projects to completion"

However, as one would expect, it was not a merry ride for Reinhardt from the very beginning. “We were working hard on other business ideas from 2011 to December 2012. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, Segment was starting to be created—by us,” he says.

Three to Tango

In spring 2011, Peter Reinhardt and his two college roommates came up with the idea that they envisioned would spur deeper engagement in their classes at MIT. They decided to build a classroom lecture tool: a button that a student could push in class and let the professor know precisely how they were confused, but the rollout was not at all what Reinhardt expected. “It was a total disaster,” informs Reinhardt. The issue? No one in the class was using the product. However, that didn’t dampen the entrepreneur’s spirit. After winning some of the investors’ trust and much deliberation, the team settled on their next idea: a robust data analytics tool that analyzed software programs. Unfortunately, this product also failed to take off. “People didn't want to believe data that came from a machine. There was no narrative, and the product failed,” mentions Reinhardt.

Luckily for his, the shock and shutter of two ideas failing miserably worked in his favor, and Reinhardt and his co-founders decided to revisit a few ideas they'd had along the way in building Segment. One idea they re-considered was an open-source data analytics tool that could blend seamlessly with other software extensions — 100 lines of code they'd written in their early days at Y Combinator.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Today, Segment provides the customer data infrastructure that helps businesses put their customers first for more than 15,000 companies across 71 countries, from fast-growing companies such as Atlassian, Bonobos, and Instacart to some of the world’s largest organizations like Levi’s, Intuit and Time. “At Segment, we're one tribe. We are open, collaborative, and take the initiative to drive big meaty projects to completion. We love open sourcing our code and writing down everything we’ve learned,” states Reinhardt.

Segment helps companies give their customers a better customer experience. We do that by assisting them to organize all of their internal data about all their interactions with the customer

Using Segment, companies can collect, unify and connect their first-party to over 200 marketing, analytics and data warehouse tools and achieve a common understanding of their users and activate their data to create customer-first decisions and experiences. Reinhardt explains, “Segment helps companies give their customers a better customer experience. We do that by helping them organize all of their internal data about all their interactions with the customer. For example, if you go to the bank, they interact with you at the ATM, at the teller, via a phone call center. They have a web app, a mobile app, they send you emails. They're interacting with you across this huge surface area. They need to be able to coordinate that interaction.”

A Single Platform to Conquer all

Delivered as a single platform, Segment collects, stores, and routes your user data to hundreds of tools with the flick of a switch. The platform ensures that it saves engineers months spent installing and maintaining analytics tools, gives marketers the agility to try new tools and test campaigns quickly, and enables BI teams to export their raw data into internal systems and databases. By using the Segment API, organizations can track user events like page views, clicks, and sign-ups on your mobile app and website. Next, they can switch on marketing, product, and analytics tools you want to use in the Segment’s control panel.

At the core of the platform is the Segment Spec which has three components. First, it outlines the semantic definition of the customer data we capture across all of our libraries and APIs. There are six API calls in the Spec. They each represent a distinct type of semantic information about a customer. Every call shares the same common fields. Second, it details the event data we capture across some of our cloud sources and destinations. Moreover,, it shares the events we recommend you track for a particular industry based on our experience working with thousands of customers.
When you respect these specs, we can map these events to specific features within end destinations like Google Analytics and Facebook Ads. In an instance, Segment helped ClearBrain create the first predictive analytics platform. ClearBrain were building the first self-serve predictive analytics platform but had run into a predicament. The challenges and infrastructures required to construct the two components of a predictive analytics platform couldn’t be more different. Thus it became hard enough to build one product, let alone two at the same time. Thankfully due to Segment opening up their platform to partners, this tradeoff was not an issue for ClearBrain.

Segment’s Customer Data Infrastructure enabled them to focus on the intelligence components. By building integration to Segment via their platform, ClearBrain was able to develop for one API and automatically collect data from any client, server-side, platform, or email integration. Rather than spending years building an integration for every code library and email API, ClearBrain got instant access to the dozens of data sources available in Segment’s sources catalog as well. Such has been the prowess that Segment has made helping many reputable companies along with their journey as a company.

Nowhere to go but UP!

The premise behind Segment has always been that the traditional CRM “is no longer enough.” The company wants to provide data infrastructure for companies looking to give their customers a seamless experience— while also being mindful of privacy around data. A couple of days ago, Segment took a major step toward this premise as the company raised $175 million in a funding round led by existing investors Accel & GV. Eight-year-old Segment says it plans to use the money toward a few initiatives, including opening multiple new offices across North America, Europe, Middle East and North Africa (EMEA), and Asia- Pacific while significantly growing its team. Segment will also use the new funds to accelerate the development and adoption of its Customer Data Infrastructure platform, which is now being used in 71 countries. Reinhardt says, “Companies must use dozens of business applications in their customer data stack, but they don’t have the data infrastructure necessary to integrate these applications seamlessly or respect customer privacy preferences consistently.”

It has indeed been a tipsy ride for Segment to the top, but since the finalization of a splendid third idea, the company has bloomed into a full-fledged company with offices in San Francisco, New York, Vancouver, and Dublin. The fast-growing company has proved a pleasant surprise to those investors who were previously ready to write Segment off as a loss. Reinhardt says Segment's success is a matter of persistence and thinking outside the box. However, he also mentioned that he probably held onto the earlier faulty iterations of Segment's previous products a tad too long. “People tend to go way to long before they kill a product that doesn't work. You have to take a step back and ask, 'What does the world or market need?,” he concludes.
- Kenneth Thomas
    April 04, 2019