Our founder and CEO, Craig Steensma, took a moment to reflect on the last 20 years. Please enjoy!
When we launched eshots in the kitchen of a coach
house apartment in May of 1998, I never imagined there would come a time for me
to craft a letter thanking all the amazing people who helped shape the company
over a 20 year period.
I’m humbled and downright grateful to have the
opportunity today to reflect on all the amazing people I call colleagues (current
and those who’ve gone onward), thank the clients who share in our mission, and
express appreciation for all the professional and personal connections that challenged
and supported me throughout the years to grow a company, serve as a mentor to
our team, and focus my time on balancing my role as husband/father.
Like a lot of businesses, it all started with a good idea and a ton of passion. But in 1998, it also started with a lot of tater tots from unending visits to the Salt & Pepper Diner where we’d spend hours sketching out how to make it all work (the original data model was literally sketched on a napkin). Since then, we’ve always retained the diner theme in our various offices as a nod to our roots and a reminder of what a small team can do with some passion (and plates of fried potatoes).
Back then photo marketing was revolutionary: replace
Polaroid photos and paper business reply cards (BRCs) with digital cameras and
computer technologies. When we launched the final product at the Daytona 500, thousands
of people lined up waiting 45 minutes to “see yourself on the web” (no really,
that’s what the signage said!). 20 years later, photo marketing remains a
staple of events with dozens of similar businesses based on a concept we
You might be thinking, “okay, so you took cool
event photos and uploaded them?” You’re right. But 20 years ago we saw
something more—an opportunity to create a business that generates insights from
connecting consumers to products or services they’re passionate about. Today
our mix of data capture software and applications collects more than 3 million
unique consumers annually from live events, or roughly the population of our
“sweet” home base city, Chicago.
is bliss. I still remember all the people who said we were crazy…that
the technology would never work, that consumers wouldn’t embrace it, etc. Those
doubters only made us work harder until we got a small group of marketing
executives at GM to give us one chance to present our idea. That’s right…we
landed General Motors as our pilot client. How’s that for crazy?
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and take
a look around once in a while, you could miss it.
Bueler’s Day Off
A rapidly changing technology base might suggest we
are an entirely different business today and in many ways that’s true. But
since day one, the culture has been one of continual improvement, challenge,
curiosity, and care. It’s this frame of mind that has allowed us to build a
platform that takes data, churns it, and does something meaningful for our
clients so they can better spend their experiential marketing dollars. I often
share an original agreement from 1998 where the closing paragraph describes how
our services will “help deliver measurable ROI like never before.” So while life has moved pretty fast, our
mission remains the same: to Use Technology and Insights to Advance
Experiential Marketing ROI.
a business is HARD. We had to persevere through the 2001.com crash,
auto manufacturer bankruptcies in 2009, departures of key team players, and the
occasional mistake (everybody makes them). They were important lessons for us
and we came out of each one stronger than before by doubling down on our best
assets—our customers and our people.
Thinking about life in 1998 can be fun. There was
no iPhone (“flip phones” were not very smart at all). Texting was not
mainstream. People were infatuated with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in
Titanic. You navigated around cities by printing Mapquest directions on paper or
stood in the rain trying to hail a cab along with half of New York City—wow!
Life in 2018 is fun, too. Just last week, I met with the Director of all
media for one of the largest companies in the world. Think about that for a
second—this woman manages media, social and CRM for one of the largest
companies in the world (no it’s not GM). This time I had little to do with this
meeting. The team made it possible, and I thanked them all personally during our
monthly standup for blessing me with that opportunity—they are rock stars.
Even more rewarding in my role as a father, I was able to share details
of this same meeting at dinner with my 3 daughters. I emphasized how this same
executive challenged me 10 years ago to scale our platform into what it is today,
and how neat it was to thank her ahead of our 20 year anniversary. My middle
daughter was excited to know it was a woman in this role and asked what made
her and the other managers at eshots successful. The answer came easy to me for
a change. I responded, “they are passionate about their work but even more passionate
about building an atmosphere of collaboration and respect.” We talked about how
that same dedication for service could take her farther in life than she can imagine.
These are exciting times. Data is
everywhere, it’s getting easier to capture and manipulate, and it can transform
the way decisions are made. Even though 20 years is substantial, I feel like we
are just getting started! One of our core values is, “what gets measured gets
managed.” In this case, though, I don’t
think it’s possible to measure the gratitude I have for our staff (past and
present) or our amazing clients who entrust us as their partner. Thank you friends.