Stephanie Liverani, Co-founder, ooomf: For Marketing Magic, Hire a Mathematician!

The NextWomen Mobile Tech theme. 

Lynne McEachern talks to the Co-Founder and Head of Data at ooomf, an app discovery startup which has recently closed a $500,000 seed round, on why a mathematician might be the wisest hiring decision a startup could make.

Stephanie Liverani comes from a family of entrepreneurs so it's no surprise that earlier this year, she co-founded a hot new social app discovery startup out of Montreal called ooomf.

Ooomf’s big vision is to be the simplest and most beautiful way to discover and share the best apps in the world. The ecosystem is a win-win for app users and developers alike. It allows users a unique and easier way to discover mobile apps and it gives app developers the chance to build an online presence, engage and build a fan base to solicit feedback and ultimately get users invested in their brands. 

ooomf recently announced the public launch of its app discovery platform on the web. It also announced that it has raised a $500,000 seed round led by Montreal’s Real Ventures, an early stage seed fund, with participation from BDC Venture Capital and a number of undisclosed angel investors. It is a great first step on their mobile startup path. What’s next? The iPhone app!

The ooomf team of 4, including CEO Mikael Cho, CTO Angus Woodman, Lead Developer Rafa Olivarria, and Head of Data Stephanie, has graduated from the 3-month Spring Accelerator Program with FounderFuel and is now testing with thousands of users in Private Beta, soon to be Public. Like most startup co-founders, Stephanie does what needs doing, however her job does revolve mostly around the numbers of the company, including the financing, metrics, reporting, spending, and marketing data. Stephanie’s background is in actuarial science, not marketing or finance. She is only a year out of university but her knack for all things numbers, trends, and analysis help the company to target their product development and marketing spend where it matters. She says to determine the most important data to track, ask yourself a simple question: 

“What is our core angle or goal? Is our website and our marketing achieving that goal?' 

For example, aside from their own user acquisition, she says ooomf’s main goal is to get their app developers more downloads from the app store. Therefore the marketing efforts they make always achieve that end and the metrics they track tell them how to adjust their ecosystem to ultimately get users to hit the download button. 

Now here comes the advice part. Hiring is one of the hardest decisions in a startup, knowing when to pull the trigger and what role to hire first is always tricky.

According to Stephanie, if you are considering hiring into your marketing team, don’t always think social media first. Today it is authenticity that sells.

As long as you have the entire team contributing to your social media and thought leadership efforts around a common vision, you are probably fulfilling most of what you need in that space. What you need is someone to help make decisions and calculate ROI on everything you do. She says one of their biggest challenges is, 

'As a startup, we have to make so many guesses with incomplete data.' 

With this in mind, it makes sense that the skills a startup initially needs on its marketing team come from Mathematics, not Marketing. 

The important part, says Stephanie, is the ability to interpret and guess based on incomplete and multiple sources of data. Seeing trends and extrapolating in a very short timeframe to make important product and market investment decisions is essential. To a Math graduate, this just comes naturally, to many others it can actually seem like magic! 

To back up her claims, even Sean Ellis, CEO of Catchfree and Qualaroo, admitted in his popular Startup Marketing Blog 3 years ago: 

“At my last long term VP marketing role, my first hire was a trained actuary (the guys that calculate risk for insurance companies). And the marketers at two startups I’m working with now are both sharp mathematicians – one recently graduated from MIT with a math major.” 

Are you convinced? To start, try this basic job description to hire yourself a junior Marketing Magician: 

Skills and Characteristics Required 

  • New graduate in Mathematics, Actuarial Science or Statistics
  • Not afraid to ask questions
  • Ability to build a network of peers
  • Extreme curiosity but disciplined work habits
  • Familiar with latest metrics tracking software with the ability to synthesize between these and interpret the results: Google Analytics, MixPanel, Kissmetrics/Qualaroo, Crowdbooster, Optimizely, Mailchimp, etc.

Job Duties

  • Cohort Analysis
  • User Acquisition Costs
  • Marketing Campaign tracking and measurement
  • AB Testing: retention ratios, funneling, messaging
  • Pricing Models
  • Metrics/KPI Tracking, Benchmarking and Reporting
  • Competitive Analysis

Based then on the assertion that Mathematicians make the best Marketing hires for startups, the ooomf team has a leg-up on their competitors. Since Stephanie happens to have a Mathematics background, they have dedicated an entire senior body to the Data function and therefore, presumably, will be making more marketing magic happen as a team. It’s plain to see by the ‘infinity-like’ symbol in their logo, that it has become integral to their company. She says, 

'I have seen many startups wait an entire year to start tracking business and user metrics. I have never met another startup with someone exclusively in my role. People think that developers can automate analytics for them. A computer can't give you the answer, you need a person to analyze and interpret [the results].'' 

Not only are there no Heads of Data in the web startup world, there are also few women founders. So what is her motivation to work 20 hour days in a male-dominated industry so early in her career? 

“Helping the team understand the product from a female perspective [is very important]. Also, the primary motivation for me as a woman is not monetary - it’s value driven. There are not many women in the tech scene, and so there is a lot of motivation for me to give ooomf my best shot; to prove that women can also help in leading successful startups.” 

So take her advice and buy in to the power of the numbers. Yes, you will still be guided by a creative vision and some intuition, but it boils down to understanding things like the lifetime value of your users and the return on every product and marketing investment you make.

Take a chance, and someday, like Stephanie, your eyes might light up at the mention of the surprising results of a cohort analysis or the thought of your own custom analytics panel. She believes in magic. Do you?

Lynne McEachern is a unique blend of right and left brain and an entrepreneur. Her most recent venture,Spoke Technologies, is a startup committed to building user-friendly mobile apps that use your voice to help feel more connected to long distance loved ones. With a brief stint as an Actuary, she spent most of her career in Marketing, Strategy and Business Development in the high-tech and software sectors before she got the entrepreneurial calling. Based in Toronto, when she isn’t working she enjoys travel, tennis, all things design, and hanging out with friends and family. 

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