ExactTarget alums band together at new tech spinoff

At least a dozen former ExactTarget Inc. employees—including five based in Indianapolis—have recently joined a New York-based marketing-technology spinoff that has roots as an ExactTarget competitor. And the locally based alumni are looking for office space in downtown Indy.

The company is called Cheetah Digital, and its predecessor, CheetahMail, used to duel with ExactTarget and other email-marketing-software firms in the early 2000s. Experian bought CheetahMail in 2004, built it into a new business unit, and announced in April that it agreed to sell a majority stake of that unit for $400 million to California-based Vector Capital and ExactTarget co-founder Peter McCormick.

The carve-out acquisition that officially formed Cheetah Digital closed June 1, but over the past several weeks, a number of former ExactTarget execs have assumed top roles at the 1,700-person company. Some, including Cheetah's chief administration officer, Todd Richardson, reside in Indianapolis and are looking to lock up office space downtown.

"It's a very skilled and experienced core that's come over, which is what makes this opportunity so exciting," said Richardson, who was previously executive vice president of administration at ExactTarget and co-founder and chief people officer at Fishers-based Emplify.

Seperately, Richardson said, "We are looking for space downtown, contingent on our ability to retain city and state incentives."

Other Indianapolis-based Cheetah officials include Ed Federici, chief technology officer; D. Wayne Pool, executive vice president of global sales strategy and operations; Brent Mosby, senior vice president and general counsel; and Matt Compton, chief of staff.

Federici was previously chief technlogy officer at Pacers Sports and Entertainment. Pool was previously chief operations officer at Doxly. Mosby recently served as counsel at Faegre Baker Daniels. Compton used to be CEO of Waysay, which was acquired by Branding Brand last year.

McCormick, who left ExactTarget in 2014 and is now based in New York, is Cheetah's executive chairman. Sameer Kazi, who spent about four years in Indianapolis during a six-year stint with the company, is Cheetah's Chicago-based CEO.

CheetahMail was one of the early targets in a wave of marketing-tech acquisitions, as enterprise software heavyweights like Salesforce and Oracle aimed to develop marketing tools to complement sales, customer service and other tools already in their suites.

(In 2013, Salesforce bought ExactTarget for $2.5 billion and Oracle bought Responsys, another CheetahMail competitor, for $1.5 billion.)

With its spinoff, Cheetah Digital is positioning itself as "the only independent, enterprise cross-channel marketing solutions provider dedicated to the marketer." It's betting that its laser focus will be a selling point to marketers dispirited by software sellers with a wider focus.

"Marketing technology is the only thing that we are focused on and that we are innovating on," Richardson said. "And if someone were to say that some of the big players have taken their eye off the ball in serving marketers, I would not disagree with them."

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