Toronto-based Wave is well-known for its story of monetizing its free accounting platform — founder and CEO Kirk Simpson is vocal about using the freemium model to get customers on its platform. But now, as the company focuses on becoming an all-around solution for entrepreneurs following the launch of its lending and payments features, it’s ramping up its efforts to redefine its reputation.
To do this, the company is doubling down on marketing with the hire of Neil Shankman, its new senior vice president of marketing at Wave. It’s a period of high growth for the 150-person company, which had 89 people just six months ago.
Shankman has held roles at Google as head of marketing and VP of marketing at Clio, but beyond that, he’s also had a taste of the entrepreneurial journey as a CEO of an advertising agency.
“Wave is moving very quickly to position itself really as this modern financial services platform very much catered to entrepreneurs, and full-growth oriented entrepreneurs,” Shankman said. “The ultimate job of a marketer is to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Wave is essentially trying to do the same kind of thing with financial services. Deliver the right kind of financial services to the right user at the right time and that to me is really cool.”
Like many companies, Wave has been a product-oriented operation; Shankman says that generally, there is a bias towards making organizations product-oriented, and not appreciating the role that marketing plays in a company’s growth. But not investing sufficiently in marketing can be a blocker towards scale, and finding senior marketing talent is a particular issue in Canada.
“There’s a small group and certainly there’s a lot of demand for, and not a large pool of, people who legitimately have world class tech marketing experience,” Shankman said. But with a massive volume of startup activity in Canada — whether that’s funding, government initiatives, and growth — the number of people with a high pedigree of talent is increasing. “There comes a point where, whether the talent exists or not, a company is compelled to or forced to invest in marketing or sales, because you can’t simply rely on the pace of growth that comes from organic signups, you need to invest in marketing and sales to help accelerate that.”
As Shankman works to build a “world-class” marketing organization, he’s particularly excited to help Wave revamp its identity.
“A free accounting platform is very different from financial services for entrepreneurs. [We’re] educating and evangelizing a very wide market: who we are, what we do, what we exist for, and most importantly, what kind of values we provide. There’s a lot of opportunity to refresh and update that,” he said.