VenturePeople: Kate O'Neill of Metamarketer
By Milt Capps Updated 12:09 p.m.
METAMARKETER founder Kathleen "Kate" O'Neill, a 37-year-old Chicago-area native who's happily spent nearly a decade in Music City, acknowledges that the Nashville talent pool inevitably has "gaps"; but, she stresses that there's lots of tech, marketing and enterprise talent among full-time techies and freelancers and within the walls of Nashville corporations.
During a recent VNC interview, O'Neill added that she's hoping that more of that talent will be "released into the wild" to further spur growth and development of Nashville's tech, marketing and venture community.
Describing Metamarketer's mission, O'Neill moved with agility among "wildness" references and more conventional phrases, such as "creating compelling customer experiences."
Metamarketer's annual billings are under $1 million; its clients include HCA, Emma, Opry.com, Ingram, Symantec and others, she said. The two-year-old firm employs data analytics, classic marketing and an appreciation for the roles of compassion and empathy to create customer experiences that, in turn, energize a "virtuous cycle" of interdependence between seller and buyer, she explained.
It may be her belief in the virtuous cycle that often leads O'Neill to volunteer as a presenter during local digerati events, such as BarCamp Nashville. During the Oct. 15 BarCamp 2011, she told her audience that giving high priority to the customer experience can help "make peace" between those who love the "geeky land of analytics" and the Creatives who fear marketing-optimization data hampers imagination.
In fact, O'Neill's working hypothesis seems to be that Nashville has the potential to become common ground for a truce between Geeks and Creatives. This is largely because Nashville has a more "collaborative" spirit than the Bay Area, Portland and many other places she's worked, she explained.
She's earned her opinion: O'Neill spent a decade as songwriter and publisher, doing business as Honey Bowtie Music. That experience, plus her marketing/tech career, have left her believing that the entire Nashville business community has been heavily influenced by the city's collaborative songwriter ethos, in which pro's who admire each other are quick to say, "We should write together sometime," she continued.
Nashville's "connection to the songwriting community seems genuinely meaningful to me," she said, adding that Nashville has both "an openness of spirit and an openness of Roladex."
Many of her friends and colleagues in the Bay Area tech and marketing communities would relocate to Nashville if they knew its strengths, she said.
The word's getting-out, said O'Neill; yet, she said, she senses there is "massive misconception" elsewhere that Nashville is not hospitable to business mavericks or those who share her views as a "very Progressive liberal." In fact, she said, Left-Right politics doesn't pervade Nashville's atmosphere. People are more likely to focus on the work and the art at-hand.
After nearly nine years in Nashville, O'Neill vows she plans to stay put, and insists that creativity and collaboration, not "Good Ole Boy" deal-making are the currency of exchange in Music City. Becoming part of Nashville is "nowhere near as daunting an experience as people [elsewhere] are making it out to be," she said.
O'Neill's firm currently has four full-timers and she's sorting through her go-forward strategy options, she said. That process is being helped-along by her current participation in the Nashville Entrepreneurs Organization's Catalyst entrepreneurship program and her service as a mentor with JumpStart Foundry.
Her earlier career stops included, according to her Linkedin, HCA (as "Senior Business Analyst & Search Monkey"); stints with Magazines.com and Sitening (now Raven); and, duties as tech writer and content manager (for Netflix, Cinebase, Toshiba, Thru-Put and others), among other gigs.
Her education: German, Russian and international studies at the University of Chicago, plus graduate study of linguistics and language development at San Jose State University. Her LinkedIn's here. VNC