"CMO talk" with Scott Brown of Hum Capital: The intelligent investor connector

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CMO talk with Scott Brown of Hum Capital

Whatever your industry, I’m a firm believer in marketing “basics done right.” I believe too many marketers focus on the latest technology or flashy campaigns rather than nailing the proven formula of: Know your audience. Know the magic. Connect the two.

In this edition of our #CMOTalk series, we spoke to Scott Brown, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Hum Capital.


Founded just over a couple of years ago, Hum is a US-based fintech that offers an AI-empowered funding engine that analyses and uses data to connect investors to the available investment opportunities on the platform. When a capital-hungry startup joins the platform, Hum's AI ingests financial data from over 100 SaaS systems, including QuickBooks, NetSuite and Google Analytics, and then matches it to its pool of 250+ institutional investors. TechCrunch describes Hum as a "navigation engine for startups that aren’t sure whether they should go for venture debt, traditional VC, revenue-share financing options or others".


So far, the platform has helped facilitate more than $500 million in capital transactions. In August 2021, the company also completed its series A funding and raised $9 million.


Scott joined Hum at the beginning of 2021 after spending nearly 3 years at Sapphire Ventures, an $8 billion venture capital firm where he was at the "marketing helm" of the company's 65+ portfolio of clients.


With an impressive marketing career of 20+ years in the world's tech mecca, Silicon Valley, at leading brands like Google, Facebook and Cisco, he was attracted by Hum's "vision for democratizing startup fundraising to make it more efficient and equitable".


I knew I’d eventually return to an operator role in an organization with a higher purpose than just making rich people richer.

In the short course over the past 8 months, Scott has been instrumental in building up Hum's basic marketing function from scratch and successfully rebranding the business. What was his biggest failure so far and what does he believe will shape the fintech industry in 2022?


Read Scott's complete story below to find out.


Tell us about your career start? How did you end up doing marketing for Hum Capital?


I’ve been lucky enough to work up and down Silicon Valley for the last 20 years in a variety of marketing roles at companies like Google, Facebook and Cisco. Most recently, I ran marketing at Sapphire Ventures, an $8 billion venture capital firm where I both helped to raise the profile of the firm, and advised their 65+ portfolio companies on their marketing needs.


Working in venture was exciting, but I missed having the opportunity to build a marketing organization and longer-term strategy that involved more than just chasing the next hot deal. I knew I’d eventually return to an operator role in an organization with a higher purpose than just making rich people richer.


I wasn’t looking when Blair Silverberg (Hum Capital CEO) approached me for help writing a CMO job description as they worked on raising their Series A. I hadn’t expected to go to such an early-stage company, but I fell in love with the team’s vision for democratizing startup fundraising to make it more efficient and equitable. I believe there are a number of trends that make private capital ripe for disruption and the opportunity to make venture funding more accessible to entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds made this more than just a job for me.




What’s unique about marketing a fintech? What's Hum Capital all about and how does it differ from the previous brands you worked for? What's it like to be a CMO at Hum?


Relative to other brands I’ve worked for, what’s unique about Hum is not so much about being a fintech, it’s our current life stage. Hum is an early-stage startup -- we just closed our Series A -- so I spend more time on the basics like messaging, martech deployments and process development than I have at other companies. The secret no one tells you before becoming a CMO is how much time you’ll spend on spreadsheets.


Whatever your industry, I’m a firm believer in marketing “basics done right.” I believe too many marketers focus on the latest technology or flashy campaigns rather than nailing the proven formula of: Know your audience. Know the magic. Connect the two.


In Hum’s case, we’re a technology-enabled funding platform that connects great companies to the right capital for their situations. Companies connect their financial systems of record to our platform, where we use AI to label, standardize and analyze their performance. With this investors’ view of the business, we help companies explore the range of venture equity and debt financing options available to them before connecting them with pre-qualified, institutional investors looking to invest in high-growth companies.


From that perspective, our marketing objectives are fairly complicated: we have to market both an analytics software solution, and a two-sided marketplace that attracts both high-quality companies and investors. I feel that complexity daily as I toggle between tasks ranging from developing sales messaging, to understanding regulatory limitations around private equity transactions, and trying to build an influential brand. It’s really rewarding to be able to use all of the lessons you’ve learned over 20 years to help build an organization from scratch.



 

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What’s the biggest challenge for fintech marketers nowadays?

That’s a really tough question to answer. From a CMO’s perspective, I’d say the biggest challenge -- regardless of industry -- is the complexity of systems and data required to build a modern company. This issue came up time and again as I was helping the CMOs at Sapphire’s portfolio companies, which often seemed to lead to companies replacing their CMOs every 12-24 months as the organization’s needs outgrew the skills and experience (or expectations) of their marketing leader.


In terms of Hum, I’d say our biggest challenge is audience acquisition. The access to data between companies and investors is very asymmetrical since companies typically only raise money every 12-18 months while it’s a full-time job for investors. To help companies unlock their full funding potential, we need to identify companies BEFORE they kick off a fundraising process and anchor their expectations in a traditional approach to raising venture capital. Entrepreneurs are ecstatic when they find us, we just need to do more work to find the right channels and targeting to be able to identify companies when they could most use our help.

Your background spans Product, Comms and CX and you've worked at tech giants like Google, Facebook and Cisco. How is your previous experience helping you in your current role as a CMO at Hum?


I was fortunate to work at companies like Google and Facebook when they were in hyper-growth phases because it gave me great experience and insight into the issues that arise when rapidly scaling teams and systems. That experience, in combination with working in a variety of roles ranging from product marketing to market research and executive communications, has led me to describe myself as the Swiss Army Knife of marketers.

Having the skills of a utility player in a variety of marketing channels enables me to be a player/coach with my team as it grows.

I can both help them think through issues OR roll up my sleeves to help them get something done OR fill a skill gap until the organization grows enough to warrant hiring an expert. One of my bosses described this as my ability to be “strategically tactical” which really comes in handy when you’re dealing with rapidly evolving situations.

What do you consider to be Hum’s biggest marketing success and failure so far?


Hum just came out of stealth mode in the Spring of 2021. I joined shortly before that, and I’m proud of how quickly we completed a rebrand and stood up the basic marketing infrastructure that had never been built. That hard work started translating right away into inbound leads, and we've just closed 2021 having helped almost 40 companies raise more than $500 million in capital commitments from investors.


My biggest failure has been not simplifying our narrative enough so that the tech media and influencers see the underlying trends that will change how private capital is transacted in the coming years. The shift to cloud-based financials is enabling a shift in the private market similar to what the public markets experienced in the 1990s with the move from actively-managed funds to lower-fee, data-driven ETFs and index funds. Investors and entrepreneurs need help navigating this change, which is why we describe ourselves as the Kayak.com for raising private capital -- a single destination to explore all of your fundraising options.

What will the fintech industry look like in 2022?


I’ll limit my thoughts to B2B fintech. I think a combination of trends will lead to institutional investors changing how they deploy their assets, which will shake up the traditional VC industry. Those trends include:

  1. Historically low-interest rates

  2. Investors’ need to generate greater returns, leading them to alternative investment assets

  3. Better access to validated business data that helps de-risk private investments

In this environment, I believe institutional investors will make even more direct investments, or at least seek lower-cost alternatives to venture’s traditional 2 and 20 fee structure. As a result, VCs who can truly differentiate themselves through true value-add services will continue to thrive, but the middle of the pack firms will struggle to justify their fees. This is actually a good thing as it will allow for the more efficient capital allocation to companies whose growth warrants investment. This is analogous to the public market shift 20-30 years ago from overpaid investment managers to the low-fee index fund or ETF.


What’s next for Hum?


We’re at the early stages of our journey. We just launched our equity business so that we can help entrepreneurs evaluate the full range of investment options available to them. There’s a lot of blocking and tackling to set up this product line with our existing debt business but it’s an integral part of our mission to connect great companies with the right capital.


From a marketing perspective, that means expanding our audience even as we start to dial in our demand gen engine and brand to support our growth. It’s an exciting time for all of us, and truly rewarding when we help entrepreneurs of all backgrounds get access to the capital they deserve.



 

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