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ON24: The Two-Decade Journey To An IPO

ON24: The Two-Decade Journey To An IPO

In early February, ON24 (NYSE:ONTF) pulled off its IPO and the stock price jumped by 42%. The company raised about $428 million in the offering.

ON24 operates a platform for webcasting and virtual events.  And yes, the growth has been accelerating because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first nine months of 2020, revenues shot up by 59% to $103.7 million. There was even a profit of $11 million. 
Keep in mind that the company was actually founded in the heyday of the dot-com boom, back in 1998. Since then, it has raised $72 million, which is fairly modest for a tech operator. The last round came in 2016 when ON24 raised $25 million from Goldman Sachs, Rho Ventures and U.S. Venture Partners.

So how did the company build its platform? What are some of the lessons along the way?
Well, I had a chance to interview the founder and CEO of ON24, Sharat Sharan. Here’s what he had to say: 

Tom Taulli: Tell me the backstory on founding ON24. What was the inspiration and vision?
Sharat Sharan: Audience engagement and creating compelling digital experiences has been core to our vision since I founded ON24 more than 20 years ago. It was the early days of the internet in 1998, but it was clear that digital was going to completely transform how businesses reach customers and engage their audiences.

That was the inspiration for ON24. Interactive, live, and always-on multimedia digital experiences were new ideas back then. The ability to scale audience engagement and reach thousands of customers at the same time had tremendous potential. This was the power of digital and why we focused on helping companies deliver digital experiences to their customers.
So, our origin story started with the foundational idea that every business could one day use digital channels to engage their customers directly. I remember feeling that we were onto something because no one was really doing it.
Fast forward to today and the market has finally come to us. Digital transformation across every industry has been years in the making. And it only accelerated during the pandemic. Last year, we saw ten years of digital transformation in ten months.
Now digital-first and remote everything is here to stay.
Taulli: What were the major transitions for the company? How did you navigate them and what were some lessons learned along the way?
Sharan: The biggest lesson learned over the past 20 years has been that agility is key. The reality is that most startups fail. Markets change and different opportunities emerge. So, where you start isn’t always where you end up. In the early days of any company, you’re just trying to stay in business. How you navigate and deal with change early can be a predictor of future success.
For us, we started as a digital broadcast company and financial news network in the late 90’s. ON24 was one of the first digital media companies. We saw very early the power of using digital to engage audiences. This type of scale wasn’t possible before. In those days, companies used traditional media to reach their buyers. But digital gave businesses a way to connect with customers directly.
So, when the dotcom bust happened, we made our first pivot and went all-in on webinars. There was huge potential around video and live events back then. We’ve certainly come full circle on that, with video applications and online meetings emerging as clear winners during the pandemic.
But video is only the tip of the spear. We realized that nearly 10 years ago, which is why we made our next pivot as a company to focus on building a Digital Experience Platform. First-person data and insights are key to customer engagement. We created a platform that is delivering a full suite of compelling digital experiences–from webinars to virtual conferences to curated content hubs–that drive engagement and generate the data that powers personalization.
Taulli: How was the IPO process?
Sharan: Going public was an exciting time for everyone at the company. There’s obviously a lot of momentum around everything virtual and digital because of the pandemic. Our IPO in a lot of ways was a huge validation of the vision we had decades ago. So how fitting was it that our IPO was virtual.
Taulli: Talk about the future of ON24. How does AI factor in?
Sharan: ON24 is at the epicenter of two irreversible trends: the business world is going all-in on digital and more B2B buyers are doing their own research online. The era of digital engagement is just beginning. There’s no going back. The question is: Where do things go from here?
Covid-19 accelerated the need for online meetings, virtual events, and video as a primary way to connect with customers. But that’s only the start. Video is just the door opener. It’s the immersive, interactive experiences that video enables and, most importantly, the data these digital interactions create where the real opportunity lies. What’s really needed is a system of engagement. This is where ON24 is focused.
Our Digital Experience Platform delivers digital engagement experiences such as webinars, live virtual conferences, and multimedia content, as well as the rich data from those experiences to drive the next best action with customers.
Consider that the average ON24 experience lasts over 50 minutes, engages 200-plus attendees, and delivers more than 20 data points per attendee. The deeper the engagement, the better the data. And with improved data, companies can better personalize each individual experience.
This is where AI comes in. It’s key to creating this personalization and informing the next best experience. Audience engagement, including polls, surveys, and other engagement during an experience, is at the center of our AI engine.
This digital body language is what informs the intelligence. We’re able to capture all the unstructured data during an ON24 experience to understand behavioral signals. It’s all based on first-person data. Our AI engine then distills this into an individual’s interest to inform the next best action, which could be another digital engagement or piece of content.
This is the power of our platform. We are pushing the ability to go beyond what’s predictive to what is known about individual customers. It’s really human intelligence. This intelligence can then be integrated with marketing automation and CRM systems to help bridge marketing and sales engagement and better orchestrate digital experiences.
This is the future of ON24 and where we’re headed.
Tom (@ttaulli) is an advisor/board member to startups and the author of Artificial Intelligence Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction, The Robotic Process Automation Handbook: A Guide to Implementing RPA Systems and Implementing AI Systems: Transform Your Business in 6 Steps. He also has developed various online courses, such as for the COBOL and Python programming languages.

Laddering Life Insurance To Reduce Costs

2, 2021

4 min read

This story originally appeared on ValueWalk

A Brief History of Life Insurance
Life insurance is a powerful tool in wealth management with a long history dating back to Ancient Rome. Roman soldiers participated in “burial clubs,” in which members pooled resources to help pay funeral costs for the deceased. The actuarial tables used by insurance companies today to help determine policy premium costs have their origin dating back to the 1700s.

Q4 2020 hedge fund letters, conferences and more
Life insurance, like any type of insurance, transfers a catastrophic risk away from you and your family to an insurance company. Here the catastrophic risk is your premature death and the loss of your earnings potential for those you leave behind. Transferring the risk of your premature death with life insurance is the same as transferring the risk of a house fire with homeowners’ insurance.
Term vs. Permanent Life Insurance
When having a conversation about life insurance, it is important to remember that life insurance can help provide:

Income replacement for a surviving spouse
Financial support for dependents
Payment of outstanding debts/final expenses
Liquidity for estate taxes (if applicable)

You should transfer your risk at the lowest possible cost and via the most efficient methods. That is often provided by the “pure-insurance” offered by a term policy. The term of the insurance and the amount of insurance will depend on what you want the life insurance to provide from the list above.
It is important to remember that your income replacement need is temporary – as your career and working years progress, your investment portfolio should grow while your remaining future earned income declines. In other words, your human capital will decrease as your financial capital increases!

This natural life progression makes term insurance the appropriate solution for most life insurance needs. We have previously written about the appropriate amounts of insurance coverage and when permanent insurance could be the right solution, but the focus of this post is how best to structure term insurance coverage once the amount of coverage needed is determined.
“Laddering” Term Life Insurance Policy Coverage
Since most life insurance needs decline with time, term insurance policies can be structured in a way to further save costs. For example, rather than purchasing one 30-year term policy with a $4 million death benefit, you could purchase three separate policies (10-year, 20-year, and 30-year terms) designed to lapse over time totaling the same $4 million in death benefit. This option is commonly referred to as “laddered” life insurance coverage.
Consider Homer, 35, and Marge, 33 who earn a combined salary of $350,000 and have two young children, Bart and Lisa, who are 4 and 2. They want to send Bart and Lisa to college, potentially buy a larger home, and retire at 65. Based on their savings ability and goals, Homer needs $4 million of life insurance coverage today. They work with their life insurance agent and secure a 30-year term quote of ~$2,800 per year for Homer. The cumulative cost of coverage over 30 years is $84,000, shown below:

After conferring with their fiduciary financial advisor, and considering their anticipated savings rates, Homer and Lisa request “laddered” term life insurance quotes: 30-year term for $1 million (~$260 annual cost), 20-year term for $2 million (~$800 annual cost), and 10-year term for $1 million (~$800 annual cost). The total annual cost for all the policies is $1,860, with a cumulative cost of $42,600, shown below:

By structuring their policies in a cost-effective manner, Homer and Lisa can realize annual savings of ~$940 and cumulative savings over 30 years of ~$41,400. Said another way, they can get the life insurance coverage they need for ~50% of the cost!
Laddering term life insurance coverage is a powerful way to reduce costs and ensure you get the most “bang for your buck” from your premium dollars.
Charts Source:
Article By Kevin Brady, CFP® and Eric Dostal, J.D., CFP® – Wealthspire Advisors

Wealthspire Advisors LLC is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary company of NFP Corp.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) owns the certification marks CFP®, Certified Financial Planner™, and CFP® (with plaque design) in the United States, which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.
This information should not be construed as a recommendation, offer to sell, or solicitation of an offer to buy a particular security or investment strategy. The commentary provided is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for accounting, legal, or tax advice. While the information is deemed reliable, Wealthspire Advisors cannot guarantee its accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose, and makes no warranties with regard to the results to be obtained from its use. © 2021 Wealthspire Advisors

Volkswagen's Name Change and Cauliflower-Flavored Peeps Are Among This Year's Top April Fool's Day Jokes

Brands are back to hilarity this April Fool’s Day.

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1, 2021

3 min read

After a year that was anything but lighthearted, everyone could use some good-natured fun. These seven companies took it upon themselves to create some memorable April Fool’s Day jokes.IKEA’s fashion line for dogsAs if the Suez Canal incident wasn’t enough to generate talk about IKEA’s products, the Swedish brand teased consumers with its HUND COUTURE line for dogs. Considering April is also National Pet Month, a doggie designer line wouldn’t be the worst idea out there.Related: 4 Reasons the Pandemic Is a Boon for the Pet IndustryDuolingo’s new toilet paper productLanguage-learning company Duolingo teased a toilet paper product that’ll teach you phrases in new languages. This product would’ve definitely made bathroom time a little more productive.Language learning is hard… so we made it soft.It’s time to turn your bathroom into a classroom with our latest innovation: Duolingo Roll – toilet paper (yes, toilet paper) that teaches you phrases in new languages! #DuolingoRoll— Duolingo (@duolingo) April 1, 2021Jet-Puffed burnt marshmallowsNo campfire? No problem! At least, that’s what the folks at Jet-Puffed promised when they tweeted out the release of a burnt marshmallow product. With the pipe dream of a perfectly toasted marshmallow, we can only imagine what could’ve been.Can’t get to a campfire near you? Don’t worry — we’re definitely-maybe launching our all-new Burnt Marshmallows on April 1st. This begs the question: do you love your marshmallows gently roasted or totally toasted? Let us know what you think is best using #JPBurntMarshmallows— JET-PUFFED (@JetPuffed) March 25, 2021Velveeta’s skincare lineMac and cheese brand Velveeta decided to dip its toes into the beauty industry with the fake release of a skincare line. The V by Velveeta skincare line includes a daily moisturizer, night cream and renewal serum.Related: The Future of the Beauty Industry in an Increasingly Virtual WorldOutback’s new lipstick productsOutback Steakhouse was another brand looking to break into the beauty industry this year, tweeting the release of its “lipsteak” collection.Outback’s Lipsteak collection will have you looking like a delicious entrée.— Outback Steakhouse (@Outback) April 1, 2021Volkswagen changes its nameVolkswagen publicized its commitment to electric cars by announcing a name change to “Voltswagen.” In a case of ill-timing or genius marketing, the company tweeted the joke a little early, causing consumers to actually believe the change was real.We know, 66 is an unusual age to change your name, but we’ve always been young at heart. Introducing Voltswagen. Similar to Volkswagen, but with a renewed focus on electric driving. Starting with our all-new, all-electric SUV the ID.4 – available today. #Voltswagen #ID4— Volkswagen (@VW) March 30, 2021Green Giant PeepsVegetable brand Green Giant teamed up with Peeps to tease the release of cauliflower-flavored Peeps. If that combination sounds odd, consider the announcement of Peeps-flavored Pepsi — which actually isn’t an April Fool’s Day prank.Related: How to Stand Out in a Crowded Content Marketing Space