Datajoin Raises $3.5 Million Seed Round, Now the First VC-Backed, Polynesian-Founded Tech Company
This is part six of a series on Utah's Polynesian entrepreneurs. See parts one, two, three, four, and five.
Today Datajoin announced a $3.5 Million Seed Round led by Sepio Capital (Alemo, California). With the seed round, Datajoin, founded by Sam Fonoimoana, became the first VC-backed and Polynesian-founded tech company in Utah.
“I am thrilled to partner with Mitch Rencher at Sepio Capital,” says Fonoimoana in the Datajoin press release. “He immediately caught the vision of who I am and what I am trying to build–from both a marketing analytics standpoint and for the future of tech diversity here in the state of Utah.”
To TechBuzz, Fonoimoana adds, “This is something that we're proud of because it's going to show that our people can do this, we can raise VC money. We know that the landscape is changing right before our eyes in terms of investing, because of the economy, so we consider ourselves fortunate. Now it's all about using the funds judiciously to be able to grow in this bear market.”
The ‘Micro Integration’ company used the funding round to build out their team by making key hires in engineering, product, marketing and sales. Overall, the company hopes to stay “lean and mean” as Fonoimoana says, and still be able to scale the business.
Datajoin came out of Fonoimoana’s constant curiosity to understand and find data and apply it to a company’s success. Fonoimoana graduated with an MBA in Finance from BYU, starting his professional career as a Financial Analyst.
In the early 2010’s Fonoimoana worked as a Senior Financial Analyst for Ancestry.com. While at Ancestry.com, he constantly asked the business intelligence team about data, stats, and figures. Fonoimoana says he finally told the team, “Just show me how to pull this data myself, show me how to write these code snippets and I don’t have to bug you anymore.” He bought the team breakfast every morning and in turn, they taught him how to code and analyze data.
Fonoimoana moved to Domo as the Director of Marketing Analytics and while working there noticed that most marketing teams have serious issues integrating their tech stack.
With his coding experience from Ancestry.com and motivated by the challenge to solve integration for B2B marketers, Fonoimoana founded Datajoin in 2018.
The company started out as a consulting firm, helping companies integrate their martech systems, or marketing technology stacks, to communicate with each other. Martech stacks are clusters of technology based tools digital marketers use to perform marketing activities across digital channels.
Later in 2018, Fonoimoana brought on Nate Johnson to handle sales and marketing.
In 2019, Datajoin joined an Adobe competition to create and launch an extension that connected Salesforce data to Adobe Analytics. “Long story short, we got second place,” says Fonoimoana. “We had a lot of pipeline and then COVID came and just stopped everything. We went about eight months without getting a sale.”
Fonoimoana says discussing Covid is “not a pleasant walk down memory lane.” However, Covid pushed Datajoin to pivot and to learn how to scale. Before Covid, Datajoin’s efforts to attract investment failed; VCs told them they weren’t scalable enough. “I realized from the VC's that I had to create something that could scale and that's not something I had in the early days,” says Fonoimoana.
“Our second core value at Datajoin is, ‘find a way’,” says Fonoimoana. “I think that's part of my DNA, personally. That's been the nature of our company in the early years. During the pandemic, it was just Nate Jackson and myself, and we did what we had to. You just have to look at those small victories and the silver linings and commit.”
One silver lining for the company during the pandemic was connecting with Adobe, which became Datajoin’s first customer. Soon Fortune 500 customers followed including Cisco, Comcast and ARM.
The pandemic also spurred Datajoin to pivot and develop Micro Integrations for customers, joining data seamlessly between Martech systems.
“We're here in 2022, and the martech stack still doesn't talk to each other,” explains Fonoimoana. “They're very good at what they do, Salesforce is good at prospecting, and Google Ads is good at placing ads, but they're not very good at talking to each other, so that's where Datajoin comes in.”
As a Polynesian founder, Fonoimoana planted his culture into his company from the start. Datajoin’s first core value is “Aloha.” In fact, there are more Polynesians on his team than nonpolys. “Aloha means our people come first, and that we take care of each other,” says Fonoimoana.
As the first Polynesian, VC-backed tech founder, we asked Fonoimoana what he learned in his journey. His advice, while directed to Polynesians, could apply to any minority trying to raise money. He says that raising money as a Polynesian was not easy, “Not to get political but I think it's harder for us,” says Fonoimoana. “Get customers as fast as you can. If you don’t have some sort of social proof that what you’re doing is going to work, don’t expect to be taken seriously.”
He also encourages prospective entrepreneurs to network everywhere, “get out and talk to people, it's amazing what connections you have with your personal network,” says Fonoimoana.
Lastly, Fonoimoana says to work hard wherever you may be. “Do a good job where you're at and add value. People will talk about that, people will remember you, and will be more likely to recommend you. That's more of a long game, but every day matters.”
Datajoin currently has twenty customers using their product while they create a newer and improved platform that will allow self-service and product-led growth. The company hopes to finish out the new platform and product within the next year and multiply their customer base with much faster adoption.