Tealium’s Incoming CEO Sets Goal to Be San Diego’s Next Big Deal

Jeff Lunsford says when he oversaw the IPO of WebSideStory back in 2004, the San Diego Web analytics company was only the third company to go public with a business model based on the idea of providing software as a service (SaaS).

“We were right behind Salesforce.com and RightNow Technologies,” Lunsford said, referring to the pioneers of cloud-hosted customer relationship management software.

Now, public SaaS-based companies seem almost too numerous to count—except perhaps in San Diego, where few public companies have grown as big as ServiceNow (NYSE: NOW), which has a market valuation of roughly $3.6 billion. (The market cap for the San Diego-based Active Network (NYSE: ACTV) is about $284 million and Mitek Systems (Nasdaq: MITK) is just $93 million.)

In a recent telephone interview, Lunsford said he wants to emulate ServiceNow’s extraordinary growth after he officially takes over in January as the CEO at Tealium, a San Diego startup founded in 2008. Tealium provides management of HTML tags for websites operated by big companies and agencies, and says its Web-based approach lifts the burden from a company’s IT personnel by making it easy for marketing teams to manage their own campaigns.

Jeff Lunsford

“Our goals, our aspirations are pretty lofty,” said Lunsford, who describes Tealium’s tag management technology as the next generation of enterprise analytics. Since July, when Tealium raised $10.5 million from Boston’s Battery Ventures and individual investors (including Lunsford), the company has grown from 30 to 80 employees. Tealium now counts 140 customers, and is “growing at a very rapid rate,” Lunsford says.

“We think we’re solving a big problem,” Lunsford added. While Tealium faces substantial competition from three principal rivals with similar technology (Chicago-based BrightTag, Cupertino, CA-based Ensighten, and TagMan, based in New York and London), “We think we can grow faster than the other guys,” Lunsford says.

Before joining Tealium, Lunsford served as the chairman and CEO of Tempe, AZ-based Limelight Networks (Nasdaq: LLNW), an Internet content delivery network with Web-based technology that improves the delivery of streaming video and other data-intense content. Lunsford joined Limelight in 2006, and presided over Limelight’s $240 million IPO in 2007.

With Lunsford’s experience in managing the initial public offerings at two previous companies, an obvious question is whether Tealium likewise faces an IPO in its future.

With Tealium’s revenues growing rapidly beyond $100 million annually, “it makes sense,” Lunsford said. “But there’s no rush. We want to build a big and important company, and an IPO depends on market conditions.”

Lunsford says his more immediate goal is continuing to build out Tealium’s team, advancing product development, and getting to 1,000 customers.

In a statement issued recently by Tealium, co-founder Ali Benham had high praise for Lunsford: “We had a chance to work with him [Lunsford] very closely at WebSideStory and we know what type of leader he is, and what type of results he can achieve.”

In fact, Lunsford’s arrival could be construed as a WebSideStory alumni reunion. All but one of the nine management executives listed on Tealium’s website worked previously at WebSideStory, and the sole exception—client services vice president Greg Weekley—was a senior account manager at Omniture, which acquired WebSideStory in 2008 (after it had changed its name to Visual Sciences).

“I was the first angel investor in the company, when there were just two employees—Ali and Mike,” Lunsford said, referring to Tealium co-founders Benham, who is now president, and Mike Anderson, the company’s chief technology officer. Joining Tealium wasn’t predetermined, Lunsford said, “but it was always an idea we had. They’re doing a fantastic job.”

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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