Christina Calje needed a change. After a decade of working in financial services in multinational corporations, she’d had enough.
After the global financial crisis hit, Christina – now founder and CEO of Autheos – had found herself disconnected from her work: “I realised the same incentives weren’t really there anymore, I wasn’t having fun”. Realising that she couldn’t see herself happily working in that field in years to come, she set about thinking about what energised and interested her, and landed on tech.
The year was 2011, and technology was the hot topic on everyone’s tongues. It was beginning to invade all aspects of our everyday lives, from the way we interacted with friends, to the way we shopped and paid bills. This fascinated Christina, who remembers thinking “this is really where I see all the growth and all the interesting stuff going on”. Wanting to be part of the action, she traded in her corporate job and founded her first company. Based in London, Christina’s company was designed to help US companies expand their footprint into Europe. This shift - “from being one in a company of 30,000 people, to being one in a company of one” - suited Christina well, and when she moved to the Netherlands with her husband, she decided she wanted to stay in the startup world. She had caught “the entrepreneurial startup-y bug”.
As a mother of two toddlers, I need to strike the right balance between work and family which sometimes a challenge since I love both so passionately.
As luck would have it, Christina was in San Francisco for client work when she met the CEO of Peerby, a Dutch platform and online sharing community, who had a position to fill. She signed on as Peerby’s COO, where she was able to use the skills she accumulated in financial services, at the same time, deepening her understanding of the fast-paced world of startups. A couple of years later, she was approached by the company now known as Autheos, looking for someone to come on board and help build their new product. Christina joined to effectively launch the second version of the company.
A gap in the market
Video has long lacked attention in brand strategy within digital commerce – Christina explains that “when a make-up company creates a television advert, they use that same video on an e-tailer’s site when a customer is choosing which mascara to buy, and expects it to perform the same way”. But this is not the case – and this is where Autheos steps in, providing data on which videos perform best in each circumstance, for the benefit of the brand, the e-tailer and the consumer. The brands get to understand how their consumers are engaging with their video content and when a video tutorial might work better than a product review, for example. At the same time, the e-tailers are increasing their sales conversion and delivering a targeted, visual experience for their consumers.
Autheos is unique: for the first time both the e-tailer and the brand are provided with behavioral analytics on the performance of video in the digital store, insights which Autheos then applies to optimise that video content for the individual consumer. Additionally, Autheos matches brands’ videos with the e-tailer’s relevant product pages. If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is: and Autheos is there to make the process smoother for the brands as well as the e-tailers.
Introducing the product to the world
Autheos – which used to be called Authorized Videos before the name was deemed too unsexy – has had a busy year since joining TQ last August, on the very first day the building’s doors opened. Last November, Autheos was flown to Mountain View, California – home of Google – after being chosen to participate in Google Demo Day. “That gave us a real opportunity to present ourselves in the international market”, says Christina, who pitched in front of room full of 300 investors, with hundreds of thousands of people watching via live stream. Christina has spent time building up her connections in the United States for when Autheos is ready to launch there, meeting investors and potential corporate partners with a need for their product.
I typically look to people who have gotten past certain hindrances in their life, whether it’s because of their gender, or their ethnicity, or their social status.
A US expansion is on the cards for Autheos in the future, who are already market leader in the Benelux region with a 70% market share. Their platform has been used by thousands of brands including Philips, Samsung, P&G, Lego and Microsoft, who use it to distribute and optimise their video marketing on e-commerce sites. The platform operates using a network effect: “the more brands that we have connected, the better for the e-tailers, and vice versa”. Christina is particularly enthusiastic about Autheos’ insights and optimisation tool which, paired with its video distribution technology, differentiates Autheos from competitors. Clients can distribute their videos, tweak their content based on how those videos have performed across different criteria, and evaluate performance of the new content in real-time, bringing the feedback loop full circle.
Although Christina has been able to put her skills from her time working in financial services to good use in her roles at Peerby and Autheos, she sometimes wishes she’d entered the famously energetic startup environment earlier. “It’s nice when you go in having no responsibilities - you can take full advantage of it, and work those twelve hours that you really want to work each day”, says Christina wistfully. “As a mother of two toddlers, I need to strike the right balance between work and family which is sometimes a challenge since I love both so passionately!” The best thing about working in the startup world? Christina loves that everyone in the company can have such an influence in its direction, “whether you’re the CEO, the growth hacker or the junior business developer”.
Finding inspiration in unusual places
When she’s not busy running Autheos, Christina loves cooking: “Ironically, I’m not really a technical person, so that’s my way of creating, being able to get some inspiration and then rebuild that dish. It’s a different type of coding!”. Proving her own point about how we now use video in so many aspects of our daily lives, Christina loves watching Tasty videos for recipe ideas when she’s cooking up something new. She also watches reality shows to unwind, and cites sex-tape-star-turned-businesswoman Kim Kardashian as one of her business inspirations. “I typically look to people who have gotten past certain hindrances in their life, whether it’s because of their gender, or their ethnicity, or their social status”, she explains, and Kim K, ridiculed for her failed marriages and superficiality before going on to be on the cover of Forbes magazine, is a good example of such a person. Similarly, Christina looks up to Kenneth C. Frazier, CEO of Merck. “He’s an African American man in the US who worked his way up to the top, even though he faced incredible amounts of adversity at different points throughout his personal and professional life".
Looking to these inspirations keeps Christina pushing forward, which is just as well – she’s currently busy planting the seeds for the upcoming months, which include Autheos’ next round of investments and a push out of the Benelux region. And one day, when Autheos expands into the US, New York born-and-raised Christina will have completed her own full loop.
Which books or blogs can you recommend?
“The Hard Thing about Hard Things is a really excellent book for startup founders in particular, as it's about leading a company through the ups and downs of a growing business. I think it’s really relatable because on the road to success, it's not always going to be smooth sailing. For news and industry, I use Twitter to follow a lot of magazines, or newspapers, and I prefer services like Pocket and Blendle that do the daily round up based on pre-selected topics. For me that’s actually a better way to get information, to say I want to read about E-Commerce, video marketing, circular economy, cooking...and then just get information fed to me.”
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
“I think that there are always so many excuses, it is quite scary and it’s never going to be the right moment to start something new. If you feel really passionately about something, just try it! Give yourself a certain amount of time during which you can comfortably live without making any income and set goals. Say to yourself ‘I’m going to take 6 months or a year, in order to achieve X, Y or Z’. By being goal oriented and making it tangible, it won't feel like you’re jumping out into the abyss with no direction.”