Originally a classical musician, Jacob Smith has deep experience with online marketing and customer success, and a proven track-record for developing highly productive global teams. As a partner at the SEO firm Dinkum Interactive, Jacob created and implemented high-growth web strategies for hundreds of campaigns, driving measurable business results for universities, nonprofits, B2B suppliers, and luxury eCommerce retailers.
A native of Southern California and a veteran of Philadelphia, Jacob is based in Vermont and holds degrees from Carnegie Mellon and Temple Universities. When not chatting in Slack, he can be found playing with his kids, his bassoon, or his BBQ.
Mike: Hi Jacob, tell me about Packet.com and what you provide.
Jacob: Packet is a bare metal cloud, which means we enable developers and enterprises to consume physical infrastructure with full automation, just like AWS, GCP and Azure.
Mike: Talk about how Packet was chosen as the name of the company. What hoops did you have to jump through to get the domain name? Can you share what it cost?
Jacob: If you’re an internet geek, you’ll know that a ‘packet’ is how we package up and transmit data across the network. Since the one thing you have to buy from a cloud provider is network, we figured that Packet was both a meaningful and yet humanizing name for a new cloud startup. Getting the domain is always the hard part, of course! We started with packethost.net and then after finding the owner of packet.net (a company in Japan had rolled up a ton of ISPs, including a Florida based ISP that used packet.net) we were able to acquire our first “real” domain. Funny enough it was made possible by having lunch with a distant cousin, who manages domain portfolios for big companies.
Acquiring packet.com was a longer process – especially after the domain was acquired by a sophisticated domain seller. We traded notes for about a year, but as the company really started to take off with some new venture funding, we knew it was time to acquire and so we quickly came to an agreement. There are few things as important as your brand, so having packet.com as our home has been fantastic.
Mike: You are a co-founder of the company. While we could discuss this for hours, what’s involved in founding a new company? You have the investment rounds listed on your site. How difficult is this process?
Jacob: As most founders will tell you, starting a company is easy, but growing a company is hard. It’s a constant process of reinvention, and so having a strong set of core values or guiding principles has really helped us along the way. In terms of fundraising, we definitely earned our battle scars but have ended up with fantastic investors. Much like a marriage, it’s all about finding the right partners who believe in you and your vision, and can help you execute as the challenges come along.
Mike: You’ve got a strong background in SEO. How has that skill crossed over into your current role?
Jacob: Absolutely! Although I don’t put a ton of time into Packet’s SEO myself at this stage, I think the user-centric viewpoint that digital marketing and SEO in particular taught me has been super critical. I always found SEO to be about 50% art and 50% science, and as CMO my portfolio reflects a similar balance: we run a good number of metrics-driven campaigns, but also invest heavily in positioning our brand in front of customers in unique and meaningful ways, such as through live events and content. A mentor once told me: don’t try to be unique…try to be special! How will you stand out from all those other links, right?
Mike: How important has a keyword domain name played as the home of your online presence? What advantages does it give you over the competition?
Jacob: We moved from one memorable and easy to spell domain (packet.net) to another (packet.com) and honestly I don’t think it has changed our digital strategy significantly. That being said, we sell an incredibly non-transactional product: our customers can spend millions of dollars per year with us, and trust our platform with their entire business. In this way, having your brand buttoned up is critical.
Mike: Can you share the traffic numbers you receive at Packet.com?
Jacob: Sure! We have fairly modest numbers, around 20k visitors per month.
Mike: How about your history as classical musician? How does one make the shift from fine music to high tech?
Jacob: Lots of musicians and artists find their way into tech – I think due to the unique combination of discipline, ability to follow rules, creative and collaborative nature. I’ve always been interested in technology, and so making the leap was more about building upon my interests. It also helps sometimes to be a starving artist…lots of motivation to figure things out. 🙂
Mike: As an entrepreneur, do you have any favorite books that you feel have helped mold who you are as a leader?
Jacob: I’ve really enjoyed Gino Wickman’s approach to running entrepreneurial businesses, so I would check out “Traction”. It provides a simple, metrics-driven process that just works. I’m also a big fan of history, and simply love Walter Isaacson’s biography of Ben Franklin: the original American hacker-entrepreneur!