Startup Storytellers with Imogen Nation

Tell us about Databricks and your role there

Databricks is a data and AI company that helps over 7,000 customers solve some of the world’s toughest problems with data and AI. The company is headquartered in San Francisco. I’m EMEA Communications Manager and oversee comms in the UK, France, Netherlands, and DACH. My job is to raise brand awareness for Databricks, our executives and thought leaders, and to drive our narratives and corporate announcements in a way that resonates with this part of the world. 

How has Databricks’s European comms changed over the past year – particularly with the amazing growth you’ve seen as an organisation?

Well, we launched in Italy this year so added a fifth country to the EMEA mix, which was exciting! The main thing that has changed though is we have even more spokespeople, proof points, customers, partners (and everything in between!) to run a more local comms programme that makes a greater impact. As part of this, we have had to adapt to refine processes (such as how we measure success or work on more content) to meet the needs of our fast-scaling business.

What do you believe is the biggest comms challenge scaleups are currently facing?

This is actually a question I’ve been thinking about a lot recently and candidly, I don’t think I have one clear answer yet. 

For the UK in particular, I think that the earned media landscape is tougher than ever, so relying purely on earned media to move the needle and make a regular impact is probably too limiting. I also think that the days of putting an impressive funding or valuation figure in an email subject line isn’t enough anymore, especially in this tough news climate. It’s just really noisy out there.

What do you think is the most common comms mistake startups and scaleups make?

Trying to do too much too soon. Yes, the big shiny pieces in national press are fantastic to get (and worth pursuing at the right time, of course) but this shouldn’t be at the expense of really understanding your product, the category you may be trying to own, and what matters to your team, sales, and founders. Don’t scrimp on this and invest the time in crafting the right messaging for trade press and analysts. You have to build credibility and that credibility often starts at the trade level. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ really is the mantra to live by when it comes to PR and comms.

Aside from Databricks, which startup or scaleup do you think is really exciting right now?

There are probably too many to list. I’ve always been interested in anything to do with cleantech and sustainability and have a total geeky spot for vertical farming companies. Berlin-based Infarm is one that stands out and had a Series D funding round last year. On a totally separate note, I think the dating app Thursday has disrupted what has become a very ‘samey’ dating apps world. With a clear, simple premise and very personable marketing, I think they have done a great job so far!

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