MarTech 360 Interview With Chris Kelly, CEO, Upwave

By Ally Buzzanga June 03, 2022

MarTech 360 Interview With Chris Kelly, CEO, Upwave

Hi Chris, could you tell us about your journey in Tech?


It’s been a long journey! I started a web design business with a friend in high school.  Then we started a (mildly successful) textbook exchange and (failed) same-day delivery service in college.  After a couple of non-startup jobs, I joined an early-stage fintech startup before founding Upwave in Y Combinator.  I’ve had the honor of growing Upwave to serve the world’s leading brands and publishers on our analytics software platform while luckily recruiting a world-class team.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic reshaped your view of the business environment in which your business operates?

Covid fully changed my view of in-office work.  I still see the value in in-person interactions: customer meetings, partner negotiating, employee brainstorming, etc.  Zoom hasn’t replaced bonding over a drink or even replaced a whiteboard session.  But I believe the days of everyone at an office desk (after a long commute!) five days per week are over.  Those ideas were anathema to me pre-Covid.

What sets Upwave apart from the competition?

Only Upwave can measure the full-funnel impact of brand advertising.  Businesses have wondered for over 100 years when, where, and why their brand advertising works–and the technology finally exists to precisely measure it.  Upwave shows marketers if they’re reaching the right audience and changing their minds, and we use predictive analytics to show the full value of those brand wins.

How do you see the Advertising Analytics sector evolving over the years to come?

Privacy changes will shake out the analytics landscape.  Only analytics platforms prepared to move past traditional user-level identifiers will survive. Any good measurement company is privacy-friendly, and it’s my belief that measurement companies should be the most vocal advocates for privacy. We’ve been pioneering micro-cohorts since 2020 in an effort to get ahead of privacy legislation.  If marketing analytics isn’t consumer-friendly, it’s not sustainable.

How can Publishers leverage Cross-Media Measurement to drive growth?

Publishers need to take credit for the full brand-building power of their media.  They shouldn’t be short-sighted and let advertisers grade them on clicks or even short-term purchases.  If a publisher invests in media that captures the attention of relevant consumers, find a partner who can measure that – and calculate the full customer lifetime value you’re delivering.  That will keep your advertisers happy in the long run, which will drive revenue growth.

As a Business Leader, what is the one piece of advice you would give to those who aspire to the C-suite?

Do what you say you’ll do.  I think the oft-discussed “say/do ratio” is the best predictor of business success.  No one’s ratio is perfect (mine is far from it), but working to improve yours will do wonders for your career!

Your top pick for a book on marketing that everyone should read?

I’ll cheat and give two – one for a marketer’s proverbial “left brain” and one for the “right brain.”  Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath is an excellent primer on messaging and memorable marketing communications.  The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb is a must-read for all business folks (not just marketers) as a crash course in statistical reasoning.  You can’t be a marketer these days without being an amateur statistician!

Top 5 apps that you use for business?

The basics: Gmail, Slack, Zoom, Dropbox, and the rest of the tools on Google Workspace.  Listing these makes me realize I need to discover some esoteric, hip business apps to broaden my horizons!

What metrics do you use to define success?

Aside from financial metrics, we have operating metrics specific to a few core “themes” – long-term goals Upwave focuses on company-wide.  Beyond that, I think all founders need to remember to keep a close eye on customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction metrics – your most important constituents!











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