"It’s important that everyone supports each other and looks for ways to help and figure things out."
- Alex Campbell, Co-founder & CIO at Vibes
by Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview
This interview originally appeared in ValiantCEO: https://valiantceo.com/alex-campbell-vibes/
Alex Campbell has long been recognized as one of mobile marketing’s original pioneers, working tirelessly to educate marketers on the value of mobile as a viable discipline. A true entrepreneur at heart, Alex oversees innovation strategy at Vibes – always looking for the next great mobile technology brands can leverage to drive deeper customer engagement and untapped revenue opportunities.
Thank you so much for giving us your time! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and take us through what exactly your company does and what your vision is for its future?
Alex Campbell: My name is Alex Campbell and I am the co-founder and CIO of a unified mobile messaging platform called Vibes. Vibes started in 1998 when my friend Jack and I, who I’ve known since kindergarten, decided to start a company in our tiny Chicago apartment. We saw that text messaging and SMS were coming to the U.S. and knew that mobile marketing would be the next big thing. We knew marketers could use SMS to have a direct dialogue with the consumer.
As a pioneer in mobile messaging, Vibes fills a critical void for brands by building personal connections with consumers on their most trusted mobile devices. The company’s technology platform has evolved to address the acceleration in mobile engagement; from the early days of utilizing SMS to garner user participation during sporting events and televised competitions such as “American Idol,” to providing intelligent personalized mobile consumer journeys over many mobile channels, such as current innovations that harness the power of mobile wallet.
My vision for the company’s future is to continue helping brands create personal, trusted and valued relationships with their customers. Marketing is changing in a way where brands have to provide relevant content that’s valuable to consumers. Otherwise, they’re going to turn the messages off or filter it out. Vibes is helping brands in retail, quick service restaurants (QSR), financial services, travel, healthcare, and automotive accelerate their direct-to-consumer strategies for ecommerce and contactless experiences, as well as loyalty programs through increased mobile wallet adoption.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO/entrepreneur when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get where you are today?
Alex Campbell: I was the child who did want to be an entrepreneur. As a kid, I would set up car washes, open lemonade stands and sell random things to anyone I could. It was always my passion to add value to the world and do something that’s different. I wanted to create something that wasn’t there before and wasn’t part of what everybody else was doing. For some reason, I get a huge kick out of that.
Tell us something about yourself that others in your organization might be surprised to know.
Alex Campbell: Most people don’t know that I flew an airplane before I drove a car. There was an airport by the house I grew up in and I would see planes taking off and landing. One day when I was 14, I told my parents I wanted to fly and they signed me up for lessons. A year later, I flew my first solo flight and I remember how free and peaceful it made me feel. Unfortunately at that time in my life, I was playing three sports so I ended up with very little time, but I would love to go back and get my license someday.
Many readers may wonder how to become an entrepreneur but what is an entrepreneur? How would you define it?
Alex Campbell: In my mind, I don’t necessarily think of an entrepreneur as someone who starts a company. You can be entrepreneurial in any job. Really, an entrepreneur is someone who always wants to know how things work and how they could be better. We’re curious people who want to know why we do things the way we do. Entrepreneurs have a mindset of making things better and are open to possibilities to do things differently.
What is the importance of having a supportive and inclusive culture?
Alex Campbell: As humans, we’re all going to make mistakes. If you don’t have a supportive and inclusive culture, it’s just a little harder to keep your head up and plow through the obstacles in your path. You have to have a team that can push you in a way that makes you uncomfortable and will also have your back when you mess up. It’s important that everyone supports each other and looks for ways to help and figure things out.
How can a leader be disruptive in the post covid world?
Alex Campbell: I think it’s no different than being disruptive in any world. Although, I think it may be easier to start something new in the post-COVID world because minds are more open to change and new ways of thinking. The pandemic forced people out of their routines in a positive way.
If a 5-year-old asked you to describe your job, what would you tell them?
Alex Campbell: My job is all about people and what they should be focused on. I help connect the dots and facilitate collaboration between different teams. If I hear someone talking about something in one meeting and then someone else brings up the same thing in another meeting, I need to bring those two people together so they have a conversation.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Alex Campbell: After the tsunami hit Phuket in 2004, we came up with the idea of texting to donate money to relief efforts. That had never been done before but we thought if you can buy ringtones by texting, why can’t you donate money with SMS?
However, it proved to be quite a challenging process to get everything set up. We had to put in a lot of time to connect the right networks and organizations together. We also had to get people on board to rewrite the software and fix the challenges that came with launching the platform. Thankfully, everything came together and we were able to help the American Red Cross raise a lot of money. We didn’t make any money out of it, but we’re proud to have contributed to a good cause and see that the invention is still being used to this day in an even bigger capacity.
Leaders are usually asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is your most useless talent?
Alex Campbell: I can do the worm — all my friends know it and every wedding I have to do it. As I get older though it’s becoming a problem. I hurt for days after. Honestly, I have to stop.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. If you wrote a book about your life until today, what would the title be?
Alex Campbell: Something like “Curious for Possibilities.” As an entrepreneur, it’s fun to question things, and understand how they work. I think it’s that mindset that has carried me to where I am today.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Alex Campbell for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.