Interview with Projjol Banerjea Founder Zeotap

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  • When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?


I was a portly kid with an above normal ––or healthy–– fondness for food. My earliest conscious career-oriented memory is of wanting to become a chef, likely mostly to feed myself. And maybe others (if I was in a good mood).


  • What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?


I was introduced to computers quite early and taught myself web design while still in middle school. My first “business”, if one can call it that, was to build websites for others, mostly my parents’ friends, in exchange for compensation in the form of storybooks and/or sweets (my only interests back then).


  • Why you wanted to start a company?


Honestly, I wasn’t born an entrepreneur. The common dream in the India of the nineties was that of becoming a doctor, lawyer or engineer. As a student of computer science in the US, and later when I joined the workforce, I became aware of the possibilities of technology. I also realized the importance of building bridges between technologists and others to shape a true culture of innovation in any company. 


It was an MBA at the University of Oxford, during which I met some wonderful aspiring entrepreneurs, that first sparked the spirit of entrepreneurship in me. Afterwards, I was fortunate to get involved with a few innovative startups –– between 2010 and 2014, first Fyber (RNTS) and then moboqo (Applovin) both exited successfully. This period further fanned my entrepreneurial spirit. I was particularly struck by how many young entrepreneurs were building incredible businesses with relatively scant resources. Aware of the vast growth opportunities and enormous pool of talent India had to offer, I summoned the courage to take the plunge.


  • What motivates you (e.g. a technical challenge, an overall problem, helping the world, etc.)


With the increasing adoption of data-driven models to solve large-scale challenges, there’s an increasing need for entities to provide the “fuel” for these new engines. However, as with all fuel, while quality is paramount, there’s an important need for it to be provided in a manner that is transparent, responsible and sustainable. 


  • What is the strangest marketing experiment you ever did?


As a young challenger brand, often on a shoestring budget, one needs to think outside the box to go toe-to-toe with more established players that have deeper pockets. A few years ago, while at Fyber (formerly SponsorPay), we secured red ––our brand colour–– trousers for the entire sales team. It became our signature look at conferences and garnered far more attention and appreciation than any of the (significantly more expensive) paid marketing efforts.


  • Would you sell this for $5mm? $100mm or waiting for the billion dollar exit?


While we’ve come a very long way in the past five years, much of the journey still lies ahead of us. This year we’ve witnessed exponential revenue growth –– a vindication, in many ways, of the effort we’ve invested since inception in both building a cutting-edge technology platform and sourcing some of the highest quality data across the world. I speak on behalf of the entire team when I say we’re excited for the road ahead. 


  • Have you ever failed at anything? (If so, how did you handle it and what did you learn?)


As a startup, resources are always scarce and one needs to strike a delicate balance between speed and quality. The best results come from single-minded focus arising from a cohesive team working together on an aligned mission. 


Early on, there were instances when we were apprehensive about declining requests and ended up overcommitting ourselves. By spreading ourselves too thin we both pushed internal stress levels unnecessarily high as well as came up short in many cases. We’ve since learned from our mistakes; today we’re not scared to say “no” –– “not now” or even “not ever”. We’re much better about avoiding distractions/diversions and staying true to our vision.  


  • If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?


Entrepreneurship is not an ego game. One determined founder can only take so many steps alone. Success arises from recruiting, motivating and empowering a close-knit team of strong performers. To that end, talent attraction should be sine qua non for entrepreneurs.


  • How did you get your idea or concept for the business?


By paying close attention to clients’ needs. 


When we first started out, our vision to become the leading data platform was premised on client feedback that reliable data was both scarce and abstruse. Over the years, it’s by continuing to keep our fingers on the pulse of the market that we’ve evolved our offering. Our current integrated platform includes an identity graph connected to our rich profile data store that gives our clients a one-stop shop for customer identification, enrichment and activation. 


  • What is unique about your business?


There are 3 aspects of our business that make it unique:


Best-in-Class Data: We source the highest quality data in the market. This has, in turn, proven to deliver between 3-6x better results to our clients than alternatives. 


Global Footprint: We offer our solutions in 14 countries across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. Our 


Security and Privacy First: We are committed to ensuring adherence to the most stringent regulatory frameworks across the globe. In addition to being GDPR-compliant, we’ve secured ISO/IEC 27001 accreditation and CSA (Cloud Security Alliance) Silver recognition. Additionally, members of our team have earned the IAPP’s CIPT (Certified Information Privacy Technologist) and EC-Council’s CCISO (Certified Chief Information Security Officer) certifications, among others.


  • What’re your company’s goals?


Zeotap’s aim is to democratise access to high quality data, thereby empowering brands to develop a deeper understanding of their customers and consequently more meaningful and efficient marketing strategies. We’re proud to work with more than half the world’s top 100 brands, including Unilever, Red Bull and Mercedes-Benz.


  • Do you want to raise outside money? (If so, how much – now, in 6 months, 2 years, over the life of the company?)


Zeotap has already received more than $30 million from renowned investors such as New Science Ventures, Innov8 (owned by Asian telecom operator Singtel), Iris Capital (backed by Orange Telecom and Publicis), HERE (owned by BMW, Audi and Mercedes), Capnamic Ventures and many prominent business angels from the telecoms, advertising and big data industries. 


We’re currently in the final stages of closing our Series C investment round.


  • What are your expansion plans?  


We’re a global enterprise with assets in 14 countries across four continents. Recently, we grew our geographic footprint to Latin America with a brand new team in Mexico City to cater to Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Chile, in addition to Mexico. Next year, we have Asia in our sights and plan to extend our footprint further eastward beyond our current presence in India.


On the product front, we aim to deepen the breadth of our data offering as well as offer more sophisticated audience insights. 


  • Where do you see this company in the next 5 years?


Over the past five years, our three-pronged focus on innovative technology, premium data quality and stringent privacy/security controls has enabled us to carve out a unique position in the ecosystem. 


The next five years hold tremendous opportunity for us with growth across multiple dimensions including geographic expansion, data extension as well as product diversification. I’m confident we’re well-positioned to achieve our goal of becoming the global marketing data platform for brands.



Working Styles and Culture:


  • If you had to come up with 3 words to describe the culture you want to create, what would they be (e.g. open, hard-working, eccentric)?


Courageous, Collaborative, Customer-centric


  • If you could pick 2 things to change and two things to bring with you from your previous companies, what would they be and why?


One of my first jobs was at global engine manufacturer Cummins, a Fortune 500 company. My boss there, though more than 30 years my senior, treated me as a peer and not only valued my contributions but actively encouraged me to interact with the senior leaders of the company. I hope we’ve managed (and continue) to inculcate a similarly engaging and receptive environment at zeotap.


Coincidentally, Google spent two years on Project Aristotle, studying 180 teams around the clock for 730 days to uncover what makes a team effective. They too zeroed in on psychological safety, the ability to feel safe when speaking up in meetings or contributing new ideas regardless of position or rank, as one of the biggest contributors to team effectiveness. This ultimately promotes internal innovation and spurs growth.  


Additionally, as a global startup stretched across four continents and umpteen time zones, we’ve quickly realised that transparent communication is a key success driver. In fact, ambiguous rhetoric and/or information silos not only slow things down in the short run but can also give rise to damaging discordance in the mid-to-long term. To that end, we encourage communication that fosters agility and alignment.    


  • Describe the working style of (company) to me in a few words?


Zeotap embodies an entrepreneurial spirit that assumes a bold approach with a hands-on can-do attitude. We promote an atmosphere of equitability and mutual respect that celebrates differences and rewards collaboration. We strive for quality and innovation that delivers value to our clients.


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