Kinjil Mathur is head of marketing and public relations for Foursquare. She joined the company in September 2014 to launch the consumer marketing practice responsible for driving growth, increasing retention and creating effective branding. Prior to joining Foursquare, Kinjil was CMO at Artspace, a startup dedicated to democratizing the buying of fine art through an accessible, premier online marketplace. Kinjil has 10 years of fashion retail ecommerce experience leading marketing teams that have helped develop and grow the digital businesses at Saks and Neiman Marcus. Kinjil started her career in tech at IBM in e-business solutions followed by joining Protiviti's technology consulting group. She holds a BA from the University of Texas at Austin in Management of Information Systems and Finance.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
As a first generation Indian American, I share in the common immigrant mentality, which is an understanding that hard work can land you the job, but it can be taken away at any point, so keep earning it everyday. On one of my first trips to India as a child, I can recall the extreme pride I felt for my parents' ability to rise up against difficult odds to leave their villages in India and go to the U.S. in pursuit of opportunity to prosper. They are a motivational force through their inspirational feats and I continuously draw on their learning agility to tackle any challenge through hard work and perseverance.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Foursquare?
Much of my experience has been focused on scaling within well-established businesses. While working at a startup is quite different, a lot of the same lessons apply. Today's fast-paced digital environment requires agility in the test, learn, and scale model. There's always a solution that takes 20% of the time and resources that will get you 80% of the answer. I try to look at what could have the highest return and could be quickly proven or disproven by building out a test plan that would require a fraction of the fully baked effort. Prioritization is key to success for any sized business, but it's the prioritization process that is the make or break.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Foursquare?
Highlight: The launch of Foursquare's latest adtech product, Pinpoint. Not only because it is a killer ad platform for marketers that frankly I would have jumped at the chance to advertise on in any of my past marketing roles, but because it gave our CEO, Dennis Crowley, the opportunity to tell the full Foursquare story and share what Foursquare has been building for the past 6 years. It was this Eureka! moment for our partners that you don't get to witness too often and I was proud to be there for it.
Challenge: Foursquare took a big, bold, well thought through move to split the core product (Foursquare) into 2 separate apps (Foursquare and Swarm). The main reason was a solid one: there were two distinct use cases for the core app, each addressing different markets with little overlap, so we needed to provide the best for both worlds to our current and future users. The introduction of the new apps led to some confusion among our existing community so we had the unique challenge of educating people on the value of each app. In the year since we unbundled the apps, we've launched new features on Foursquare and Swarm based on feedback from our community. We've been in constant contact with our community and launching marketing programs to help further educate, delight, and entertain. The user base is growing and active for both apps and positive brand sentiment is as strong as ever, and we continue to work towards our mission of creating industry-leading tools that allow people to discover the world around them and have a blast doing it!
What advice can you offer to women who want to work in your industry?
Don't let yourself be defined by your gender. Draw upon your unique experiences, perspectives and knowledge to positively impact the business. The appreciation for results is gender agnostic and universally shared in tech.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
A good idea is nothing without great execution.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I believe how you spend your time should sync up with what you prioritize in life. To accomplish all I need to at work, I have strategic plans, tactical plans and execution plans mapped out over time and calenderized to ensure I meet my company goals. This keeps me honest with realistic expectations and forces constant prioritization of my work time. I do the same with my personal life too. I short list what's important to me and plan for and calendarize accordingly. For example, home cooked family dinners are important, so I pre-plan the meals the week before, get the groceries on the weekend, and choose with my husband the 1-2 days that week we can both leave work at decent time to allow us to cook, wine, and dine together. A healthy mind and body are important to me, so I pre-plan my yoga / gym times for the week and double up on morning or evening meetings the other days. Vacations, family and friends time, reading, mentoring, start-up advising, art, fashion and music all make my calendar. It's never a daily balance; it's a constantly score carded one.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Women promoting and supporting other women. McKinsey and Bain have released studies on the astounding statistic that women are less likely to mentor and help other women in the workplace. It's a cycle I'm actively working to break through both in receiving and giving mentorship.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I often give career advice to new grads and young professionals on the value of accepting a job based on the mentorship you will receive. My goal in life is for continuous growth. I want to do more and see more and awesome mentors bring perspective to my journey, which allows me to step with purpose. Some of my mentors are personal ones that help bring me to greater self-awareness, some are professional that help identify opportunities I am blind to see.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Indra Nooyi runs one of the largest CPG companies in the world and did so while overcoming both gender and ethnic biases. But most importantly, she took on the CEO position when Pepsi was facing some of its biggest challenges - a competitive climate, healthy snack movement, anti-soda campaigns - and has consistently delivered solid financial results. She never takes the path of least resistance and is constantly tackling big problems no one else has solved. That inspires me. Plus I've never seen an interview or read an article about Indra that doesn't include one profound statement after another. She's just flawless.
What do you want Foursquare to accomplish in the next year?
Foursquare has become the go-to-never-fails-you city exploration guide and we are going to keep making the app smarter and more personalized. A lot of the real magic behind the app comes from Foursquare's pay-it-forward community. People share experiences to ensure their fellow Foursquare explorers get the best experience at the place they are visiting or discover a the perfect place. In the next year, we'll be creating programs that help the community pay it forward in ways that matter most to them, like using Foursquare as a platform to support eco-friendly, sustainable businesses, or supporting small, local businesses that help develop and define a neighborhood. Through the app, we cannot only help people explore the world around them but make an impact while they are doing it.