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How a search for Thai noodles led this Walmart veteran to become CFO of a unicorn

May 25, 2022, 10:51 AM UTC

Good morning,

“I heard about Klaviyo about a year or two ago when tracking companies doing cool things in the technology space,” Klaviyo’s new CFO Amanda Whalen told me. The former EVP and CFO at Walmart International was then intrigued by how the marketing technology unicorn played a part in her quest to prepare a Thai recipe. 

During the time when most Americans were indoors due to the pandemic, “as a family, we wanted to learn how to make a Thai dish, pad see ew,” Whalen explained. “It was very hard to find the noodles for it because they were in demand. I started discovering that all of the emails that I was getting from my favorite noodle company were from Klaviyo.”

The noodle company would send an email when the product was back in stock online or if the product was available in a store nearby, she said. In addition, they’d send recipes and let her know when items were on sale. What stood out to Whalen was how the company built a digital relationship with customers. “Not just, ‘hey, we’re gonna blast out a random email to all these different people,'” she says.

Klaviyo CFO Amanda Whalen.
Courtesy of Klaviyo

Boston-based Klaviyo, founded by Andrew Bialecki and Ed Hallen in 2012, offers a marketing email and SMS automation platform to customers. The startup reached unicorn status in 2020. And with its funding round in May 2021, Klaviyo was valued at $9.15 billion. Bialecki currently serves as CEO. 

A key component of Klaviyo’s product is creating a single database of customer information for its clients, says Whalen, who began her role as CFO two weeks ago. That means bringing together everything from name, address, demographics, purchase history and shopping behavior all in one place, she says. “It sounds relatively simple, but it’s actually really hard to do,” she explains. “Frequently those live in different databases and different sources. So, it’s a key differentiator for us.”

Having the information gathered in one place allows Klaviyo to help clients to learn over time how to best communicate with their customers, she says. Then the company instructs clients on sending effective emails and texts, Whalen says. “We’re doing it using our customers’ own data,” she says. 

Whalen was EVP and CFO at Walmart International for five years, and she finds similarities between Walmart and Klaviyo’s customer-first ethos, she says. At Walmart, Whalen was responsible for finance across eight international markets with a revenue of over $90 billion.

The IPO market is slowing down with 34 offerings raising an aggregate $3.9 billion this year compared to 397 IPOs raising $142 billion for all of 2021, according to Renaissance Capital, Fortune reported. I asked Whalen if an IPO is in the near future for Klaviyo. “We will think about it when the time is right,” she says. “And what we’re really focused on is: how do we build a strong business for the future?”

Whalen plans to visit with Klaviyo customers soon, she says. “I think as a CFO, it’s really important to have a full understanding of the company, the product, and how we serve customers,” she explains.

Whalen, a Princeton University and MIT grad who began her career at Bain & Company, is also focused on creating strategic partnerships with Bialecki, and other members of the executive team, hiring for her finance team, and building the careers of existing team members, she says.

“Part of what attracted me to the company was the fact that there’s already a strong finance team here, but it’s a business that’s growing really, really rapidly,” she says.


See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

Big deal

Corporate disclosures regarding board oversight of ESG (environmental, social, governance) efforts are on the rise amongst Russell 1000 companies, a new report by JUST Capital found. Over the past two years, companies increased their disclosures, with a more significant jump, 10 percentage points on average, between 2021 and 2022, according to the report. For example, the percentage of companies disclosing ESG key performance indicators represented in compensation metrics increased from 18% in 2021 to 28% in 2022. And the percentage of companies with a formal board schedule to review ESG increased from 28% in 2021 to 39% in 2022. 

Courtesy of Just Capital

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