Ariella Robison brings that rare but critical combination of an analytical mind plus a creative spirit to her new position as Chief Marketing Officer at Language I/O. The creative part was fostered growing up on a remote island in the San Juans of Washington State where her parents shed their middle-class trappings and grew their own food, raised sheep, and dyed their own wool. “Lots of going into the woods and banging on drums,” Ariella explained during an interview shortly after joining Language I/O, a Wyoming-based startup that provides a multilingual customer engagement SaaS solution.
Ariella graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle at the height of the tech boom and grunge rock. With a freshly minted English degree, she was attending Sleater-Kinney concerts and interviewing for tech jobs. “The companies that were hiring were tech companies and they just wanted you to be able to communicate effectively. So, I went to a small startup in Seattle founded by a couple of guys from Microsoft,” she said. “One of them was the coder on the original version of MS Word. They started a software management software company – very meta. This was back in the days when the Internet was pretty young with web pages that included ten links and ‘under construction’ animated digger images. I taught myself how to build websites using HTML while I grew up in tech as Seattle changed and evolved. This was when I went through the dot com boom and bust.”
She eventually ended up at a company named Varolii for five years, which was bought by the conversational-AI giant, Nuance. The environment was a bit too corporate for Ariella, so she moved to DomainTools where she stayed for seven years. “I came into it with a knowledge of domains and DNS because I was a website developer. We were fighting the good fight against hackers,” Ariella said. “DomainTools gave me the opportunity to be broader in my scope and do ‘all of the things’ including PR, digital, social media marketing, and brand awareness. During my time there, I grew the marketing org from just me to a team of eight.”
Throughout her 20+ year career in tech marketing, Ariella has grown pipelines as well as taken little companies and made them big. Asked what she loves most about marketing, she said it’s that mix of left-brain and right-brain activities that is so critical to the position – analyzing conversion rates and pipeline coverage ratios while still getting to write catchy product copy and tag lines. “You need to be data-driven and analytical; understanding the results and metrics while also being creative and thinking about the story, the visuals, and the emotional part of every buyer’s journey. It’s really the holistic thing that brings together both parts of our brain. This would explain why my SAT score was the same in written and math – exactly the same.”
Asked what drew her to Language I/O, Ariella said the female founder’s story was exciting to her as well as the technology. “Given that only 5% of startups are female-owned, I understand that it’s quite a unique situation. And the technology is super cool, intriguing, and necessary. I like to think of it as a need-to-have not a nice-to-have. Real-time translation is going to change the world, not to put too fine a point on it,” she said.
“I want to build out a team again and have a direct effect on growth – coming from a small place to making a huge, huge impact. I’m a small company person, anyone who grew up with the GenX ethos knows that we’re not joiners. We’re independent spirits with an indie-rock mindset.”