Michael Jaconi is Making Mobile Commerce as Easy as the Click of a Button

Anna Bradley-Smith November 9, 2020
Button Co-Founder and CEO Michael Jaconi
Courtesy of Button

How do you get an industry to rethink the way it has done things for the past 20 years? It’s no easy task. But for Button co-founder and CEO Michael Jaconi, it’s all the motivation he needs.

Jaconi co-founded mobile commerce and affiliate marketing service Button in 2014 with the premise that the internet was transitioning to being fueled by commerce, rather than advertising.

“We believed that commerce was a better way to make money,” he said. “Better for all parties: brands, publishers, and most importantly, consumers.”

From day one, Button has been dedicated to building a better way to do business on mobile. Advertising, Jaconi said, was no longer durable for businesses to make money and didn’t give customers a good experience. Instead, he said a digital economy built on commerce transactions was more sustainable than one built on clicks and views.

“I wanted to create a win-win-win solution for all parties involved in a transaction,” he said. “Enabling brands to acquire new customers at the moment they are ready to purchase, allowing publishers to earn more mobile revenue in the process, and giving users more seamless shopping experiences across the mobile ecosystem.”

In it to Win it

Jaconi has been a lifelong entrepreneur.

At 16, he started his first company and has since started and managed four more in the marketing and technology sectors.

His most recent company prior to Button, FreeCause, was acquired by Rakuten, and Jaconi went along with it becoming CEO of Rakuten Loyalty and executive officer of Rakuten. The job took him to China, where he saw the explosion in mobile first companies and a new digital economy, something he has tried to translate in the American and British markets.

“I looked at the U.S. and how broken the traditional advertising models were, particularly in mobile, which resulted in high costs for brands and poor user experiences for consumers,” Jaconi said.

In the U.S, the industry is almost universally transacted through static one-to-one partnerships between brands and publishers. So Jaconi and his team set out to change that. The hardest thing, he said, was also his favorite -- solving a difficult problem that exists in the mobile space and getting industry players to buy into the solutions.

“How do you get them excited about your mission of building a better way? That’s a challenge that we face daily, and it’s also one I believe in,” he said.

Keeping it Real

At first, Jaconi and his team built connections with new economy players such as Uber with aims of creating an app ecosystem full of commerce transactions. For example, when a user was looking at a location they wanted to visit on Foursquare, the option to book a car to that location through Uber would appear.

As the company and relationships grew, the team recognized the fastest path to achieving their mission was to focus on revolutionizing the affiliate industry.

“Over the past 12 months, we’ve focused on evolving affiliate marketing into a more advanced, sophisticated, and dynamic channel that can rival social and search,” he said.

Button has raised more than $64 million in funding and has driven more than $3.5 billion in mobile commerce to partners like Samsung Pay, Sam’s Club, United Airlines, and Uber.

Jaconi said a key to his success and that of the company’s was “staying flexible, staying skeptical and staying driven.”

“Don’t shy away from the gritty bits of running a business,” he said. “In fact, embrace them.”

Make Every Day a Day One

Each day, Jaconi typically meets with executives and team members across the company, as its important for his team and direct reports to operate with an understanding of each other’s focus.

Coming into each day with clarity and treating it like it was Day One was one of Jaconi’s top pieces of advice.

He said transparency was one of the company’s guiding principles and all key decisions and objectives and key results were made accessible to anyone in the company.

“That level of visibility helps us stay accountable to one another and inspires us to get better,” he said.“One of our values is to speak boldly and honestly. That means being radically candid, speaking our minds and having tough conversations, because that pushes us to grow individually and organizationally.”

Working across three cities, he said it was important to operate equitably, understanding time zones and constraints, having regular and brief meetings and having weekly all-hands in meetings with time for Q&As to reduce ambiguity and foster alignment.

Moving Forward

Next year, Jaconi said Button would be scaling its two new product suites, Button Evolution and Reach.

Button Evolution is the first suite of personalization and intelligence products for marketers in the affiliate industry. Reach is Button’s deep linking and mobile link optimization technology for affiliate network traffic. Both suites are already in use by major companies including Uber and Sam’s Club.

Jaconi said he was excited by the results the company’s technology had created this year, and the team was excited by how much upside remained in the affiliate space.

He said the affiliate channel was the last digital media channel to make the transition to allow for more sophisticated spending.

“There is so much potential for change,” he said. “And we’ve barely scratched the surface.”

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