Cameron Turner co-founded ClickStream Technologies in 2003. Located in Berkeley, California, Click Stream provides media software companies such as Microsoft and Adobe with detailed reports about how consumers use their software applications.
Turner developed the “ClickSight” technologies deployed by ClickStream while studying for his MBA at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. “I chose the Oxford MBA because of its focus on projects,” he says, “to help take ClickStream to the next level”. For his summer Strategic Consulting Project, Turner and a team of classmates worked with RealNetworks in Seattle to study consumer usage of their technologies, which include Real Player. This pilot project set the company on the path it has followed ever since.
Turner’s path to entrepreneurship was an unusual one. He originally set out to become an architect, but the computer graphics skills he acquired along the way took him to work at Microsoft, developing the drawing tools bundled into the Office suite. As it turned out, software design and architecture had much in common. “The thought processes are so similar,” Turner says. “Both of them are about getting people efficiently through their tasks, getting things at the right height, where people expect them to be, at the right eye level, and so on.”
Turner stayed at Microsoft for eight years, conducting global market research for Microsoft Office and helping to create the company’s financial reporting software. It was while working with the big four consulting firms on a solution for Sarbanes Oxley compliance, that he came to realise that he wanted to be more than what he describes as a “tool-maker”. “I realised how big the world is beyond technology,” he says.
He decided to study for an MBA, but many of the MBA graduates he had interviewed as a team manager at Microsoft had not sold him on the concept. “They talked about the MBA experience as a two-year cocktail party,” he says. “I didn’t want to go to a two-year cocktail party. I wanted to take one year and do something really big with it.” The Oxford one-year MBA programme was just what he was looking for. It was certainly no cocktail party, but Turner relished the rigour of the programme. “Everyone in my class understood what they were in for,” he says, “and we got it. The amount of reading and work we did in that year was phenomenal. You really had to dive in and take responsibility for your own education. You couldn’t get through the MBA just by getting the work done – you had to have new ideas and you had to contribute something to the programme.”
As Turner had anticipated, the New Business Development Project and Strategic Consulting
Projects, which are compulsory parts of the Oxford MBA programme proved to be the highlights of the experience. “To be able to take the things we were learning in finance and apply them to a business plan, and then to have that business plan reviewed by real industry venture capitalists, was really exciting,” he says. “Plus it afforded the opportunity to work with people with really diverse backgrounds.”
All the hard work has paid off. Turner says his MBA has helped him work out where to focus his energies. “When you start a company, there’s no shortage of things to work on, and they can all seem equally important. I think that one of the things the MBA programme did was help me to prioritise what the key things were.” It also gave him a clearer sense of what makes a new business succeed or fail, and supplied him with the knowledge and skills he lacked, in particular understanding how a business is financed. “Without that I would have been in trouble starting a company,” he admits.
For the future, Turner is focusing on two major projects. At ClickStream (www.clickstreamtech.com), he is launching a new “enterprise” product – a stand-alone appliance that enterprises can purchase and install behind their firewall to generate reports about the productivity metrics inside their organisation. At the same time, he and MBA classmate David Maren are starting a non-profit called Email Emblems (www.emailemblems.org) which is “about putting logos into your email signatures to support your favourite cause”. “I’d never heard of social entrepreneurship before I came to the Saïd Business School,” Turner says, “but taking what I know about technology and applying that in the NGO sector is super interesting.”