Dan Greenberg – Sharethrough 1 of 2

“Marry the problem not the solution.” Sharethrough provides advertisers a repeatable and scalable platform for distributing social video on the Web.

Matthew:
This is Matthew Wise founder of FounderLY.com, where we empower entrepreneurs to have a voice and share their story with the world, enabling others to learn more about building products and starting companies. So with great pleasure to be here today with Dan Ackerman Greenberg.
Dan:
How are you doing?
Matthew:
Dan is the founder and CEO of Sharethrough.com, which is a leading video advertising platform and distributing network.
Dan:
Excited to be here. You’re in our office today (unintelligible – 0:00:39.1) in the office but in the office here we’ve got 25 people based in San Francisco. Like you said it’s a social video advertising company. We work with big brand advertisers that create content for the Web with a distribution mechanism for that content. So we’re the media company, the advertising company, the technology company created for this entirely new kind of Web advertising video content that tells a story, not just interruptive 15-second ads.
Matthew:
So what are you so passionate about Sharethrough?
Dan:
I’ll tell you, this company loves everything creative. I think brands have always created culture, brands have always been you know the storytellers who produce amazing content and produce content that changes the world. Our job and our opportunity is to help them tell those stories through technology, through distribution, and through kind of a new lens to put on our advertising. It’s not just traditional advertising anymore. It’s not just TV ads, it’s not just print ads in newspapers. There is this entirely new trend around content and the fact that we get to sit with the most creative directors, creative agencies, media companies, and movie studios and brands, puts us right into the mix of it and really gives us a seat at the table to find out what the future looks like. So I’d say the passion comes from this idea that we’re making advertising creative. We’re making advertising more about content than about pitching a product.
Matthew:
What are some of the trends you’re seeing?
Dan:
Yeah you’re definitely right the market is billions of dollars already. YouTube only started five years ago, maybe six years ago.
Matthew:
Yeah it’s amazing.
Dan:
Facebook only hit the mainstream four or five years ago. And the idea that video is just becoming ubiquitous, just becoming something that everybody in the country and everybody around the world has access to, is the beginning of that (unintelligible – 00:02:27) point. So if you think about that through the lens of advertising, sort of separate it out, this analogy that we’ve been using, it is similar to when newspaper ads shifted from the newspaper to the Web.
Matthew:
OK.
Dan:
Ten or 15 years ago. The idea now is that TV ads are shifting from TV to the Web. The next step, and the step that we’re seeing now this sort of fundamental content shift is that brands aren’t just slapping a 15-second ad from TV onto the web. They are, but they’re taking a step past that which is creating content specifically and uniquely for the Internet. That means short films, it means music videos, it means webisodes, it means you know hiring (unintelligible – 00:03:06) to create a short film with Kobe Bryant and Kanye West to promote Nike; it happens to promote Nike but it’s a five-minute, pretty awesome short film. And you know the opportunity for us is to step into that and say we are the evolution of the way brand and content is going to work and the evolution of the way branded advertising will work.
Matthew:
Excellent. So we’d like to get a little bit into your background. We’d like to kind of know the story behind our founders and also share that with our audience. So I know that you were with the Commotion Group, correct?
Dan:
Yes, I started a small consultancy when I was in college, I think I was a sophomore at the time. We put some good branding around it, called the Commotion Group. Essentially it was just you know myself and a roommate helping some movie studios think about their viral content strategies and sort of the grey areas in the emerging online landscape. What works and what doesn’t work. How can you inject content into culture and I (unintelligible – 00:04:05) this company emerged out of that passion for video and that passion for creative and that drive to apply technology to a real big problem. So this is a technology company and Silicon Valley startup around this very creative advertising problem. And you know this company definitely followed much more organically than it did you know, here is a business plan let’s point at what the future is and then go around towards that future. One of the things I always say to everybody starting a new company, anytime I mentor a young entrepreneur who’s thinking about starting a company is marry the problem not the solution.
So when you start a company you are marrying this huge problem and the problem for us was branded advertisers trying to figure out how to get their stories told online. The product (unintelligible – 00:04:58) the product can be a service, the product can be a distributional network, the product can be an ad platform, it can be data tracking, it can be lots of different products inside that. But the problem that we married, the problem that we wrapped our arms around has been the same from the very beginning.
Matthew:
Excellent, those are really good words of wisdom. And then in terms of you know in terms of just kind of some timeline details, when did you guys actually launch?
Dan:
So I started the company in 2007, end of 2007, started it with a couple cofounders, guys that I met at the Stanford MS&E, Management, Science, and Engineering program, and started with two cofounders one of which has moved on to start something else actually and to jump into now Groupon. But my cofounder and I now, Rob (unintelligible – 0:05:51.1) he’s the technical cofounder, I’m the hand waving, vision cofounder. We came together in a class at Stanford actually, it was the Stanford Facebook class taught by one of my mentors and a pretty inspiring professor at Stanford, a guy named (unintelligible – 0:06:06.5). He runs a persuasive technology lab at Stanford, who said let’s teach a class that takes Facebook as sort of a petri dish for these persuasive technology concepts and these persuasion strategy theories and let’s see if we can test these theories and test these persuasion strategies using Facebook as the testing ground. Brought in about 80 students, I TA’d the class with my cofounder Rob; that’s where we came together. Long story short the class was extremely successful.
Matthew:
It’s still going on today, right?
Dan:
No, it was just a one-time, one-hit wonder class. Again the short story of the class is a 10-week class about five weeks into it, realized that the tests and, you know, the homework assignment I guess of the class was to make applications and then see if you can test these persuasion strategies against those applications. Then share them, and use them, and sort of strike a chord with the way people think about themselves and their friends and the applications succeeded and these students started to make thousands of dollars a day off these applications and myself and Rob said, “Holy shit, we’re teaching these guys how to do this, let’s make some ourselves.” And we made hugs and kisses and pillow fights and sort of a whole slew of silly applications around this concept of engineering virality, applied not to video, applied to Facebook and applied to application development, but the same sort of framework thinking, how do we crystalize virality. And how do we mathematically trap virality and induce virality in a very organic way. And again a long story short out of that class Rob and I came together said this is an awesome opportunity to start a company, let’s start here and move on to something much bigger and better. Since then we’ve rolled out Facebook applications with our own company, we’ve evolved this company into the leading social video company but still had some of those same traces of very test-driven development, very hypothesis-driven customer relationships, where we are working with our customers, thinking about our theories of who they are and what their problems are and applying technology to solve those problems.

 
 

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