Nader Ghaffari – ShortForm 2 of 2

“The audacity to enlighten and to entertain.” Nader and ShortForm enable VJs to curate their own online video channels for sharing incredible visual experiences.

Matthew: So we want to dispel some myths. Lost of people want to start companies. They look at founders like yourself who appear to make it look easy. We know it’s difficult. So my question is, what is it that you make look easy? What comes easy to you? What’s a skill you’ve developed and what’s been difficult and how have you managed that?

Nader: You know, the entrepreneurship. There this, well there’s also a myth that there’s a lot of myths around entrepreneurship. One school of thought is that you’ve got to keep going and going and going and trying a bunch of different things. The other school of thought is, well, don’t be in a hurry. Wait for the opportunity to arrive and then immerse yourself fully. 

I took the latter approach which was learn as much as I could, surround myself with mentors, and when the opportunity arrived fully immersed myself it. And that’s what happened with ShortForm. The opportunity arrived, I saw the writing on the wall, and we immersed ourselves in it. 

What has been difficult is learning to be patient and that these things take time. Not every product is going to go viral the minute you launch it. That you have to have a very focused vision on the future and have specific plans that are executed on a daily basis. Set these plans, we set our plans on a monthly basis and we execute them tactically daily. 

And it’s all about building the best found team possible. This is all happening because of this amazing founding team that we built around ShortForm. It’s the guys, the entire founding team that’s executing right now is what makes all this possible. Really is all about the people and who we’ve brought around the ShortForm founding team. It’s just an amazing group. Everyone is committed to the vision and everyone is passionate about where we’re going and we’re delivering and executing and having a blast in the process.

But being patient, not being affected by the ups and downs that may occur, daily. Being very focused and steadfast on where we’re going and not letting the daily oscillations affect us on an emotional level.

Matthew: So, what mentor or individuals played a positive impact in your professional development and in launching ShortForm?

Nader: A few people come to mind as far as mentors. On the one hand, my grandfather who was a staunch businessman in Iran, he had a thriving tea business. And he was a very disciplined man and was always the first to arrive in the bazaar, well before dawn. Rumors are somewhere between 3:00 to 5:00 in the morning he would arrive and his work would be fully in motion by the time anyone else even showed up. And he built a thriving business and he was very focused and very disciplined. And I share that with him and that’s what I try to bring every day. So that’s one. 

On the other hand, my late father who was just an amazing person in his ability to connect with people. He was able to see a new person and bring him into his life, his family and just treat him with an enormous amount of dignity and respect and took time to get to know people at a deep level. And so that’s had a huge influence on who I am as a person. 

And the third is a member of my board, a guy named Rich Melmon, who was actually around the table with us. He’s a partner, a managing partner at Net Service Ventures Group and Bullpen, who was around the table and started ShortForm with us, bringing in his years of expertise as one of the co-founders of EA and launching the first spread sheet and on and on and on. And he’s been an amazing resource and is available at any time. We talk on a several times a week on things that are going on at ShortForm and things I need to bounce off of him.

So they come in many different forms. Our VP of Product who was once an advisor to ShortForm who decided, hey, look, it’s going to be as big as EA, I need to jump in, didn’t need to work anymore but saw this. And he’s now in here and I can kick things off of him on a daily basis. So there’s a growing list of people that are influencing the company but those are a handful that come to mind.

Matthew: And so, what bit of advice or information would you like to share with our audience about starting a startup. I mean, what do you think are the most important elements?

Nader: The whole startup experience it’s an amazing journey. But one has to really be ready to invest themselves fully in it. It can’t be successful unless you invest your whole self in it. It can’t be a part time thing. It’s you’re getting in, you gotta get in the game. You’ve got to put everything you have in this game. So be ready for that level of commitment. 

And the other is, let the opportunity arrive. Don’t kick yourself if the opportunity isn’t there yet. There’s a lot of things you can do this world while you wait for the opportunity. Surround yourselves with other entrepreneurs. Join organizations that you can learn from and you can observe so that you can bring those learnings to your own endeavor when you start it.

And then when you see the opportunity and you dive in, have a very focused and clear direction where you’re going, but be malleable, because things change. We took a big pivot like I said where we moved from us being the VJ’s and curators to the world being VJ’s and curators. And so while you may have, I think you may have told me this Matt, be married to the problem not the solution. 

And I state it a little differently, if you want to find a market that’s big enough and where you’re essentially rolling down hill and not running up a hill and you can iterate and find the right solution in that market. So we saw with ShortForm a big opportunity. Like I said, the ad dollar shifting from television, coming over the top. And so we said, okay, we know this is the right space to be in, we think we have the right solution, let’s get in and let’s iterate.

And so when you get all this going you’ve got a direction, you’re malleable, it’s about building the most incredible founding team that you can. And that’s what we’re so fortunate about here is a team that exists as the founding team. Everyone is committed and we’ve been very selective in taking our time and building the founding team to be comprised of people who bring everything into the game. And everyone brings something unique and different, and that’s what makes all the difference in the world.

Matthew: And so, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since launching ShortForm?

Nader: The important lesson and I mentioned this a little earlier, is to be patient. Initially I expected things to sort of magically happen. Things don’t magically happen. They may happen for a company here and there where you just turn it on and something just does its thing. Magic happens when you’re persistent and you arrive at the equation that then leads to that success. So to be patient and to keep going and take the tweaks and turns and then the magic will happen and the product will take off. Which in some respect has done for us and continues to do so on a daily basis. So, yeah, it’s patience. It’s really all about patience. 

Matthew: So what are the next steps for ShortForm?

Nader: The next steps for ShortForm. I mean, we have big ideas. Right now we’re focused squarely on the web through our destination site and through the embeddable widget. But obviously getting on, I see big things as far as consumption of ShortForm channels on the mobile device and television. I see a world where people are kicking back on [Muny], watching a curated ShortForm channel and just flipping through videos, if they don’t like it, and just flipping through channels. No one wants to search on their mobile device, they want to consume continuous streams of video. 

The television, like I said, I see a world where people are kicking back watching ShortForm channels on their connected TV. But on the web, we actually have a lot of opportunities as well. We want to be the best in the world in two things: Providing the tools and capabilities that make it fun for VJ’s to assemble channels, be able to edit down content, put content together. Maybe put voice-overs and comments into their channels. And being the best in the world in letting viewers find and discover channels of interest. 

Whether it’s channels that have curated by people they know or channels that are topically of interest to them. And we’ve got work to do in both of those, in both of those categories, and we are now sort of the leading company in doing those two things. But we’ve got a lot of features that we want to put in place around both of those.

So continue to evolve on the web through our destination and distributable product, and then get on the other screens where I think it gets even more interesting from a consumption perspective.

Matthew: And so before we close I would love for you to give our audience your vision of ShortForm and how you hope it will change the world.

Nader: Yeah, ShortForm it’s, one the one hand, it can be looked at as entertainment product. On the other hand, it can be looked at as a communication vehicle. It’s this big thing you see with new mediums. It really is analogous to what radio did for the world and we are essentially doing that for online video. There’s a lot of amazing content being uploaded but that content isn’t getting surfaced and discovered. 

And so we are putting stories together in these channels. And our VJ’s are telling stories. Some of them are telling stories that will entertain us. They are telling stories around sports or gossip, Hollywood kinds of things. On the other hand, we’re getting very compelling stories being told around what’s going on in the world and movements. The Egypt Revolution had a channel where we exposed the events on the ground through a channel. And people who consumed that channel got exposed to the truth. 

So on the one hand, ShortForm has the power of entertaining us. On the other hand, it has the power of exposing the truth and communicating events that are happening that are relevant. And so i see a world where this new entertainment medium is delivering content that’s relevant and engaging and entertaining us and enlightening us at the same time.

Matthew: Excellent. Nader, it’s been a pleasure having you as a guest on FounderLY. We’re rooting for your success, we hope you’ll come back to share more of your story as you guys progress. For those in our audience who’d like to learn more, who’d like to become a VJ and curate your own channel, you can visit them at This is Matthew Wise at FounderLY and again thanks so much Nader.

Nader: Thank you Matt. It’s my pleasure.


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