HackerNoon Reporter: Please tell us briefly about your background.
Here goes an attempt at briefly:
(1) Came over as refugees with my parents from the USSR at a young age with just the clothes on our back;
(2) Tried to sell the Milky Way Galaxy on eBay as a way not to go to college — almost worked;
(3) Started a dozen business ventures while at college — one worked (ViralGains)!; (
(4) Fast forward nine wonderful years, which brings us to the present day.
How’s that for brief?
What’s your startup called? And in a sentence or two, what does it do?
ViralGains provides digital advertising software for customer-centric advertising and intelligent ad journey orchestration. We enable marketers to create unique ad journeys on leading demand-side platforms that improve brand trust, drive customer action, and reduce wasted ad spend by making ads relevant to real-time customer sentiment and behavior.
What is the origin story?
During senior year of college, I was inspired to start ViralGains after recognizing the storytelling power of video as a medium for building authentic, meaningful connections between brands, and the people they seek to serve. Ever get stalked by the same ad everywhere you browse online for months on end? Ever seen an ad for a product you have absolutely no intention of buying? Ever wished the brand would simply ask you if you were actually interested in said product, or catered advertising to your personal preferences, and unique buying journey? Yeah, me too! Brands spend half a trillion dollars per year advertising their products and services globally, while only a tiny 4% of advertising effectively changes a consumer’s opinion about a brand. At that rate, the number of wasted brand dollars every year could solve world hunger 16 times over. Now that is a scary and sad fact. Building a product that solved the enormous inefficiencies in digital advertising seemed like a win-win for everyone: consumers, marketers and publishers alike.
What do you love about your team, and why are you the ones to solve this problem?
We are focused on developing and empowering our team.
Step 1: Hire people far smarter than you.
Step 2: Give them the tools to succeed.
Step 3: Unblock them when they occasionally get stuck.
Step 4: Continuously and relentlessly help develop them to be the best versions of themselves,
and Step 5: Hire more smart people and start again.
This is our driving culture and it results in the company always striving to deliver the best.
If you weren’t building your startup, what would you be doing?
Following another dream or passion. I have always been terrified of the “deferred life plan.” You know, the go-to-school-for-25-years-work-for-40-and-retire-at-65 plan. I want to live life on my own terms. For all we know, it’s the only one we’ll get! Happiness is found at the intersection of doing something you’re really good at, that you love doing, and is useful to the world – so this is what I would seek out.
At the moment, how do you measure success? What are your core metrics?
If we’re talking about success at the company, then the first most obvious metrics include the ones everyone would be looking at — topline growth, market penetration, yadda yadda yadda. For me though, the real important core metric is our employee satisfaction and retention. It tells me our folks find the work they do meaningful. If we’re talking about my personal success, then it’s two core metrics:
(1) How much gratitude I feel when waking up in the morning, and (2) How little regret I have for how I spent my day when I’m going to bed.
If one is consistently going up and the other down, respectively, I am successful.
What’s most exciting about your traction to date?
We’ve saved the advertisers we work with incredible sums of money from otherwise inefficient ways of advertising, and in the process connected innumerable tens of millions of consumers and brands together in a meaningful way since our inception. In other words, what’s most exciting about our traction to date is the very output of why we exist! Oh, and it’s pretty cool that we raised $27 million from investors for ViralGains along the way, helping the company to be a powerhouse, and an authority on digital video advertising.
What technologies are you currently most excited about, and most worried about? And why?
Technology I’m currently most excited about: real AI. Technology I’m currently most worried about: real AI. Why? Have you seen the future documentary, Terminator? And/or its equally as terrifying mini series, Black Mirror? Any questions? 😅
What drew you to get published on HackerNoon? What do you like most about our platform?
ViralGains is nominated for Boston start-up of the year, and we want to share our story and what makes the company unique. HackerNoon shares our ethos for making the internet a better space – they deliver great stories from a loyal community without the noise that dilutes the reader experience.
What advice would you give to the 21-year-old version of yourself?
I would say take far better care of your health, you dummy! In priority order: sleep enough per night that you wake up naturally without needing an alarm clock, then drink ~100oz of water daily plus/minus somewhat based on activity, then meditate, then lift weights/exercise, then cut out processed and carb-heavy foods, and finally practice gratitude daily. Rinse and repeat for the next 10 years.
What is something surprising you’ve learned this year that your contemporaries would benefit from knowing?
Two great quotes come to mind here:
(1) “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity” — Albert Einstein and
(2) “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” — Maya Angeloua.
In the midst of a pandemic, our society has also faced realities about social injustice as a country and simultaneously dealt with a very divided presidential election. What that has done to most of us is substantially lowered our tolerance for bullshit and inauthenticity. This means it is time to do away with the status quo and get with the program, now… because people are tired, their attention is limited, and their tolerance for pandering without action sailed away a long time ago.
My advice for marketers in all industries: listen to your customers and invest in technologies that help you do so effectively, respond to them authentically, and place your core values at the center of all your decision making. Do these things, and consumers will thank you with their attention and wallets.
This article originally appeared on Hackernoon.