Category Archives: Darren Herman

My journey in becoming a Mozillian

I decided to try out Medium this morning while traveling back from #mozlandia.  You can view the original post here.

I have also pasted the post below (minus the cute picture of part of the team).

My 365 day journey of becoming a Mozillian

My name is Darren Herman and I’m the Vice President of Content Services at Mozilla. I can be found at @dherman76 on Twitter. This is the first time I’m telling this story publicly and the first time my team is seeing it. I am blessed to work with such an amazing group of individuals and hope you can all relate to the below.

Today is just after my one year anniversary at Mozilla, but only now do I feel like I could consider myself a Mozillian. Maybe other Mozillians won’t consider me one yet, but at least I’m on my way. As I fly back from #mozlandia, our official all-Mozilla meeting in Portland, I have begun to reflect on this.

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I remember back to my first day on the job in Mountain View that it felt amazing to be a Mozillian. At that time, I did not realize that I was not a Mozillian but I was just a new employee at Mozilla who was just starting the journey to become a Mozillian.

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My past year has been turbulent, exciting, devastating, inspiring, unbalanced, curious, stressful, and amazing. I never thought you could group those words in the same sentence but those were all emotions I felt over the past year.

The majority of the senior executive team that I interviewed with and which hired me are now gone. The inspiring technologist and inventor of Javascript who many of us came to work for unfortunately left… Scary in my eyes.

One of my most intense moments of emotions was when I felt a sense of inspiration and excitement when I took the stage at the IAB Leadership Summit back in February to talk about Mozilla’s intentions within the advertising ecosystem. The talk at the conference was well received and I was in my glory moment.

Maybe an hour after I walked off stage, the reality of my new role set in to Mozilla. Mozillians, the community, and many users erupted at me, almost like the human immune system reacting with a toxin. My flight back to New York from the IAB Summit was filled with dozens of emails with our communications team to figure out how to calm a storm I created. Mozilla getting into advertising? No fucking way.

In my head I was thinking to myself… I came to Mozilla to evolve the advertising industry and content space but what I’m trying to do is constantly rejected? WTF. Why am I here? And more so, I left one of the best roles on Madison Avenue thanks to the generosity of my former employer for this?

I received threats from our community. I received flaming emails. I received a lot of resistance.

It was time to re-evaluate my time at Mozilla so I did. I went to my coach, my wife, my brother, my father, and my mentors and we chatted. Per their feedback and my decision process, I quietly resigned and I continued an old conversation with a pre-IPO hot company to take a c-level role doing things I had former comfort in and with a leader who I respect more than 99% of people I’ve ever met.

By the end of this December, my plan was to exit Mozilla and start in 2015 at the new opportunity.

But something funny happened to me on the way to Mountain View for the 10th Anniversary of Firefox.

In the weeks leading up to the 10th Anniversary, my work life at Mozilla started to change a bit. My team had grown from back in February and we’d shipped code. We’d launched Tiles with some commercial partners and landed the Interest Dashboard in the AMO. In an engineering culture this is the holy grail, much more than talking about something or even showing mockups. We shipped code. We fucking shipped code.

I’m not going to say that we got all the respect in the world inside of Mozilla, but I started getting less hate mail, the tweets became positive, and the community became super curious.

I also began talking different. It’s weird to say that and it was something I never realized earlier this year. I used words that were second nature to me but not second nature to Mozilla. I used words that scared people. Hint: don’t ever say synergy. I tweaked my vocabulary. Had I done this for my talk at the IAB Leadership Summit, I would have probably had 90% less issues, but hindsight is 20/20.

My team, which is probably the smallest (but growing) inside of Mozilla, started to snowball. We were knocking off bugs. We got momentum in the press. Our talks with commercial partners for selling advertising tiles was beyond well received. There was real hope in all of our eyes that we could begin to change this ecosystem.

At around 6am PST on November 10, I walked into the Mountain View office for the big 10th Anniversary celebration with anticipation that this would be my last time in Mozilla Mountain View but all of the emotions from above started to hit me.

I texted my absolutely amazing wife and said that it was bittersweet that I was leaving Mozilla now as the hard part was probably mostly behind us. I’d resigned a month or so earlier but I actually now might want to stay.

I was given 5–10 minutes during our celebration to talk about what Content Services was doing in front of all Mozillians. Hundreds of Mozilla employees were physically present and others were connected over our Vidyo conference system. I asked my team to join me on “stage” (no real stage) as I went thru a slide deck of some of the products we’d launched and landed and for the first time, we got an applause; what I interpreted to be a real-one. After the talk was over, Mozillians that I had never met before came up to me and said things like: I can’t believe you’re still here but we’re lucky to have you, I now get what you’re trying to do and holy shit it’s cool, and we know this was a hard year for your team and you but hang in there.

It felt good. So good that I went into my transition meeting later in the day and the meeting lasted less than 5 minutes. I decided to stay at Mozilla and Chris Beard, our CEO gave me a second chance and vouched his support.

Fast forward. #mozlandia

I believe it was Chris who had the genius idea to bring 1200–1300 Mozilla employees to Portland this past week. We had a rough year, collectively due to management changes, etc, and thought that bringing us all together would strengthen our bonds and get us aligned for 2015.

A few things clicked for me at #mozlandia that make me feel like a Mozillian.

  1. I gave a presentation to all of Mozilla on the big stage one morning and there was applause and laughs. I had the most dangerous subject (advertising) and showed a disruptive path forward that was received.
  2. I met many different teams over the course of the week and proved I was human. So I think. I shared a beer with people who had called me out on Twitter earlier in the year and while we probably aren’t best drinking buddies yet, we didn’t kill each other either. We listened to each other and had constructive conversations.
  3. I saw the passion in my teams eyes about what we’re aiming to tackle which is monumental and not easy. But the passion is there and we are all aligned.

I feel stronger than ever that Mozilla is an amazing place. We have a real mission that’s not encumbered by another person, investor, shareholder, or partners priority. Our mission is probably as true and noble as one could be.

It took me a year to truly understand this and I’m still learning each day. If you are reading this and witnessed this all happening over the last 365 days, I thank you for your support. Thank you for showing me the Mozilla way. Thank you for continuing to nurture me into the culture.

Showing is worth more than talking. Watch our code. It’s open. And fucking amazing. Get ready. I’m excited for 2015.

2014 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational

Ten years ago I setup a golf game for founders of technology companies in New York.  We played at a semi-public course in Westchester County.  There were four of us.  The next year, we each invited another founder; there were eight of us.  And since, it’s grown.  Founders and executives of digital media startups, venture capitalists, marketers, agencies, all coming together to network + play golf.   No agenda, no nothing.  Just good times.   As seen in WSJ, Business Insider, Betabeat, and more.

I call this event the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational.  And it’s back for 2014.  Our ten year anniversary.  June 9 in Westchester County, NY.

If you are interested in playing, sponsoring, or inquiring for press, please use this form.

For those who have played in the past, you’ll receive a formal invitation over the next 3 weeks as we get together the sponsors and logistics.   For those who have never played in the tournament before, please inquire at the link above (or here).

A huge shoutout to previous sponsors Slyce, Spongecell, Buzzfeed, 33 Across, MediaOcean, PulsePoint, Varick Media Management, MDC Partners, kbs+, and Solve Media.

Time to dust those clubs off and hit the driving range!

 

Opening Night of DMB Tour – You Want to Go?

I’m super excited as during this time of year the Dave Matthews Band releases their tour dates.  I’m a huge fan of the band and have been to my fair share of shows.  I have never seen the band play in Texas which is where their opening night is.  So, I want to change that.

On May 16, they are playing about 40 miles north of Houston, Texas.  Since Houston is very easily accessible via many airlines, I’m planning on going to the show.  It’ll be a tour opening show, an entirely new set (2 sets, both acoustic and electric), and a new venue for me.

I figure I’d fly down the morning of the 16th, get settled into the hotel and drive up the venue for the show.   Post-show, drive back down, sleep, and head back to NYC the next day.

Ideally, we’re all responsible for buying our PIT tickets which we’d probably need to go thru Stubhub or somewhere similar.  Tickets will go on public onsale in a month or two.   Won’t be cheap but should be a fantastic show.

Not a cheap trip, but I certainly want to go.  One of those bucket-list shows.
Ping me if you are interested in going.

Goodbye 2013, Welcoming 2014

2013 in all of its glory was a transition year for me.  While I left the MDC Partners/kbs+/The Media Kitchen family and joined Mozilla only a couple weeks ago (Dec-2013), it was in planning for quite some time.  The new role at Mozilla has been fantastic and the Mozillians have been unbelievably welcoming, so the transition has been relatively easy to make.  The only part of the role so far that takes a lot of time getting used to is the amount of video (vidyo) chats that we have every day… I just am not used to it.

While I can reminisce all day long about 2013, I’d rather look forward to 2014.

Business-wise, I have to onramp my Mozilla knowledge quickly and get to specific goals that will allow me to prioritize my meetings and relationships.
Personal-wise, I am excited to watch my kids continue their growth into their own personalities.
I also want to hit a DMB show at the Gorge and bring my kids to a show at SPAC (my expectation is that DMB will play over the summer).

And of course, the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational will be back in 2014 celebrating it’s 10th Year.

2014 is going to be a true business challenge year.  I look forward to incorporating as many of you into this challenge as possible to help fulfill our goals and mission in a mutually beneficial way.

I’ll be pretty much off the grid until early January.  Have a happy and healthy.

I’m Thankful For the Past 6 Years… and Looking Ahead

Next week is Thanksgiving here in the USA and we’re about to get a ton of blog posts about how everyone is thankful about something.  All of the blog posts are important (and I’ve written them in the past) but they all come out at the exact same time (they dilute themselves) so I thought I’d jump the crowd and release mine this week… just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

This time of year is special to me as it’s my anniversary of working at The Media Kitchen and kbs+.  I celebrated my 6th anniversary of being on the agency side of the fence… a side of the fence that I never-ever-in-a-million-years thought I would have joined back in 2007.  It’s been just over half a decade here and it’s been absolutely amazing.

In the past 6 years, we’ve witnessed the birth of iOS App Store, WhatsApp, iPad, Instagram, Vine, Kik, Bitcoin, FourSquare, Buzzfeed, Nike Fuel Band, Makerbot, Tesla, and many other companies and technologies.  It’s amazing to think that the “app” culture for phones really did not exist before….   A lot can change in 6 years.  Now 40+ billion apps have been downloaded from Apple’s AppStore.

Here at The Media Kitchen and kbs+, a lot has changed too.  New clients, new faces on the leadership team, lots of amazing chefs (staff) around the office and our ever evolving end product… our thinking and output.  Agencies can talk about technologies all they want, but at the end of the day, they are in a service business and the staff is what delivers the product and builds and maintains relationships.

I am thankful for all of this.  I am thankful for Barry taking a chance and hiring me with having no previous agency experience.  I am thankful for being given the latitude by Miles and David of MDC Partners to co-create Varick Media Management (agency trading desk), Lori’s vision for greenlighting kbs+ Ventures (corporate investment arm for marketing + advertising technologies), the Digital Media Venture Capital Conference (featuring Union Square Ventures, Spark Capital, First Round Capital, Greycroft, DFJ Gotham, IA Ventures, and many others), book Creative Entrepreneurship along with colleague Taylor Davidson, the Ventures Fellows curriculum and class, and countless other initiatives.

For those who have read up on MDC Partners, and know their tagline, “Where Great Talent Lives,” I can say firsthand that it’s completely true.  The talent that MDC employs isn’t about pushing paper or making operations move faster but rather having a vision for the future.  It’s a vision that I added my two cents into and helped mold for the organization.  The stock is up 15x it’s low and is trading at an all-time high today.  I’m happy for them and to participate in this ride.

The past 6 years have been absolutely wonderful and have challenged me in a million ways.

But going into December, that is all going to change for me.

I am officially leaving The Media Kitchen and kbs+ to pursue a whole new world.  This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made and one that I’ve been working with my leadership team for a bit of time now to ensure a smooth transition.  November 27, 2013 will be my last day here at TMK’s 160 Varick Street location and I want to thank you, my teams, my partners, and my clients for an absolutely amazing 6 years.  I also want to thank my family, namely my wife Sherri for helping me with this extremely hard decision.

I can still be reached at dherman at mediakitchen dot tv until the 27th.  I will continue to blog, tweet, and partner.  One of the only differences is that I’ll be checking in at a new location.

Observations from 2 Weeks in South Africa

safariI just came back from spending the past 2 weeks in South Africa as my father has not been back in roughly 35 years.  For those unfamiliar, my father and his entire family are from Johannesburg (or Jo-Burg as they call it).  He is the youngest of his family and has a twin brother, an older brother, and two twin sisters; it’s a large family to say the least.  I’ve got 20 first cousins and out of all of them, I am the first American born and Kenny, my brother, is the second.  As my dad likes to say, I’m the first Yankee in the family.

After 35 years of not being back, things changed.  We noticed this first when showing my children the street my father grew up on a few years back using Google Earth.  His once childhood home is now an entire apartment complex.  The down-the-street gas station is now a sprawling strip mall.   All of this is expected as the country has grown tremendously and only recently (within 20 years) freed itself of Apartheid.

We traveled thru Johannesburg, a safari in Manyeleti (southeast corner of Kruger National Park), Cape Town and Stellenbosch.  My folks stayed a few extra days and did the Garden Route drive.   I noticed a few things re: technology + marketing and thought I’d share.

1.  Ubiquitous Connectivity:  No matter where we were traveling, we pretty much had Vodacom or similar service to our mobile devices.  While I did not use the service (my iPhone is not unlocked), I theoretically had access.  The infrastructure in South Africa for mobile service is pretty solid and even in the safari, I had access.  I remember my phone ringing while being on a game drive in the middle of the ManyeletiI barely get cell signal in the basement of our home in Westchester County!  Go figure.

2.  Where Were All the Phones??  We walked around a few shopping malls and saw no less than 3-4 cellphone stores per mall.  That’s a lot.  But, unlike NYC, most cellphones were in people’s pockets while they were walking rather than in their fingers and in front of their noses.  The culture wasn’t about being on the cellphone at all times, but rather having the phone purely as a utility to compliment whatever someone was doing.  Maybe this is because of the rate plan structures but it was certainly noticeable.  The Samsung phones seemed to have large share of market (when we got to see people holding their phones).

3.  Safety with Credit Cards I actually felt safer using my credit card in SA than I do in NYC.  When you want to pay with your credit card, the waiter brings over a small device that scans your card at the table in front of you and your card never, ever, ever leaves your sight.  Contrast this to the USA where your credit card might be out of your sight for 3-5 minutes while the waiter charges your card and does whatever else with it (scans it, copies it, etc).  I know there are some edge technologies that are being tested where you don’t need to even take out your credit card but this has not hit South Africa yet, at least based on what I saw there.

4.  Coca Cola signs  Seemed like Coca-Cola was the universal sign for business/commerce.   While walking thru District 6 in the townships, if a shanty had a Coca Cola sign, it didn’t necessarily sell coke but rather sold *something.*  You knew walking by that the shanty was selling some good/service/product, not necessarily coke.  Some interesting branding for Coke!

Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting our official pictures but they are still sitting on our SD Card.  A few simple pics can be found on my Instagram feed.

It’s good to be back!  Oh, and I didn’t tweet once the entire time and strangely didn’t miss it.  Though I did scan the twitter headlines whenever I had access to wifi.

Random tidbit from trip:  50 Cent (and his entourage) was on our flight down to Johannesburg and Busta Rhymes (entourage as well) was on our flight back.  I didn’t feel it was appropriate to bring up my Dave Matthews Band music with them.

 

 

What I do on a daily basis

While at the Digital Media Summit last week, a few friends came up to me and asked me what I was concentrating on these days.  I get that question fairly often from people who aren’t involved with me on the day to day so I thought I’d write a post and explain as I figure it will help [you] self-select the conversations and opportunities we should have.

Chief Digital Media Officer:  At The Media Kitchen and it’s parent, kbs+, I work with the teams to help inspire and execute through digital media.  Not all of the media we plan or buy is digital, though about 55% is, so that’s a big chunk of change.  I cross multiple digital channels including display, video, mobile, search, and social and work on making sure we have the right infrastructure and advertising operations setup so that we can execute.  The role of the Chief Digital Media Officer will evolve over the next few years as digital becomes purely a delivery mechanism and the channel itself won’t be as important.  Meaning, we do not have a Chief Radio Officer of Chief OOH Officer, so this thinking will have to change with the time.

Venture Investor:  I invest in marketing and advertising technology companies thru kbs+ Ventures.  This is done not by investing out of a fund but opportunistically off of our balance sheet.  Launched at the end of 2010, kbs+ Ventures has built up a portfolio of companies who are testing different thesis we have in the marketplace.  You can read a recent article about kbs+ Ventures in AdAge.  The majority of all my investments in recent years have been thru kbs+ Ventures but I do make a small handful of non-competitive investments in other areas of digital media including my most recent one (more coming soon!).

Golf Tournament Coordinator:  Many of you know I founded and host The Silicon Alley Golf Invitational almost 9 years ago.  It all started as a way to get founders to network outside of the hustle and bustle of NYC and has grown into an event that attracts sponsors and is home to 100+ founders, execs, venture capitalists, and ecosystem supporters.  I’m in the middle of planning and executing the 2013 SAGI event as it’s coming up on July 22.  For more information about SAGI, you can contact me here.

Digital Student:  While I technically don’t go to University, I am a student of all things tech + web and am constantly learning different platforms.  One of the platforms I’m studying is Wanelo and you can follow me here.  I’m testing the usage of the platform to bookmark things for me and for my family.  Medium is also a platform that I’m noodling around with but less about writing and more about reading.  Lots of good content on Medium so far.

Husband + Dad:  This August, I’ll be celebrating my sixth anniversary to being married to Sherri.  We’ve been blessed with two amazing children who are each coming into their own and developing some amazing personalities.  We live in Westchester County, NY and I try to spend most of my evenings with them.  I’ve seriously cut down on the amount of after-work activities to prioritize my family in recent years.

I hope this helps shed some light on what I do.  The agency work and investor work are like peanut butter and jelly – both can live on their own but when together, they taste delicious.  What makes us a good investor is that we know what the agency wants and needs and vice versa.  It’s a nice feedback mechanism to help make better agency decisions and venture investments.

The Most Important Car America Has Ever Made

I spent late yesterday afternoon with my father at the Tesla showroom in the Westchester Mall.  We left the kids behind and went to seriously look at the Tesla because I’d been reading glowing reviews and I’m, well, a curious car guy.  The picture below is actually my father driving the car.

Tesla Model S PerformanceExpectations were set high for this car due to the reviews and listening to @jason talk about how much he loves his car.  Also the entrepreneurial side of me was unbelievably curious as to how Elon Musk built a car in the USA without being part of the old Detroit boys club.  Building a business without knowing the constraints of the industry, being naive, could be a very good thing, especially when disrupting it.

In one statement, I was blown away by the car.

We test drove a Model S Performance car (pearl white w/19″ tires – winter).  Here is what stood out to me:

1.  Power:  I had no idea that an all electric car could be as powerful as this.  While I knew it was technically possible, I had no idea what to expect.  I thought driving my Audi A7 was fun for a sedan but the Model S Performance car certainly gave it a ride for it’s money.

2.  Seating:  I have two young kids so having the option of the 2 seats in the back of the car is a major plus as it frees up the second row.  This means we can take family and friends along with us because right now, my current car has two car seats in the second row.

3.  Electronics:  Google + Garmin was pretty sweet.   I was used to Google from my Audi but having a 18″ screen in the car is pretty sweet.  This screen can do HD back-up camera, music, tuning, air suspension controls, etc.  It’s gorgeous and love the touch of night vs. daytime lighting.

Downside:   I cannot wrap my head around how much this car will be worth in 3-4 years when I’m likely to move on.  Maybe this is the wrong question to be asking?  But it’s something that I’m noodling and holding me back.

I don’t think this car is revolutionary as it’s still 4 wheels and takes up a parking spot, but I think this car is evolutionary to our automotive world and something that is going to set the standard for the future.  It’s almost like driving the future, today.

I read a ton of online reviews of this car and Road and Track says it best:

“Beautiful, well-crafted, cool, and seriously fast, the Model S isn’t just the most important car of the year. It’s the most important car America has made in an entire lifetime.”

kbs+ Ventures: Creative Entrepreneurship

Just last week, we launched our first book at kbs+ Ventures.  The book was derived from the insight that our agency‘s staff wanted to learn more about innovation frameworks and what entrepreneurs have to do in order to build a business.  You can download the book here (more formats for the book coming in the near future, follow me on twitter to find out when launched).

Creative Entrepreneurship Books

Last summer, Lara, Eugenia, Taylor and I embarked on the process of creating this book with the support of our agency and MDC Partners.  A few months later, we had a finished product of the book in-hand and were ready to launch it.  We turned the book around in about four weeks.

We decided not to re-create the wheel and write all new content.  Some friends of ours are top venture capitalist and entrepreneurs who already write amazing content online so we asked them to donate some content to our book.  And they did;  some old posts they had written and some brand new content for our book.  A huge fist bump to all the contributors including Blake Masters, Tim O’Reilly, Paul Graham, Jay Jamison, Sarah Lacy, Felix Salmon, Mark Suster, Steve Blank, Marc Averitt, Fred Wilson, Charlie O’Donnell, Chris Dixon, Andrew Chen, Seth Levine, Scott Weiss, Babak Nivi, Matthew Waterman, Dave McClure, Dan Shapiro, Adam Penenberg, Robert Ackerman Jr., Walter Kortschak and Rutul Dave.

We plan to use this book for our Fellows Program.  We also plan on making the book much more widely available – it’s free to you.  We will be distributing the book thru different accelerators, incubators, venture capital offices and other places of entrepreneurship.  Reach out to me if you want to put a bunch in your office or in a place which could reach many entrepreneurs.

Here are some pics of our launch party for the book.  It was a blast.  And here is the writeup on our Tumblog.

We believe this book can have an impact and I’m super proud of the team who made it happen.

 

Hustle in 2013 and CES Plans

I’ve been looking forward to 2013 for quite some time both personally and professionally.  Personally, my kids are a bit older and it’s easier to do things with them.  Now two and four years of age, they are young and eager to take on many challenges except of course, eat broccoli or string beans.  Professionally, the market has been catching up to what we have been talking about and executing on at the agency which has translated with growth.

I’ve sacrificed much of my blog posts for personal time at home with the family which I think has been a very worthy trade off.  I do miss blogging often and getting consistent feedback from all of you so hopefully I’ll be typing more in 2013 and fit blogging back into my schedule.

Next week, I will be at the Consumer Electronics Show for the first few days.  Not sure if you will be there but if so, get in touch and we’ll try to hook up.

Hope 2013 is filled with hustle, excitement and health for you.

Happy new year.