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!

 

We’re Hiring, Want to Join Mozilla?

It’s time to start hiring and building out our Content Services team at Mozilla.  I’ve spent the past ~90 days working internally to lay an initial plan of action and now I need talented folks to join my team.

We are looking for people who are ready to challenge the status quo in content.
We are looking for people who want to evolve content distribution and delivery.
We are looking for people who care about driving sustainability for Mozilla.

If you do your diligence, you’ll see that there are plenty of stories and posts about Mozilla and “ads” and for good reason… we’ve been fairly mum on everything else so far.  Not everything we’re focused on is advertising related – actually, it’s approximately 25% of Content Services remit in 2014.  But an advertising background is helpful because I believe in order to change something, you need to know how it worked in the past.

We are looking for [content] data scientists.
We are looking for business development folks (here & here).
We are looking for content and advertising technologists.
We are looking for UX, engineering, and business strategy folks.
… and even a Content/Advertising hacker in residence.

Read Mozilla’s mission.  Watch our YouTube videos.  We’re not your typical company; which is what makes it super special to me.

I have high expectations and hopes for this team as does our community.  We have standards and trust to uphold and we will do it and be successful with it.

If you have done your homework and the above is interesting, apply thru the careers website and contact me here to let me know.

Teaching Your Kids How to Play Sports

My kids are at the age where they are starting to participate in sports.  I get excited about this because I played sports growing up and enjoy them today – both watching and participating.  One of the highlights of last summer was watching my son [who was 4 at the time] and my wife do a competitive home-run derby in our backyard.  And he wasn’t hitting off a tee!

I took the kids ice skating last weekend and while my older one had taken skating lessons in the past, lets just say he’s still learning.  And my daughter who is younger, seriously enjoys ice skating but she’s all over the place on the ice and enjoys making ice angels versus taking long strides.  I find them both adorable on the ice.

Ive been talking to Kevin Marshall recently about what he’s building with Coach Wizard.  I’ve known Kevin for years and have brainstormed with him a bunch about different projects I/he was working on.

He’s back at it with Coach Wizard and is helping solve a fundamental issue that I am witnessing per the above:  how can parents or guardians (or anyone else) can teach kids sports.  Most of us are not trained coaches.  I have no idea how to teach my kids to ice skate as I’ve not taken lessons in 25 years, so I completely forgot what instructors once taught me.  But… eventually** I, Coach Wizard could provide lessons so that I can teach the kids how to skate.

The goal of Coach Wizard is to provide lesson plans, drills, etc for things you can do at home to practice in between formal team-practices.  Makes a lot of sense to me.

If this peeks your interest as an investor, advisor, or someone who could use Coach Wizard with your children’s team/league/whatever, reach out to Kevin or on twitter @falicon.

* I don’t think ice skating is part of his initial product roadmap for lesson plans
** Note, I’m not currently an investor but I am informally advising.    My intentions with this post are to get more people aware of what Kevin and his SWAT team are doing.

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.

Why I Still Pay for Content and An Opportunity for Publishers

Image from Juliette Millien

Fred’s post this morning inspired a response from me.  I haven’t done a response post in a while but then again, I haven’t been updating this blog as much as I used to (hopefully that changes in 2014 but you heard that in 2012).

I pay for content, at least the majority of time.  I subscribe to the NY Times and WSJ – annual digital subscriptions.  I also pay for Wired Magazine, Netflix, Cable, and the Stocktwits50.  I also subscribe to Satellite Radio in my cars and purchase the enhanced traffic package.  I used to subscribe to a couple of Letter.ly’s while they existed and Business 2.0 Magazine.  While I could get access to much of this content other ways, having a login/password allows me to access it quickly when I’m on the train commuting to and from work or while laying on the couch enjoying a few minutes before my kids wake up in the AM.

Years ago, my brother and I would sit on Hotline SW, Kazaa, Napster, eDonkey, and other p2p services and download an album or two but most of the time, we had a greater chance of getting a computer virus than finding the album we specifically wanted.  I quickly realized that driving to the Borders or Barnes and Noble was faster to get an album then waiting for it to download on on a 14.4, 33.6 or 56k modem…. and so, I kept buying albums but mostly in the retail store.  *

“Time” is the reason why I pay for content. Saving more than a few minutes to access content is what I pay for.  We have very limited time on this earth, so I’m willing to pay a premium for things to happen quickly and efficiently so I can do more of what I love.  I’d rather die playing on the tennis court than sitting in front of Google Maps trying to find the court.

I cannot believe I’m alone in my thoughts about “time.”  So, if “time” is the reason why we pay, then we can create a mutually beneficial business model around it.

Publisher case:
Strategy:  Create revenue streams thru the sale of access to first party content.
Insight:  Based on my own habits, I hypothesize people might pay for content because it removes any friction of access to content in turn making it much quicker to access.  Speed.Opportunity:  I wrote about this opportunity here in 2010, but I still think it remains true.  IF publishers are going to wall-their-garden, then only wall-it for the first 12-24 hours of an article’s life.

So yes, I pay for content and believe there is a way to get publishers paid for the great content they create.  Advertising is not the only way to support great content.

* Now that we have much faster Internet access, I pretty much buy all my music from iTunes and Spotify subscriptions

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.

The Documented Evolution of Tech in NYC

Back in 2007, I wrote a post titled, An Early Stage Entrepreneurs Guide to New York City.  At that point in my career, I was a founder of a venture backed (Intel Capital, NBC Universal, Morgenthaler, etc) in-game advertising company called IGA Worldwide and was part of the nascent NYC tech ecosystem.  I used to hold darrenSalon‘s (remember those?), brunches, and other gatherings of likeminded entrepreneurs.  Heck, the NY Tech Meetup was still 12 of us sitting around a table.

Across my feed this morning came a tweet by Steve Schlafman, a principal at venture firm RRE about a new presentation he created called The Guide to NYC Tech.  I’ve seen many presentations over the years about who/what/when/where/why is happening in NYC but this is one of the most comprehensive presentations.  If you have a spare 15 minutes, you should certainly check it out.

Having been part of the different waves of entrepreneurship in NYC, I can honestly say that while other waves have been just as innovative and exciting, this wave feels like there is the most substance and staying power.  There are ad dollars to support the publishers, there is bandwidth to make video + streaming a reality, there is comfort in purchasing online, and organizations are opening up to digital disruption.  I am super excited to be part of the ecosystem and will continue to do what I can to support #nyctech.

Why I’m Bullish on Programmatic Media

I’ve been immersed in programmatic media for pretty much my professional career.  Whether in advertising, in-game ads, search, or other areas, I’ve spent a lot of time automating and implementing [technological] pipes into the advertising industry.

I am becoming more bullish than ever on the overall idea of programmatic media.  Let me test out a few proof statements with you and comment below with your thoughts.

1.  When technological progress is not about the technology, it gets adopted by the masses.  From 2008-2012, so much of the conversation was about the features of every DSP, DMP, Exchange, Workflow and other solutions within the programmatic media industry.  One day we’d hear that one DSP was better than another because of a feature but 30 days later, it would change.  I feel like today, we’re not focused on those respective features any longer… we’re focused on the overall business and vision of the companies because we know that the features already exist within them.  I feel like the “Cold War” of DSP’s is over and now we’re into the “business building” phase.

2.    Innovation is happening further from the center.
Again, from 2008-2012, almost every company in the programmatic space was centered around building bidders and pipes… for good reason.  Now that we’ve saturated that specific part of the programmatic stack, we’re now seeing innovation occur further away from the bidder.  Companies like Bionic, Centro, and others are helping marketers purchase programmatically but not necessarily highlighting the programmatic execution.  The execution of programmatic does not matter to most, even though it’s occurring in the background.

Also of note here are the programmatic-DNA companies popping up.  Pre-programmatic-DNA companies were technology organizations that had to pivot and add programmatic technologies to their offering or risk being disrupted (i.e. ValueClick).  Now we’re seeing pure programmatic-DNA companies who are operating from the ground up, completely programmatically and recognizing efficiency and effectiveness gains.

3.  Open Innovation in Programmatic
More often than not, the first industry constituents to solve a problem are private companies with closed ecosystems.  We’ve seen at least one example of the evolution of this into an open ecosystem now with the emergence of RTBKit, a github based project that allows anyone to download the infrastructure of a bidder, the central tool to purchasing impressions in a world of real-time media.

4.  5-20% of Paid [Digital] Media
Agencies and their respective holding companies are talking about how they expect to see their programmatic spend grow to 5-20% of their overall paid digital media.  I believe that this number is low, especially on the lower-side of this number.  I believe that vendors are using programmatic ways of procuring media and most agencies are not aware of this… so realistically, the number will be higher.   It will be telling if/when AppNexus goes public, to see the amount of gross dollars moving thru their exchange as it’ll help us understand the total dollar volume of this industry.

5.  Programmatic Media is Designed for Accountability
Gone are the days of Wannamaker’s famous quote.  If you are still using the above quote to defend your media plan, then you might as well start packing up your agency or CMO-job. Programmatic media is designed to be accountable from the ground up, fully measured and every opportunity to be attributed.  With Chief Marketing Officer’s having to justify every $1 they invest in media in the market, they need to purchase accountable media.  Note, I am not saying in any way that creativity is going away, I’m purely saying that the container for programmatic media is completely accountable so this is a win-win for the ecosystem.

Lastly, I’m bullish on programmatic media because we’re going outside of media for the programmatic conversation. Uber, airbnb, eBay, Zurvu, and many other platforms are programmatic.  In some of the investment circles that I’m in, we’re discussing the businesses outside of advertising that are being transformed programmatically.  This, at least to me, is very exciting.

 

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.