I was a journalist. Now I’m the founder and CEO of the largest news video aggregator in the world, Oovvuu, delivering trusted and reliable news to a billion people in 140 countries.
The media industry was dying because it was being out-innovated by aggressive rivals Facebook and Google. When I looked to my editors and CEOs for a solution, it was clear they were outgunned, and if I did nothing, then my industry faced extinction. I quit my well-paid job as managing editor at what was then the world’s largest media company to take a maternity cover job at a digital news company on a fraction of the salary. I didn’t want the job; I wanted to learn from the inside what they were doing that the media industry was not. I learned a lot and realized that if I didn’t do something even more radical, then the digital companies would fail also, and the world would be left with no news, and that felt like a disaster. I took the insights I had just learned, and the experience I had earned over the years, sold my house and self-funded Oovvuu to try to create the best of both worlds, and build a product where media was the mission and technology was just the tool.
I earned a lot of money and appeared to have a lot of power in my previous executive positions within corporate businesses. Still, the truth was that I was just a seat-filler in a better suit. If it weren’t me, it would be someone just like me, and I wanted to be more than that. I also recognized that I was spending the most productive years of my life, making one company successful while my industry was dying, and I felt compelled to do more. I knew in my heart of hearts that my tiny company stood no chance. Our first HQ was my front room with a hand-drawn logo on the door, and we were going into battle with Google and Facebook, two of the largest companies the world has ever seen. But my dad used to say that in life, you need to p*ss or get off the pot, and the time had come for me to do something meaningful. Now, my work every day helps the entire industry, and every success is a blow landed on my industry’s rivals. I have never felt more energized.
I have two, and both were colleagues and friends for years beforehand, so we had a shared sense of purpose and bore the same scars from the outset. I believe it’s impossible to be a founder unless you have a North Star for your mission and a total desire to be authentic. You can be big and unauthentic, but people eventually see through that, and it will never last. Look at Facebook. We proved our authenticity because we gave up huge salaries to work for nothing at the beginning. That beginning lasted four years, during which time everything we earned we gave to the staff and used what was left to hire more. After four years without a salary cheque, we finally found an investor, during which time we ate through our savings and did board jobs to cover the bills. His first question was: “What’s the biggest problem you have right now as CEO?” I told him it was asking my friends and co-founders to come to work for no salary. The next day he moved $400,000 into our account. I learned authenticity counts.
I can finally find out if the ideas I have for my industry are a good idea. When I had an idea in my corporate roles, it went one of two ways. If it worked and was a success, it was your boss’ boss’ idea. If it failed, it was yours, even if it was your boss’ boss’ fault. That felt dishonest, especially given my desperate desire to help my industry. I pitched an idea around this time to my then company’s board that had the potential to be transformational for the media industry as a whole. Their response was to say no because it would benefit another media company down the road they viewed as a rival. I pointed out that their companies had thrived alongside each other for decades, and Google and Facebook were the real risks to their survival. Their response was that they would be fine because they were the best company in the world. Google’s offices were right across the road, and I pointed out they weren’t even the best company in the postcode. It was time to go.
If you are on the fence, don’t do it, you’re not ready. If you think you’re ready and want to ask another entrepreneur’s advice, you’re not ready. When you wake up in the morning feeling physically sick and incapable of lifting your head off the pillow to go do that job you hate because you are wasting your life, then you are probably still a year from being ready. The energy, resilience, and out-and-out fury you need to stand in front of a monolithic competitor and know without a shadow of a doubt you have it in you to beat them, that’s when you know. It’s not a decision. It’s a physical reaction from the core of your DNA. It means that when people doubt you, you don’t hear them. When they laugh at you, you laugh with them. Still, when that rival decides to come after you, that’s something exceptional because you will find an inner strength you never knew existed, and you will know, with huge personal satisfaction, that win or lose, you’re authentic to what you stand for.
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