According to Ashkan Karbasfrooshan there are too many factors before cashing in. With the help of marketing and sales, however, your content can be king ( or queen ) And find out about the other X factor.
Hometown: Born in Tehran in 1978, Living in Montreal since 1984
Current Residence: Montreal (65% of year), New York (35% of year)
Occupation: CEO of WatchMojo
Areas of Focus: New Media, Content, Business, Strategy & Competition, Mergers & Acquisitions
What was your life like in Iran before you became an entrepreneur?
Well, I was born in 1978 and moved to Madrid with my family in 1983 – I was 5 then. I then moved to Canada the next year in 1984 at the age of 6. How was my life from the ages of 0-5 in Iran? Great. My dad worked for the Spanish embassy, so we eventually moved to Spain and from there he chose Montreal so we could speak French and have a balanced quality of life. I owe him and my mom everything I have, without a doubt.
I studied finance at the John Molson School of Business in Montreal and wanted to work in investment banking, doing mergers and acquisitions… but then I got a job offer at Mamma, one of the first meta search engines. From there I moved to AskMen in 2000 and by 2006 I launched WatchMojo.com
How would you describe the start up culture in Canada?
Canada is favorable for start ups in that it is a creative and relatively low-cost environment… but it is not a place that looks favorably onto entrepreneurship. America is great in that it rewards risk-taking and recognizes that you have to work harder than the next fellow to succeed… If you think of (say for example) the 100 greatest Americans, you will invariably name 25, 50, maybe even 75 business people… but in Canada, the 100 greatest Canadians will yield 10 businesspeople and those 5 of those 10 had to leave the country to become successful in business. I might be exaggerating, but honestly, not by much. That all being said, Canada remains the greatest place to raise a family, and that is why it’s hard for me to leave Montreal altogether, so I am blessed to call Montreal my home.
What are 5-10 lessons you’ve learned during the start up process that perhaps, you wish you knew before?
Honestly, I learned a lot at Mamma and AskMen, two startups I was involved with before launching WatchMojo. But being part of an executive team is wildly different than being a founder, or CEO, or investor – all things that I am at WatchMojo. But in terms of lessons, here are a few:
Success = vision + ambition + execution + determination + luck + timing.
Determination is #1, because even overnight success stories take 5 years to materialize.
Don’t let good news get you too happy and don’t let bad news bring you too down.
Your team is extremely important. Whether you like it or not, you spend more time with your team than you do with family or friends, so you need to balance being driven with being, for lack of a better word, a dick.
There’s a saying that you go to war with the army you have, and not the army you want to have; so if you are lucky enough to hire the people that you’re going to work with, you need to make sure that you have the right dynamics in both the team and the organization.
What inspired you to write the book, Course To Success: Everything You Need to Succeed Beyond School?
At AskMen, I started writing a lot: about 12 features/articles in a 14-day publishing cycle. But they were largely 1,000-word articles so I wanted to do something different. A book seemed like a natural evolution of my interest and development as a writer. I wrote it in one month in January 2002, and it focuses on success in business, amateur and professional sports, the military, and media / entertainment as well as in relationships.
Drawing upon the success stories of hundreds of athletes, entertainers, businesspeople and politicians, I looked at some of the traits required to succeed in life. Presenting the business functions within the four pillars (Freud’s division of mind theory; Gestalt psychology; Plato’s principle of specialization and the Chinese principle of yin-yang) provides readers with a global perspective for a more fulfilling and rewarding course to success.
In the book, you examine some of the traits required to succeed in life. But where do you think self help books on success, such as the one you’ve written, fail or fall short ?
Well… many of those books are either too academic or too impractical. What I wanted to do was weave together literally hundreds of short stories or anecdotal things that successful people did. These were small and big things that you and I could do or think of next time we face a fork in the road. Truth is that when it comes to self-help books, everyone can read a book but unless they apply it to their reality it’s somewhat useless . Reading is a bit like talking… without action it’s meaningless.
Then two years later in 2004 I wrote The Confessions of Alexander The Great: 33 Lessons in Greatness which tells about history through the eyes of Alexander The Great. I was always very interested in ancient times and 20th century history. Being Persian I have always respected both Cyrus the Great and Alexander the Great. There have been numerous books on Alexander but none spoke from his perspective, which is further split up into 33 chapters (he died one month shy of this 33rd birthday).
What are the main factors hindering online video producers from monetizing their work?
A wide variety of factors, including:
- The largest video sites are all aggregators, so producers have very fragmented distribution, if any.
- Online video remains a small piece of the total advertising pie (US television advertising is a $70 billion industry, online video is a $1.5 billion market)
- The sheer clutter online, and the reality that while marketers prefer professional content, a lot of what people watch is user-generated content, pirated content, news (which is sometimes tough to run ads against), etc.
- The reality that quality is subjective to begin with, so higher production value does not mean more popularity or more revenue
- Lack of understanding of business… content might be king, but you need to be well rounded in areas of marketing and sales, too.
Can you share with us a little a bit about the early days of Watch Mojo? What challenges did you encounter as as a market newbie? How was it interacting with ad agencies / networks or negotiating your first license deal?
Well, here’s a bit of a funny story. Three months into our launch in 2006, my former employer News Corp. sued me; alleging that I was violating my non-competition agreement. I wasn’t, that much was clear, so they sought an injunction to shut us down. Instead of backing down, I just viewed it as a good lesson and decided to fight it. We went to court and I won even though I didn’t have a lawyer and represented myself. Yeah, good times.
Ironically, one of our first key licensing deals was with News Corp.’s own MySpace (we signed the deal in 2007), who paid us a reasonably high licensing fee throughout 2008 to access our catalog. Considering that MySpace’s sister company was FOX, which owns such amazing content, that was amazing validation. Then when News Corp./NBC’s joint venture Hulu launched, we were one of the first made-for-web content creators that were included in the launch.
That deal was a straight revenue share, but being included in the launch alongside such great content producers was truly amazing. The key takeaway was “business is business.” I didn’t take the lawsuit personally, but I also didn’t back down. I went to court and was vindicated; and I did it in a professional enough manner. News Corp. evidently didn’t think twice about partnering with us on so many levels.
What type of content have you noticed is particularly licensable across many platforms ( home, mobile, online) What qualities/characteristics aply?
The key is to provide people value. Consumers – be they clients or businesses – want to feel like they get good value. In our case, we give clients the right mix of quantity, quality, frequency, variety and consistency… plus our content is evergreen and ad-friendly so it’s a no-brainer. But to be fair, we are rapidly transitioning from licensing to ad-supported as the online video advertising market grows quickly. It’s akin to changing a jet engine at 30,000 feet.
What is next for you?
Well, in 2006 I launched WatchMojo.com, which is one of the largest collections of professionally-produced premium videos on lifestyle, entertainment and knowledge. We have 7,000 videos in our library and produce 100 more on an eclectic range of subjects. Our videos have been viewed 250,000,000 times since 2006 and I am very busy building the company.
Online video is booming and, as I like to say, all “overnight” success stories take 5 years to build. So we’re finally hitting our stride!