Within two weeks of joining Shakr, a Seoul and San Francisco-based video creation startup, I was on a 4:00 p.m. flight to San Francisco to represent the company at Google’s annual conference for it’s biggest advertising partners.
The plane touched down at 9:00 a.m., I went into the bathroom at the airport to put on a suit, grabbed a “you might need two hands for that” sized black coffee, and went straight to building 40, at the heart of the Googleplex.
By 1:00 p.m. I was giving a presentation to about 60 decision makers at online ad firms. By 3:00 an Uber had carried me to my hotel and I was fast asleep. Don’t ask me for the details. I can’t remember.
In his novel, Still Life with Woodpecker, Tom Robbins wrote, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." That adequately sums up how I feel about becoming VP of Marketing at a startup with fewer than 20 employees, after nearly 10 years as a corporate marketing consultant.
It’s fast-paced. It’s always challenging. And for better or worse, every decision I make has a direct impact on the company’s performance and future.
If that sounds like working at a startup in any developed country, there’s a good reason. We don’t have to overcome basic challenges with infrastructure. The government is supportive of business (especially startups, right now). There’s no more or less of a developer crunch here than in any other country.
I started by recounting one of those rockstar moments that those of us who are lucky all have in our jobs. But I wasn’t hired to be a rockstar. Our CEO, David Lee, has more personality than Pharrell Williams and everyone he’s collaborated with in the past year.
I was hired to help the company grow up. To be the professional manager. To tinker in the minutia of business optimization. And you know what? It’s the discoveries that come through that stuff that make me feel like I’m a kid in the prime of my childhood.
For instance, when I joined, the online ads for the most successful of our business categories went to a static landing page where it was difficult to measure subsequent click-throughs to make videos. We put in place a new dynamic landing page system called Unbounce and started measuring how different landing pages performed. We went from a prototype page with a click-through rate of about 3.7% to three much better pages with click-through rates above 35% in one day. We’ve continued to optimize over time and brought the conversion rate up to about 50%.
That kind of thing is exciting because it reminds me that I can still learn. I can still grow. The world is full of possibilities. Since Shakr won the Startup Battle at BeLaunch in May of last year, we’ve accomplished so much:
- We scaled up from about a dozen video styles to about 150, by empowering 3rd party designers.
- We created success (and revenue) in Korea's lucrative personal video market.
- We expanded globally, to allow small businesses beyond Korea to make highly-compelling ads, using video styles created by the same designers who work for big brands.
- We updated our UI to be easier to navigate and to more clearly show that we are a marketplace.
- We made our drag-and-drop simple video creator even easier to use with the ability to edit your videos and edit text in-line, as you go.
The feeling of infinite possibility will only increase with our next challenge. Shakr has set out to democratize video advertising for small businesses, which despite being responsible for about half of all online ad spending, aren’t able to participate in video ads because of high up-front production costs.
We’re going to empower small businesses to make video ads for an average price of $100, by pairing our drag-and-drop simple video creation interface with motion graphics templates from the same designers who do work for big companies like Nike and Samsung.
Sound like we’ve got it all figured out? There are still many challenges waiting for Shakr. We still have a lot of use cases to figure out. We still need to find the best ways to reach new customers, and keep them making new videos.
I have no doubt that our talented team of Gangnam geeks is up for it.
Written by Erik Cornelius