2006-2007 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
“Isn’t it great that this is our full-time job?” remarked Kevin Sladek one day while bowling at a Silicon Valley social event. This past summer I worked at VideoEgg, an online video publishing network, and Kevin was a co-founder and “Chief Opportunity Officer.” Like most companies in “the Valley,” VideoEgg has a vibrant culture built around having fun while working long hours, and it was hard not to like. Work usually started at 10 or 11am, and ended when either you couldn’t keep your eyes open or World Cup Soccer was on. Even though this environment may seem borderline immature, the things VideoEgg has accomplished and the things I was able to learn were invaluable.
|…the things VideoEgg has accomplished and the things I was able to learn were invaluable.|
Founded just over a year ago, VideoEgg has quickly grown into one of the largest online video networks. Instead of competing for mindshare, VideoEgg partners with social-networking and other popular websites ripe for user-generated video and powers their backend. As of August, 2006, VideoEgg was showing more than 15,000,000 videos a day, and very few people had even heard of them. From the beginning of my internship, VideoEgg’s mission was very clear: stay under the radar and sign up as many partners as possible, and be the first to figure out how to monetize streaming videos for free. While it may seem trivial, showing just a million videos a day for an entire month can cost nearly $100,000. In the first few weeks, my objective was similar to that of most start-up interns: get to know the company and get to know the competitive landscape, and write a report of the findings for all to read. I didn’t know at the time how important this seemingly mundane task would be. By the time my internship ended nearly three months later, VideoEgg had added a dozen new employees and my report was required reading and their first formal introduction to our mission.
|At nearly 1am, I realized that this was what working in the Valley was all about.|
After this task I essentially became the shadow of the CEO, Matt Sanchez, and Derek Dukes, the COO and employee #6 from Yahoo. I was to follow their every move and assist with whatever project was most important. With Matt, funding was always the top priority, as VideoEgg was currently raising its second round of funding. On one occasion, Matt and I were pulling an all-nighter to work on an investor deck for a pitch the next day when a Rolling Stone Magazine writer dropped by to chat about an article with two other local start-up CEO’s. At nearly 1am, I realized that this was what working in the Valley was all about. During this phase of my internship I was exposed to nearly every phase of fundraising, from taking blind phone calls from hopeful VC’s to partner presentations. I was also quite surprised at how maturely Matt and the rest of VideoEgg handled the entire process. Even though all three founders were 25 or younger, VideoEgg was an extremely powerful and connected company, with many incoming streams of advice and knowledge.
When Troy Young arrived, my project path turned completely around. Troy was a “trophy” employee for VideoEgg, having been poached away from Organic in New York to become the Chief Marketing Officer. Troy was extremely accomplished and well-respected in the advertising industry, and was exactly what VideoEgg needed to shift its focus from being a software company to actually making money. From this point forward, I was put in charge of developing VideoEgg’s strategy for selling video advertising. This stemmed from a business I had been developing outside of VideoEgg that essentially auctioned highly-desired video views to long-tail advertisers. My projects included mocking up the front-end of the auction, working with VideoEgg’s chosen auction partners, and developing ad products to sell to prospective advertisers. During this month-long phase, I learned more about rapid product development that one probably should.
|I had fallen in love with the start-up lifestyle in the Valley, from playing basketball at 2am to tirelessly pitching a company to investors, and am fairly decided on where I want to end up after I graduate.|
Nearing the end of my internship experience, I was eager to see the auction product through and not miss a beat. For several weeks I strongly considered deferring my junior year of college to stay at VideoEgg and help lead the project. Not only would I gain even more invaluable experience, but I had also made many friends at VideoEgg and had fallen in love with the environment. The entire team was very helpful and encouraging. While my ultimate decision was to return to school, I strongly believe that there was no true wrong decision. At the end of the day, I knew I had just as much to gain from being at school, and had gained something that wouldn’t change from my internship. I had fallen in love with the start-up lifestyle in the Valley, from playing basketball at 2am to tirelessly pitching a company to investors, and am fairly decided on where I want to end up after I graduate.