Interview with Uyen Tieu co-founder of Rumble
“The mobile first publisher platform”by Roger Maloney
Roger: How did you get started in the media/tech business?
Uyen: It was a little bit of an accident actually. I was a management strategy consultant, and had wanted to go from advising companies to helping build companies. As a consultant to major corporations, my expertise was strategic planning that was applicable really to any industry – so as I looked to go in-house somewhere, my main guiding compass was that it had to be with a company that had a strong consumer brand. Since I had a background in fashion, my most natural inclination were fashion houses, but in looking at brands that spoke to me, MTV kept creeping up because at that time no other TV channel had really captured the hearts of people the way MTV had – for goodness sake there’s the MTV Generation.
So – I had submitted my resume to MTV as a just in case as I really pursued the luxury brands. Then one day I got a call from MTV saying that though I had applied for one position that has since been filled, they wanted me to come in to interview for another position. I accepted the first interview slot and showed up not really knowing what the position I was even interviewing for.
Luckily for me, I was interviewing with Carolyn Everson [former COO of MTV Networks Ad Sales, currently Head of Global Ad Sales Facebook and we hit it off right away and I joined the famed MTV Networks Ad Sales Strategy Team under her leadership. I really owe it to Carolyn for making me media/tech convert.
Roger: How did the idea for Rumble start?
Uyen: The idea from Rumble really came about with Al Azoulay, my co-founder, who is a complete news nut and product geek, where he kept trying to download apps of some of his favorite news brands and either getting a “Your search had no results” or finding an app that kept crashing or required him to wait to download individual issues. He was so frustrated and kept wondering why is it so hard for publishers to build quality mobile presence? Then, since Al and I went to business school together, he called me up and said “Hey, you work in the media world – why aren’t they building good mobile products for me?”
And so we talked – and though there is the “still figuring out” factor for media companies and their mobile strategy, we kept on seeing the fundamental issue around the need for a platform that was able to agnostically integrate with all the old, new and yet to be invented innovation out there, but also the flexibility for publishers to do their rapid experimentation to figure it out with technology that is powerful, yet economical.
Roger: Why is mobile the next frontier for companies to be on and invest their money?
Uyen: It is pretty clear that if you are a content publisher, your content will most likely be consumed on mobile devices whether it is the small phone screen or the larger screen on tablets. And there are two parts of mobile strategy that will be key to success 1) the content strategy – figuring out what content people like in mobile form and willing to spend time with and 2) the distribution channel – figuring out how to get that to the users in the best way while making money.
My take is that some companies spend a lot of money unnecessarily combining those two things together and not separating the content which is driven by creative/zeitgeist and curation decisions and the distribution which is driven by technology decisions.
My take is that unless you are squarely a technology company, don’t try to build distribution in-house because 1) it’s really expensive 2) it takes a long time and what you build may be obsolete by the time its ready and 3) you probably will not be able to attract and get the developer talent you need to carry out your plan, since the really good ones are working for challenging technology companies.
So the next option for publishers is to try to string together multiple vendors and systems – and this is a different skill set that some organization will be very good at it and some won’t I’m biased here with Rumble being a fully integrated solution, but I encourage companies to really put a high value on making sure their technology choices are flexible enough to handle unknown changes that comes with the mobile innovation age and to ensure that there is the ability to have direct control.
Roger: What is your advice for women who want to get into the adtech space?
Uyen: So my advice really comes from my perspective of valuing people, business and partnerships that cut to the chase. And I think, it is ever more important in adtech that keeps morphing and growing that those who succeed in this space have learned how to do that with savvy and grace.
There is a lot of fluff in the space – so if you want to get into it, find someone that you respect/admire in the space and go after them. They probably won’t give you a job, but what they give in advice (even in a 10 minute chat) would be all that more valuable for you to navigate this crowded space. With social media and key industry events, you are bound to find a way to connect with them.
Second, and this is more general advice to anyone in any space, know what your strengths are and offer that up in heaps and mounds. Yes, I understand that there are people that are trying to “cross-over” whether it is corporate to start-up, agency to advertiser, content to technology — but at the end of the day if you focus on why your strength is important, and not trying to overextend yourself in this new, complicated fast moving space, the better.