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Creating Inspiring Events that Move People (Episode 133)

Sam Kolbert-Hyle is the President & CEO of Brandlive. Brandlive helps the world’s best brands create experiences that move people — from town hall-style internal meetings with soul to major marketing events that drive revenue.

Under Sam’s leadership, Brandlive has grown from a handful of employees to over 150. They’ve hosted marquee events for companies like Nike, Nintendo, Ark Invest, The Wall Street Journal, Square, Google, GoPro, and Adidas.

Brandlive was ranked #1 in Live Events on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list in 2021 and in the emerging video category in 2022.

During the 2020 election, Brandlive helped the Biden campaign to establish its virtual event presence. Brandlive powered 230 campaigns for Biden’s team, securing more than $30 million in donations.

As a child of two lesbian parents, Brandlive’s values of inclusion and equity are particularly important to Sam. He has intentionally built a culture that promotes and values creativity, flexibility, and inclusion.

Sam started his career in private equity at Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors in Los Angeles, a private equity firm focused on growth investments in profitable software-as-a-service and other enterprise software businesses.

Prior to Brandlive, Sam spent nine years on the executive team of Smarsh, the leading electronic archiving SaaS company valued at over $2 billion.

Sam lives in the Irvington neighbourhood of Portland, Oregon with Sarah, and their kids Ari and Sylvia.

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What you will learn

  • How Sam got his start in the SaaS world
  • Sam shares about his early career working with Smarsh
  • Discover the little-known benefits of a SaaS model for both businesses and consumers
  • Find out more about the idea behind Sam’s company, Brandlive
  • Learn how Sam had to pivot Brandlive as a CEO
  • Discover Brandlive’s approach to creating remarkable digital events
  • Learn more about the evolution of the events industry
  • Discover why storytelling is so important in the creative process
  • Plus loads more!

Transcript

Jeff Bullas

00:00:06 - 00:01:37

Hi everyone and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today I have with me, Sam Colbert-Hyle. Now, Sam is the President & CEO of BrandLive. And little bit more about what BrandLive does, it helps best brands create experiences that move people from town hall-style internal meetings with soul to major marketing events that drive revenue. Under Sam's leadership, BrandLive has grown from a handful employees to over 150 and hosted marquee events for companies like Nike, Nintendo, Ark invest, The Wall Street Journal, Square, Google, GoPro and Adidas. BrandLive was ranked #1 in Live Events on Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies list in 2021 and in the emerging video category in 2022.

During the 2020 election, BrandLive helped the Biden campaign to establish its virtual event presence. They powered 230 campaigns for Biden's team, securing more than 30 million in donations.

As a child of two lesbian parents, BrandLive’s values of inclusion and equity are particularly important to Sam. He has intentionally built a culture that promotes and values creativity, flexibility and inclusion. Sam started his career in private equity firm, Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors in Los Angeles, a private equity firm focused on growth investments in profitable software-as-a-service and other enterprise software businesses.

Prior to BrandLive, Sm spent nine years on the executive team of Smarsh, the leading electronic archiving SaaS company valued over $2 billion. Today, Sam lives in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon with Sarah and their kids Ari and Sylvia. Welcome to the show, Sam.

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:01:39 - 00:01:39

Thanks for having me.

Jeff Bullas

00:01:41 - 00:01:59

So Sam, you've had quite an interesting entrepreneurial journey. Tell us a little bit about what got you to say, put up your hand and say I really want to be an entrepreneur and where did that start?

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:02:00 - 00:07:47

You know, I have a tough time remembering exactly what came first but in 7th or 8th grade, I probably had, I had a kind of desire to make some money over the summer and I went to school in Philadelphia, a little school called Germantown Friends School, Quaker School and there were a lot of parents who were, you know, more focused on academics or being lawyers and doctors and there was a subset of parents that were very focused on architecture, there are architects and one of my friend’s parents had an architecture firm and her dad, Gil, hired me to help them build out their internet site. This is kind of at the beginning of the, you know, custom website building days. And I spent all summer building out this pretty immersive internal portal that had site plans and elevation for this architecture firm. And the next year, I was like oh this is great. I sold that concept to other architecture firms and did two the next summer, the same concept which is basically an internal internet that pulled together a bunch of resources. The second summer was very much focused on all the potential products that could be used at the time. It was, you know, very manual and there were books or libraries that you'd go in person. And so I kind of built this like a little emerging like architecture practice. And during those summers, I would have lunch with folks and got myself introduced to Philadelphia politics because of the time you used to go to lunch at The Palm, which was this kind of big steakhouse downtown. And there were these little caricatures on the wall and my parents were, you know, you mentioned them in the onset, were very political. Philadelphia is a very political place and it was just really interested in politics. And those lunches allowed me to kind of, this is a, you know, probably a 16-year old asking to have lunch with people in their 50’s. And this one woman that I met Marcy Madam, a huge influence in my life, she was probably in her 70’s and built a relationship with her, basically going to lunch and talking about Philadelphia politics. My godparents were involved in Philadelphia politics and I parlayed that architecture internet site business into a political website business and started making websites for politicians, state reps, congressmen. I didn't negotiate so well because I had this kind of like monthly subscription thing, but then if they lost then it just ended, so revenue just went out the window and you know, I had younger upstarts and so they lost a lot. So anyway, I kind of had this entrepreneurial itch starting at kind of high school summers to create stuff and it was very visual, very artistic. My grandmother was very artistic even when I look back on my childhood videos, home videos, I was behind the camera. My grandfather had given my parents a camcorder and you know, I was producing, I always joke that in kindergarten I produced a musical of our rendition of Cats and so, you know, being creative, being into theater and music and the arts was always a big part of my identity and so it kind of felt very natural. I got sent to New York, not sure what prompted this, but my mom had read an article about aptitude testing and she decided to send me to New York to this aptitude test. Just this kind of hole in the wall, lower Manhattan, like in the Wall Street district, not nice and it was two days or three days and for some reason my mom sent me by myself, I'm not sure why I was probably in 10th grade or 9th grade. Well I was in Philadelphia, so it was actually pretty close. Yeah, I mean Philadelphia's very close to New York, we kind of have a chip on our shoulder because we lose so much relative in the sporting events and so you know, growing up with Philly sports is a big part of your life and New York is the enemy, but long story short, I was in New York by myself in 10th grade for three days to figure out what I wanted to be and I think there's a huge emphasis, you know, GFS is very focused on the arts, but also a liberal arts education and so there's a kind of a big push to send kids to more traditional liberal arts schools. And I came back from this aptitude test and they said to me, well you're gonna be okay at things with, you know, manual, physical labor, it was like a little grid and I had to put a pin into each of the different holes and didn't do so hot on that one apparently. But entrepreneurship and business, that's your, that's the one for you. And so I came back with the like stamp of approval going to business and it just so happened that I had this kind of entrepreneurial itch and background and so I just applied to undergraduate business schools and I had no intention of staying in Philadelphia, I wanted to potentially move away from my parents and my life for the last 18 years, but I wanted to do business and what is the best in the country, so I applied and got in and stay close to home for another four years.

Jeff Bullas

00:07:48 - 00:08:02

So then what was the next, so you built these internet sites and then you built websites for politicians and yes, it's not a good idea because like you said, if they lose you lose.

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:08:03 - 00:13:29

Yeah, it's recurring until it's no more. Yeah, it happens every month but it goes away. Yeah, so after that I started a t-shirt business, believe it or not, with a partner of mine, Lauren, and did pretty well. We're mostly slinging t-shirts to to the clubs on Penn's campus and had a lot of political clients and businesses and so I was doing some things to keep my creative juices flowing, design the logos on the shirts. And so it was fun. I enjoyed it and it was right around the end of college. I had a lot of fun in college, don't get me wrong, I was very, very social and enjoyed every minute of school. And the fun that comes with college at the tail end of the kind of warden experience. Most kids follow a fairly traditional, they joke, it's kind of the rat race traditional path into finance, which generally means working for a long term investment bank in New York or management consulting firm. And so that was the traditional path and I had every intention of following it. But a guy who had gone to Wharton undergrad named Neal Malik was starting his growth private equity firm in Los Angeles called Kayne Anderson, he had just left a more traditional buyout shop to go there and was building out a class of kids and they were young to grow his private equity practice. And at the time it was following a very kind of classic call model where you're building and calling down into the fastest growing companies in the world, trying to build relationships with CEOs and trying to invest in them generally minority investments. At the time, the idea of software as a service was relatively foreign, it was a new concept and so he was hiring kids out of undergrad to try to see if he could experiment with a younger kid working for them. Most of the historical hires had been 25-26 year olds, so I, you know, I interviewed for a bunch of jobs, got a bunch of offers and this one happened to be the most different, it was in Los Angeles, not New York and it was all about sales and talking to CEOs and communicating with them, building relationships, it was far more about the art of sales that it was ended with spreadsheets and I just was immediately taken by the opportunity.

My parents weren't thrilled, I had to move 3000 miles away to Los Angeles, but I loved it and loved every minute of it and that's how I got into what we called today software service, the status world. And yeah, in the early part of my career, we were trying to figure out what to call this thing at the right when I started, it was called a Sp software. So people didn't really have this software as a service term. Salesforce was really just becoming a thing, so people weren't really aware of what it was and the, just to put a pin on that most of the investments we made had $3 million of trailing ebitda, meaning they were super profitable, at least on paper, it was a little bit of amortization of development, which was a little weird back then, but long story short is this notion of, but three million of trailing, it doesn't really make sense if, you know, has offered the service works, especially in the early days of companies, so it was just a fun time because we were just trying to figure it out and you know, there was some choppiness in the economy much like there is now and so it was kind of interesting to kind of, you know, try to figure out what works and what doesn't, as people were trying to figure out these recurring revenue patterns and how to grow them. So it was great. I loved every minute of it. And while I was there, we made an investment into a little company in Portland, Oregon called Smarsh and I was the young kid just out of college and they put me on the deal and build a relationship with the CEO, got along quite well with him over the 2.5 years, almost three years that I was there. And then in 2009, we agreed it made sense for me to move to Portland and come work for him directly. So I left that behind, flew alone to Portland, Oregon, packed up my things in LA and arrived with nothing. I had to stop at Sears, remember Sears? I stopped at Sears and get air mattress. I mean it's not exactly a couchsurfing story to be honest with you because the housing market in Portland was so affordable from what I was used to in Los Angeles. I actually bought a condo from LA because it was so cheap. And so my air mattress was just on the floor of my new condo. So the idea that I was slumming, it was not true but I do think that I had every intention of being here in Portland for maybe a couple of years. We'd sell the company, move back to LA, move back to San Francisco, go to New York to do something different, be here my whole life. So that was 12 years ago.

Jeff Bullas

00:13:30 - 00:13:44

So yes, software as a service company. So the Smarsh you went to, which is started by Steve Marsh. So you ended up being his right hand man for that. Is that what you end up being with him?

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:13:45 - 00:16:43

Yeah, I was, you know, probably the number two person at the company for probably 10 years. And we were very kind in the early days, so very scrappy. Not really focused on titles, but I ran product strategy, corporate development, business development. So that involved building the products and figure out what to do and building the product team. By the time I left 2018 and the business was 500 people and well north of 100 million of they are. So it had grown quite quickly when we started, it was probably a million dollars in 2007. So the growth curve and just the things we did over that period were just insane, I mean we just, and it was, you know, I joke a little company with a funny name, it was always a little bit of that kind of chip on the shoulder area, we're in Portland, Oregon, you know very understated, Steve's an understated guy himself. So you know, we had to hustle out and work out. And in the early period, we were coasting behind a company in California called LiveOffice. They got bought by Symantec. And so a lot of our competition, that was these large companies, EMC. Autonomy, Symantec. And so not only little company, funny name, but just like up against this behemoth. So it gave us a little bit of a, just a little kick to try to be different. It was yeah, the underdog. Yeah, I mean David versus Goliath, but it was a very boring industry and honestly, we're archiving email and communications for financial firms. I mean, it was required, they had to do it. So it felt in some respects more like an insurance, but it's a wonderful business because it's super recurring. People have to do it by law. And the beauty of what we built of course, is that the world changed. And it used to just email. Like when we started it was email archiving. I remember joking that we should change the name of the company into emailarchiving.com. That would've been awesome mistake because the world launched all these new content types. First, it was Bloomberg's Terminal. And there was a Bloomberg Mail and Bloomberg Messaging. And then it was instant messaging and AOL was the primary IM platform. And so we started just archiving all this other stuff specifically IM content and it was right around I'd say 11 12 13 14. That we started to like, okay should we archive some social media content? Should we archive text messages and other forms of communication that were largely coming from a non-email type of content? And so the business had all this built in net revenue retention from existing customers because you could just archive more stuff. So it was a wonderful business. It was a very, very successful business.

Jeff Bullas

00:16:44 - 00:16:57

Yeah, so quite often as a TED Talk recently, can't remember the name but he talked about the top five things that make a startup successful and the number one thing based upon 200 startups was timing.

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:16:58 - 00:18:01

Yeah. Well that's a great example. In 2001, the New York Stock Exchange and NASD, which is the entities that merged to create Finra had just started to realize that electronic communications email needed to be retained and stored and archived much like paper records. So the entire industry was basically created by the regulations and people put their head in the sand, especially in the financial services industry. So it is a laggard type of curve that takes a while for the leaders to pull the rest of the financial firms behind them forward. So it took a while. But it's a wonderful business because you have to archive your communications of your financial firm and there were just huge fines that were on the front page of The Wall Street Journal on Saturday for large investment banks who weren't retaining and archiving WhatsApp communications. So super relevant today.

Jeff Bullas

00:18:02 - 00:18:16

So you've obviously got to focus on software as a service type businesses and there are some real advantages to software as a service type companies. Can you tell us what you believe the biggest advantages are?

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:18:18 - 00:21:39

Yeah, sure. I mean SaaS companies and again, there's different flavors now. Software as a service is a huge part of the software industry. And I mean there's whole conferences and communities dedicated to it. I think fundamentally from our perspective and this certainly applies to BrandLive. You have a generally recurring revenue model meaning the thing that you're selling is delivered on a regular basis with high frequency and generally it's used by, you know, more than one person. I mean it's definitely possible to be used by one, but generally it's a team based approach where you're managing different parts of a larger organization. You're managing different teams and workflows and in many aspects, you're replacing existing workflows that exist that are hard and challenging and difficult. And so it has some natural kind of recurrence patterns that lend themselves really nicely to a pay as you go model now that doesn't mean that the customer has to pay monthly, certainly would love if they pay up front. But the recurrence patterns are what attracted me much to software as a service. It also creates a ton of opportunity to build software that benefits everybody. So as you develop your roadmap, developed a product in theory, if your largest customer asked for five things, hopefully those investments and advancements help or benefit the rest of your customer base, the smart business was very focused on SMB and mid market, so it tended to be thousands of thousands of companies, you know, relatively low ACVs or contract sizes. The BrandLive business is very focused on enterprise. So, you know, our average contract size is 50k to 60k. So it's a very different business. But the same thing that I think that I've described is what makes you know, these types of business really attractive is that you can really invest as long as you have a feeling for where the puck's headed, the investments into product will benefit all of your future sales over the next couple of years. The challenge, of course, with status companies, they tend to run on profitably, especially in the early period because so much of your headcount as humans and so you're trying to build enough of a recurring revenue base that you have enough revenue to cover your human expense, assuming that, you know, 30 to 40% of your expenses are going into product development. So it tends to be fortunately, unfortunately, a business that attracts adventure money because they tend to burn money in the beginning. And it does take a long time for SaaS companies. If you look at the, I've studied this quite a bit, if you look at most traditional SaaS businesses, it takes them 5 to 10 years on average to really get to a certain scale. And that's okay. I think finding product market fit often takes longer. There's not as much overnight sensations, but the good news is once you've found the recurrence pattern and once you've found the base of customers, in theory as long as you have an ear to the customer and you're focused on the customer, your product will just get better every month, every release, every quarter. Yeah. And that hopefully should allow you to win more customers.

Jeff Bullas

00:21:39 - 00:22:03

Yeah, I've been involved with a startup for the last 10 years or so. And it’s moving to a subscription model, but the good thing about a software as a service or a subscription model. Typically software that's built, once you've built it, then the margins become quite large, aren't they?

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:22:04 - 00:22:43

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I mean, you know, most SaaS businesses run their gross margin in the ‘70s, so some can be even more profitable even into the 80’s at scale or even the ‘90s. Most of the hard costs are your Amazon or you know, Google cloud, whatever you're, you know, hosting and then your customer success team or any of your humans who are related to service delivery, generally, go above the line. So as you scale, it's very common for the gross margins to be really attractive and really high which is of course different than most traditional businesses that have physical products that they have to pay for.

Jeff Bullas

00:22:43 - 00:22:50

Yeah, it's very much emerged from the digital world, the intersection of technology. So SaaS companies didn't work until the internet was fast enough to sustain it.

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:22:52 - 00:23:52

Totally. Yeah. And then I think again, Salesforce is the pioneer here, it is like the company that everyone talks about. I feel like you know, my career grew up around Salesforce and I always have to remind myself that, you know, software services has two ‘S’, right, it's software as a service. It's not software, you know, like software. So you know, part of the reason why software service works is because it's sticky services, especially early on as you're growing, the business isn't necessarily bad. They helped create a lot of buy in and they're also the thing that over time get replaced with the software. So if you can build the feature set to take manual people centric services and turn them into software, you've created a really valuable business. And you know, Salesforce started with a lot of services and over time they've, you know, tried to turn those into an ecosystem of partners into software features.

Jeff Bullas

00:23:53 - 00:24:15

So in 2018 you decided to leave Smarsh. And where did the idea BrandLive come from to run virtual events? Where did the idea come from? Was it probably observed or was it just a creative part of you came out in terms of wanting to produce, you know, something creative?

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:24:15 - 00:35:28

So Steve and I left Smarsh in 2018. We had bought and sold the company multiple times. And in 2015, we had finalized a deal to sell most of the company back to my former boss who hired me out of college who had now started a new fund called K1 Capital Management, and so the deal closed like I think right around January 1st, 2016. And so we, you know, we stayed for a couple more years to try to figure out the time horizon on the investment. Once it became clear that we were gonna buy a bunch of companies, try to get bigger, run the business and let it compound over a long period of time, it made more sense for us to step away. And I kind of took a break, honestly, 2018, 2019 was starting Steve's family office called Archivist Capital and you know, stretching my brain and trying to learn new skills and figure out new industries and do a bunch of angel investing. And one of the things that you don't realize when you are starting your career in later stage private equity is angel investing is really hard and super time consuming because everyone needs your help. And I just, I always kind of joked to people, especially those that are kind of overwhelmed sometimes that competence is like water and cracks, like it finds you. And so, one of the things that happened is as we started to make more angel investments, I was getting hit up all the time to help these companies navigate whatever they were doing with and you know, it is not a late stage company and they were trying to figure out where a market's moving, trying to hire your first real salesperson, trying to navigate things that are to you as an entrepreneur super important but are largely relevant. And you know, being able to help a lot of these angel investment CEOs was great, fun, but also quite exhausting. So I was like, oh man, do I really want to be doing this? It's a lot of work and, you know, I'm getting hit up all the time and it's fun, I'm enjoying it, but at the same time I kind of got the itch to go back into running something again. And I was working on a thesis that there's an interesting opportunity, especially in smaller SaaS companies to find a business that had $3 to $5 million of recurring revenue. The founder CEO maybe wasn't the perfect fit for the business for a variety of reasons, hit a ceiling, didn't wanna, you know, had some sort of, you know, gap that was holding the business back. And you could find those people, those deals that had again recurring revenue that may have been growing, but not fast enough. And there were great opportunities to come in, buy out the founders, replace them with a team that you're comfortable with, people who knew how to build stuff. People knew how to create websites, marketing campaigns, build products, we had access to development team that I'd used smartly. So, you know, I was very like okay with buying a company and completely redoing it or pivoting it completely to something different.

And I never thought that would be the business, but we had made an angel investment into BrandLive. And so we were on the cap table and attending board meetings and during the summer of 2019, I was asked to help out honestly, help the board navigate another studio switch and I had no intention of getting myself involved in BrandLive honestly. But I was working on this thesis on the side where these founders are hitting a ceiling and behind a bunch of preference. And there was interesting opportunities to buy and pivot these businesses and I just got introduced to the BrandLive business. And then the first thing that I did was to log into the product and try to figure out exactly what it did. I was coming to quarterly board meetings. I should have known what brand was about, but I had no idea. And the website was very much the original intended BrandLive, which was Q. V. C for your brand. The original name of BrandLive was yourbrandlive.com. It was basically what YouTube Live is right now embedded on a website. So when it was started, it was a great novel and interesting. But then YouTube Live came out and bunch of other live streaming platforms came out with audience. And so the idea of, you know, streaming to your website didn't necessarily make a ton of sense when you can do it for free on Facebook or YouTube. And so the business kind of went through a period of like, okay, what does it want to be when it grows up? And the first thing that I did when I was trying to advise the board on the new CEO was to ask for access to the admin panel to log into the product to start to play with it. As a board member, I never once asked for access, kind of like a little frightening that I didn't do this. When I logged in, I started to realize that the use cases that companies were using BrandLive for were largely internal trainings, internal all hands meetings, you know some consumer style events that were used for your biggest marketing product launch, your marketing events and had nothing really to do with live shopping or any direct consumer use case but rather were business to business and about marketing and how we communicate. And I had worked at Smarsh, I was very involved in planning the all hands meetings, you know have different titles and stuff but I was kind of like had a strategy and so my job was kind of what the chief of staff is now to also plan and organize how we communicate to the company. I knew that problem. I knew that the meetings were infrequent. They should be more frequent, dense and too slide heavy that the planning process was pain in the ass and some people just pushed out the frequency of the meeting to quarterly. Not because you should communicate with your employees every quarter, but rather because only asked a plan. I'd also really loved video since I was a young kid and did a lot of that at Smarsh. And so I was familiar with the kind of production I have beside a video and how hard it is to create and how to use Adobe Premiere and had to use after effects and to get your hands dirty with the actual Adobe Suite because of my creative background. And so I was like, okay, this needs to change. Like there needs to be ways to bring video into work in ways that are more modern and more fun and more engaging, more entertaining. And so we planned to buy the company, pivoted to mostly internal communications. We bought allhands.com. We plan to discard, shed, get rid of the brandlive.com name, it was actually YourBrandLive by the way. It wasn't brandlive.com at that time. And we were going to just pivot the business into a completely different direction and the transaction closed at the end of 2019, January 31st, 2020. I became the CEO a month before the pandemic. And we were, you know, I hired a couple of people, we were, well on our way, we had eight people at the time and we were gonna reinvent how companies communicate with their employees. Like that was the big idea. And the pandemic had something to say about that. Initially, it actually was a pretty significant headwind for us. The way I describe it to people when you're producing a high quality of experience on video, pre pandemic, you're not sitting in your house, you're not on Zoom, you don't have a camera on top of your laptop, on a tripod or you know, a lighting circle, you don't have any of that. So you're in person on site at the company headquarters, because that's where the CEO is, that's where the executive team is, That's where you record from, because that's where you are in the office for five days. So when the pandemic happened, all of the scheduled meetings, that recurring revenue I thought I was buying were being canceled and people were like, oh man, this isn't gonna work. The events were drying up. And it took probably 6-8 weeks almost until the middle end of April for us to realize that we could pivot our business to be a tool for people who wanted to produce higher qualities of meetings because people just were not coming to terms with the fact that the pandemic was gonna be a long period of time. I do remember it was gonna be tax day and it was gonna be Memorial Day and it was gonna be July Fourth. Like it took some time for people to realize that this was gonna be the next six months.

So yeah, it was a fun exhausting period. We had one sales rep, Tony, still our SVPs sales and just to give you some perspective of how crazy it got, we turned on one Google ad and we were getting, I don't know maybe 30 to 40 leads a day and so we would work until like 11:45. I would talk to him on the phone at like 11 o'clock at night to catch up for the day, it's like 11:45 like I kid you not like we were just inundated and so the primary problem as we were going to businesses try to figure out how to identify which accounts in which clients are the right ones. So it was a qualification problem more so than anything else. One Google ad to one landing page.

Crazy, yeah and then the business took off, we got introduced to all these bigger accounts that were accounts to tell other accounts how great we were, the perspective we had which still drives our differentiation is that we are coming at the problem trying to create a more tv like experience to solve the video production problems of creating video content and so that was the primary problems that in fact we had a conference room, whenever there was more than four speakers, we often had to have a computer for every speaker with a Zoom pinned to each computer screen and then we did a recording of that screen and followed it into Wirecast which is an, OBS, Wire cast is a tool, you know software and computers. And then we would scream it out to a BrandLive experience. So the primary problem we had initially as we started to build the software, I was like okay how do I get 12 computers down to one or two? So it was a very technical problem we were solving. No one had it figured out but we knew that if we could solve the technical hurdles of having a computer for every Zoom then we were onto something. And so it's really then I think the part of the perspective we have that others haven't figured out our master that has made BrandLive so unique.

Jeff Bullas

00:35:29 - 00:36:03

So tell me tell me how the software, you’ve built software obviously that no one else has worked out which delivers a much more, much better live event. But what's your typical customer now? I think it's more enterprise I believe. So does the product work on a subscription model or is it an event model as in paper event?

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:36:05 - 00:45:47

So let me take you through what happened over the summer of 2020 and 2021. And give you some perspective on how we thought about the problem and how we think about it now. We had huge growth, I mean we went from 8 people to 80 overnight. And during the pandemic period, we were largely selling a single event experience, generally a large event, a mega event. And I always used to joke to people like we, our goal is to be maniacal about the customer and to treat the customer based on what they're looking for. And I came from a software service, both investing and operating background. So of course I knew the value of recurring revenue, but there was something really odd and bizarre about a three day event in March that just didn't feel like an annual license honestly. And the way I joke about it to people was if my son, Ari, who's got, let's see here, he's gonna be five, so he's got eight years to go here. But if he's being bar mitzvahed, I would never rent the hotel or book the event space on an annual license. That would be preposterous. Now I could do that and fake that over 12 months to attract potential investors. But that would be wrong. It would be not how the buyer me are, his dad is thinking about that purchase, right. I'm thinking about it as a Saturday in May. So I kind of felt weird about, you know, our licenses and so one of the great strengths of BrandLive is we never really tried to annualized use cases that didn't deserve to be annual, if it was a one day event or a four day event in March. We only sold it as an annual because that's how the customer thought of it. And as we got through the 2021 period, we honestly started to see some weakness in the inbound needs from Google. Partially because I think the interest in virtual events was starting to drag mostly because many of them arguably weren't very good and so people were starting to question, do I want to continue to do this? I'm starting to see attendance drop. First the 2020 period is this type of experience, one that is a better experience than the on site event I planned pre pandemic. And the honest truth is if we look ourselves in the mirror, a lot of the event experiences weren't better. And the utility of networking or bringing a bunch of people together or speed dating through kind of an online forum for many people is worse. I mean I hated doing it. So I thought this is kind of ridiculous. I mean I don't need to be building a platform to bring people together so they feel closer, like that wasn't really our point of view. Like the utility of our product was that the event experience is really unique and different, customizable and very designed forward and as we started to build out our software stack around a studio to create higher quality video content that could be a mix of live and pre recorded content. It became clear to us that BrandLive being really different was our great strength and we kind of started to say, okay, let's pause and think about this. If we want recurring revenue patterns and we wanted to figure out a way to sell an annual license to customers, what are the use cases? What are the types of event experiences that happen every month? Every two weeks or once a quarter? Once a quarter is probably sufficient for an annual license. I'd prefer more frequently than that. But it was right around that period where we're trying to kind of like figure out the future of our business, where I started to kind of think about the common use cases that happened right here way and we started to see that okay, all hands meetings, that original idea that we had around BrandLive happened once a month every two months. Once a quarter, weekly or bi weekly or monthly or bi monthly. Webinar series happens very frequently across the year and investor relations meeting happens at least four times a year. You might have your annual investor day, but generally the use cases are high frequency across the company. And so we kind of just back into what are the things that an organization would do more regulate when we landed on marketing events across large companies because you often have utility and having standardization around templates, you have workflow tools to manage the team to manage the task management, to figure out your run of show to start thinking about using pre records up in the first year of the pandemic. Everyone did everything live and it wasn't until like halfway through that were like actually no one really cares that half of the content is prerecorded. And so our sweet really did very well mixing live and pre recorded content. It was a huge feature for us. And so I think we started to really make headway with organizations once we could convince them that the secret to making someone pay attention is to make it really good. And honestly, there was an ah ha moment that happened sometime in the beginning of 2021 where we actually put together a list of all of the experiences happening on BrandLive. I mean, I completely skipped over our craziness with the Biden campaign, but you know, by the turn of 2021 we put together a list of great events. We said to ourselves, okay, what are the best events and why?

It was the period of time leading up to this was so chaotic. I mean, we were just trying to get the water out of the boat, there was so much interest. And so it was right around this period where we kind of caught our breath and said, ok, what are the good ones? And why are they good? And we put together a list. I remember people weren't really responding to surveys, had a nice clip and so you couldn't really rely on survey data. And so we just surveyed our employees and asked anecdotally what are the best experiences. We put together a list probably 50 long. And I kid you not. We went down the list and started clicking on them and the first couple were cringe worthy. You're like, oh that's really ugly. Oh that doesn't look really nice. Oh that is really awful. And it is the ultimate when you're an entrepreneur and you know, you're proud of the way your product looks. But then when in the wild, the customers are putting sites together that are really not not up to your standards, it was a bit eye opening. And we thought to ourselves, went back through the list again and realized that almost all of the events in question didn't invest in how the page looked, but rather put the energy and effort to make the in video experience better. High production value didn't tell a story. Is it musical? Was their music throughout? They were borrowing almost accidentally from the things that we see in Hollywood, the storytelling was spot on. There was a narrative art at the beginning and the end worked circularly. There was an energy and a vibe that carried throughout, much like the theme of a tv show or even a high end restaurant. And so we started to kind of hate to say pinch ourselves, but we admitted that the software we're creating on the attendee side was largely irrelevant and we should build tools and workflows and creative to help our largest customers make great videos that really made a difference and were arguably shorter, segment based and had an arc that could be followed and made the viewer feel something. I always kind of say like I watched so many virtual events over this period, the good ones, you know, immediately because they spoke to you, they told a story in a way that made you feel something. I could see the hair on my arms standing up for the good ones. I could feel something in my stomach, in my gut and we're like, okay, we need to replicate this, take that and bring this to companies. And initially we just thought people knew how to do this and we realized pretty quickly that they don't have teams who know how to do this and this could be taught. And so the future of our business became about teaching people this secret of how to make great content affordably and to make every company into a media business. So it's been tremendous, but it is 100% focused on marketing events, marketers, people who want to use video to tell stories in new ways, it's not about networking or bringing people together, it's usually about a company telling their story or a customer of the company telling their story in ways that are very similar to the types of things we watch outside of work. We're flipping through our phone while watching TV on a Sunday night, watched Game of Thrones last night, the new one, you know, flipping through my phone. Like we're watching amazing television that's edgy and out there and interesting, we're flipping through TikTok and Instagram. It's all video based and work feels like a boring web conference. So the vision of BrandLive is that we need to teach people how to bring the ability of creating video content into companies and give marketers the ability to tell stories in ways that match the stuff we watch outside.

Jeff Bullas

00:45:48 - 00:45:57

Right. So BrandLives become, so the service you offer is a combination of technology and creative. Is that correct?

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:45:57 - 00:51:40

It's mostly tech. We tried to build a network of agencies to help us largely with motion graphics. So again, I miss this part of the story. But one of the benefits of focusing on use cases that are really frequent is they tend to be shorter. They tend to be an hour. And so we stumbled upon this idea of bringing television to the work because we were looking for what things are generally an hour. And if you think about the play, it's generally 2.5 hours. If it's longer than an hour, if you think about the movie, you know, I think an average of 120 minutes, right? It's two hours. But television almost entirely is 30 minutes or an hour. And with TV commercials, you're probably at 40 minutes, 42 minutes, 45 minutes. And so we stumbled upon this television thing just because we were trying to replicate the length and of course there's masterclass in TikTok master classes, you know, 8 to 12 minutes per episode podcast, probably generally 45 to 60, TikTok two minutes, right. So there are shorter lengths happening. But when we started to study this and we started to study high frequency content creators, we landed on television being the greatest model to replicate. And one of the interesting things about tv, if you think about it, the creator of the show, they need to work pretty hard to keep your attention because if it's not good, what do you do? Turn the channel. You know, if you are invested in going to a play, maybe you're going to broadway play. You bought the tickets for $250, you've got a babysitter for you and your partner, you've gone Downtown and maybe going out to dinner. Like you're committed, you're invested, you're there, the place got to be pretty bad for you to get up and leave halfway through. A movie is similar, often same thing. Got dinner maybe before the movie, get a babysitter. It's a commitment. You've invested. The coffee, sorry coffee. I do have a family member who would order coffee at a movie, but you know the popcorn and the soda, they're expensive. I mean they're not cheap. I'm a big junior man, this guy. Anyway, long story short, you're committed, right? The movie's gonna be really bad for you to get up halfway and leave. But a tv show if you're not interested in that, you just turn the channel and guess what? Virtual event, it's worse than that. You're completely multitasking, you're turning the volume down, you're turning off your camera, you're tabbing to a different tab, you're exiting out. There's no desire to stay if it's not any good. Aside from the, maybe the benefit of other people thinking that you were staying even though you weren't. And so we were like, okay, well how do we do this? How do we find a way to get people to want to attend to want to experience the meaning for our clients. And so we started to really study everything about high frequency content creators in Hollywood and we focused arguably on the things that happened every day, write the thesis of course. The creation process is the hard part. Why do people push their all hands meetings to four times a year because it's a pain in the ass to plan them, not because they've convinced themselves that they should communicate with their employees four times a year, right? Like it's a content creation problem.

And so we were like, okay, well how do we study the people who do this a lot? And so we focused on Ellen, Oprah, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, maybe morning radio because guess what, they plan those every day. And a couple of interesting things popped out when we're starting to like study this. I know it sounds kind of obvious, but at the time it wasn't obvious. Almost all of those programs are pre recorded. Not a single one that I mentioned, including Howard, you know, radio is entirely live. In fact if you're driving, you're driving to work and you're listening to one of those radio programs that are on kind of, you know, the top channels. A lot of those segments are pre recorded. Almost every one of them like get your segments are all pre recorded. They're not like putting their phone number out and having people call in live, you know, a lot could go wrong. So it's all pre recorded the day before, more control. And as a listener, I'm not like, oh they're pre requiring, that's terrible. Like not, my brain doesn't go there. NPR is actually prerecorded to the nightly news is pre recorded a lot of it. So we started to think, okay, that's really interesting. Ellen and Oprah was pre recorded. If you look at Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon, they were recording at 2pm. So none of it is live. That's why if you watch Jimmy Kimmel after an NBA game, it doesn't really feel like it's right because it was done before the game. So that was really interesting because we're like, okay, this is really, this is eye opening, every high frequency content creator wants to invest intentionally in pre recording components. So what do they have to do? And we started to realize that almost every single one of those examples I gave you are segment based with ideas, game show elements, entertaining things that they can rinse and repeat every day or every week,

Jeff Bullas

00:51:41 - 00:51:42

It’s a template.

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:51:42 - 00:53:50

Yeah. I think of, you know that famous thing on radio where you have, I don't know if you have it there, but they call as if they're a flower shop and ask the guy to give flowers to someone to try to see if they can catch him like that. That example can be rinsed and repeated every week. And so it gives the creator the freedom to not have to be stressed out about planning the thing over and over again.

And so we started to say, okay well how do we do this? How do we bring this into the platform, into the software? We started to develop segment based approaches where we have in geographics for three minutes with music walk up cards, segment one 5 to 8 minutes, chapter card for 18 seconds, segment two for 10 to 12 minutes, maybe some sort of game show to introduce new hires or some sort of entertaining element. That's the panel outro, take Q&A. So it's live and authentic music at the end. And it became a formula that then became easy for us to coach and teach our customers and to answer your question in a very roundabout way. It was that process that we realized that our customers did not have creatives or production people in-house like we thought they did. So we went out to try to figure out if we could piece together a bunch of agencies to develop mostly motion graphics, lower thirds, titles, the cool creative that you see on our website, that is kind of more 3D. And we realized that there weren't a bunch of agencies who knew how to do this. So we decided to kind of put together creative studios. So some of our clients use their creative services often in a template approach. So they're basically tempering out their whole year. And so it becomes just an example of what's possible over time that becomes, you know more self service with templates, but our creative studio is a big part of and what makes us tick for sure.

Jeff Bullas

00:53:51 - 00:54:04

As a percentage of your business, what percentage of employees is just creative studio? How many people are in that? You've got about 200 employees now, is that correct?

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:54:05 - 00:55:34

Yeah. When you include contractors, it definitely is near that range. There are creative studios, six people. So it's not a huge percentage of the head count. And the creative studio is, it's all about creating either site designs for our customers to manage their attending experience, landing registration, the website that you actually watch the event at or the actual in video content. So a lot of what we're doing is really teaching people how to do a narrative video and you know, making a 3-6 minute video that has two cameras where you're talking into a camera A and then there's camera B on a slider with good lightning. Really trying to encourage them to steal the formulas that exist if you watch television, you watch 60 minutes or you watch any high production quality. We're just trying to bring that to work. So the thesis over time, of course, is that our customers learn how to do this themselves. I would love in a year or two that, you know, they're putting job descriptions out. That's a familiarity with BrandLive in our software is a prerequisite. So it's a similar formula that Salesforce was used where initially there may be some services over time those services translate into better software and then an ecosystem of people who makes the product very sticky. Once you learn how to do it, you want to do more of it, you don't want to do it on a different platform. So it's the implement sticky moat.

Jeff Bullas

00:55:35 - 00:55:48

So how would you engage with a customer from start to finish? What's your typical approach if you engage with enterprise size?

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

00:55:50 - 00:59:52

So this is changing. A lot of people piece together software during the pandemic. Sometimes they went with whatever vendor they had an existing contract with, they didn't necessarily go out and do a formal RFP process. They weren't picking based on capabilities or for the quality of the product. And so I think a lot of people went through that period really experimenting with individual virtual events, webinars and internal meetings that I think in 2022 should be under the microscope for review. And so a lot of our recent wins arguably have come through more formalized RFP process. In fact, we prefer that because it means they're thinking about the different use cases across their company and because we're focused on Fortune 100 it tends to be organizations that have multiple brands, multiple business units, multiple geographies and therefore the utility of a temple that approach to run 200 events or 2000 events becomes our core competency. And because of the software being very rich on the creative tool suite, it's all no code. So you can kind of come in and, you know, build a library of 20 templates. You can enable it across the organization. You can train everybody on how to use it and then each event they can customize themselves without having to pay a bunch of people. Because of that flexibility, we are really well positioned for any company that wants each event to be its own thing, like to be different and to feel different and to not just look the same, not just the same across the company, but the same across every event that they see in the world. And so we are more recently being introduced mostly into the marketing organization. I would say largely a CMO or a marketing director. Someone who's got creative bones in their body, creative juices, but maybe he needs help and who wants the stuff they're creating to be so good that they're proud of it. And it's hard to be proud of a boring webinar. It doesn't look like the stuff you're watching on Sunday night tv. And so we're just trying to really play at giving people the creative toolset, both with our software with the workflow tools that we go into the product task management team, template management but also the tool to mix live and prerecorded and to broadcast that as a single stream. So that becomes the core competency and works great, especially if your events and experiences are generally 30 minutes, 45 minutes or an hour. We also then want to engage with our large customers for their big events of the year, so their top five events of the year, we'd love to do all of them. They tend to be customer conferences with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.

So the goal is to really help a large company with all of their marketing events, their tier four, all of their marketing events, their tier four webinars all the way up to their most important event of the year, so that's how we engage and it's generally, I'd say probably 60 to 90 days before the event, for the tier one marquee events and then for the webinar series, a lot of it is trying to plan for the whole year. So you're trying to kind of like really encourage people to be intentional about how they plan out these things, encourage them to use their recording software tools and to really invest in pre records. And so a lot of it is an active ongoing relationship that you're developing over time. More recently, we've had a lot of people engages with our creative services. And so we'll introduce that as part of the sales process, mostly towards the end of the sales process, kind of post post being an account. So that's how we engage. But generally, if we're doing this right, we're dealing with 5-10 people across a large company, so it's not just one person teams of people.

Jeff Bullas

00:59:53 - 01:00:36

You have some visibility in terms of how the event industry which is huge in America, America's maybe got the most event centric event culture in business. Now the pandemic came along and sort of thrown the whole, you know, spanner into the works in terms of live, how do you see the event industry evolving in the future? Because you must have some real insights into that in other words, this combination of both live and also virtual events which are almost being, it's almost like a hybrid, isn't it? Just like works going in a way, how do you see the event industry evolving or be interested in your thoughts?

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

01:00:36 - 01:07:20

So I mean hybrid work is a really good metaphor and I think a good thing to talk through as we talk about how the industry is changing most of my peers CEO is most of our clients when I talk to them about hybrid work, agree that it's been a lot harder to get people to come back to the office and they realized it's really hard. It's really hard and you know BrandLive, we have a younger employee base. Our average age is 28, I thought people would rush back in, I thought they were lonely, I thought they wanted to be back with people. The data does not prove that out. Everyone says the most important thing is flexibility and BrandLive were a creative organization. You'd think that being together would be, well at least that's part of our thesis, that it's going to be beneficial to us, but it's been hard to get people to come back and you know I think at this point right going into September back to school of 2022, we are expecting that more and more organizations are gonna be requiring three days, two days in the office, it seems like Apple, Nike in particular or two that have done that. So I do expect most large companies to have employees in the office half time, it's kind of the way I would think about it and it's also of course with inflation and you know if you've traveled recently, you know that it's super expensive to get anywhere, even if you find San Francisco from Portland and so you know the cost of travel is expensive. I think a lot of people look back on the pre pandemic period and kind of question whether they really need to travel as much as they did, especially with young families trying to prioritize their life in new ways. And so I think that there's going to be at least for the considerable future called the next five years. Real doubt about events that are entirely in person unless they're conferences that are focused on networking and legion and so that part of the market is not an area BrandLive focuses in, it's not really the types of events experiences that we did during the pandemic and I think arguably are the ones that are going entirely back to in person because the event professionals that planned the event loved doing them that way. And a lot of the people who went to attend them loved going to them to network and to meet people, thirsty for the extra version. And so, you know, we're totally copasetic that the conference industry, the event industry, the ones that make money off of events will largely go back in person. And I think you've seen a lot of small events go back in person because small events do better in person, arguably. And I think that's okay, our thesis and what we've come to conclude is that for marketing events where the primary purpose is not inclusion of bringing people together, but rather communicating, making sure the person watching understands it, engages, feels better about themselves, feels more loyal to the company, wants to buy more things, right. Webinars, big customer events, product launches, right, where it's generally one too many and you as a viewer or watching something like you're watching television, you are not being forced to turn your camera on those types of experiences. We are seeing people move to more asynchronous viewer patterns where they're creating great content. They're broadcasting as if it's live, but they're also doing a ton of post event marketing to try to drive people to the asynchronous consumption of on demand content and so that's the area we think is going through a bunch of evolution on the event side. And the way I like to think about it, the way to encourage event professionals to think about it is don't just plan for the in person crowd, don't just plan for the virtual crowd. Be really intentional and thoughtful about the ratios of in-person and on online or on screen and be thoughtful about how you plan them. One of the things and trends that we're seeing, especially for professionals who get it, is they're investing ahead of time into a separate program for those who are watching on screens than the people in the room.

And so I think what you'll start to see is people really being intentional, much like the NFL or the NBA where if you're in the stadium, you're not watching the program on your phone, right. You're not thinking about that audience as a producer the same way the on screen audience they are two separates. And I think that's what you start to see where the event industry is really thinking about. Okay, who's the audience? What's the outcome? And starting to invest intentionally into creating separate paths, not just a camera at the back of the room, any event that is 80% in person, I question whether the virtual is even needed, aside from capturing the content and making accessible after the fact. Any event that is largely 50/50. A lot of our events are 10% in the room, 5% in the room, 1% in the room. Any event that has a largely screen oriented audience, which is most big events, honestly, you're gonna want to think about it and plan for it. Like you produce that NBA on TNT broadcast and so that's what we're trying to encourage people to do, invest in a set, invest in a studio, get nice cameras, don't just open your laptop and sit down. I mean we joked earlier, most speakers do better when they're standing up. So why are you sitting down with, you know, a Macbook Pro with a camera at the top. So we're really trying to encourage people to use multiple cameras to think about the live component tree as a connective tissue that piece together and to really approach the onscreen audiences as a separate audience with different goals. And if you do that, it's gonna change the way that planners think. And I think the event planners that are more focused on content and storytelling are gonna be the ones who are the most successful because they'll realize that to captivate an audience is really just to tell the story in a way that they can consume and in a way that makes them consume it more naturally and oriented towards how they're consuming stuff outside of work. Like there's all these blurred lines between work and home and flexible work and where you're working and how you're working and when you're working, so the content has to bridge.

Jeff Bullas

01:07:21 - 01:08:03

Yeah, it's interesting. You mentioned, one word you mentioned, which I think is really, really important is asynchronous communication. The reality is that we live in a global world 24/7, so everyone's got different timeframes, people are busy, they're picking kids up from school. It's an event that's fixed and live all the time. It's not gonna work well in terms of their modern digital 24/7 global business world. So asynchronous has become very, very important. And even in terms of how you create processes and train people internally, in other words, record it rather than make it live, you know. So asynchronous, I think it's very important.

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

01:08:04 - 01:09:36

One of the trends we're seeing, these large companies are not just allowing the replay to be downloaded and put into some sort of Dropbox folder on some company internet. They're actually scheduling the broadcasts and streaming them as if they're live in each time zone so that the audience feels like they're not missing out and they feel engaged and then they're taking one segment, either the intro, the outro or the Q&A. And they're doing it live. So we had one large client who did 12 events, it was the same content. One component was live or in some cases not any live and they broadcast it basically based on the time zone of the audience. Each region had their own captions at the bottom in case it wasn't English first. And instead of just doing it live and trying to think like an American and forced people to wake up in the middle of the night, I watched it on art, on art time. The company was really thoughtful and they said, okay, we're gonna do 12 of these, we're gonna spread them across the globe, we're gonna do them over two days or three days and we'll take live questions for the global audiences so you don't feel like you're missing out. But 90% of the content was reused from the first session, so it was really easy to plan like the speaker didn't have to do it five times. And I think you'll start to see more of that. You start to see people thinking like they're producing a tv program.

Jeff Bullas

01:09:37 - 01:09:50

The other thing you've mentioned too which raised the question with me and how important is storytelling in your creative process.

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

01:09:50 - 01:15:17

It's a very important and the way I kind of, how do I back up. I'll give you a couple of examples. I think when we were starting to kind of plan our own events, whether it was a marketing webinar or even our internal all hands meetings or all company meetings. We started to kind of like try to figure out if we could come up with a theme to build a story around and what we found as we try to do them ourselves is that's really hard coming up with a theme and then writing a story to match the theme was the inverse of what we should have been doing. We should have been trying to figure out what we're gonna say and then go build the story around that. And so I'll give you an example. I mean, last all hands meeting I had was just a month ago, end of July, it was largely focused on a message that I wanted to encourage people to not get burnt out and to take time off and to spend time with their family time, they won't get back. And so I come to the conclusion that I wanted to communicate that and of course as a CEO that then trickles down into how you structure vacation and how you encourage people to take it. And that became the kind of like, okay, I want to talk about this as a subject, had a couple of other subjects to which I won't get into, but that is a subject that felt very real and very timely relevant. And so that became the foundation for, okay, what are we gonna call this thing, what theme do we build around this meeting? And we came up with this concept of a road trip where you had a character, you could see their hand on the steering wheel driving through this kind of like 3D amazing world and it was at that point where someone said, okay, well this is great, it's cool, it feels like BrandLive, you know, we can put some summer music on top of it. So it feels very much like the intro to the event and someone said, you know, what would be really cool is if this thing actually had real life humans, your employees on the screen too. And so three days before the event instead of just going with what we were planning to go with, we actually emailed out through Slack, of course, all of our employees and asked them to contribute their summer photos from their summer vacations and it's kind of like really fun but impersonal intro, video turned into this personal hundreds of photos being shared across the company intro that actually created some human elements to it and gave the narrative a more, you know, connection oriented feel to it. That idea just came naturally. We are now with all of our customers encouraging them to do that type of thing, whatever the theme might be, incorporate your people, your photos, your company culture, into the intro. And so what used to be this, like, okay, we're gonna have this random theme and it might try Valentine's day or July Fourth or summer road trips has now turned into culture creation and connection and making the person who's watching on the lookout for their photo. Oh my God, there I am, kind of like the jumbotron and so we have actually backed into a lot of the storytelling elements that we create that are actually done at the end, not the beginning.

And so we've really encouraged our customers to script out what they're gonna say, to write it down. Our product has a teleprompter build in so you can look through the teleprompter, you can read the script as you're communicating directly into the camera and there's a bunch of other benefits. Obviously, you stay on message, but the number one benefit is you're looking right in the camera, which is a big deal. So, you know, our product suite over time is really gonna encourage people to follow storytelling tactics, to have conflict, to be open about conflict. We called the no hard way story that the challenge you faced and how you overcame it, even in our internal meetings, We have a segment called Story Time, which is all about what you've never told some of that work before and it's all about the raw stuff. We don't want to hear about your career, we don't even ask about where you went to college. It's not about that. It's about the challenges you faced, how you felt as you overcame them. What it means to you to have that conflict or down moment of your life, influence of your parents. And so we're trying to really encourage companies to think like storytellers. Over time, I'm not 100% sure what that looks like, but I know on average it's gonna be shorter, better content that is worth consuming. Back to your point on asynchronous, after the fact, in order for someone to want to watch it a day later, a week later, it's got to be good. And in order for them to remember it, it's got to have a story. People remember stories.

Jeff Bullas

01:15:18 - 01:15:39

Yeah. One of the most powerful ways to actually sell is to tell a story and then make a point, then it's human and it's memorable. I remember when I started presenting, it was about facts and figures and I went, you know, then I realized that it was boring. So it was time to tell more stories.

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

01:15:39 - 01:15:49

The financial slides in an all hands meeting are the lowest ranked segment across our customers. People want to know that their jobs aren't at risk. They don't care about the details.

Jeff Bullas

01:15:50 - 01:17:40

And I stumbled across a company called Axios, that creates great newsletters and they've just sold themselves for over half a billion dollars after being in business for six years and it was all about creating content that people will keep reading in other words, this is about written content. You're creating more video, but it's the art of communication and we've got an in digital world, we've had to learn how to communicate better. And I think the phones changed in 2007 with iPhone coming out. I think early on that it's changed how we consume content to communicate. And I think it's really important that we keep learning how to do that. And so I dived into what access do in terms of their templates for communication and they did it from data. They worked out that people only read the first paragraph. Yeah. So I've experimented with their template and tactics and I put it on to Medium and Medium is a great tool because it actually measures how many people read to the end. And that one article I wrote based upon the Axios, what they call Smart Brevity communication in written word. Guess what? That one article has got as much as had as much people reading right to the bottom, nearly 40% compared to the rest of the articles I wrote for before that. So it's really interesting using data to work out how to communicate better people reading to the end. Have we got their attention or they just reading the first sentence and that's it.

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

01:17:41 - 01:18:25

I love Axios by the way and, you know, they're very political, right. They actually had a foray into video content to, with their HBO special. But we started to experiment with shorter form content for regular things like whether or not people were getting promoted and we're leaving the organization and we actually found that a minute of video is just as compelling as a 10 minute segment on that subject. And you know, a minute is equally as effective as 30 seconds. So the reform, it works really well. And you know, think about social media. I mean it's generally a minute or less.

Jeff Bullas

01:18:26 - 01:18:58

Yeah and some of the other tactics are tell when you're right, you're trying to draw them in until the point at the end they're saying, don't tell me something familiar, don't waste my time and tell me something interesting. I don't know about right off the bat and then their number two is always white matters. And it's fascinating. It's, yeah, it's really, so I love the art of communication and just hearing what you said about how you were trying to develop in a video format and for events is absolutely fascinating.

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

01:18:59 - 01:20:13

Well, I think, I think just to put a bow on this, I'm not sure we know yet the types of video content that are going to be the most effective. And so our goal is to help people experiment, help them tinker and tweak and to just make stuff up so that if you measure it and track it and test it over the next five years, we'll have a better sense of what works. I mean, honestly, the Tiktok generation is going to be coming of age and they're gonna be running companies over the next 10 years and so you're gonna need as a larger organization, you're gonna need to connect with, communicate with that generation in new ways and you're gonna have to use video. And I do not believe that we have any idea of what the type of video communication that is effective at this point. And so our goal is to not necessarily like find, it's more the journey than the destination. Like you're learning how to do something so you can, can you tweak and iterated over time. And as long as you're tracking and measuring what works in your access example, its percentage of people that get to the bottom of the screen like that, that is the same kind of thing that we're trying to bring the table to, which is like, did they watch it? Did they like it? Did they remember it? I mean, it's really basic stuff. And so, you know, giving the companies that we work with the freedom to explore, experiment to try new things is in many respects the values, we're trying to bring to the table.

Jeff Bullas

01:20:31 - 01:20:42

Yeah and that sort of brings, you know, for me too, it's quite often the powerful communication is not what you're telling me. It's how you made me feel.

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

01:20:43 - 01:20:56

That is exactly what we found. And we went through that crazy, crazy kind of pivot moment in our history, the events that made you feel something we're the ones you remembered and watched over and over again.

Jeff Bullas

01:20:57 - 01:21:17

And it sounds like you're on a journey to make virtual events memorable for people get better at storytelling and help companies do that, which is quite a mission. And I look forward to seeing BrandLive continue to evolve. Sam, it's going to be fascinating.

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

01:21:18 - 01:21:57

Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. I mean, virtual virtual events just to kind of like end on this some people have a kind of weird feeling about the term virtual events, right? And so the way I like to think about it is if you watch video in your life, how are you as a marketer gonna use video to impact people who are consuming it every day. I think about it over a long period of time, videos in the world as a marketer as a company. You better be trying, exploring, experimenting with video to drive your business forward too. So excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

Jeff Bullas

01:21:57 - 01:21:59

Thanks, Sam, it's been an absolute pleasure.

Sam Kolbert-Hyle

01:22:00 - 01:22:03

Yeah.