For Jayson Dubin and Steven Berger, the co-founders of video hosting platform Playwire, the only real constant is change. After the business operated for three years under the name Intergi Entertainment, Dubin realized that digital advertising networks, particularly for video, were ripe for disruption, he said. And so, on the back of a napkin, he scrawled the first concept of what would grow into Playwire. That was more than eight years ago now, and Playwire has developed into a successful business. Dubin sat down with Business News Daily to go behind the business plan and explain how a simple idea sketched on a paper product grew into a profitable business venture.
Business News Daily: In a nutshell, what service does your business provide?
Jayson Dubin: Playwire offers a comprehensive and easy-to-use video-hosting and monetization platform that makes digital content profitable for publishers, artists and content creators. It is also the parent company of Playwire Media. Ranked by comScore as the largest online rep firm for reaching gaming and entertainment enthusiasts online, our three publishing brands (GameZone Group, NowPlaying Entertainment and Kids Club) provide a digital entertainment offering for advertisers looking to target their audiences during online leisure activities.
BND: How long have you been in business?
Dubin: We've been in business since May 2007, so, coming up on nine years.
BND: Did you start with a formal business plan? If not, how did you lay the groundwork for your business?
Dubin: Before the formal launch of Playwire and Playwire Media, the company was called Intergi Entertainment. Three years into operations as an online advertising agency, I knew there was a need for more-sophisticated advertising networks, specifically pertaining to video. And I knew I could do a better job than the solutions that existed at the time. One night, I went out to dinner with my wife, and on the back of a napkin, drew out the architecture of what my video player would look like — the databases, the ad network, everything. That was the beginning of the business plan that laid the foundation for what exists today as Playwire.
BND: How did you finance your endeavors, both initially and as your business grew?
Dubin: Initially, both my partner, Steven Berger, and myself personally invested to get the company off the ground. Steve also helped raise funds from three outside angel investors, who have continued to be fantastic partners to us. As we grew, we opened a line of credit, which has grown as we've built a relationship with our bank.
BND: Is your business today what you originally envisioned at the outset, or has it changed significantly over time?
Dubin: Playwire has completely changed over time. However, [it] still retains the same underlying, core principles on which the company was founded [and that are] guiding every step of the way. In the online advertising industry, we are constantly evolving our business and our offerings to keep up with changing trends. For a time, everything was about display advertising, and then it was all about mobile. The one thing we can count on in this industry is change: Ad formats, devices and the way people consume media is ever-evolving. We must continually adapt to stay relevant and meet the needs of our customers.
BND: What are some lessons you've learned? Is there anything you would've done differently?
Dubin: I think the biggest lesson I've learned is about what it means to be a leader. It's so much more impactful to be a leader who is in the trenches alongside the team and really embodies, rather than just talks about, the ideals and goals of the company. I find that that passion and work ethic is contagious and inspires the entire team to do their best work. I've also learned that success is almost entirely the result of hard work. When we started, there were four other companies that were doing exactly what we were doing, except they had more money, hired good talent, and were located in large metropolitan areas (we are HQ'ed in Deerfield Beach, Florida). Despite those differences, today Playwire continues to lead the entire industry, and that is due to our perseverance and "never give up" attitude.
In terms of things I would have done differently … some years ago we came close to accepting a round of VC funding, but ultimately passed. Looking back, [I can see that] at the time, I didn't recognize the real value having a VC brought to the table in terms of generating marketing awareness and creating the right connections.
BND: What were the most important factors that contributed to your success?
Dubin: The most important factor that has contributed to Playwire's success is that in everything we do and every decision we make, we stay true to our core values and business model. In practice, this means things like not overspending. At the beginning, we couldn't afford to hire a COO or big names in the industry. We had to roll up our sleeves and do a lot the work ourselves. You need a financially stable business before you can scale. This requires hard work and dedication, being on the road five days a week and, of course, a "failure is not an option" mentality.
BND: What are the next steps you want to take as a business owner? How do you see yourself achieving those goals?
Dubin: In terms of next steps, it's our goal to achieve the size and scale that brings us to a point of liquidity in the near future. We've already begun to lay the groundwork to achieve this by hiring a COO to drive efficiencies while freeing up time for me to drive sales. In working towards our goals, we take a reverse-engineering approach — if this is where we want to be in a certain amount of time, how to we work back to begin achieving that now?
BND: What is your best advice to someone with a great business idea who is ready to give it a shot?
Dubin: There are four factors that contribute to the successful journey from idea to viable business. First, money. Having capital allows you to devote the proper attention to execute your business properly. The next two elements are contacts and experience. If you don't have contacts and experience, you can buy both with enough money. So, money, contacts and experience are really the trifecta. However, the fourth, and most important factor is that you have to love what you do. To be successful, especially when starting out, you have to be 100 percent focused and dedicated to your business, and if you're not doing something you love, it's just not going to happen.