Tuesday, August 14, 2012 | Posted by: Fiona Cullinan
Categories: Business advice, Media sector, Technology sector, Women in business | Tags: business, entrepreneur, digital, CEO, insight, advice, video, interview, online, social media, marketing, advertising, leadership, internet, Elevate magazine, YouTube, social business, viral, Sarah Wood, web
Sarah Wood started her first business aged 13; now 38, she is the Winner of the 2011 Fast Growth Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award. But you’ll know her better from her social media work, turning brand campaigns such as Compare the Market/Meerkat and Evian’s Roller Babies into viral hits. In true tech entrepreneur style, she sent her interview answers in via smartphone from the middle of a Cambridge conference…
In 2006, Sarah Wood founded technology start-up Unruly with Scott Button and Matt Cooke. Their mission: to get branded video content watched, adored and shared by YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere.
Videos they have seeded include the Compare the Market/Meercat series and Evian’s global Roller Babies hit – the most viewed online ad ever. Unruly is now the world’s leading social video advertising platform, with turnover this year forecast at £17 million. We asked Sarah a few questions about her road to success.
MY FIRST PAID JOB was packing eggs aged 12, then running a dog-walking business at 13, selling shoes at 14 and flipping burgers at 15. Between 16 and 18, a combination of the above. It’s always fun to have lots of balls in the air.
WHO’S BEEN MY BEST BOSS? Hmm. I much prefer being my own boss, working alongside a talented team all pulling in the same direction to build a first-class technology business. The structure at Unruly is fiercely meritocratic, and people with great ideas and passion are involved, recognised and rewarded irrespective of job title.
A PIVOTAL CAREER MOMENT was realising that academia [Wood, who has a first-class honours degree and MPhil from Cambridge, was a lecturer in American Studies at Sussex University] didn’t have enough scale to be fulfilling in the long term, and taking the leap to become an entrepreneur.
WE PICKED THE NAME UNRULY because in 2006, with the advent of social networking and the explosion of the blogosphere, the media landscape was becoming increasingly fragmented, increasingly unruly…
GROWTH COMES WITH THE TERRITORY. Social video is exploding, and scale is integral to Unruly’s value proposition. Our technology powers multi-territory campaigns for global brands, and our global footprint and 12,000-plus network of publisher relationships help to ensure we provide the best service and most relevant environments for clients. Online video is the fastest-growing category of ad spend, and brands are turning to user-initiated social video to deliver consumer engagement at scale and speed.
THE THING THAT MAKES me good at my job is listening. To colleagues, clients, potential partners. That’s the only way to learn in such a fast-paced, complex space. And making sure the team is having fun and feeling valued on the way.
HEAD OR HEART? For me, it’s less about heart, more about gut feel. But as teams get larger and decisions become more contested, gut feel needs to be backed up with rational, informed analysis and clearly argued debate to make sure everyone understands the rationale behind key business decisions.
WHAT WOMEN NEED MOST to help facilitate their success is a broad supportive network – at home as well as in a professional context.
AS A LEADER and as chief operations officer, I’m very focused on execution and delivery. I like to think of myself as a facilitator, but you’ll have to ask my team. Hiring awesome people and giving them the freedom and resources to realise their vision gives me a real buzz.
MY BEST BUSINESS DECISION was committing to social video. In 2008 and 2009, there was a lot of pressure for us to diversify our technology to distribute and track games and static images. We decided to maintain the focus on video, as online video is not only incredibly portable, it’s the most emotionally engaging medium and a very effective way for brands to kick-start conversations with consumers. Independent research results we released in February showed that when viewers enjoyed the content, purchase intent increased by 97% – and brand association by 139%.
IF I COULD TELL MY YOUNGER SELF one thing, it would be stop beating yourself up! Failure is nothing to fear…
I COPE WITH STRESS in the office by singing, whistling and making cups of tea – and at home, by making my three children laugh. There’s no better stress-buster than the raucous, unselfconscious laughter of small children, and I think that’s a reason there are so many videos of giggling babies on the social web.
IN ANOTHER LIFE, what would I be? Tsk, why wait for another life? I imagine I’ll be doing something different all over again in five years’ time.
MY ENTREPRENEURIAL HOUSE RULES: work with people you trust. Love what you do. Take responsibility. Don’t be afraid to disrupt. And never forget to laugh.
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