Dan Levin is president and co-founder of ViralGains.
While in his senior year of college, Dan was inspired to start ViralGains after recognizing the storytelling power of video as a medium for building authentic, meaningful connections between brands, and the people they seek to serve.
ViralGains is a digital video ad platform that enables marketers to engage targeted audiences with relevant brand stories. Using the platform to engage in two-way conversations, brands and agencies discover exactly what people want — and how they feel — and leverage those insights to build unique, full-funnel ad journeys that can generate increased awareness, motivate intent, and drive purchasing decisions.
Having raised $23 million in venture capital for ViralGains, and with offices in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, and Atlanta, the company is now a powerhouse, and an authority on digital video advertising.
Why was your company created?
Dan Levin: Ever get stalked by the same ad everywhere you browse online for months on end? Ever seen an ad for a product you have absolutely no intention of buying? Ever wished the brand would simply ask you if you were actually interested in the said product, or catered advertising to your personal preferences, and unique buying journey? Yeah, me too!
Brands spend half a trillion dollars per year advertising their products and services globally, while only a tiny 4% of advertising effectively changes a consumer’s opinion about a brand. At that rate, the number of wasted brand dollars every year could solve world hunger 16 times over. Now that is a scary and sad fact.
Building a product that solved the enormous inefficiencies in digital advertising seemed like a win-win for everyone: consumers, marketers and publishers alike.
What’s unique about ViralGains?
Dan Levin: At some point in the history of marketing communications, the industry adopted the idea that advertising does the talking, and the market does the listening. This created a disconnected and siloed approach to marketing and advertising, by keeping the systems that do each, separate.
ViralGains is the first platform that gives the market a voice, using it as fuel for the advertising engine. No more silos. Not only can consumers and advertisers communicate with one another in our centralized platform, but our technology does so in a way that maps the consumer’s journey, from awareness to purchase. No more wasted ad impressions!
What have you learned as an entrepreneur?
Dan Levin: Talent is overrated. Hard work and patience beat talent all day, every day.
What advice would you give a budding entrepreneur?
Dan Levin: In no particular order: value your time like a crazy person, and audit what you spend it on regularly.
Work really hard, but only after learning what the Pareto Principle is. Stop whining — being a victim is not a job title.
Your happiness will be found at the intersection of doing something you’re really good at, that you love doing, and is useful to the world.
Find mentors. Find people that support you in your growth, and remove those from your life that don’t. Learn what motivates you, and leverage it regularly. Read.
Learn how to inspire others and attract an A-team, but fire quickly based on values. Don’t sacrifice your health for your business more than a few times a month. Don’t use an alarm clock to wake up more than once a week.
Learn how to deeply enjoy and find gratitude for the journey. And finally, do at least one of the things on this list.
What was one of your biggest work challenges, and how did you overcome it?
Dan Levin: Honestly, all of my biggest work challenges came from not following one of the pieces of advice I just talked about. Every single challenge produced a painful lesson with consequences I was wholly unprepared to learn. I overcame those difficulties by incorporating those lessons into my life.
How do you describe your leadership style?
Dan Levin: My style can be summed up with two verbs: develop and empower. Step 1: hire people far smarter than you. Step 2: give them the tools to succeed. Step 3: unblock them when they occasionally get stuck. Step 4: continuously and relentlessly help develop them to be the best versions of themselves, and Step 5: hire more smart people and start again.
What’s something you want people to know about corporate growth?
Dan Levin: I am always shocked at how many fellow entrepreneurs and business owners don’t have an operating system, or an annual strategic planning process. It is so important to step back at least once a year and take inventory of the key trends and assumptions in your industry, and have a 3-to-5-year vision of where you want to be. There are countless systems to use. If you don’t already have one, start with a simple one like EOS – Entrepreneurial Operating System for Small Businesses.
What made you decide to be an entrepreneur?
Dan Levin: The non-negotiable need to pursue my dreams. I was terrified of the “deferred life plan.” You know, the go-to-school-for-25-years-work-for-40-and-retire-at-65 plan. I wanted to live life on my own terms. For all we know, it’s the only one we’ll get!
As someone who started as an entrepreneur at a young age, is there anything you would do differently if you could do it all over again?
Dan Levin: Yes. I would take far better care of my health much sooner if I were starting over. Drinking plenty of water daily. Cutting out all processed and sugar-heavy foods. Exercising, meditating, and practicing gratitude every day, to name a few.
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