Niel Roberston is the poster child for the phrase “go big or go home”. He is the founder and CEO of Trada, a company revolutionizing the advertising industry by crowd-sourcing paid search. I first met Niel over ten years ago at Service Metrics, an internet performance start-up that was acquired for $280M shortly after launching. He was one of the founders and I was lucky enough to help drive marketing efforts. He went on to start several other successful tech companies and is now the go-to guy for all things online advertising.
In the true spirit of community, Niel and his amazing team took time from their schedules to organize the Marketing Metrics Bootcamp, a 3-day local conference that brought together thought leaders in the advertising, performance, branding and social media spaces and let a crowd of budding (and current) entrepreneurs pick their brains. The event was sponsored by a host of local companies, Silicon Flatirons, and the CU Marketing Department. Over the course of three evenings, speakers and panelists covered topics such as:
- Basics of CPA, funnels and customer lifetime value
- Measurement tools, ROI, and performance tracking
- Video strategies, going viral, and renegade digital marketing
- Email marketing, trust, and the changing role of the social media specialist
I had the honor and pleasure of participating on the Brand vs Performance panel along with Derek Koenig (former CMO of Vail Resorts and former VP of Advertising at AOL), Toby Hedges (Director Digital Marketing for WhiteWave), and Matt Cutler (CMO for Visible Measures). That's me up front waving my arms trying to make a point. We got to discuss one of my favorite topics - how social media is radically changing how brands create, manage and leverage their online voice to serve their customers and grow their businesses.
I could talk about that topic for hours. Which I ended up doing because the conference wrapped up with an intern job fair where CU students had the opportunity to talk with dozens of local tech start-ups and learn about intern opportunities. I got to see lots of my fellow start-up junkies – Sonya Caprio and Grace Boyle from Lijit, Ted Guggenheim, CEO of Rage Digital, Mike Lewis, co-founder of Kapost, Brett Greene, founder of Hip Chameleon, Andy O’Dower from BeyondCredentials, and James Moreau with BlipSnips. It was fun watching them get mobbed by talented students hungry for a chance to work with cool tech companies.
By 9:30pm, I was exhausted and hoarse but I’m glad I stayed until the very end. The last person I talked to was Carson, who looked a little younger than most of the crowd but I just figured he started college early. He was the best conversation of the night. He asked thoughtful questions about our vision, business model, revenue plans, back-end evolution and the interest-based social graph. We talked about BlogFrog's mobile potential, viral growth and the possibilities of opening up our API. Something was different about this guy/kid. He might have thought he was looking for the next big thing, but I got the impression he would someday CREATE the next big thing. Then I learned that he was a student, but not at CU. He was a local high school student. Even more impressive. Then as we walked out, I got to meet his dad, who was his ride. Which means the boy genius who just blew me away probably can’t even drive yet. I won't mention his full name. Not because I probably need his parent’s permission first, but because I want to hire him before you do.You can catch all the presentations and panels on Trada's Ustream channel, which were streamed lived during the event. Thanks Trada and sponsors for an awesome event (and cool t-shirt)!