May 15, 2023

Digital Marketing: Be passionate about the challenge you are trying to solve and not stubborn about the product solution (podcast episode #59)


Give episode #59 a listen to get ideas for effective marketing. Andrew Beranbom, Co-founder and CEO, First Tube, joined me on the How I Made It In Marketing podcast.

Listen now to hear Beranbom discuss execution plans, choosing co-founders, and charter programs with early-adopter customers.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Digital Marketing: Be passionate about the challenge you are trying to solve and not stubborn about the product solution (podcast episode #59)

The How I Made It In Marketing podcast is underwritten by MECLABS Institute, the parent organization of MarketingSherpa. To learn how MECLABS Services can help you get better business results from deeper customer understanding, visit

If you think of what we do as marketers – we take value, real value that can help a person meet a goal or overcome a challenge, and then we package it up and message it so a customer can understand and receive it.

But sometimes, we focus too much on the way we want to package it, and don’t understand enough about the way a person can really understand that value, and the way they want to receive it.

Think Blockbuster and Netflix. Same value, right? Netflix just found a better way to package it.

Which is why I love this lesson from our next guest, “Be passionate about the challenge you are trying to solve and not stubborn about the product solution.”

I talked to Andrew Beranbom, Co-founder and CEO, First Tube, on the latest episode of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast to hear the story behind that lesson, along with many more lesson-filled stories.

Beranbom manages a team of 25 along with 75 freelancers.

First Tube is a standalone company, majority owned by Horizon Media, which is the largest media agency in the United States, according to Ad Age Data Center 2022. Horizon has media investments of more than $9 billion.

Listen to our conversation using this embedded player or click through to your preferred audio streaming service using the links below it.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify | Listen on Google Podcasts

Stories (with lessons) about what he made in marketing

Some lessons from Beranbom that emerged in our discussion:

Be passionate about the challenge you are trying to solve and not stubborn about the product solution.

Beranbom got started in the live experiences space when he was asked to be a marketing consultant for a program where his favorite band, The Grateful Dead, was celebrating their 50th anniversary with eight special shows. His favorite guitarist, Trey Anastasio, was going to be the lead guitarist.

For First Tube, they were so early to the market in the live experiences space. They realized even though they had dreams of providing a new way to connect experiential, content, and media investments for brands into a new ad product, they had to enter the market as a full-service agency to demonstrate and educate the market on the value that could be created.

When you are early to a market and think there is a real market opportunity, the reality is you need to stay agile on what the ideal solution is and what is required, Beranbom says.

Make sure you are not too early.

With a company Beranbom co-founded earlier in his career, Extole, they had believed that a new consumer-to-consumer paradigm was going to happen quickly due to the walls of communication between friends and family exploding via social media.  While they were right, they were seven years too early to the market, as it takes time for consumer behavior to evolve, alongside brands being educated enough to care.

Select your co-founders wisely.

It is important to make sure you are partnering with the right people both on a professional and cultural (personal) level when you are planning on going into the trenches and building something. Building a company is hard and you will run into some significant challenges. Just like a marriage is not always pure bliss, neither is a relationship between business partners. Make sure you have confidence that the relationship will grow not only during the good times, but also when times are tough.

In one of Beranbom’s first startups, he decided to join forces with a founder who he had no previous relationship with, but he loved the business opportunity and had confidence his background could be the missing piece in bringing the opportunity to life.

He brought in his trusted friend as the CTO and ultimately over time was forced to push the initial founder out with the support of his investors, because when the going got tough, that person’s negativity was impacting the CTO and their ability to execute.  This was a code-red moment in that they needed to build and ship new products to meet the market demands that they discovered during the charter client phase of their business.

This co-founder lacked the self-starter discipline to identify ways that he could support the business and other team members versus negatively impacting them. In hindsight, not having a deeper history with this person and choosing the idea over the partner was a big learning lesson in his growth as a person and entrepreneur.

Lessons (with stories) from people he collaborated with

Beranbom also shared lessons he learned from the people he collaborated with.

Embrace each person’s strengths and align on an execution plan.

via Beranbom’s co-founders, Ian LaPlace (Co-Founder, SVP Programming) and Scott Hoffman (Co-Founder, COO) of First Tube

LaPlace and Hoffman have provided Beranbom with some of the best lessons of his career about being able to embrace each of their strengths and align on an execution plan to harness collectively all their abilities to maximize the impact they can have together.

They are all generalists in their skill sets, with specific deep expertise that compliments each other and helped make them achieve success together (LaPlace – music, Hoffman – business operations and MarTech, Beranbom – digital marketing/product strategy/sales),

Designing together how to leverage their expertise operationally and what each of their core focuses should be and what not to do as part of their initial growth as a small team and then rapidly growing allowed them to scale and ensure they had the best leaders in place for the variety of tasks at hand.  By providing these defined lanes it also allowed them to collaborate in ways where they could unlock unique viewpoints from each other in the market that allowed them to succeed.

A good example is how LaPlace always has the artist in mind when they are designing programming and Beranbom is trying to think through how to drive as much value as possible to the brand. By allowing them to be brutally transparent with each other they are collectively able to come up with the right offering that benefits both sides.

Beyond his co-founders, collaborating and bringing people – the right people – together with the right experience and skillsets is key as the business grows. For example, Andy Cohn, who leads sales, was president of the music publisher The FADER for 16 years and had been in the emerging artists space for a long time. Howard Rubin, a childhood friend of Beranbom’s, had built his own experiential agency called Match Marketing Group. Rubin was brought in when First Tube reached an inflection point where they realized they needed expertise like that in-house.

Focus on the value to the consumer.

Via Brian Acton, Co-founder, WhatsApp

In the early part of his career at Yahoo!, Beranbom was surrounded by incredible people and pioneers of the early internet. Brian Acton, who went on to be co-founder of WhatsApp was an early influence on Beranbom when they were both on the Yahoo! Commerce team building out the first versions of Yahoo! Shopping, as was fellow WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum.

Beranbom met both when he was just 22 years old, he was early in his career and realized he had a knack for seeing business opportunities quickly, and Acton was more of a purist for the consumer and always adamant on focusing on the consumer value over the business value of what they were creating. Acton’s passion for consumer value is always something Beranbom has kept with him as he has progressed in his career.

Acton has made billions of dollars with his sale to Facebook, but still held these morals on behalf of the consumer and walked away from Facebook as they swayed to a place that he found to be not valuable to the consumer…to say the least Beranbom holds Acton in tremendous regard.

As he reflects, Beranbom looks back to the companies and approaches he took in creating ways to design non-traditional advertising that would be as authentic as possible for the consumer and the brand, including Extole which is a social referral platform, and now First Tube where they are designing and creating ways to create experiences that benefit everyone involved (talent, consumer, brand).

Create a charter program with three to five key early-adopter customers.

via Brad Klaus, a serial entrepreneur who was a Trinity Capital

When Beranbom co-founded TellAPal, they ran into a similar macro-economic climate that founders are facing now. They had raised under a million dollars in seed capital and successfully got their first customers launched on an application they had developed, and the market was heading the direction they had predicted, but they were still early and would need significant capital to “accelerate and create the market” they were going after.

With this Beranbom was introduced to Brad Klaus, a serial entrepreneur who was at Trinity Capital as an entrepreneur-in-residence. In just 18 months, they went from barely paying their rent, to raising a $5M Series A with Red Point, Norwest, and Trinity. This was the classic VC-backed startup playbook and the goal was to create and educate the market on the opportunity for brands to rethink how they engage and harness their existing customers while building out a robust SaaS offering.

Beranbom had less experience with building SaaS businesses at the time, and the key lesson of creating a charter program with three to five key customers, where they create alignment for the customers to be early adopters of their product in return for having access to the road map and being able to partner with an innovative agency was something Beranbom has leveraged for every new product he has brought to market since then.

This may seem obvious, but the nuances of creating a successful charter program to launch a startup is key to getting off the ground. Three key things to launching a successful charter program are:

  • Define the Give/Get to ensure you can clearly define the value to the customer partner and your business.
  • Ensure you are defining what success is for your business and the customer from the program so after the charter period, they convert to happy paying customers.
  • Design a feedback loop directly to your product team to ensure all key learnings are going back to your dev team to evaluate current road map and priorities (BE AGILE).

To wrap things up, I asked about the key qualities of an effective marketer. Beranbom recounted a conversation with Donald Williams, where they discussed the challenge of making brands relevant.

Related content mentioned in this episode

Marketing Campaigns: Dig deep to replicate your successes (and learn from your failures) with marketing and sales enablement case studies

Naming and Branding: How marketing pros chose names for their own companies

Marketing and Brand: Embrace healthy friction (podcast episode #48)

Customer Value: The 4 essential levels of value propositions

Funnel Strategy: 54 elements to help you guide your buyers’ journey through the marketing funnel

About this podcast

This podcast is not about marketing – it is about the marketer. It draws its inspiration from the Flint McGlaughlin quote, “The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer” from the Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages free digital marketing course.

Podcast guest application

If you would like to apply to be a guest on How I Made It In Marketing, here is the podcast guest application.

This article was distributed through the MarketingSherpa email newsletter. Sign up for free if you’d like to get more articles like this one.


Not ready for a listen yet? Interested in searching the conversation? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our discussion.

Daniel Burstein: And if you think of what we do as marketers, we take value, real value that can help a person meet a goal or overcome a challenge. And we package it up and message it so a customer can understand and receive it. But sometimes we focus too much on the way we want to package it and don't understand enough about the ways a person can really understand that value and the way they want to receive it.

Think Blockbuster and Netflix. Same value, right? Netflix has just found a better way to package it. Which is why I love this lesson from our next guest. Be passionate about the challenge you are trying to solve and not stubborn about the product solution. We'll hear that story, the story behind that lesson and many more lesson filled stories from Andrew Beranbom, the Founder and CEO of First Tube. Thanks for joining us.

Andrew Beranbom: Thanks Daniel, I appreciate it.

Daniel Burstein: So I look through YouTube, just your LinkedIn, just so people understand who I'm talking to you cherry picking a bit here. I know you worked with a lot of startups. Two of the most interesting ones that caught my eye. You started your career at Yahoo! Where you were a Senior Product Manager for Yahoo Travel and you were the Chief Revenue officer for But for the past nine years you've been the co-founder and CEO of First Tube.

So at First Tube you manage a team of 25 along with 75 freelancers, and First Tube is a standalone company and it is majority owned by Horizon Media, which is the largest U.S. media agency. According to Ad Age and Data Center 2022, Verizon has media investments of more than $90 billion. So, Andrew, give us a sense, what is your day like as Founder and CEO of First Tube?

Andrew Beranbom: Yeah, you know, the day is never the same, you know, in the sense that, you know, we are a startup, you know, working within a larger holding company, as you mentioned, with Verizon. And, you know, my day kind of goes across everything from strategy, product design, as well as obviously sales. And then obviously, of course, operations and kind of making sure our culture and everyone's coming together and we're having a good time where we're building a great company.

And so, you know, again, I think it runs the gamut on a daily basis. And, you know, of course, you know, we operate ourselves what we refer to as our big three for the week. And so I pick the three things that are most important for me for the week. And I try to make sure I'm prioritizing those against all the other things and, you know, kind of make sure I'm picking what's most important on a on a daily basis.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I mean, that is one of the biggest challenges in marketing really in the industry is prioritizing. Well, let's talk about your big three lessons that you learned from the things you made. That's a great thing we get to do as marketers. We get to build things they've never been auditor of podiatrists, but they don't feel like they walk away the day they actually build something.

We build companies, we build brands, we build campaigns. Here's your first lesson. You said I mentioned this in the open, be passionate about the challenge you are trying to solve and not stubborn about the product solution. How did you learn this lesson?

Andrew Beranbom: Yeah, you know, I got I started, you know, I was actually my friend stopped by and asked me if I wanted to be a consultant for a program where it was my favorite band in the world. The Grateful Dead was going through their 50th anniversary, and there was going to be these special eight shows that were going to be performed, you know, and my favorite guitarist train station was going to be the lead guitarist replacing Jerry Garcia, and they needed someone to run marketing.

It was going to be a pay per view livestream event, and it just sort of opened my mind was hearing all these complexities around the business and the opportunity of connecting live experience CES with actually understanding the value of sponsors and all these things. And we really, as we did research, we saw this opportunity where experiences were not being able to be quantified by marketers.

They were investing all this money in real life opportunities and experiential. And when you asked them if it worked, they had a hard time really answering that question. And so we were we were incredibly focused on being able to answer that as a digital coming from the digital side that my entire career, every single dollar that I invested, I knew exactly what was happening.

And we saw this opportunity with kind of how social was, you know, changing consumer behavior. There was going to be an opportunity to take what was happening in a in real life experience and translate that into content and then into a digital media format. And so we've been laser focused on that for nine years. As you mentioned, nine years, it's been about seven and a half years really focused on this idea that once I landed on it and it's amazing how fast that market is evolving and we're still feeling like we're in the early stages of it.

Daniel Burstein: Well, to kind of have this lesson be passion about the challenge you're trying to solve. I'm not stubborn about the product solutions, so it seems like we definitely like I used to work in the software industry and I would see this software industry where they would, you know, you want to sell software, It's very high margin, but then you realize, well, you know, the customer isn't ready to use that software yet, right?

They need help using it. They can't implement it. These are some of the reasons that they're not actually purchasing it. And so then you get services to come alongside it and services to actually deliver that solution. And at the end of the day, it doesn't matter to the customer that they're software involved. They're getting the solution. So what was it for you when you said, you know, be passionate about the challenge you're trying to solve, not start about the product?

Andrew Beranbom: Yeah, well, it's a funny it's funny you kind of created the analogy to software. You know, my background is in building more software based businesses, like I'd seen these complex business processes and we'd say, Hey, there's an automation, there is a business application to help marketers do things in a more scalable, you know, in less expensive all the values of SAS that could be brought to the table.

When we got into this opportunity, it didn't exist and we were actually looking for the SAS solution to be able to connect experiences with our UI and we realized actually do it and execute it was going to require all of our not only our domain expertise is around marketing and using the best of social media and native advertising and how to, you know, distribute our content, engage with audiences authentically.

All the trends that have been working in marketing via social. We realized that when we were starting to talk to prospective clients that we actually had to go in there full service. We had to bring in the technology around live streaming and production. We had to bring in our our strategies and expertise on how to build audiences pre live and post to actually show those business results.

And so as someone who had an intention of never building an agency, I ended up following my passion around the idea of connecting these worlds and you know, how to round it out with quite a bit of services. And we still are doing that. We're actually finally, after about seven years, have identified some products that we're starting to be able to invest and build in to round out where we see the market going and the opportunity of bringing this to brands in a scalable way.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, we have this cohort, we call it the MECLABS SuperFunnel cohort, where we work with different startup companies, kind of give advice on how to, you know, build their funnel. But we're talking I was talking to very traditional industry and they had a new patented solution that could, you know, help that industry be more efficient. I brought this up lesson. Optics are very focused on selling the physical product itself to this industry. And I brought the fact that it's not the physical product itself, right? It's what does it do? It's a solution. It's that famous. Nobody wants a quarter inch drill, but they want a hole in the wall where maybe you'd find more success if you built the solution around.

You built the services team, you built the implementation where the thing that they're saying yes to is not, okay, I can get this mechanical product. Now I have to add it into my supply chain in my stream. You know what I mean? Where I got to figure that out. Now, what are all the problems and budget solutions and what friction and anxieties involved there versus, hey, it's a done for you.

We come in, we handle everything. You mean we and then so it's a much easier to say. Yeah. So I think the lesson for anyone listening is not, you know, not let's say software services, whatever it is, but for any industry you're delivering value, you're putting that in a package called a product or service. I like what you said. Don't get so, so stubborn about what that solution's going to be. Be passionate about how to deliver that value. And it sounds like that. So yeah.

Andrew Beranbom: Definitely, definitely. It's, you know, the passion behind our business, you know, which you mentioned about, you know, you know, startups, they create things. They end up pivoting really quickly sometimes when they don't see that initial traction. We've built this, this, this company. You know, it's my fifth startup. I'm so passionate about what live means to people, how it changes their lives.

Live music, personally for me has been a massive influence and the idea of connecting lives and how brands can be authentic, leveraging live to consumers. There's a value there that is can be completely is completely untapped and growing. And so, you know, we're so passionate about bringing that every day and that opportunity. And so like I said, we still feel like we're just scratching the surface on it.

Daniel Burstein: And then, as you said, figuring out how to package it up. Here's another lesson. You said make sure you are done early. And I think that kind of ties in to because if you are too early, either you're delivering the wrong value or the wrong product. So how did you learn this lesson?

Andrew Beranbom: Yeah, you know, I mean, I've learned it a few times in my career, you know, very specifically, you know, as co-founder earlier in my career, it was my first company that I co-founded. It started off being called Tell, and they got rebranded to Extoll. You know, when we created a stellar pal, you know, we saw these it was the very earliest stages of social media.

We saw consumer behavior were starting to shift where consumers were getting information from their peers, from their friends, from their family, not directly just from a brand, telling the consumer what they want to hear. Right. So that was changing the entire shift of how consumers are getting information. And so we had a vision that referral marketing was going to go through this massive evolution.

And we also saw this opportunity. Our backgrounds came from performance marketing, where we saw these economics, where brands were very comfortable in buying a customer for a certain amount of CPI or at a cost for acquisition. And the idea that they were sharing, I was seeing those economics being shared downward to publishers and affiliate partners. Right? I was for me, I was very visible to understanding the quality of those acquisitions because I was I was coming from that world and the idea that referral marketing was going to go through the shift, we saw it.

It made sense. It looked beautiful in a PowerPoint pitch to the VCs, right? But consumer behavior doesn't just kind of switch on a dime. Right? And that was a big lesson that we learned. We were very, very early in the market. And as we tried to engage brands with it, you know, getting them to even think about ripping and replacing our referral marketing technology and things that they had that were in their systems was a much bigger hurdle than we had ever anticipated, right. And the demand of the market to really the pain that the brand was feeling. You know, I've been I mean, the classic like make sure you're selling drugs and not vitamins right You know the analogy rang true to us until the pain where they were actually realizing that the market was going to shift completely into social for consumer behavior and they had to be there. It took time for that to happen and it took it took over seven years. Now in stores, it's a very successful, you know, referral marketing platform has realized that that value as a business.

Daniel Burstein: So what advice would you give to someone who's at a startup to really know? Is there a way to pivot? Is there a way to use that loss to do something else with it? So, you know, for example, I've written about on the flip side, you know, success of marketing or sales in a large organization. So when we have a success in a large organization, I think one mistake we make is we just have that success.

We don't actually, you know, create a case study or something to communicate it out to the big organization so everyone learns from it and we can build and build to build on that success. They talk about it from a I mean, it's essentially from a loss perhaps both perspective. You're there too early, right? It means that something's not working. But then what do you do next? Like how can you learn from that to pivot with the company or to make your next?

Andrew Beranbom: And I think I think there's kind of two scenarios there, and I've been through both of them. You know, there's one where the market is there. It is not going as fast as you anticipated. And there is one where you know what, the market is not here. Right. This is not what I thought it was going to be as a business market opportunity.

So if you think the markets that not there and if you think the market is there, right. To me there's a couple of places to be there. Either you need to figure out how you can accelerate that market. And that usually would require a significant amount of kind of venture capital  and that would make the decision to say, hey, I've got to go that route, I've got to go educate the market, I've got to go be the pioneer in this market and tell and you know, to your point, the case studies, the content, all the things to support accelerating the education so that the market understands that opportunity.

Because if they do, then then the market will unlock. The other situation is, you know what? I thought that this was a real pain point and it's not. And in that case, you kind of have to look inward to see what you know, What did you learn? Right. And so are there some key nuggets there of a business opportunity where you could take some of what you have invested in and leverage it somewhere else? Or do you say you lick your chops and move on? Right. I think those are kind of the two scenarios I've seen with being early.

Daniel Burstein: That's great. I mean, the first one is great. I mean, that's kind of our job as marketers, right? It goes back to the Henry Ford quote, the Bible. So people want they want a set of facts, horse. Right. You know, the second one here's the one thing I've known from the start. The second one is, is you learn that once you start to sell, right?

So when you have that idea out there where you're when you're talking to just potential investors, potential partners, everything I've learned, it's sometimes it's very hard for them to give you that negative feedback, right, people, It's just human nature. They tend to want to be encouraging or sometimes for founders, we just want to grab on to the yeses.

Like even if we hear the nine no's, we'll kind of grab on and feel as yeses, but then it becomes very different to your point when you're like, Oh, okay, now I actually have to go in and sell this. And then you see that that pain point is very big and important to you because you're selling this. And yeah, it's a it's a pain point to who you're trying to sell to, but it's like pain point number nine. Yeah, Yeah. You know, I mean, it's just not that pretty. Exactly.

Andrew Beranbom: You know, that's back to just like, you know, you don't want to be in the business of selling a vitamin for the ninth pain point of of a marketer, right. That's not going to be very successful. You know I think it a lot of that has to go it kind of again, you know, I do listen, I do want to hear those yeses right as an early stage entrepreneur and building business.

But I actually try to hear the no’s more than anything, right, Because a lot of times, like when I got into the First Tube and we were cracking the code and music and leveraging talent and music rights and all these things, everyone was like, There's no way you're going to get people to do that. You're no way you're going to get the rights cleared to do that.

And for me, I was like, That's an opportunity, right? I know that there's a way to do that because if I could bring branded video content that is one of the fastest growing parts of the digital ecosystem to the music industry, they're going to listen, right? If you can do it in a smart, scalable way. And so sometimes the no's are the nugget, you know, of kind of, you know, saying, Hey, I've actually got something here, right? I think, you know, again, you got to be able to kind of early on, especially you got to listen to both and see, see if there's opportunity.

Daniel Burstein: And I think that also takes who you're talking to closest to you. And you mentioned select your co-founders wisely. So this sounds kind of like a hard fought lesson, Like maybe you learned this. A In a painful way.

Andrew Beranbom: Yeah. You know, I've built a few businesses and some of that, you know, you know, there's a lot of lessons to kind of choosing your co-founders. You know, I had brought I got brought in to an idea and then, of course, I don't want to name any names here to protect everyone. But, you know, I got brought in by somebody that I didn't know so well. I got hung up on the idea and not really the person as much. I didn't know the person very well, and I brought in a person to be the third kind of CTO to a business who I had worked with for many, many years. We had an incredible relationship, both personally and professionally. The connection between the person that had brought me in and the CTO was oil and water in a simple way of explaining it.

And you know, it starts with the people, right? When you're building a business, it's like getting married. And so, you know, you're going to go through 95% rough times to get here, 5% of good times, you know, and kind of I didn't choose wisely in the sense of the connection between the two of them. And that caused us to, you know, have a pretty rough go at it. And we had to course correct out of that.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. So you mentioned a marriage. And I think in this case it ended in divorce. But can you think of a time where, you know, how you settle maybe one of those contentious disputes with co-founders? So, you know, like I said, unfortunately, the sending an invoice to divorce. But I can give you an example. I've written about, you know, company and product cleaning before, right. And something that always comes up in company and product naming. They're the folks that want to take the professional route, you know, the professional working out. And if the folks are just shooting from the hip and they've got that idea when it comes to something like you know, the name of the company or the name of the product, I mean, that's kind of core to something.

Everyone's involved and everyone can have an opinion on whether that's your expertise or not. So have you learned anything, a relationship counseling or relationship management way golfing? I don't know. Hold hands and get dinner. Go for a long walk on the beach. Like what do you do when it comes down to those those difficult decisions where it doesn't really come down to a specific individuals expertise per se. It comes down to something anyone can have a voice to which is what marketing is. Sometimes everyone's got an idea for marketing, even if they're professional.

Andrew Beranbom: Yeah, I think, you know, from you know, dealing with the contentions, you know, I think, you know, you know, I think, you know, being brutally honest and having, you know, being brutally candid with your co-founders, you need to be able to have that relationship and be able to have hard conversations. You know, And I think that's one very important thing.

And I think, you know, in that situation that I mentioned, it ended up where the person that brought me in, we ended up having to remove him from the organization because really the engine of the business, the success of the business, you know, was coming from my, my, my, my kind of enablement around sales and product position and things like that and ideas and the and obviously the technology officer was really important in building the products as fast as we could.

We had a fiscal responsibility from, you know, our investors that took money that we took money from to make sure that we delivered, you know, against the business itself. And so you got to be able to take the personal out of it. And that that's always a challenge for people. I've gotten a lot better at it over 25 years where I think I was very emotional in some of the earlier stages.

My things have been very I'd say one of the biggest things I've been able to grow and evolve on is really be able to kind of bifurcate between kind of something that's personal and something that's business oriented right. And some of that is after you have a tough conversation to go do something that's outside of work. Right.

And I think, you know, that is one of the things that I've tried to do is when I've had to have hard conversations with people, you know, and or have a hard conversation, me, it's like, let's go take ourselves out of this environment and have that human connection to kind of, you know, set us back and reset us.

You know, as I move forward with kind of co-founders, you know, my co-founders today, you know,  Ian and Scott as we started our foundation. Scott, I've known for 20 plus years, we both start our careers earlier at Yahoo! We would wanted to build a company together. When that didn't happen for a long time. And then I, you know, as I started to get some traction the first two, but I brought Scott in very early and my other co-founder Ian, what we did very early on is kind of recognize what our strongest skill sets are for building this business and really try to find some lanes, you know, because you to your point, everyone's a marketer, everyone can have an idea.

We want to build that opportunity for feedback and people to feel comfortable to go in those things. But there's also an opportunity cost that people aren't in the right lanes to move the business forward, especially in those very early stages. They can get to the point of all the things you're dreaming about doing right and building a company and growing revenue and growing people and making an impact in the market.

And so that that was kind of one of the key things that we set off and had a really kind of candid conversation like Scott is, you know, one of my best friends, super close, started his career early, early at Yahoo in sales, and I was like, you're not going to be selling here, right? You're you're an amazing operator.

I am not from a back office standpoint, etc., etc.. You're amazing. I kind of, you know, getting product on the right track. He's a great leader, but we're going to remove you from sales. Right. And that took him a minute. He's like, I thought, I'm great. It sells. And I was like, You are, but not in this company.

And so, you know, those types of conversations actually enabled our success, you know, And he and he would agree with that, right? Because it put him into certain lanes that made outsized impact that we needed him to do very early on in the company.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. So let's talk about your co-founders in just a bit. So, you know, the first half of the podcast, we talk about lessons from the things we made. The second half. We talk about lessons for people we collaborated with. But first let me mention that How I Made It In Marketing podcast is underwritten by MECLABS Institute, the parent organization of Marketing Sherpa, to learn how MECLABS services can help you get better business results from deeper customer understanding  visit

But let's talk about your co-founders. You said embrace, embrace each person's strengths and align on an execution plan. So to use kind of maybe an analogy from your universe, right? So when you're setting out to found a company, is it like building a band? Is it like, hey, we can't have five, maybe be really interesting band with five terms? We can't have five drummers right. I guess that you're looking for like, okay, who's a guitar player? Who's a bass player? Who's a singer? Who's a drummer? Is that were you looking for? When you're kind of putting that team together of Co-Founders.

Andrew Beranbom: You know, as the kind of the you know, again, I we're, we're co-founders. You know, I started the company a little bit before those guys joined on. And that's exactly the headspace that I have when I'm looking for people. I'm looking to understand the things that I'm weakest at, right? And complimenting myself to actually build the business in some of my earlier stages of entrepreneurship.

You know, as a younger man, you kind of thinking you might have all the answers for things because you kind of were early in the market, you're excited about the idea. And I think one of the biggest things is to recognize where you're not, your strengths are not there, and that goes both ways. And if you can do that correctly, it really works because kind of the one plus one equals three kind of dynamic can happen there.

And that's that to me is one of the biggest lessons that I've had over time. You know, when you overlap with someone on like the same skill sets, the same mindsets, it's almost like the our world now, right, where, you know, everyone's made a lot of comments around echo chambers that you've built in social media and you get influenced by people that are like minded to you and you're like, Oh yeah, we think the same politics, We think the same words, yada, yada, yada.

This is all great. That is not good in business. You know, for me, in business, it's about being able to have these kind of, you know, collaborators that are completely different. And that's actually been the beauty of I think first huge success is like we're a combination of filmmakers who come from completely like that, backgrounds of building documentaries and film all the way to technologists and marketers and music expertise like Ian, who came from music industry, long time Andy Cohen, who leads our sales. You know, he was actually President of the Fader Publisher in the Emerging Artists music space for a long time. We all come from different spaces and together we've really built this really interesting kind of business that I don't think would have ever happened if it wasn't these types of people coming together.

Daniel Burstein: We, as you mentioned, other people be on the co-founders. That brings me to the question of when do you know that you have to bring it up, you know, outsiders as first hires or vendors. So, for example, I interviewed on the How I made It Marketing podcast, Justin Herbert, the CMO and Chief Brand officer of Tractor and Beverage Company. One of his lessons was own your role in the relationship and he talked about how he was brought into Toms and founder Blake Markowski because he they needed a specific role for him. They needed kind of that creative person that could execute with, you know, documentaries and different creative on the ideas that the founder had.

So for you, I mean, how do you know when do you bring in that? You've got that tiny, intimate co-founders. It's almost like you want to bring in Yoko, right? Like, when do you bring in those first new hires as vendors?

Andrew Beranbom: Yeah, Yeah. I think the vendor piece is not really where, you know, we play as much. You know, we we've always gone I still in my business mentality of how we're building things. We do try to come in in this full service framework when we do identify a vendor opportunity, for example, it might be where we're trying to do things in an innovation space where we haven't done them yet and we want to go do a proof of concept like we did with one of our clients for Gray Goose last summer.

We did a big hybrid experience on the rooftop actually here in New York and Pier 17, and we tried to mix reality concept that we hadn't ever done before, and so we wanted to partner with a vendor in that situation so we could learn and see if it works and all those types of things from a from a building, a company standpoint and like identifying the right team members.

I think it goes across a few different things. Obviously, in the early stages you're pretty revenue focused, especially in our situation. We saw Scott and I self-funded this business throughout its lifespan and so it was a different kind of trajectory than I had in my past where it was it was heavily VC back businesses, right where we were kind of like going after a market, creating a market, hiring a sales team, you know, push and making that happen.

And so in this situation, it was actually always trying to identify one culturally was really one of the most important things, trying to find alignment on culture, finding like minded people that are passionate are open to being part of kind of a very innovative walk in my situation, I came from the digital side and not from the experiential side.

So, you know, I was pretty, I'd say, less educated about that kind of the history and the traditional learnings of experiential marketing. I think some of that was was good because I was coming in it with a new way of doing things, a new innovative way. But as we went to an operational scale and some of them were operating things that required a deep domain expertise around actually building events and experiences.

And I brought in actually a colleague who's actually a childhood friend of mine, but he's now kind of behaves as our head of our agency. Howie Rubin, who built his own experiential marketing agency called Match. And so we had found that inflection point where it was like, Hey, we need this expertise in-house, right? We don't have this scar and I can have it. You can D from music, concert production and music industry, but not from building these massive experiential environments. And so we went out and found that right person.

Daniel Burstein: All right. Let's take a look at another lesson from you work with. You mentioned focus on the value to the consumer and you learned this from Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp, when you two were working in Yahoo! Together. How did you learn this from Brian?

Andrew Beranbom: Yeah, so, you know, Brian's a pretty well documented entrepreneur. You know, he built this small little application called WhatsApp with another co-founder, Yoram, and those guys are folks that I met when I was just 22 years old. You know, they had math. They probably don't even realize this. But, you know, as a being an early employee to Yahoo is kind of like I call my MBA in the Internet. But, you know, I got into hang out with Brian all the time. We were building the first versions of Yahoo Shopping, actually, and he was the lead engineer on it. And I was constantly going to Brian with all kinds of ways to make, you know, drive higher transactions or drive more commerce, more ideas of driving more revenue for Yahoo!

And Brian always put the consumer first every single time he would say no to me 95% of the time. And it's fascinating to watch his trajectory. He built WhatsApp, sold it for $19 billion to Facebook and actually quit. Right Facebook because they were changing the strategy around WhatsApp and making it more commercial to a detriment to the consumer. And it was amazing for me to watch over the lifespan of 15 years. You know, that early lesson that I got when I was 22 or and he was just obsessed with the consumer experience, obsessed with the value consumer. He held that all the way through and probably walked away from some money that would change a lot of people's lives, you know, And so that obsession to consumers always rang true to me.

And I always, even in any marketing application, and I think even more so when you start thinking about the paradigm shifts that have happened with brands and consumers. Now, if you're not thinking about both sides of the table, right, you are not going to build something that's going to end up having longevity and scale. So, you know, in our ecosystem, the first thing we think of, you know, there's a talent side of side of the equation that we're always engaging with.

There's brands and then there's also consumers. And we really map out how the three are all benefiting from a relationship and a solution that we're going to bring to market. When you do that, everyone leans in and magic can happen, right? Actually, things that you would never even expect would happen. Right. And so in a very transactional space between brands and talent, we actually could find if you find those right synergies that they care about, things that are aligned together, you know, that's just one example where it actually brings a better benefit to the consumer, right. And so those are that that lesson for Brian is always something that keeps rings back in my head every single time I'm thinking about them.

Daniel Burstein: You know, So when I hear that or maybe the listeners here that focus on consumer value, I don't think anyone would disagree. But I think where the rubber meets the road, it's really difficult. You're right. So I wonder if you had any ideas for or tips on how to actually do that. You know, one thing that came to mind for me is creating a value proposition like, well, when a company leaders have to sit down and create a value proposition and always give something, someone can look back and reference and tie in to like, Hey, this is our value proposition because it has to focus on an ideal customer.

And even if you're listening and you can't create the primary value proposition for the company, even if you create a prospect level value proposition for the customers that you own or a product level value proposition for the product you and or a prospect of a value proposition for the landing page, you have to create, right? A value proposition kind of forces you to focus on that customer.

So for you, I think we all agree, you know, focus on customer value. But when things get difficult, when we get hot and gets in these heated meetings, some of the meetings that maybe co-founders with investors, with management, you know, any tips you've learned how to actually stand up for that customer?

Andrew Beranbom: You know, for me, it's just being authentic. You know, every time I even my own like lessons of life, anytime I tried not to be authentic with, you know, with anything that I'm trying to do, you things would end up in not the way I would hope, you know. And I think that that correlates to, you know, whether you're a creator and you're in your you're on that side of the fence or if you're a brand or if you're a consumer, like, you know, you want to build that kind of authenticity, you know, around your value proposition that you mentioned that actually, you know, of course, we're here to drive business and drive commercial value. But if you can thread that with remaining authentic and kind of your outcomes will be stronger. And I think you'll get it right more than you'll get it wrong.

Daniel Burstein: Okay. Another lesson you had which ties into focusing on the customer. You said create a charter program with 3 to 5 key early adopter customers. And you learned this from working with Brad Klaus, a serial entrepreneur who was at Trinity Capital at the time. How did you learn that from Brad?

Andrew Beranbom: You know, that was you know, we talked about it a little bit earlier around, like when there's there is that market opportunity, but you're a little early, right? You you've validated that there's actually this big multibillion dollar space here. You know, all the things are pointing in the right direction for a real business opportunity. But, you know, when you're early and you want to be able to kind of test and learn and certain things, you know, Brad, kind of we were we were taking the teleplay idea and that's when it turned into Astall.

And I partner Brad and he taught me a ton of lessons in how to grow and operate businesses. But this kind of go to market strategy where again, you can build back to that authentic dynamic that I just mentioned, Charter programs is about building an authentic relationship between your prospective clients and your your technology team and your product team so that there could be this open line of feedback so that you can actually get it right, right. And so if you just go right and build a product and send it out to market and you hope and that it's all going to work and you don't get all that feedback loop, you're never going to be able to iterate and be agile enough to actually create the product that's going to become good that could scale and drive massive value.

And so, you know, Brad kind of taught me this way of kind of launching a charter program. There are kind of three key things that he had me focus on. One is kind of defining that give get to ensure you can clearly define the value of the customer to the customer partner and you, right? So like, hey, you're willing to try my product early, Why are you doing this? What would what do you want to get out of it by being really early into the space and kind of making sure that that balance there.

The second is kind of ensuring and defining what success is for the business and the customer right for the program. So you both make sure that you're walking away happy or if you don't, you know, what do you need to get to that point? I think if you don't define that success out of the gates, you kind of you know, you can end that relationship pretty quickly, right? Because the goal here is that you're using a charter program to onboard a client earlier than probably you would be able to in a normal kind of stage of of your product. And you're opening the door to being like, hey, you can impact this product, but you can't develop in-house. You know, that you can't develop in-house, cost too much money, you don't have the resources, etc., etc.. But if we do get it right for you, it's going to exponentially impact you. Right? And we want we want to get that product. So we're going to then go bring it to the masses. And so, you know, really kind of defining that success metric, super key and the last the last is that that feedback loop, right, is like making sure that you're setting up a cadence where the brand, the client not brand per say any client is being able to get that feedback right to the people that are actually building and creating the products right

So making sure you're getting the sales team all the way, getting the success people out of the way, how you build this cadence of interaction so that the product and the technology team have direct access to the client's will will really get away from the kind of telephone game of feedback and gets the real, real meat to it. And that allows you to get the product to the right place faster. Right? And so, you know, and again, it takes you this allows you to enter a market with a product that's maybe in it's been a phase, right? Get that feedback loop and then it allows you to want to have some of your probably most loyal customers you ever have, right?

Because you ended up taking the relationship beyond the kind of commercial transactional piece. But you become partners if you do it correctly, and that that is a really great foundation and a big lesson I learned for Brad and I use it for everything I do. We're getting set to launch a new product here. At first you are our first product. We're very excited about in the next kind of month and a half, and that's exactly what I'm planning on doing is going to bring in a few charter clients that we can be super candid with, right? And that allows you to succeed.

Daniel Burstein: So I love that idea. I mean, that's really being customer first and building a better product. But is there anything you can learn from those early charter clients to help with your marketing? Like the words are using their journey like talk about we've written about, you know, building a marketing funnel strategy and sometimes with a marketing funnel strategy.

We're so focused on the technology, we're using the automation and we're focused on cost per click or the keywords you're buying. But really we should be focused first on is a human being. They take a certain journey, whether it be to be or B to C to get to our product, and how can our marketing funnel strategy map that and really learn about them on a human level. So when you're dealing with those charter customers, what are you listening to from the what are you hearing from them that's going to inform your marketing strategy, not just, you know, actual.

Andrew Beranbom: I think the from a marketing strategy standpoint, you know, again, I think you're trying to figure out what are their true patterns, right? If you can figure out what are their key patterns are, you know, you can invert that into how are you going to actually do the product marketing around your offering, you know, And so and then and then where, where did the happiness come? Like where was that? Aha. Right. So if there's a key understanding, you know, for us for example with the chart program I did with, with Brad around Extoll, you know, we, we're introducing this new kind of consumer to consumer referral marketing platform, right? That could start building the relationships tree between their existing customers and their friend network and then the behaviors that could go down through that so that they can understand the influence value of certain customers, Right?

So if you have 10,000 customers that are referring, there are 100 of them that actually really where these power passionate common ambassadors of your brand. And so this was a way of using data, identify ambassadors. We would never even thought of that if our client and tell us that. So we then pivoted that right to the value is we were very performance marketing driven, right with, hey, if you're willing to pay $50 for a Netflix acquisition, what if why don't we build a way to use this as a new marketing channel?

We actually realized that the ID of like your best passionate customers can happen through this application, right? And that value is something that we did that we uncovered through Charter. And then we use that in product marketing, right? And it drove even further value adoption perception when we went out, you know, and turned on the host for it.

Daniel Burstein: That's great customer teach you. I like it finally to happiness is I like that. So we talked about many different things about what it means to be a marketer. What are the key qualities of an effective marketer?

Andrew Beranbom: Well, you know, all I think about right now and I've had a conversation with the Chief Digital  Officer charge offs here at Horizon about it quite a bit. Donnie Williams We like to sit back and sometimes talk about macro parts of marketing and the challenges that everyone's facing and, you know, and he's like, you know what? You guys solve more than ever is that you just make brands relevant. And the relevancy challenge is, I think, really interesting, you know, kind of bar to set. You know, I think with all the noise, all the fragmentation of consumers, all the different types of choices, the way that they can, you know, spend their time across Netflix, Roblox, tick talk, you name it. Right. There's the attention challenge is greater than ever.

And I think, you know, what a marketer needs to think about is that kind of that relevancy, right. Of how do they be relevant to their audiences is kind of where we really think about it on a day to day basis and really I think is a challenge for everyone, right? You know, it used to there's it's the kind of the next you know, everyone's talking about the value of attention.

You know, we actually succeed in creating quite a bit of attention of a consumer on how we actually deliver our programing. Right? I'll get somewhere around 15 minutes of someone's attention around my programing, right. You compare that to a 32nd ad, you know, the tensions there. But really, without the relevance of why the consumer's watching for 15 minutes, if you don't know that, if that if the talent's not right, that the experience is not right, if the message is not right, Right.

All those things need to come together to really drive the impact for what brands. And so I challenge ourselves to make sure that kind of the right relevancy is there for a marketer, you know the right culture that they're choosing. Right. All the there's so many things the input to get it right. And I think that that's kind of my aspiration sometimes for getting the right. Sometimes we're learning from it, you know.

Daniel Burstein: Well, thanks for your time, Andrew. Hopefully we kept everyone's attention, our market attention, and thank you for your time here.

Andrew Beranbom: And thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.

Daniel Burstein: And thank you everyone for listening.

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions