Interview with James Creech Co-Founder & CEO at Paladin Software
Steve Wetmore – James Creech, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. James is Co Founder and CEO of Paladin Software. And James, can you please fill us all in on who you are and what you do?
James Creech – Thanks, Steve. Happy to be here – appreciate you having me. I started the business with two partners about four years ago. All of us had originally come from the paid media world and then were early into influencer marketing, working at talent agencies and influencer networks, so we saw firsthand the problems in the early days of running influencer campaigns, whether it was finding the right talent, managing those relationships, reporting on the campaign to the brands, paying people on time… there’s a lot of manual work and so out of necessity, we started building some tools really just to make our lives easier. And then through you know, meetings, coffees, conference attendance, chatting with other folks in the industry, we quickly realized, “Hey, we’re not the only ones with this issue. We should be focused on this full time.” So we quit the day jobs and launched Paladin, and it’s been quite a journey. So we focus today on building the complete influencer marketing solution. We focused on the supply side of the market, catering specifically to influencer marketing agencies and talent management companies. And we’ve got best-in-class tools to help them find, manage, and report on campaigns across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Twitch.
Steve Wetmore – Well, awesome. That’s, that’s a mouthful, a lot of time, a lot of great information to digest. So yeah. So tell us a little bit about what your role is and what you do at Paladin software.
James Creech – My background is in strategy and corporate development, sales, and business development, so I spend a lot of my time focused on growing the business. I think about the future Paladin, and Thomas, our COO, makes sure the trains run on time and focuses on Paladin present. So it’s a good balance there. And so, right now I am thinking a lot about going into 2020, what’s our plan? And what’s our strategy? How do we continue to evangelize the platform and bring more awesome agencies and talent management groups on board? How do we continue to listen to our customers and share that feedback with the product team, so they know what to build? Everything that we develop is really based on real-time market feedback. We don’t just sit around in an ivory tower and say, “You know, I really think that we should make it easier for people to track Instagram Stories and report on that activity.” It’s all coming directly from customers saying, “Hey, we’re running these campaigns every day. This is what’s challenging for us. This is where we still have tedious, manual work. Can you automate this for us? Have you thought about that?” That’s what goes into improving the platform.
Steve Wetmore – So it’s all customer driven. What would you describe being the most challenging; working with the agency or the influencers?
James Creech – I’d say the biggest challenge we run up against is just keeping on top of the constantly changing platform landscape. I mentioned we support five key global platforms, and we are taking a keen eye to Snapchat, Tik Tok, and others. But of course, they don’t have robust APIs that allow us to grab data in the same way that we can from the other platforms. And YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram change things all the time, so we have to be responsive to that. They’re constantly rolling out new formats, whether it’s Facebook Watch or IGTV, both of which aren’t supported from an API standpoint today. So we try and make the platform as flexible as possible and account for those things when we can, and then of course lean heavily on our partnerships and relationships with the platforms to say, “Hey, can we get this in API support? Or is there a roadmap for development on that front?” Aside from that, I’d say most of the agencies we work with are really a pleasure. I think they know the market really well. And they’re on the front lines dealing with influencers and brands. So from our standpoint, we’re kind of preaching to the converted, right? We know that these agencies understand why influencer marketing is important and they’re shouldering the heavy lifting of going out and telling brands why they should be investing more dollars in social and influencer and then going to the influencers and saying, “Well, we really need authenticated data, and we need you to cooperate with us in order to run effective campaigns and report on those successfully.” So we’ve had for the most part, really good luck working with both of those segments.
Steve Wetmore – Ok to clarify your customer communication is directly with agencies not with influencers?
James Creech – Correct, we don’t work with any influencers directly. We do provide some tools, which are white labeled to the agencies so they can offer a dashboard or resources for the influencers to log in. So that’s Paladin powering everything behind the scenes: when a creator logs in, they’re seeing the agency or brand front and center.
Steve Wetmore – Okay, that’s that sounds like a great model. Can we touch a little bit on your, personal work history, your credibility in the industry? Let’s say it’s bragging rights time now.
James Creech – So as I mentioned, I started in paid media and was one of the early employees at a company called Channel Factory that was focused initially on running branded content campaigns specifically in the early days of video. We did a lot of work around YouTube, though the business has grown and evolved significantly since I left. And in fact, I know they do a little bit of influencer work today. But in the early days, we were promoting content for brands and media agencies to help their videos perform well on YouTube and other video platforms. So I had a lot of experience on the demand side of the ecosystem from that role, then transitioned to an early MCN. So caught up in the heyday of MCN fever here in Los Angeles, I worked for Bent Pixels, which started out of Las Vegas, and I helped open the LA office and lead growth initiatives for the business, which is how we started tinkering with software and what ignited my interest in the influencer space that just kept tugging at me and my partners and eventually convinced us that we gotta strike out on our own and we need to focus on these problems firsthand. We need to launch some tools for this. Aside from that, I advise and coach a number of startups which is fun working with early stage companies and helping pass on the lessons we’ve learned along the way. And oftentimes I learn just as much from them, so that’s great and enriching. And then I also am the creator and host of a podcast called All Things Video. It’s been around for about four or five years now, and I have a chance to sit down and interview entrepreneurs and innovators in the digital media space. And, you know, it spans from music to gaming to influencer marketing to tech platforms and beyond. That really started out of my interest in connecting with these people and getting the chance to meet smart folks all over the world and just saying, “I really wish I could ask you more questions, learn about your career and kind of share the lessons learned from your journey.” So that’s how the podcast got started, and here we are, four and a half years later, and I’m still loving it.
Steve Wetmore – Very good. Maybe you could send me the link and I’ll include it in the course. Yeah, fantastic. Okay. And I also see that you have done are doing a tremendous amount of speaking. Public speak, right?
James Creech – Yeah, so I guess, whether it’s just from the podcast, or I’ve done some writing for various platforms like Videoink and later TheWrap, post acquisition, to posting articles on LinkedIn, people usually reach out and I’ve spoken at a number of events and conferences. I do a lot with VidCon and just got asked to join the VidCon Mexico advisory board so it’s fun to continue to shape that awesome conference as is it expands internationally. I’ve also spoken at Social Media Week LA and various events that are focused on different categories. I have some experience in eSports and gaming, so I’ve spoken at, you know, more of those gaming focus conferences and done some work in the kids entertainment space, which is always in flux. And so talking about trends and the future of content strategies and children’s entertainment at a few specialty conferences. So yeah, always enjoy getting to do that work as well.
Steve Wetmore – Yes it sounds very busy. And I like your bio here where you talk about the elusive notion of free time. I love that and yes, I may borrow that. Now can you outline what your company vision or initiatives are for SEO going into 2020?
James Creech – We always try to do the best we can from an SEO standpoint in our business, though admittedly marketing is where we fall down sometimes. So we can certainly improve there and do a lot to drive more web traffic. I find that a lot of our business is referrals. So it’s word of mouth, it’s inbound, it’s going to events and conferences. And I joke that, you know, historically as an enterprise software sale, everything’s hand-to-hand combat, right? So our team is out talking to people, engaging customers, learning about their pain points, setting them up with trial access, and then going from there. We need to be doing more on the marketing front because, as we gear up for 2020, that’s a big initiative. And we’re also launching a new product called Measure Studio, which is a business intelligence tool for social publishers and individual content creators to help them understand how their content’s performing on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. And that’s much more of a SAAS approach. And so the goal is build a big funnel, drive traffic through marketing activity and then let people discover and engage with the product on their own, then convert to a paid customer if the tool is valuable and useful for them. So admittedly, that’s an area where we’re investing more and trying to improve.
Steve Wetmore – So can you describe what your day to day activities are relative to SEO?
James Creech – So you know, to be honest, I am not working on SEO on a day-to-day basis. For the website, we’ve outsourced it to a consultant who does a phenomenal job. And my co-founder and COO Thomas comes from a much richer SEO background than myself. He ran optimization and data strategy for Maker Studios which was acquired by The Walt Disney Company, so he’s a little bit more in the weeds on that stuff. But you know where I have a lot more experience is particular to video SEO, and we have a deep, long-standing partnership with a company called TubeBuddy, which is one of the leading video SEO tools in the industry, particularly for YouTube channel management and audience development. So we’re the exclusive enterprise sales partner for TubeBuddy, so we’re experts when it comes to applying the TubeBuddy tool and leveraging it for video SEO. And we help a number of broadcasters, publishers, studios, and independent creators take advantage of that tool.
Steve Wetmore – I have some friends in the space and I have to admit that probably my weakest knowledge area is video and I need to change that.
James Creech – Yes video is a whole different ball game. And for whatever reason, traditional text SEO tends to differ. I mean, there’s common principles and the knowledge base is somewhat transferable between the two, but video SEO is kind of its own beast.
Steve Wetmore – Can you share what tools your team is using with respect to SEO?
James Creech – Yes back in my paid media days, I leaned heavily on the Google AdWords keyword planner and Google Trends. We look at web SEO for our site on a day-to-day basis, but I’m more focused on video SEO, and so again, TubeBuddy is certainly what I lean on.
Steve Wetmore – James thank you for this fast moving interview and insightful information about Video SEO and your activities at Paladin Software.