Jumping on the Momentum and Pivoting: Lessons from Draper University’s CEO Panel Discussion featuring Mavatar CEO Susan Akbarpour
Mavatar CEO Susan Akbarpour recently spoke at a CEO panel discussion at Draper University to a group of visiting executives from the global telecoms firm Tata Communications. Tata owns much of the fiber optic cables that connect the world’s continents, managing about 30% of all internet traffic between their clients and carriers!
For the panel discussion, Susan was joined by Mentorbox CEO Alex Mehr and Lex Machina former-CEO and Full Circle Fund Co-Founder and Chairman Josh Becker. Their discussion was moderated by Global Tech Venture CEO Kayvan Baroumand. They talked about their personal entrepreneurial journeys and gave some advice about entrepreneurship to the Tata executives in attendance.
The History of Mavatar
Susan outlined the history of Mavatar, from its beginnings during her research at the Stanford Graduate Business School examining the difficulties that businesses and consumers face with current advertising models.
The problem is multifold. There is no good way to track advertising dollars to sales dollars. Push advertising is becoming less and less effective as consumers are completely inundated in ads everywhere they turn online. That’s why click rates on banner ads have plummeted from 10% in the late 90s to about .05% today — and up to 60% of those clicks are accidental!
Why continue with the same format if it’s broken?
Mavatar was created to make a new format for digital advertising, one that works for the whole digital commerce ecosystem: consumers, advertisers, retailers, and publishers. “Instead of push advertising,” Susan said, “what about pull advertising? How do we get [the consumer] to the results right away?”
For instance, Jennifer Lopez’s notorious green dress from the 2000 Grammy Awards is estimated to have created $1 billion for Google ad revenue since she first strutted down the red carpet in it. Yet, Susan noted, “J Lo, the Grammys, Versace, or the broadcaster CBS haven’t made a penny on the influence that dress has had on the fashion world.”
mCart solves this revenue distribution problem by uniting the entire path to purchase on a single platform, in which all sources of influence on a sale are fairly and automatically compensated on the blockchain. And consumers are led from discovery, to consideration, to final transaction within the mCart ecosystem, eliminating the headaches and frustrations of the multi-device Google Jiu-Jitsu often required to find the product you’re actually looking for. Meanwhile, mCart’s unified retail experience generates a unified data stream for retailers and marketplace operators.
With mCart, content creators are able to capture sales that they are driving. And this includes the video content that makes up 60% of internet traffic. There’s no more silver plating ads to search engines who capture advertising dollars after consumers see the products they want in content they’re already consuming. Content creators are fairly compensated for their influence on sales.
Entrepreneurship Lessons from Industry Leaders
After discussing their companies, the panelists shared some lessons that they’ve learned in their years of entrepreneurship and answered audience questions.
A constant theme among the panelists was the need for decisive action and being willing to pivot. As Susan put it, “entrepreneurship for me is jumping on the momentum and not to be so for your original idea.”
Alex supported this with an old entrepreneurial adage: “if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of the product you’ve launched, you’ve launched too late.”
The CEOs also discussed some of the current challenges of the venture capital environment, and the different challenges that B2B and B2C companies face. It can be particularly difficult, although by no means impossible, for B2C startups to get venture capital funding because the VCs are looking for large amounts of revenue, often up to $10 million annual revenue, before they give out funding.
That’s why, Susan said, many companies eventually pivot from B2C to B2B models. Unfortunately, many startups run out of their initial funds and perish before coming to this realization.
Making moves and taking action is the most important thing for entrepreneurial success. Like Susan said responding to an audience question, “if you want to start a startup, just start it. If you don’t get your hands dirty nothing happens.”