X: You have an extremely amazing technology background. After looking into your past work, I think that “technology enthusiast” is not an accurate description. I would say that technology is part of your DNA at this point. From your unique perspective, what does technology and innovation mean to you at a business and personal level?
DG: Thank you for that. Technology can be a double-edged sword. Inevitability, it displaces people and jobs but can better their quality of life. Automation, whether it is the invention of electricity or different applications of software, has the ability to disrupt the norm.
When it comes to present day with the invention of the World Wide Web and the ‘As-a-service‘ delivery model, you have a similar kind of deal.
VideoAmp does advertising. In our case, automation provides better yields and efficiencies and people can focus their time on higher-level tasks.
X: Often times, technology companies are much more focused on developing their product and getting it to market (rightfully so). I know from doing research on VideoAmp that you and your team focused on bringing a solid product to the market. However, we don’t always hear about the role that internal IT played in the creation of the product or service. For VideoAmp how do you manage your internal IT with regards to your SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS?
DG: For one thing, the internal IT (and I will separate the internal from the external) is handled by a handful of platforms that allow us to work quickly and efficiently (Google Apps, Quickbooks, Twilio, etc.). We have many small key systems that we use that allow us to focus on the heavier tasks.
In terms of infrastructure, we put a lot of thought and research into what it would take to own our own data centers. For an emerging technology company it was too expensive and the capital expense would be too great. Also, we are betting that nothing will fail. We look to vendors like AWS, for example, to help us expand our reach to new regions as we expand.
When we fast-forward to the future we can revisit that thought of owning our own data center and look at it from more of a CFO decision.
X: Would you say you take a good amount of time looking into emerging technology and seeing what would be a good fit for VideoAmp?
DG: It is always in the back of my mind. I am always mindful of the systems we use and controlling costs. We look to make sure we are ahead of the curve and using the right tools.
VideoAmp is considered an innovator in the adtech industry. Other platforms like ours are still stuck using data processing languages like Hadoop and MapReduce and they have one to two thousand node clusters. There is no chance in hell they are going to be able to move that footprint over to Spark. We built VideoAmp on Spark from the ground up in June 2014. Now that the platform is production ready we are still committed to staying on Spark for the time being.
Compared to our competition we are the cool kids on the block that are adopting the latest and greatest. However, we still have to factor in how easy it is going to be to find talent or train existing talent.
So, yes I am keeping my eye on all things new, but I have to keep labor in mind as a factor as well. At some point you have to pick a technology and stick with it and anticipate you are going to use it for 5 years.
Scala was a happy medium for us. We use it with Spark and it’s about 60% of the language we use. The other 40% is Node. We had to look at how easy it would be to find good engineers and turn an existing Node.js engineer into a Scala engineer.
X: What key advice would you have for other tech entrepreneurs looking to get the most out of their own IT?
DG: When you are a small growing business, I would say outsource everything. But more specifically when you are a very early stage company, I would look at services like Heroku over AWS. Start with the product and the value you are bringing to your customers. It’s cool to look at companies like Groupon when they first started out. They had no software and they just worried about getting deals out there. They used a photocopier and Excel, and when they realized they were onto something and it was becoming hard to charge people. They said, “Let’s build some software to handle this demand.” They waited until they hit a market and built value before they built too much software.
X: What is it like to be a technology-centric business in Los Angeles today?
DG: I used to host a lot of Meetups in Silicon Valley and LA. I would love to do that because I am a geek but I am very social. It’s a lot harder to do that nowadays, but I have found a great band of brothers in the LA CTO Forum and they share a lot of the same concerns I have.
I have had the unique opportunity to experience both the Northern California tech scene vs. the Southern California tech scene. I actually have a lot of respect for the LA tech scene, and my Co-Founder Ross and I both chose LA over Northern California because of the great Ad-Tech talent pool and the economy at scale is a lot better here.
In my opinion, LA is a very solid tech scene. And, to a couple of other points, we are very serious about our company culture at VideoAmp. We invest into our people and we put a lot into making sure our workplace is somewhere you want to come and work and stay. The VideoAmp team often does a lot of fun, team-building activities together including group hikes, brewery tastings, sports competitions and breathing training, to name a few.
X: What’s next for VideoAmp and yourself?
DG: Our mission is to disrupt video advertising across all platforms. Whether that is mobile, desktop, connected televisions, or even old school broadcast television. With our latest round of funding from RTL Group we are squarely focused on execution right now. We are pushing the envelope on data sciences with Spark while continuing to contribute back to the data science community. Right now we are carefully hiring the next few key strategic players in terms of technology and leadership. We are doing some very interesting things to build a one-stop shop for video purchasing. It’s a very siloed industry. I wish I could tell you all the details but you will have to just stay tuned.
X: Lastly, have you gone Snowboarding this season?
DG: Not yet, but I have a trip planned to Tahoe and Mammoth coming up soon.
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