Andrew Torba

Andrew Torba

CEO of AutomateAds.com (YC W15)

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON February 02, 2016

Discussion

Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
I've helped hundreds of advertisers from around the world scale, optimize, and understand tens of millions of dollars in ad spend over the last four years. I consider myself to be a lifelong student of philosophy. I enjoy biking, hiking, weight lifting and value experiences over "stuff." I'm also a self-published writer and poet. Hip hop music, big band, and classical are my jams. I'm originally from Scranton, PA.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Services for startups
Ads seem so 'dirty' - how much importance should be on telling a good story and how can companies do this better?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@bentossell They are. 70% are garbage and consumers recognize it instantly. The brands who win are the brands who provide value. Your results are directly tied to the effort you put into telling a story that connects with customers. Dollar Shave Club is one of my favorites in terms of an example of a brand who does this well with ads/marketing. Brands who take the time to focus on things like strategy, storytelling, and authenticity are the brands who win.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are some things you learned from going through YC? Are there any specific skills/experiences/etc. you picked up that help you run AutomateAds today?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@tomstocklein 1. Focus. On 1-2 things tops, ideally growth. 2. Make something people love, without that nothing else really matters/is relevant. 3. Surround yourself with incredibly intelligent people. In YC if you are the smartest person in the room then you have an ego problem. Set ego aside and listen to others who know what the hell they are talking about. In general I'd say that YC resulted in some of the best friendships with some of the most inspiring group of people I've ever had the honor of meeting.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Services for startups
Where is the future of advertising?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@bentossell VR. Without a doubt. The creative possibilities that can be used for telling a story are limitless. @markmiscavage is tackling this massive opportunity head on with FocalHub: https://www.producthunt.com/tech... On the web/mobile side of things: -Adblockers and mobile leaders like FB will continue the slow demise of banner ads and display networks. -FB is stealing marketshare from Google Adwords and traditional channels like crazy (see FB's Q4 earnings.) -Pinterest Ads are going to be amazing for certain verticals and ecommerce advertisers. -Snapchat ads are going to be amazing for brand advertisers and I believe they have an untapped DR opportunity. -Retargeting will get smarter and more data-driven (hopefully.) -Brands will need to focus on telling a story or being blocked out by the sheer amount of noise on the web.
Greig Cranfield
Greig Cranfield@greigcranfield · Co-founder @Pendle.io
@torbahax @bentossell @markmiscavage This is really interesting. Snapchat ads - what verticals do you see making the most of this?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@1greigcranfield @bentossell @markmiscavage enterprise consumer brand advertisers at first, but you can bet that Snapchat will be moving into direct response advertising with things like mobile app installs, etc if they plan to scale.
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
What industries would you place your bets on in the next 10-20 years?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@jacqvon 1. VR is going to be massive and the next big computing platform in my opinion. It will change communication, education, healthcare, gaming, and storytelling in general as we know it. With Sony, Google, Facebook, Samsung, and others entering in the arena it's going to be really exciting to see who nails the consumer product and price point on the hardware side of things. On the content side of things I can't wait to see the amazing and immersive experiences developers will create over the next 10-20 years. 2. I want to see the intersection of social good and technology start to grow in the next 10-20 years. All too often problems being solved in tech are first world problems. Many of us forget that there are some huge global problems, particularly in the developing world, that need to be solved for the benefit of us all. I'd place my bets on social entrepreneurs rising up over the next 10-20 years to solve these problems. 3. Manned trip to Mars/ commercialized space travel. At some point in my life, I will be a space entrepreneur and plan on visiting space before I die. I suppose this is an area of personal interest that I would hedge my bets on. :)
Mike Coutermarsh
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
Hey! Nice to see you here :). I've been asking this to everyone on LIVE. I'd love to know your answer. What's the one challenge so far in your career that scared you the most?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@mscccc True story: we applied to YC late and learned that we were accepted with two weeks left to move the team from the east coast to the west coast before the batch started. This two weeks happened to land during the last half of December (and the holiday travel season.) It was a nightmare and scary to be making such a big move and jump so quickly, but we made it happen.
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What's something you've changed your mind about in the past year?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@jakecrump For many years now I've been placing the business above my own personal health, well-being, and happiness. I was burned out a lot and working hard, but not smart. When I moved to the Bay Area a year ago I decided that I would start putting myself first and working smart, not hard.
John Freddy Vega
John Freddy Vega@freddier · CEO, Platzi.com
What's something big online advertisers do or know, that companies with small budgets in digital ads don't?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@freddier 1. Have a strategy and clear objectives. 2. Segment your audience to corner your winning part of the market. 3. Treat it like a science experiment: always be testing new ideas.
Arun Pattnaik
Arun Pattnaik@arunpattnaik · UX'er for web startups, maker of things.
What is your biggest business challenge at the moment? It could be specific to AutomateAds or the advertising/automation industry in general.
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@arunpattnaik Ads API dependency. One of the biggest problems we face is dealing with ads api compliance across multiple advertising channels. Things change. Things break. We take the brute force of any and all downtime/issues that any of the ad networks have in their API's. It's brutal, challenging, and a fun part of our startup journey.
Arun Pattnaik
Arun Pattnaik@arunpattnaik · UX'er for web startups, maker of things.
@torbahax And what was your growth stage like? You must have had a fair share of competition from day-one. How difficult was it to get the first 100 customers? Did you have any interesting growth strategy (other than building the kick-ass product)?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@arunpattnaik Our product drives growth with paid media by nature, so we used our own tool and eat our own dog food on the growth side of things. It also helped to be at YC surrounded by 100 other startups who all needed help with FB ads/paid media growth. :)
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are the most common mistakes advertisers make when buying and placing ads?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@tomstocklein 1. Having no strategy. 2. Trying to scale up their budget too quickly. 3. Not taking the time to learn and experiment with different ad channels and types. I can't emphasize how important it is to have some sort of strategy and set objectives before you even spend a dime. Most people think that they can jump right into digital advertising and conversions will flood in the door. In general I'd say there is a 6-12 month learning curve for newer advertisers to figure all of these things out and learn by unfortunately burning a lot of cash with little strategy behind how it is being spent. Take the time to learn the different targeting, creative, and placement options that each ad channel offers, test with smaller sized budgets, learn, and scale up from there.
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@jakecrump 1. Wake up around 630/7am 2. Check email for any fires/issues from our international advertisers/ answer their customer service tickets/ reactive work. 3. Coffee. 4. Sales/customer/partner calls usually from 11am-1pm 5. Gym/exercise (lifting, bike rides) 6. Cook Dinner/ spend time with my girlfriend 7. Proactive work (content marketing, email campaigns, ad campaigns, etc) 8. Xbox One downtime (Halo 5 obsession at the moment.) 9. Reading for 30-45 min. 10. Late night catch up (usually email) 11. Bed around 12/1am and then up to restart the cycle the next day :)
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@jacqvon Angel investing/helping other startups (YC partner?) and starting my PhD in Philosophy. I'm a big fan of the book "Enough" by John C Bogle. In it he discusses how much money, success, etc is "enough." (http://www.amazon.com/Enough-Tru...) For me the plan is to hit my "enough" goal in the next ten years and then focus on my true passion: Kierkegaardian existentialism (and philosophy in general.) I'll definitely get my PhD, but won't be an academic by any means. I will instead self-publish any of my philosophical writing and teach at places like YC.
Jon Davis
Jon Davis@jdavis23 · ceo, shape.io
What's your process for determining what improvements should get added to the roadmap?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@jdavis23 70% customer feedback, 30% gut intuition/personal pain points. :)
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Services for startups
Tell us about your time in YC What were some good/bad parts? Would you recommend to others? What was the single best thing you got out of it?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@bentossell I wrote a reflection post shortly after our batch ended that answers a lot of these: https://medium.com/kuhcoon-com-b... Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely. Getting in was a game changer for us, both personally and professionally. The single best thing I got out of it was the lifelong relationships I will have with some of the most incredible people on this planet.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Services for startups
Last one from me :D What are your favourite questions to ask founders?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@bentossell I borrow this from our group office hours in YC where (Jessica specifically) would ask us this: What is preventing your company from being the next Google?
Loris Maz
Loris Maz@lorismaz · Founder, SimpleVisa
Before going to YC, did you apply to a lot of incubators? What were your thoughts before / after applying ?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@lorismaz We only applied to YC. Advice: When we applied we had the following components which I believe were crucial to our acceptance: 1. A live product beyond the MVP stage 2. Customers 3. An awesome team We also applied late, I recommend not doing this and wrote on it here: https://medium.com/kuhcoon-com-b... Finally: if you get rejected your first time applying don't let that discourage you. Keep building and keep applying. I know many YC founders who applied several times before being accepted. Tenacity and persistence go a long way (we built for 3 years before applying and getting accepted.)
Amy Torba
Amy Torba@amy_torba
Who is your greatest business mentor? Whether you know them personally or not.
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@amy_torba Hi Mom! If I had to pick one it would have to be Elon Musk. Paypal, Space X, Tesla, Solar City. Enough said.
Avery Haskell
Avery Haskell@averyhaskell · Stanford Computer Science
@torbahax Do you think OOH (Out-of-Home) ads and campaigns will ever be automated and optimized with software? Why or why not?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@averyhaskell I can't remember who, but I know I read somewhere that someone on the enterprise ad tech side of things was doing this. I think it makes a lot of sense obviously for digital OOO only, but there are technically only so many placement options so I can see it scaling in a weird or difficult way.
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@averyhaskell Found it! Rubicon Project is doing this: http://investor.rubiconproject.c...
Jason Depietropaolo
Jason Depietropaolo@jmdchannelape · CMO-ChannelApe
@torbax. we are automating and integrating ecommerce backend systems and we notice many of our new customers are struggling to drive traffic to their sites. What should someone expect to spend per day to really see a benefit from their ad campaign and where should they start, FB, IG, Adwords?
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@jmdchannelape @torbax Start with what is working well organically. For example if you don't have a mobile-optimized site then don't run ads on Instagram or Facebook mobile news feeds. In terms of budgeting for success, it's going to take some time and money to figure out what works and what doesn't, so be prepared to invest both before finding your sweet spot. :)
Arun Pattnaik
Arun Pattnaik@arunpattnaik · UX'er for web startups, maker of things.
If you had to start a business today other than advertising, what would that be? Not really based on the market void but based on your personal expertise and knowledge of that subject/industry. Assume you have $500k to boot.
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@arunpattnaik Asteroid mining/ commercialized space travel. Although that might take more than $500k to get started ;)