Joe Speiser co-founded Azoogle/Epic Media Group, a performance based ad network in 2001. He sold the business when it crested $200MM in revenue to a pair of private equity partners and launched an e-commerce property called PetFlow.com.
PetFlow breathed new life into not just online pet retail, but subscription based commerce. Bringing a set-it-and-forget-it mentality to the chore of pet food catapulted the business from $0 to $50MM in three years. From PetFlow's social media learnings, a new business was spun out of the e-commerce property in 2014, called LittleThings.com. LittleThings, now the primary focus of Mr. Speiser, has quietly amassed the largest women's audience in the United States. 70MM unique visitors a month consume LittleThings feel-good, inspirational and instructional media.
How did you get into the Media industry?
In the late ‘90s I was fascinated with the dot-com boom, and launched a performance-based coupon site to take advantage of the insanely large new customer bounties e-commerce companies were handing out. Soon after scaling the business, I met my co-founder, Alex Zhardanovsky, and subsequently launched Azoogle/Epic Media (a performance-based ad network) in 2001.
After scaling Epic Media to more than nine-figures in revenue, we exited the business through a private equity sale and went on to launch PetFlow.com. PetFlow was the Internet’s first real attempt at online subscription pet food and supplies.
While scaling the customer acquisition engine behind PetFlow, we were overwhelmed by the tremendous popularity and growing web impact our feel-good, uplifting content had on our social fan base. In direct response to our audiences’ wishes, LittleThings.com launched in September 2014 as a dedicated media and publishing site. Since then, LittleThings has grown to be the largest standalone lifestyle publisher in the U.S. By staying true to our original audience, we continue to publish content that appeals to women, who comprise the majority of our 38+ million monthly unique U.S. visitors.
Tell us about LittleThings. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
LittleThings was started because there was a real void of feel-good, uplifting content on the Internet. We recognized that the media was turning more negative through intense sensualized headlines, topics, and imagery. Our goal was to turn that trend on its head and offer the world something unique, refreshing, and inspirational. LittleThings has now accomplished that with more than 15% of the total digital population visiting us monthly.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to LittleThings' success?
We publish 50 pieces of new content each day. Understanding what content to share and what content to bury is instrumental in building reach, engagement, and virality. For months we focused on why certain articles, videos, and photos would go viral. In the end, we weren’t able to quantify any concrete statistical evidence on what makes a winner. Instead, we decided to attack the question in reverse. By focusing on the similarities of our failures, we were able to successfully build our testing protocols and algorithm checkpoints. This enabled us to only publish the most interesting, and audience-worthy content, thus securing even greater newsfeed placement.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
Content is moving quickly towards a platform agnostic world. This means that your video, article, and/or gallery can now be published on YouTube, Facebook, SnapChat, Pinterest, Twitter, and so on. Never before has the Internet offered so many unique, and mass-scale bullhorns for content. Insuring that your business can capitalize on each platform is critical to remaining relevant and stable as we continue to evolve as an always-on, Internet-enabled connected culture.
Our logo reflects this idea:
• Cloud: the ability to access our content from anywhere, on any device
• Play Button: video and image galleries found on every piece [20,000+] of original content
• Sun: bringing happiness, positivity, and feel-good emotions (our special ingredient)
You can always make more money, but never more time. Don’t underestimate the value of doing something you enjoy.
Constantly create inspiring, uplifting, and engaging content.
Your greatest success as Founder/CEO of LittleThings? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
The greatest success we have seen so far, is watching our team grow from 4 to 40 people, but retaining that same family-feeling, fun work-environment. Having a place I was proud and excited to show up to is extremely valuable to me.
Every startup is challenged with brand recognition, retention, and publicity, and LittleThings is no exception. We’re challenged to retain our current readership with engaging content while also attracting new readers. Our biggest challenge is to diversify traffic from beyond the major social media channels. We know that people love sharing positive stories on social media, but it’s imperative to differentiate traffic sources to multiple online channels to ensure success, relevance, and longevity.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
You will always learn more from failure than success, so don’t fear it!
Describe the ideal experience using LittleThings.
People are inundated with negative emotions on a daily basis. LittleThings offers readers an online respite to forget about the daily grinds of life. Our goal is to make people smile. We hope when readers leave LittleThings that they feel happy, inspired, and/or touched in a positive way.
How do you motivate your employees?
We have offered and tried a variety of office perks and activities. Overall though, you can have all of the massages, beer kegs, and foosball at your disposal, but it will never overcome a difficult working environment. What we have found as the best motivator is a hands-off workplace, which is simple but extremely effective. When you hire someone to do a job or run a team, don’t step on their toes…give them a chance to prove their value and nine out of 10 times they will exceed expectations. Heavy-handed micromanagement is the fastest way to turn over and dissatisfaction.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Pint of Ben & Jerry’s Milk & Cookies, and a glass of vintage Balvenie.
What literature is on your bed stand?
Fortune, Forbes, BusinessWeek, and Entrepreneur magazines.
Role model - business and personal?
Warren Buffet has always been my business idol. His ability to play the long game is a feat of absolute perseverance and confidence. Personally, I admire Tony Robbin’s outlook on life and happiness.
The Hamptons. There is just something about BBQ’ing on the water that relaxes the soul!
Favorite travel destination?
Buenos Aires. The people, food, and culture, it’s just incredible.
What's next for LittleThings?
We are moving into a new 11,000 square foot office in a few months to make room for all of our growth and new business lines. So far, its been an amazing 2015!