Oliver Roup is founder and CEO of VigLink, the premier marketplace for publishers to connect their audiences to high-quality merchants without needing to display ads. Oliver brings over 15 years of software experience to VigLink. Previously, he was a Director at Microsoft in charge of product for various media properties including XBOX Live Video Marketplace, Zune Marketplace and MSN Entertainment. He’s a board member of the Performance Marketing Association and chair of the PMA’s Content Monetization Council. Oliver received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from MIT and his MBA from the Harvard Business School.
How did you get into the Tech industry?
I'm a lifer. My parents bought a Commodore 64 when I was ten years old and I was hooked. I majored in computer science as an undergraduate at MIT and my first jobs all centered around writing code.
Tell us about VigLink. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
While attending Harvard Business School, I noticed that publishers were writing about products linking back to Amazon and other retailers. I wondered if those publishers were receiving commissions for directing those sales, so I built a web crawler to find out how many of those links were monetized. It turned out to be less than half even though Amazon made it pretty easy. Publishers were leaving money on the table, I launched VigLink to take advantage of this opportunity.
The hyperlink is the defining feature of the web—the literal H in HTML—but the way we think about, manage, and optimize links more or less hasn't changed since the web began. VigLink is spearheading changing that.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to VigLink's success?
VigLink has built up relationships with almost 50,000 merchants and 400,000 publishers internationally. VigLink matches publishers with merchants in an exchange where clicks can be valued, bought and sold. Like all two-sided marketplaces, the buyers come for the sellers and the sellers come for the buyers.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
The shift to mobile and the obvious challenges using old techniques to monetize that traffic are huge opportunities for VigLink. People consume and share content on their phones very differently than on desktop. Publishers and marketers alike must create mobile-specific strategies for content in order keep up with the ever-expanding trend.
How about a quote from Elon Musk? "Optimism, pessimism, f*** that; we're going to make it happen…I'm hell-bent on making it work."
We don't have a motto but our statement of values reads like a motto, "Dare, overcome, challenge, collaborate and play!"
Your greatest success as Founder/CEO of VigLink?
Obtaining the initial seed funding with no product, no team and no customers was definitely a magic trick. Another notable success was expanding our network by acquiring a content promotion startup.
Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
There have been many - near bankruptcy in the early days, personnel challenges, sites crashing, etc.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is a fine balance between sticking to what you know is true and hearing what the market is telling you.
Describe the ideal experience using VigLink.
Someone with passion for a particular topic discovers VigLink and gets to give up their day job and go full time writing about what they love. It's happened many times!
How do you motivate your employees?
I believe people are motivated by a compelling mission and the belief that their work can make a difference.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Pizza has the widest possible ingredient set and still qualifies as itself - grains, meat, vegetables, dairy, even a few fruits qualify as pizza toppings so if you have to limit to a single food item, it offers the widest flexibility. For drinks - Sake is probably the beverage I'd most like to preserve (assuming water is covered).
What literature is on your bed stand?
Zero to One by Peter Thiel. Not sure it really qualifies as literature.
Role model - business and personal?
Lately, I've gotten interested in desalinization. I think the market will take care of keeping energy prices relatively low, but access to fresh water particularly in light of rising sea levels is going to be a huge issue. A lot of human suffering can be avoided if we build this technology a little sooner than the market would dictate.
Favorite travel destination?
Many, but my latest favorite is Cabarette in the Dominican Republic for Kiting.
What's next for VigLink?