Shafqat Islam is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of NewsCred, the world’s leading content marketing platform. As CEO, Shafqat manages the strategic growth of the company, pioneering marketing technology for the future and helping brands transform the way they connect with people, build brand love and win more customers. NewsCred provides brands with a single platform to streamline the entire marketing process -- from unparalleled audience insights, content recommendations and brand compliance, to social publishing, distribution and analytics. In one place, brands gain exclusive access to the world's largest content marketplace, licensed content from 5,000 leading publishers, original bespoke content from winning creators and user-generated content from your brand’s biggest fans. NewsCred is on a mission to help marketers create content people love, and prove that great content will drive long-term business growth.
How did you get into the Tech industry?
My parents always wanted me to become an engineer so the importance of technology was ingrained in me from a young age. My first real taste was when I was in high school, I started a website for the band Hootie and the Blowfish and I had e-commerce running on it. The site hit its peak when I was in college and I was probably bringing in a couple thousand dollars a month. After the experience of running the site I thought to myself, “This Web thing is pretty exciting.” I also get made fun of for the rest of my life because I ran a Hootie site.
Tell us about NewsCred. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
It’s always been about content for us - the content that brands and publishers create, the content that people consume, and the relationships content helps build. We first dreamt up NewsCred as a consumer facing news site. As the market shifted towards content marketing, we saw a huge opportunity to help publishers get their content in the hands of more consumers and help brands use content to connect with their audience. My vision for NewsCred is to help transform the marketing industry and make it better for both marketer and consumer. We want to make the customer experience better by helping marketers publish great content that resonates, across all touchpoints.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to NewsCred's success?
Where do I start? We have been incredibly fortunate as the content marketing industry rose around our offering. As the first mover in the space, we’ve been able to work with incredible partners to seize the opportunity. From LinkedIn to Pinterest to Outbrain and Getty and Shutterstock, we’re constantly getting closer to other technology and content leaders. We also have incredible agency partnerships including Havas, Mindshare, FleishmanHillard, and more. We’ve always believed in building an open ecosystem.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
We say this often at NewsCred, “Marketing has a marketing a problem,” brands are getting so wrapped up in data and measuring results that they’ve forgotten that behind their efforts are real people. We’re not only trying to bring people back into the equation, but bring them to the forefront of it all. Marketers need to start looking at the individuals they are engaging with, and connect with those people, not the numbers they represent. We’re doing this by empowering marketers with Audience Insights, our proprietary analytics solution that gives marketers real-time insights to the individual people that are most important to a brand, a 360-degree view of individual’s content journey, and an analysis of content trends and audience behavior over time. This is our solution, but lot of folks are focusing on solving this problem, including large players like Facebook and their focus on people centric marketing.
If you aren’t being told “no” often, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough or thinking outside of the box.
"Content is the connective thread of all marketing."
Your greatest success as Founder/CEO of NewsCred? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
There isn’t a single moment. I’m most proud of the people we’ve hired -- we have 200 exceptionally committed, brilliant and passionate people working here. That’s the greatest success. The greatest challenge was the early years -- we were not very successful during the first 3 years with few customers, not much revenue, no salaries etc. The biggest learning was that resiliency and perseverance are the only things that matter long term!
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Get a job. Have a boss, and then do the startup thing. As a college student, it seems so easy to think, “I have an amazing idea and I’m going to run with it and start my own company”. The real world doesn’t work that way - it takes a lot more to bring a great idea to life and make it a success. Getting a job and working for someone else might not be as exciting, but it gives you a much better perspective and you realize what kind of a boss you want to be. If you’ve had a great boss, you say, “I want to treat people who work for me in that same way.” And if you’ve had a bad boss, you say, “I’ll never do that to someone else, because it really hurt me, or it frustrated me.” It’s all about building empathy.
Describe the ideal experience using NewsCred.
NewsCred gives marketers - and even sales people - a competitive advantage that was previously unavailable in the market. From a single platform you can see who is engaging with your content and that of your competitors, target individuals more effectively, as well as plan, source, license, publish, and measure the impact of your content. And you can do all of that at a global scale with easy-to-use workflow and governance tools. The ideal experience using NewsCred is feeling confident in the content marketing strategy you are deploying and doing it all with speed and scale. More importantly, we help marketers feel accountable for revenue growth and marketers should feel proud of that.
How do you motivate your employees?
Our company is its people - you can’t outsource culture and collaboration. As such, we do everything we can to make sure they are happy - maintain a fun and inspiring office environment, provide opportunities for career growth, and encourage team building.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
That’s a tough one, I eat like a five-year old child so it would definitely be a toss-up between Froot Loops and Nutella.
What literature is on your bed stand?
I just finished reading “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz, it was phenomenal! I also recently discovered some great blogs - SaaStr, which is by the Co-founder of EchoSign and Thomasz Tunguz, the venture capitalist’s data driven blog for startups.
Role model - business and personal?
Elon Musk. I admire his perseverance, he’s been through a lot and in spite of that he always come out successfully on the other side. I also just love that he dreams so big - it’s not just about building great technology, it’s about helping the human race.
My wife and I just recently had a baby so outside of NewsCred, I spend all my time with her, goofing around, taking selfies, etc. - just check out my Twitter feed.
Favorite travel destination?
Thailand. I was born there so I try to go back often -- the people are amazing.
What's next for NewsCred?
The marketing technology landscape is booming right now, and the competition is getting noisier. Our goal is to grow with the marketers we serve to ensure that we’re providing them with the best technology that empowers them towards success. We believe we are building a company of consequence and we can take this company public soon.