Tony Haile is Chief Executive Officer of Chartbeat, the attention measurement and monetization company that tracks 55 billion pageviews a month over 4,000 media companies including 80% of the top publishers in the US. Media companies in more than 60 countries around the world use Chartbeat to help them understand how people interact with their content and ads. Over the last five years, Tony has led Chartbeat from two guys around one desk to an 80+ person company. He is an Adjunct Professor of Journalism at Columbia University and has been named one of the Top 100 Most Creative People in Business by FastCompany and 40 under 40 by Crain's NY Business. Prior to entering the startup world, Tony competed in a round the world yacht race and led and managed polar expeditions in the high Arctic. Startups are similar, with less chance of losing a limb.
How did you get into the tech industry?
I was hanging out in New York trying to raise money for a polar expedition when someone sent me a business plan to look at. It was the worst business plan I had ever seen, so being an opinionated sod I told them that and said what they should do instead. They said "if you’re so smart why don’t you come run this thing" and the rest was history.
Tell us about Chartbeat. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
Chartbeat actually started within Betaworks as a tool called Firef.ly, which let you see the cursor of other viewers on a given web page. It turned out the major use case was that someone would see another cursor and then hump it. Instead of trying to make cursor humping a billion dollar business, we pivoted into real-time engagement data. We had the technology that helped sites understand where people on their pages were paying attention between the clicks. We’ve spent the last five-plus years building out tools that help the 50,000 sites we work with -- like New York Times and BBC -- know if their content is actually being read and partnering with ad sales teams measure and monetize the time people spends with the inventory on their site. We’re also working with brands and their agencies to get a cross-platform, cross-channel view of all their marketing efforts’ performance based on how much time their target audience is spending with their content and to what effect.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Chartbeat's success?
Our marketing strategy has largely been to build great products and to always be ahead of the curve. If you genuinely try to move industry-thinking forward then it’s amazing how much easier it is to get folks talking about you.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
Much better to try and create industry trends than notice them.
Always be the one shuffling the cards.
In our office, we have two signs: “Work Hard & Be Nice to People” and “Fuck Yeah!” so our team’s motto is probably somewhere in the middle of all that.
Your greatest success as founder/CEO of Chartbeat? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
My greatest personal success is not having been fired despite all of the ridiculous things I’ve done. My greatest success as CEO of Chartbeat is building and keeping together a team that I love, that do great work and genuinely believe in making the web a better place.
On that front, the most difficult moment was losing 100% of my engineering team (ok, so it was one guy) within the first year because I was an asshole who didn’t hire enough support fast enough.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Your first idea is almost certainly wrong. It’s job is not to be right, but to teach you something about the world that no one else knows. If you think like that your second idea can be golden.
How do you motivate your employees?
Give them a clear goal that means more than filthy lucre, and give them the freedom to achieve it in their own way. If that doesn't work, withholding their passports is pretty effective.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
The Duck with coconut rice from Fatty Crab, Macallan 18
What literature is on your bed stand?
Right now, I’m reading the Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Teddy Roosevelt was a god damn badass.
Role model - business and personal?
In business, George Marshall. In life, Bento Spinoza.
I’m training for an Ironman triathlon right now, so my current passion is hating my trainer
What's next for Chartbeat?
As boring as it may sound, more of the same. We’re working to change the core economy of the web from one of gameable clickbait to sustainable attention. That’s going to take a lot of focus on dedication for the next few years.