Bettina Hein – Founder & CEO, Pixability

Bettina Hein placed her bets on YouTube in 2008, when she founded Pixability to help marketers succeed on the platform. As the market matured, and the video advertising ecosystem continued its rapid evolution, Hein and her executive team had the foresight to expand Pixability’s core technology beyond just YouTube. As walled gardens Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter aggressively joined the race for digital ad dollars, rolling out new video ad formats and offerings, Pixability was ready to serve its brand and agency customers with a cross-platform advertising technology solution. Today, Pixability’s video ad buying solution enables marketers to plan, execute, and report on campaigns across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.

Tell me about your early career.
The first company I founded was SVOX AG, a speech software company, which was sold to Nuance Communications for $125 million. SVOX’s text-to-speech software can now be found in all Android phones. It is in the hands of over 1 billion people today. After receiving my Master of Science at MIT, I quickly realized there was a significant business opportunity around video. So in 2008, I founded Pixability to simplify digital video.

How did the concept for Pixability come about?
I had always been inspired by video, ever since seeing how the medium captured my grandmother’s personality, spirit, and passion. Then in 2008, bandwidth and equipment costs were plunging as the digital media world geared up to embrace online video. I sensed that this medium would disrupt how we consumed the moving image, and that an entirely new online video industry would be created.

How was the first year in business?
Pixability launched as a video editing company in 2008, right around the time the financial world was going up in flames. When nobody is buying your product, it’s a good sign that it’s time to pivot. So, Pixability became a video marketing company. We’ve evolved and refined our business model several times since, but video is and always was the center of our business.

What was your marketing strategy?
The most important strategy, not just in marketing, but also entrepreneurship in general, is to keep conducting experiments and double down on what is working. For Pixability, we’ve found that creating content that shows our thought leadership works best. For example, I co-authored a book on video, Video Marketing for Dummies, and our team regularly produces in-depth studies on social video, containing valuable insights on beauty, auto, and other industries.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
My benchmark is to double revenue every year, at least. For most of the years that it’s been around, Pixability has been able to do that. In fact, we’ve been able to more than double our revenue every year for the past five years.

How do you define success?
My goal as an entrepreneur was always to create jobs and provide for my employees. When I set out to become an entrepreneur, my target was to, together with my husband (who is our CTO), create 5,000 jobs. We’re at about 800 now by my estimates, and we’ll get there with some hard work and determination.

What is the key to success?
The key to success as an entrepreneur isn’t actually getting it right the first time around. At least, not completely. Entrepreneurs should instead choose a large and growing market that will allow their business to evolve and iterate until you get it right.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Looking back, I probably should have raised more money, more quickly. Also, with both of the companies that I’ve founded, I found that I was a little early to the market and had to wait for it to evolve. I always resolve to time the market better, where I can.

What are some of your favorite books?
One of my favorite books is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I recommend it to everyone who’s thinking about diving into entrepreneurship. It really unpacks how we make decisions, and shows how biases influence our everyday life. It’s immensely helpful for not only business, but also life in general.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
My toughest day as an entrepreneur was in the fall of 2003 when the founding team of SVOX had to make the decision to lay off 50% of our team of 22. Taking people’s livelihoods away is the hardest thing, professionally, that I’ve ever had to do. We later rebuilt to 140 people, so I feel that we’ve redeemed ourselves and created even more jobs. The lesson for me was that you sometimes have to make really hard decisions that hurt in the moment but help a company thrive in the long run.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I relish challenges so when the going gets tough, I am motivated to rally my team. When we work together, we can solve anything, and that has proven true, time and again.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs need three things: naivité, chutzpah, and perseverance. Successful entrepreneurs are determined, and they develop and stick to a plan that prepares them for the challenges to their business. But, they also need to stay flexible, looking ahead to adapt to changing markets.

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Interviews are conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.

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