Gil Eyal – Founder & CEO, HYPR

Gil Eyal is the founder and CEO of HYPR. Founded in 2013, HYPR offers marketers in-depth audience analytics for over 10 million influencers across major social channels. HYPR is the winner of the 2017 Performance Marketing Award in the SaaS / Tracking Platform category, the 2018 Martech Awards Best Influencer Marketing Management Platform, and was ranked #163 in the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies (19th in NYC).

Gil has revolutionized the way many of the world’s biggest agencies and brands are running influencer marketing by focusing on the same data, analytics, and audience demographic information relevant to any other form of marketing. Under Gil’s direction, HYPR boasts a client base of over 100 Fortune 500 brands, as well as the biggest advertising and PR agencies in the world, including LVMH, Whitewave, Mediacom, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, and Revlon.

A pioneer in the influencer space, Gil also served as the COO of early player photo-sharing app Mobli Media, and has worked with influencers ranging from Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Pitbull, Lance Armstrong, Lil Wayne and Serena Williams to Nash Grier, Bart Baker, and Cameron Dallas.

Gil is an accomplished public speaker, and has delivered keynotes at notable influencer marketing conferences, including Influencer Marketing Days in New York and Influencer Marketing Hub in London.

Gil was recently selected as the 2017 recipient of the Digiday Top Boss Award in the technology industry, as one of 10 Israelis impacting the New York Tech Scene, as well as one of 40 “must follow” digital media influencers. Gil is also a two-time winner of the MarCom Awards for Excellence in Marketing and Communications (Platinum level and Honorable Mention).

Gil has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, as well as a Bachelor of Laws from Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

How did the concept for HYPR come about?
Before I started HYPR, I did around 200 different celebrity endorsement deals while working for a photo and video sharing company called Mobli. It was before Instagram, but a similar concept. Initially, I focused on bringing in big name celebrities – people like Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Lance Armstrong, and Serena Williams. As I was doing it, I realized how challenging these deals were – these big name celebrities were surrounded by publicists, lawyers, business advisors, and other people that made the deal expensive and time consuming. I was looking for easier outlets and stumbled onto online influencers (at the time, they were just called social media stars).

We started experimenting with social stars instead of celebrities and the ROI was insane. It was like striking gold. But the challenge was we knew nothing about their audience. What does a million followers mean? Are they active? Do they fit the demo I’m targeting? I couldn’t find a tool to help me find these things out, so I decided to start one.

We ended up avoiding all the complications of deals with celebrities for a much cheaper option, but it presented other challenges – how do you discover them? How do you know their audience is real? How do you measure their performance? That’s what led to HYPR being born.

How was the first year in business?
It was tough. We knew the market needed our product but I had never stepped foot in an advertising or PR agency. I had no idea how to sell to them, and there was no one in these organizations or with brands that was the owner of social media stars as a business. They did celebrity endorsements and some activations on the side, but who would imagine a budget for a tool to run influencer campaigns?

I luckily partnered with smart people from the industry that helped me figure it out but it took two years for us to get meaningful sales and figure out how to present the product correctly.

What was your marketing strategy?
We knocked on doors. We honestly had no idea how to reach people because there was no “head of influencer marketing” role at the time; now there are 7,000 open jobs on Indeed with influencer marketing as a required skill. We just knocked on the door, and when they kicked us out, we climbed in through the window.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
It didn’t grow at all, at first. It took until 2015 to start generating revenues and our growth really started a year later. By 2017, it was explosive growth but we needed the market to come together. Thankfully, we had patient and supportive investors who believed in the vision. Timing is the biggest killer of startups if you ask me, and we were early.

How do you define success?
I think it really depends on circumstance. Generally speaking, if you’re happy, you’re successful. There’s a saying in Judaism, “The rich man is the one who is happy with what he has.” I think we live in a culture that celebrates appearing happy instead of being happy. Instagram is filled with images of success and joy, but do you wake up and jump out of bed? Are you happy with what you have? If so, then you’re successful.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Winners DO quit and quitters DO win. Life is about exploration. Startups are about exploration. It makes no sense to me that people need to know which college they’ll go to and what they’ll major in by the age of 18, or they’re considered confused. They need to find internships and a full-time job by the time they’re 22. When is there time to explore? When is there a chance to try stuff? How many people make the mistake of committing to something that makes them unhappy only to try and change many years later?

You owe it to yourself to quit. If it’s not the right thing for you, find the right thing. I was a lawyer for six years. I absolutely hated it. But I didn’t quit. Why? Because I didn’t want people to think I was a quitter. The day I left was one of the happiest of my life and I have never looked back.

What are some quotes that you live by? 
My favorite quote is one by Mario Andretti, “If everything feels under control, you’re not driving fast enough.” It applies to startups so well. I think it’s a great motivator – knowing that it’s okay for things not to work out immediately or easily.

What are some of your favorite books?
A great but somewhat dated book I love is Buzz Marketing by Mark Hughes. Wonderful stories that still apply about what components go into real buzz generation or viral marketing.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific day. Early on, when you start a company, you get an unbelievable amount of “nos” and lectures about why it would never work. Some people think they’re helping. Some think they’re doing you a favor. But really, they don’t know half as much you about the space you’re in. In fact, I would argue that if everyone loves your idea, you have to wonder if it’s too obvious. Can anyone do it? Is there no unique insight?

And if you do have a unique insight, then it makes sense that a lot of people won’t get it. Congratulations – what feels like a negative is actually your first competitive edge.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I think as an entrepreneur you’re driven by many things. You want to see your vision come alive. You want to prove the naysayers wrong. You have a responsibility to your investors. You have competitors you want to beat.

At the end of the day, if you love an idea and you really believe in something, it’s going to take a lot of adversity to get you to give it up. And if you do, it’s probably not meant to be.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Get ready for a ride. Every single entrepreneur I speak with agrees that their path was much more volatile and challenging than they had ever anticipated. Some compare it to jumping off a cliff and figuring out how to survive the fall. Don’t do it for any other reason except that you really believe you are doing something important that must be done.