Learn How to Change the Game of Web Browsing: Eric’s Story with RockMelt

Posted by Anant January 12, 2023

Eric is the Co-founder and CEO of RockMelt, which got started in 2009 with a simple vision: make exploring the Web faster and more fun. The majority of computer time is in the browser. In fact, the only activity people do more than browse the Web is sleep.


→ What is RockMelt

→ What was rock melt originally

→ How important is mobile for content on the bleeding edge of content

→ Why is curation important

→ What are the main signals that are informing

→ What does the process look like in RockMelt

→ What was Ops where

→ How different is being a marketer

→ And a whole lot more


Eric’s Wikipedia link




Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Eric Victoria with us. Eric, thank you so much for coming on the program.

Eric: Thanks for having me.

Bronson: Absolutely. Now, Eric, you are the co-founder and CEO of Rockville. Very interesting name. So tell us, what is rock melt?

Eric: Well, do you want to hear about the name or do you want to hear about the company?

Bronson: Tell me about the name. I’d like to know.

Eric: It’s really funny, you know, the way it’s very difficult to to get domain and because they can be very expensive. So when we were angel funded, we were like, okay, all the names we wanted. Like the best was someone wanted $500,000 for a domain. And we were like, that’s like a third of our angel funding. I don’t think we’re going to do that. So we ended up looking for different words that we liked that just like fit together. That didn’t necessarily mean anything but would be memorable and easy to dispel. And I like the word melt, but we felt like it was soft, so we combined it. It’s something hard. So we tried like diamond bark, shark melt. We ended up with the rock melt and we were able to get the domain. And then we got the logo, which we. Person to look up and we bought the domain for $12. So that’s how they get to glamorous. But I kind of.

Bronson: Thought, well, you know, that’s nice because, you know, $12 for domain where it’s two words easy to spell four letters each. I mean, that’s the way to go.

Eric: Yeah, exactly. So a lot of these things when you’re building a company is a decision about where to spend your money. Right. And you know, there are counterexamples. I know I’ve been to some others, like spent a lot of money on their domain and there’s that there’s certainly value in that we found. We kind of went in opposite direction to some degree.

Bronson: Oh, that’s great. So tell us, what is this? Rock melt.

Eric: Yeah. So rock what is a it’s a social network or a community to find, share, discuss the best stuff on the web, the funniest stuff, the cutest stuff, the most interesting stuff that’s informative stuff. And that kind of evolved out of how do we reinvent the web browser or how people browse the web? And the more and more we looked at that, we realized that the web is so ginormous that it is difficult to find the good the good stuff. And so with all of our technology and both in the kind of back end and on the front end, we realized we could deliver an experience, a social experience, which actually allows people to service that stuff up in a much more effective way.

Bronson: Yeah. And you know, when I was doing research for this interview, you know, I used rock mail and I was just going through kind of the paces, you know, seeing how it works. And I wasn’t really thinking it was going to be great because I just don’t need curation in my life. Like, I already have my channels, I already have my, you know, my blog readers over here. I have, you know, the sites I go to over there and I started using it and it’s a really good experience. Like it’s a good way to read news, it’s a good way to save things, it’s a good way to share things. And then last night, me, my wife, were laying in bed and I’m using it to look at funny stuff because I’m just kind of unwind. So I click the lol, you know, and I’m just looking at these really funny things. And I found a puppy dog that looks like Chewbacca, you know, stuff like that. Yeah. And I was like, wow, this is like, you know, I was using it for research and now here I am being sucked into that world, like not for research because I’m actually using it. So it’s a solid product. I mean, the design looks good, the functionality is there. I think you guys are on to something, but you guys have actually kind of reinvented yourself. You didn’t even as this social collaboration, you know, curation of the web. What was rock melt originally?

Eric: Yes, it actually is a great question. We started the company to reinvent the web browser for how people use the Web today. And it was really we started at the beginning of 2009, it was desktop web browser built on chromium. And the kind of idea was what if the browser was more than a dumb window where you enter, you are all and it takes you somewhere. What if the browser actually understood the type of content that you liked, who your friends were, and enabled you to discover content easier and interact with your favorite sites better? And so that was where we started and what we found. So kind of in parallel to us starting the company and growing and building out that platform, what we found was the thing that really, really worked that people loved about the product was finding content like the change, the way they navigate. So our users on the desktop they would they they used bookmarks last they used you are entry less they actually use search less because their favorite sites and their friends were built right into the product and that was how they were getting content. And so as we were thinking about what the mobile experience looks like and you know, what should this look like on the phone? What should this look like on a tablet? We realized, like, you know, you really don’t want to open up an empty window on your phone or tablet and use a clumsy keyboard to enter a URL. Like that’s a great experience. It’s a really bad experience. It’s slow, it’s cumbersome. And so we have all of this information about what you like. And so we can say, you know, Hey, Brunson, these are the sites you like based on your patterns. This is other content that you know, and then this content from your friends and we can wear it all together. A beautiful experience. So as soon as you open your phone or your tablet and now back on the web, you immediately get content that is personalized and relevant to you and in a fun, lightweight way to interact with it.

Bronson: Yeah. Is that one of the takeaways of kind of growing a startup is that find the feature that’s actually being used and then zeroed in on it and make that more of the product and just letting the users inform you.

Eric: Yeah, I actually think that is really important. So we have this philosophy where we think about it as we look at what we’ve built. So you have a theory, right? You have to have a theory. You have to have a hard. I get the kind of a high level guiding principle as we want to make it easier to navigate. And I use the term broadly the web. The Web is, in my view, the Web is the greatest collection of information, knowledge, entertainment in the history of humankind. And we want to have we wanted to make it easier for people to navigate that. And so what you do is you you you have a theory, build out a set of things, and you’ll look at some of those things will work and others won’t work. And so what we try to do is we try to say, okay, let’s double down on the things that are working. We’re seeing that hit record and let’s get rid of all the product. And so you kind of have to constantly you don’t want just feature explosion. You actually have to pare back a lot, too. And I think it’s not it’s valuable to. You want to be persistent on things. You want to be able to iterate on things. But at the same time, you want to be kind of committed to a higher level vision and not a specific implementation. And that’s, I think, one of the big lessons interested in it is the flexibility there.

Bronson: Yeah. Now, that’s great advice. Now it seems like there’s a number of trends that really converge, which work in favor of rock melts new direction. And I want you to talk us through some of these trends. And I think they’re trends. I don’t think they’re fads. But you can tell me because the people watching this, they’re in the middle to learn some things that I help them grow their own startups. So one of the first things is I want you to tell us how important is mobile for content because you’re on the bleeding edge of content. How important is mobile for that kind of thing?

Eric: Yeah. Well, I think both is enormously important. And, you know, it goes back to like what we’re talking about here, which is content. And broadly speaking, you’re talking about web content in general with whether it’s like sites or pictures or articles or videos. But all of that together are. What’s happening with mobile is that is becoming a primary entertainment portal like and I use again entertainment means news information and what we think of as traditional entertainment. And and so mobile is becoming the primary entertainment portal. And if mobile is the primary entertainment world and all that content becomes critically important. So that’s why it’s so important there. And I think the way people navigate that stuff and find and discover and share it changes a lot. And in the mobile world.

Bronson: Yeah, you mentioned the word, you know, how you discover it. So talking about curation a little bit, why is curation so important? Because I’m a big believer in curating content, even if it means less content. So why is it so important, though?

Eric: Well, actually so you and I might actually have a little bit different perspectives on it. So I actually think that. On the one hand, the web has gotten so big and there’s so much content out there, it’s very difficult to find the good stuff. There’s a lot of garbage out there, too. And so curation is important. And again, using curation broadly because it actually allows you to find the good stuff and not waste your time sifting through a bunch of garbage. Yeah. On the other hand, I think one of the one of the challenges and there have been a lot of products, particularly on mobile, which are more oriented. They’re like highly, highly curated experiences. It’s a team of people who are like picking particular sides of particular balls and curating that for it, for users. And so I think. Be. That’s okay. But for for some segment, I think it would be a real travesty if that ends up being the future. And the reason I say that is. Every one of us is different and the web is so, so large that and there’s so much content out there that any manually human curated experience is going to be very, very limited in terms of what subsegment of the web people get exposed to, what perspectives people get exposed to, the type of information people get exposed to. And so that that’s very scary to me because I think I feel like the thing that’s amazing about the Web is you and I, we could both start on the same Wikipedia page, and I guarantee you in 3 minutes we’ll both be in radically different places, right? Well, each of followed our own path of discovery. And so we wanted to do with Brock what was how do we take the best of curation and push, which is this idea? You open it up and there’s stuff there that’s tailored for you, right? So that’s that’s kind of it. You can think of it as curation, but that’s really it’s a personalized push experience, but still preserve the serendipity and the bottomless ness of the web. And so what we’re doing today, just as an example, is we actually every single day we are looking at about four and a half million new URLs where we are like, okay, what’s in this piece of content? You know, and many of these things are very obscure things from the depths of the Internet. And we’re trying to figure out which people is this particular piece of content applicable to like who might be interested in this. And so there we are trying to actually have very little human curation and a whole bunch of algorithmic curation that actually allows us to preserve the serendipity and side of the bottomless ness of of the web.

Bronson: Yeah. So, so content curation, it’s really a continuum. You know, on the far side, it’s too curated and you become narrow minded and you don’t get exposed to new things that you might actually like. On the other side, it’s just a world wide web as it was in the nineties, which is like, here’s a browser, go have fun and there’s, there’s no direction and there’s, there’s happy medium somewhere in the middle there of content curation, but still it’s a bottomless pit of awesomeness. And you got to put the two together somehow without going too much to the fringe.

Eric: Exactly. Yeah. And that’s that’s like a big that’s this is exactly what we’re trying to do is like you can know and Michael, you can go anywhere. You can go anywhere on the Web. You can enter your all and go somewhere. But what we try to do is we try to surface the best stuff so that your starting point is is really solid.

Bronson: Yeah. Now, given that you guys kind of have learned so much about curation and are still learning it, I’m interested to know kind of what you know about curation, because like you said, we’re using algorithms to decide what to push to me. So those algorithms and maybe you can’t go into, you know, great detail with them, but what do you find are the best signals? Is it what my Facebook friends like? Is that the best signal to what I’m going to like? Is it my past reading experiences? Is it something else? Like what are actually the main signals that are informing? What’s a good thing to push to me based on what you guys have learned?

Eric: Yeah, that’s a great question. So there’s actually there’s we think of there are three sets of signals. So the first is social signals. So social signals are this is content that your friends want you to see, right? They share on Facebook. They shared on Twitter, they share within Rockville. You said you walled something last night like that. That’s all social content. So it’s content you’re about to see. The second set of things is what we call explicit content. I’m being explicit in the pornographic sense. I mean, explicit in the there’s probably a set of sites that, you know, you like you want to see content from wherever, right? You want to see content from BBC every day. You want to see content from certain tech blogs every day. So signboards every day, but you want that content. So that’s explicit content. Now, I think the way things have worked largely today has been you have your explicit stuff and you have your social stuff, which gives you a little variety and hopefully your friends exposure to new stuff. The third area is, is where things start to get pretty interesting for us, and that’s called and that’s what we call implicit stuff. Implicit content is content that your behavior implies that you would like. So we are actually trying to understand, hey, what is the kind of content that you typically share? What is the type of content that you typically spend the extra time dwelling on? And based on that, we try to find other content from other sites that you may or may not be familiar with, probably not familiar with, and push that to you, too. So it’s really this combination of social explicit and implicit stuff weave together and just just give you one kind of further example on that. Let’s say that you you tap on something a. About the latest design on Windows eight applications. We’re just, for example, one of the things that we’ll try to do. So it’s from a source that you know you like. It’s about this topic and you scroll to the bottom and look at that and we will actually show you other content from other sites that is related to that same topic. And so that that will be that’s often where you get exposed to like, oh, I’m so you just told us by tapping on it that you’re interested in design friends for Windows eight in this example, then that actually tells us something where we can be like, okay, so now let’s surface additional content about design trends in Windows eight that you might be interested in. You’ll find sites, authors, places, content that you didn’t even know existed. But that was like right in line with your behavior.

Bronson: Yeah, I didn’t know it did that, but I’m glad because I wanna go try it out because I like discovering new things within reason of what I’m already focused on. That’s great. So let me ask you this. With those signals, you kind of have the social, the implicit, the explicit. Have you guys found that one of them is far and away the better signal for what people are actually going to enjoy? Or is it just really a mix? You know, it’s about a third each way. How do you guys see that?

Eric: Yeah, it’s it really depends. This is where it varies by individual. So some people are kind of more creatures of habit and they want to have like their explicit stuff and maybe social and not very much implicit. And then there are other people who really are they the discovery aspect of things very important to them. And so they are that’s a different set of people and then they try to do things. So we try to dynamically adapt based on what what we see in a person’s behavior.

Bronson: So you actually do dynamically adapt the algorithm based on the individual user, and you kind of slide the scale that things will be more weighted or less weighted. That’s great because I’m just thinking like there’s certain of those streams, like explicit would be really important to me because like I know the tech blogs I want to read and I don’t want to miss a story like I wanna read every single story, at least the headlines, other places I’m interested, but not as interested. So that’s really cool. To know that it adapts gives me a reason to keep using it. So to just keep learning and getting better.

Eric: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. What’s cool? Yeah.

Bronson: Yeah. Now, another thing. Another kind of trend is just readability. You know, it’s received a lot more attention since we’ve started transitioning to these smaller devices. And it seems like that’s an area that Milt is innovating in. Would you agree with that? Is that something you guys are really pushing there in?

Eric: By readability, do you mean just like surfacing the content in a way that’s for the device? Yeah.

Bronson: Like it just it feels right when I’m on an iPad or an iPhone, it just it feels like it was made for that device when, in fact, it’s just a blog that is not made for that device. You know what I mean?

Eric: Yeah, sure. Yeah, we do. We do do a lot of there. It’s actually it’s so there are two parts to that. So there’s a part that you see and then there’s the part that you feel. So what I mean by that is the part that you see is like, okay, the text is formatted correctly. If it’s within the bounds on a phone, it’s a little bit smaller iPad, it’s a little bit bigger sort of wire and wrap roughly those types of things. And it. I’m on. And, you know, in terms of how we do extraction, how we lay things out so that it looks really good. But the second part of it, it’s the part that you feel. And actually, I think that this may actually end up being the part that is more material over time. And that is it has to be lightning fast. But we are used to on our phones or on our tablets like a lot more wait time than what was what typically happens on the Web, like on a computer that’s connected on a hard wired connection. And so we have spent a lot of time on the performance so that when you tap on something and we show it to you right away and there’s a whole bunch of things that we do around that, not only with the text, but also with like how we do image transcoding, how we size images appropriately. So, for example, we understand if you we understand the speed of your connection, we understand whether you have a retina or non-branded device. We understand the size. And so that like rather than download a whole bunch of bits that would never get used or download a whole bunch of bits on a slow connection, like a 3G connection, we won’t do that. So if it’s like if it’s a 3G connection, we’re like, okay, downscale image and you know, if it’s an iPhone four will treated differently than a five. Like those kinds of things. So there’s a lot of attack in there and I think that is it’s important as building a better user experience.

Bronson: Yeah, I’m so glad you went into some of that. You know, some of the technology that you guys have created there because it really separates you and helps the people watching this realize that rock melt is not a feed reader with some social stuff, like it’s anything but that. It’s like once you use it, you realize that something is, you know, technologically happening here that’s hard to do. And so you guys are really putting in some cool things there. Now, rock melts, business model, as far as I can tell, you know, correct me if I’m wrong, is really centered around publishers. Would you say that’s kind of the direction you guys are going in now, you know, giving tools to publishers and then charging a fee for that somehow?

Eric: Well, actually, to be honest, if we the way we were thinking about it right now is we’re really focused on the user growth aspect of it. I think there are two potential two business models that make direct applicability like directly apply. One is some form of advertising in-stream stream, like some form of in-stream advertising that would make sense and that could be publishers, but it could also be brands of other folks like Built into the Stream. And then the second one is search. So search today, if you can. One of the ways to think about this is it’s, you know, Portal is not a it’s an old word, but it’s a it is a modern day portal to modern day like, hey, you open this thing up and it’s content that’s directly related to you. Now, it doesn’t look like anything like my Yahoo! 1998, but that’s the a lot of the benefit provide the value proposition kind of similar. And so search is actually a tremendous opportunity there because, you know, sometimes you get there in the sometimes you want to search for something specific, not happens. But to be honest, like right now we’re really focused on the road side of things and how we grow the user base. And then I think those are two natural models on land.

Bronson: Yeah, I think you guys have such a great potential because as you’re talking right there, it’s almost like you can combine the business model of a Firefox which makes money for the search engine, and you can combine that with Twitter, who makes in-stream ads that Twitter can’t do search and you know, Firefox can’t do, you know, in-stream stream, but you guys are both and the experience is good enough that it’s like you’re going to get eyeballs. So I think that you have some really cool things that you guys can do there to ramp those up. Tell me about the growth of it, because you said you’ve been focused on the user side of things. Yeah, well, if you can disclose or how much you can disclose, but what kind of user adoption have you guys seen?

Eric: Sure. So we have. So just to give you an idea of the time frame we launched on iPad six months ago, on iPhone three months ago and on the Web a month ago. And we have Android coming fairly frequently here. And so we haven’t been in market that long and they’re kind of small, but we’re closing in on a million on a million users, about about a quarter of which to actually register and tailor their experience and a lot who use it, just the default experience. So that’s kind of interesting. And what we’ve seen is we’ve seen like three or I guess two now distinct step function increases in our growth rate. So as we went from iPad, which is obviously the smallest market to iPhone, we saw like a step function increase in in what the growth rate was. And then as we went from iPhone and we had it on Web, we saw another step function increase and what the growth rate is. And so that’s kind of I just feel like that’s a really interesting thing that everyone’s aware of in terms of like what growth might look like for them.

Bronson: Yeah, if you had to do over, would you reverse that? Would you do? The Web first and then go. IPhone and iPad.

Eric: You know, it’s a great question. I think what I would maybe do first is do the iPhone first or like basically do phones first. I think it’s also a really interesting question. Now, if I were, you know, starting over or where Android fits into the mix, because I think there’s a pretty good argument that you may want to start on Android, even though that isn’t quite like the tech community, the Silicon Valley community largely uses. There’s a lot of more. There’s essentially more interesting things that you can do on Android because that the OS and it gives you more flexibility. And then I think the competition in terms of quality applications is not as high. So there’s good and bad things on it. It’s a thought experiment for me, but I’m just I’m like super, super excited about what we have coming on Android because we, we really I think a lot of apps are just straight clones of their iOS equivalents. And we were very careful to be like, Hey, what exactly makes a great Android experience and what do people love about Android and how do we make that experience awesome? And so it’s very much tailored to the platform.

Bronson: Yeah. So do you guys see yourself as maybe becoming a Facebook home competitor sometime in the future? Because I don’t know if I might be able to.

Eric: You know, but basically phone is really interesting. I think I’m really excited to see I love to see that kind of testing the limits of what you can do. So, you know, that type of ambition is very exciting. I don’t know if we would do anything that was like to the lockscreen and things like that. But you know, when you think about widgets and you think about navigation, one of the big things that we’ve been thinking a lot about, our Android phones tend to be larger. Like they’re just they’re like taller and bigger and that actually changes things in the design paradigm, right? Like, you don’t you can’t necessarily assume that how someone uses their thumb, right. Is changes. And so and then you have all these form factors. So it’s been it’s been a really interesting challenge for us and very fun to work on.

Bronson: Yeah. Where do most of your users, how do you acquire most of them? Are they just reading about it on, you know, the PR about the new stuff you’re putting out? Is there something is it being shared socially within the app and what’s happening?

Eric: Yeah, it’s it’s it’s 90% user to user charity. It’s about 5% PR and about 5% of experiments that we we do online user acquisition. And so one of the things that we found is there’s there is actually a little bit of value in doing like a user acquisition in terms of advertising or something because it allows you to test the messages in a much more quantitative way. So you basically you have a set of different messages and then you put some some volume behind it and then you can see which of those messages actually really work. And then obviously the most important part of that is by taking that back and using it for all that organic, organic traffic and the user to user traffic. So that’s how we’ve been approaching it on so far, but it’s mostly user to user. I think for a product like ours, that’s what you want. You want users telling each other about it. You want it to be organic.

Bronson: To explain user to user. For me, like walk me through like how it goes from someone discovering it to eventually sharing it to somebody who doesn’t know about it. What does that process look like in Rock Mill?

Eric: You know, so so there’s there’s two parts of it, which is one is like, okay, you’re you’ve brought in or like sitting next to your wife and you’re using this app and you’re like, Hey, why have you got to use this? This thing’s awesome, right? Like this. It’s like that is the highest level endorsement that you can possibly get. Now, you’re not likely to do that to 15 people, but you’re likely to do it to one or two or three, right? Where it’s like if you really like the experience, it’s people you’re really close to. It’s people you spend a lot of time with where you have an opportunity to actually tell them face to face, like, Look at my phone, this is awesome. Look at my iPod. This is awesome. So that’s the very explicit thing. It’s super high quality and that’s all about engaging with those people, really trying to deliver them a great experience. One of the things that we’ve invested heavily in is really talking to these ads. So when we see people who are really active on the platform, we reach out to them and we say, Hey, we would love to learn more about how you’re using it. What do you love about it? What don’t you love about it? What would you like to see? And we we try to engage with them on a personal level because that insight is super useful to us in our planning. That’s explicit. Now, the next slide is is kind of more implicit, which is you find a piece of content on Rockville. And you share that piece of content to Facebook or to Twitter or to Pinterest or to, you know, wherever connected and people click through on that. And when they click through on it and they look at that piece of content they get exposed to in that process and are like, Oh, I too would like this kind of great readability experience or, you know, what is this thing? Right? Not that you keep finding cool stuff on. And that’s kind of more it’s more about the content that gets share. And so we’ve really spent a lot of time and that’s one of the reasons we want to service really good content to you is because then your share and all of this growth that inputs it, stuff it, you know, you’re broadcasting to a larger number of people. It’s not the same in like it’s not as efficient, it’s not as high efficacy as like, you know, going to your wife in bed. Well, it is, but it’s a lot higher volume. So, like, both of those things are important.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. What do you guys think is on the horizon for for trying to grow rock melt? Are you just going to really push the things that you’re already seeing working in just the two kind of social channels and a little bit of paid or new things that, you know, you’re going to try once you get the time and resources to do it.

Eric: Well, you know, honestly, the biggest thing that we’re going to keep doing to grow faster, which I’m going to follow, is we’re going to keep doubling down on the experience. Like, how do we make the experience faster? How do we find more features? We have lots of requests for different things. We’re trying to make, you know, profile higher banner. Like there’s a bunch of there’s a bunch of things about it that are we want to just enable a better experience around. We also are really focused on the community aspect of it, the rock off of the community. So for example, you can go to you mentioned walls, you can go see all the walls and see all of the funny stuff that rock not the entire rock community thinks it’s funny and we’re trying to service the best stuff there. We want that to be a big part of the product and the offering. And so those are kind of the biggest things that we’re focused on in terms of our growth channels, which is also, you know, maybe a little different answer than you’d expect. But I think that’s that’s.

Bronson: A no no. It’s interesting because when I first started this show, I would expect these, you know, ninja jujitsu things that people are going to do. But then over time, I’ve just come to learn is the product like it’s always going to be the product. It always will be the product. And there’s icing on the cake. There’s things that can accelerate that. There’s things you can do to, you know, move that along quicker. But at the end of the day, if the experience isn’t good, everything is a short term gain, not a long term gain. And so I’ve heard this so many times now, I’m actually not shocked by it anymore because great, you know, entrepreneurs that come on the show, they all say the same thing.

Eric: So know somebody once told me it’s really it’s much less about like you don’t want to grow a vacuous bubble bubble. So it’s much less about like the top level growth rate and much more about how do you retain the people who try it. And that’s something that we’ve kind of adopted.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. And so I think that’s one of the reasons that, you know, Rob Mills is going to do just fine because, you know, you keep refining the experience and, you know, those channels of growth is going to keep working like they already are. Now, before Rock Melt, you were the VP of Marketing for Ops, where I’m kind of in a previous life, a different kind of company, a different kind of marketing, everything. Tell us real quick what was Ops where? Because I want to get to that for just a second. Yeah. Because I think people might be interested in that.

Eric: Yeah. So offshore was what we both data center automation software, datacenter automation software was basically software that allowed enterprises to run their servers, networking equipment and storage and structure in their data centers. And so it was an enterprise software company. We ended up getting bought by HP in 2007 four for $1.65 billion was a big business. It was important market and it was a totally different marketing exercise in a lot of ways.

Bronson: Yeah, tell me about that a little bit like I’m trying to say, like trying to figure out how different is it marketing something that’s so big to be so tech driven as opposed to something like rock metal, which is just pure consumer, you know, like how different is it being a marketer? Because I know you’re the CEO now, but you’re still a marketer that never leaves you. Yeah, yeah.

Eric: It doesn’t. So I would say this at the highest level, what you’re doing is you are trying to communicate your value proposition to the buyer, the buyer being either the enterprise or the consumer who’s trying to find a user free product. So like it’s at the highest level, you know, it’s the same kind of exercise where you’re that’s what you’re trying to do. All of the tactics underneath that are are different in terms of like what are the different avenues that you use? How do you get that message out? What are the things that are important to people? You know, it’s also very different when you’re spending money on something versus you’re trying to get someone into to try a free product. There’s actually a very. What all there good things about things with both. But like that’s those are really different. Yeah. So I would say the specifics are different. The highest levels are very similar.

Bronson: Yeah. There you go. So the highest level is communicating your value proposition. Below that, there’s a million ways to do it and they don’t overlap.

Eric: Yeah, exactly. They don’t. They don’t overlap very much at all.

Bronson: That’s great. I think you’ve gone in there just a little bit, you know, and this has been a great interview. I just have a couple of final questions here for you to close out with. The first is this, you know, seeing what you see about publishing because you’re there, you know, the bleeding edge of it. But you’re not a publisher. You’re you know, you’re curating it. You’re not just another Huffington Post. You’re doing something much bigger than that. Would you ever recommend that a startup get into the publishing business? Because you see the stream of so many articles being written every day. It’s so crowded, it’s so competitive. I mean, you exist because it’s so competitive. If it wasn’t that competitive, rock wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. Would you have a recommended startups like Yeah, go start a publishing platform?

Eric: You know, actually, I’m not gonna say I don’t recommend it because I think the companies, if you look at the companies that have started more recently that are all new age like so I think the post you mentioned but also things like Bleacher Report and sports for BuzzFeed or for Business Insider, like I think all of those properties seem to be doing reasonably well in terms of attracting audiences and monetizing and, you know, kind of building out some value. So I actually think there might be if you just come in with a completely new age mentality, we’re not going to print. We’re going to like focus on an online audience. We understand how to build audience. We understand the social things. Without them, they’re actually it could be interesting. People could do really cool stuff on it. So it’s but it’s definitely an area that’s really ripe for new ideas and new innovation and it’s super competitive.

Bronson: So yeah, now that’s good. I was just wondering what your take on it is and I feel kind of the same way, you know, like I look at something like Pando daily and it’s such high quality. It’s not, you know, super new from a technology standpoint, but it’s new from a quality standpoint. You know, I think about Bleacher Report, I think about, you know, BuzzFeed, like, you know, yeah, like those things have legs, they work, you know, but they’re doing something slightly different somehow. Some way they have a unique, you know, kind of advantage, something that’s good advice. Don’t just start another blog. Like start, right?

Eric: Yeah. Yeah. Give me that.

Bronson: Yeah. Now, that’s good. Well, last question here. What do you wish that more startups knew about growth and marketing that they usually miss? You have a chance here to talk to all these people that you know, want to be like you when they grow up. So what do you not want them to miss?

Eric: It’s very hard. I think everyone like you hear the success stories, like the crazy growth that a few companies like, you know, right now, like right now, for example, the messaging apps the messaging apps on on mobile are blowing up and their numbers are through the roof and things like that. But, you know, I just think that the press and the stories that you saw, they’re all like these like massive top level numbers. But the truth really isn’t that because the retention is so low or whatever the case may be on these like different things. So don’t get discouraged if you’re not seeing what you want to see. Keep going back to what are the people who are using it, loving about it, what they like? How do we remove friction for new people trying it so that they understand that value proposition faster? So they they actually kind of internalize what that value is faster. So you want to remove friction, get it there, and then remove the product. And if you keep iterating on that in that cycle, I feel like we’ll get to a really good place.

Bronson: That’s awesome. Eric, again, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule. Coming on our program, talking about Rock Mill, talking about how you’re acquiring entertaining users and just all the stuff you’ve learned about growing the startup.

Eric: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate on on chatting.

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