Updated: Feb 7
By: Matt Wasserlauf, Co-founder & CEO
Building a start-up business from scratch is one of the hardest things to do. However, nurturing that start-up to its four year anniversary through a worldwide pandemic is definitely the hardest challenge I have ever faced. As co-founder of Blockboard, I am very proud of what we have accomplished.
On Monday, February 6, 2023, Blockboard celebrates its four year anniversary. As I look back on these past four years, I marvel at what we have accomplished. It is the founder that must power through those first years and push through the many barriers and challenges that lay before it. I distinctly remember when the pandemic hit in March of 2020, turning to my co-founder and CTO to discuss how best to overcome this challenge: “Advertising will most certainly shut down, so let’s use this time to build. Let’s build our platform for when the clouds lift and we can begin scaling the advertising spending with our partners.”
That’s exactly what we did.
Summoning my inner-most strength, I rose every day and sought to find a marketer, or two, who might give us the opportunity to test this new platform we were building. I distinctly remember how tough it was to power through each day. The daily news during the pandemic was so utterly depressing. The ad market was at a standstill. My mentor and partner Jim DePalma would coach me to take it one day at a time. I took deep breaths.
It Was Hard. Extremely Hard.
No advertisers worth their salt were testing new providers. Most were holding firm with their tried and true partners and cutting most everything else. I went about pitching my closest friends around the industry. It was hard. Extremely hard. Nearly impossible. But, it was on the golf course in the midst of the pandemic when I was given my chance. Mike Scalera was the Director of Marketing at Eight O’Clock coffee when we sat there on the golf cart together and he confided in me.
“I need sales impact,” he told me.
When I started Blockboard in February of 2019, I understood that the vast majority of video impressions distributed across the ecosystem weren’t landing. They simply were not being seen. This may be hard for most people to understand but as the industry’s pioneer, I had seen it all and I had seen enough. At 50 years old and with a healthy degree of anger, I set about changing this. I started Blockboard.
Mike Scalera agreed to test Blockboard against the two giants in the Video business: YouTube and TradeDesk. This was exactly what I wanted. He told his agency, Active Media, to set it up.
I remember the test getting arranged and launched with a healthy degree of nervousness, but I had faith. I knew how the industry operated and had seen this script so many times. When the campaign was through, Mike agreed to meet me at the Tenafly Diner to share the results.
"You Made Me Look Good"
I’ll never forget that meeting with Mike. It was a cold, winter’s day over the Christmas break when we met over coffee at the diner. With his parka still on, Mike pushed a piece of paper across the table and said, “You made me look good.” Blockboard had 3-4x his $50,000 spend with $186,000 of sales lift in the stores we zip-code targeted on our platform. We far exceeded the sales results of the two most prominent players in the $50 billion video industry: YouTube and TradeDesk.
With everything that we have accomplished for ourselves and our clients in just these short four years... I cannot wait what the next four (scratch that...) 10(!) years will look like. Early morning alarms are set, sleeves are rolled up, the market is ready.