AMA with Des, Jan, and Brad

by | Apr 11, 2019 | AMA, Community

Welcome to the fifteenth post in our series of BAT Community-run AMAs.

The ongoing AMA series on Reddit is an eight-month-long event that features various guests from the Brave and BAT teams. The goal of the series is twofold: to give fans of the project an opportunity to interact directly with team members, and to give team members—especially those who operate largely behind the scenes—a chance to share their insights and offer the community a window into their work.

The most recent AMA took place on April 10th and featured Des Martin, Jan Piotrowski, and Brad Flora, Business Development at Brave. Des, Jan, and Brad fielded both pre-submitted and live questions from Redditors concerning a variety of topics, like what the most frequent objections from prospective partners and advertisers have been, what some of the biggest differences between business development in Europe compared to the USA are, and how future use-cases for BAT outside of Brave might look.

Des, Jan, and Brad each offered their unique perspective on startup culture and on the challenges and significance of business development within that space.

Highlights can be found below, with a link to the full AMA at the bottom of this post.

The next AMA will take place on Wednesday, April 24th, and will feature Jimmy Secretan, VP of Services and Operations at Brave.

For the list of upcoming BAT Community AMAs through May 2019, see below.

murphD: What are the biggest business development challenges when pitching Brave/BAT?

Great question. Brave and BAT individually are huge concepts to explain to anyone, so explaining a next-gen browser + embedded token + decentralized ad platform really gets the eyes glazing. So I would say the biggest challenge (on our side) is explaining our vision in a concise and elegant way. Oftentimes, the idea of rewarding users for their attention is met with some degree of skepticism ("wait, why are we cutting users into the revenue share again?"). And of course, the conversation is very difficult with any publisher whose business model is entrenched in the existing ad ecosystem. On one hand there is certainly excitement to try better models, but on the other hand, there is fear of messing up their existing revenue streams (no matter how bad they are). For these publishers, it falls on the BD team to convey our value and make it an attractive offering.

Brave is a big project. I find the full end to end explanation is too much for people. So I tailor depending on the audience. So the key challenge is to work out what is relevant for the listener before I pitch.

Generally falls into buckets like: privacy-conscious users, advertisers looking for new ways to reach an audience, publishers looking for revenue opportunities.

I like to emphasize that we are launching the world’s first privacy based ad platform.

We probably each have our own take on this one. The trickiest part for me is calibrating my pitch/talking points to what I think the audience will understand most quickly. Some folks know all about Brave's browser product and positioning but aren't familiar with BAT or our ad products. Others have no idea what a "browser" is! Then there are some discussions where both parties really need to come away with a full picture of where Brave's come from and where it's going...and that's a lot of ground to cover in an hour-long meeting, even with reasonably informed people working in the tech industry.

I_Like_Tech_Drawings: Not sure if this is too forward a question or not, but what's the sentiment so far from advertisers? Is the wait list what the team had hoped? Are many sites/companies on board?

We are still early in our engagement with advertisers so I won't pretend to have a comprehensive grasp on their sentiment. I will say there has been a desire in the industry to explore new things. Some advertisers may have noticed Brave simply because "blockchain" was such an industry buzzword, and then discovered the benefits of speaking to an opted-in, engaged audience that went far beyond the buzzword. However, they found Brave, their ongoing campaigns in our beta/dev releases are an awesome start, and we will only build from here.

CryptoNewsPlus: In Italy, brave ads will be immediately visible? How will you spread the browser and token $BAT in Italy and Europe? 😊

We roll out Brave ads in the following countries first: Canda, USA, UK, France, Germany, and Japan.

Brave ads will be available on desktop first, then Android and then iOS. Should be on all devices by the summer.

Italy should be in the next phase of Brave ads rollout. Once we have enough users in a particular country it makes sense roll out Brave ads.

jankfrank: What compelled you to join Brave? And to Jan: Is Gregorian chanting a lucrative field? Would you be guaranteed a job upon graduation?

Working for a company with a real purpose.

I previously worked in digital marketing, first with my own agency in Dublin and then later leading marketing teams at Qualtrics, nearForm, and Perkbox. I saw first hand how broken the digital advertising space has become. It also became clear how many creators are struggling to make ends meet. These are talented people with real passion. The current digital advertising model does not serve these people well.

I see Brave as a chance to correct some of the things that have gone wrong online.

I wanted to join Brave because I spent a few years in the digital ad industry and came away pretty grossed out.

I believe Brave is one of the, if not the only, company actually making a good faith effort to make things better for consumer privacy online.

My last project was building an ad retargeting platform for small companies called Perfect Audience (http://perfectaudience.com). I kind of fell into that product after years of launching SaaS products that didn't take off, so I was somewhat new to the online advertising industry. I had a great time building that business and eventually selling it, but along the way, I spent a lot of time with execs at other digital ad companies, many of which were much larger and successful than us. One thing that bugged me about my interactions with these folks was the assumption that all of us were scamming our customers in one way or another. As I got to know the industry better I saw that yes, a lot of the players in it were doing sketchy things with customer or consumer data to make a buck.

So last year when I started looking around for a new project, I focused in on Brave. There are lots of companies taking incremental approaches to improving consumer privacy online. Brave's position of "nope, we need a full reset. We've got to build a new browser" is the one I believed and believe most in.

Haha—I would categorize Gregorian chanting as the opposite of lucrative. To be honest, I haven't really met anyone who has done Gregorian chanting so I'm afraid the days of singing in brown robes while wearing rope belts may be fading away. So yeah, opposite of a job upon graduation (but hey, a hobby!). I was 18 and wide-eyed 🙂

I used to be a venture capital investor before Brave and heard Brave's pitch. I came out of the meeting stunned that anyone would be attempting a vision so bold. The usual fears of competition crushing this idea flashed through my head constantly. The more I thought about it, though, the more excited I became. If the idea of venture investing is to find the biggest, most disruptive idea with the right team behind it to execute, I'd found it. When an opportunity to join came, I jumped on it.

DistantView: What does your typical day involve?

Every day is a surprise. In general, I try and focus on a few concrete goals for the day: progressing an ongoing deal, reaching out to specific publishers of interest, etc. Inevitably, reality gets in the way. Typically, I find that internal meetings take place in the morning (time zones...), and external meetings in the afternoon. After dinner is inhaled, I try and log in for a few hours to clean up all of the messages I neglected during the day...and oh yeah, get back to that goals list that I didn't finish (but tried).

Hi! My typical day involves answering emails from partners we're working with, prospective partners we'd like to be working with, and internal folks within the company. I typically slip in and out of 2-3 meetings a day, sometimes many more and maybe have an on-site visit with a partner if they're based in the Bay Area. About once a week someone comes to visit Brave HQ and I'll sit in on the meeting, take notes and share thoughts with the team afterward. Business Development is a bit of a nebulous job but it's basically "talk to people who want to work with your company"!

Days are varied. Usually starts with strong black coffee and then get stuck into emails and messages from the team stateside and general inbound inquiries. I try to do regular outreach each morning through different channels, like Linkedin, Twitter, and email. Conference calls with publishers and advertisers. I try and get out and meet people in London and regularly get to Paris and Berlin.

quint_essential: Which of the 3 pillars of BAT do you see having the most significant impact initially in making this project a success once Brave rewards is officially launched? Advertisers, publishers or users? (And you can’t choose all 3 thanks). I have my answer, just curious as to all of your opinions 👍🏻

My personal opinion is that you start with (and continue to focus on) users first. Adding real value to users, and getting their support in return, is a powerful force that moves markets. The key is to do this in a way that doesn't hurt the other ecosystem stakeholders (just being an ad blocker, for example, hurts publishers, and so we have taken the approach of changing the nature of advertising, not trying to eliminate it). Luckily, I feel equally comfortable thinking about our value to all stakeholders because I think it is real.

DistantView: What have been some of the strangest questions or misunderstands from potential business partners?

Just last week a potential partner said in surprise, 'it looks like a normal browser.'

Before trying, he seemed to think that Brave would require a developer background to use!

What we are doing is new, sometimes people think that means work on their side to figure things out.

I still get asked from time to time whether the browser is free (mostly from users, not potential partners). Which, in a vacuum, is not a strange question, and actually an interesting thought exercise.

Potential business partners still have a hard time retaining the concept that we block 3rd party ads and trackers. Sometimes I find that we get through an entire presentation that I believe went well, only to field questions about which trackers we will be white-listing.

This is a small thing and often leads to pleasant exchanges, but more and more we get notes from IT professionals who are Brave fans and are asking permission to put Brave on their machines at work. We point out that Brave is open source so there's no permission needed!

murphD: When you're talking to a potential ad buyer, what are their biggest or most frequent objections?

The sharpest minds in the industry get what we're doing. For them, the main objection stems from knowing that Brave's success could require a lot of the industry to rethink how it works.

For many who are more operationally minded, it's not uncommon to be asked repeatedly how and where we're tracking our users and what data we're profiling on them. Our refrain of "Well, we're not doing that" just doesn't make sense to some.

michaelchungu1: Will there be any other use case for BAT apart from the started and when will they be implemented?

We plan to release a BAT SDK (software development kit). This will allow BAT to live outside the Brave eco-system. I am sure lots of interesting use cases will emerge as projects add BAT wallets and new ways of paying for attention and content. Off the top of my head, podcasts and video streaming will be interesting to watch.

Can't comment on future plans, but I can say that every crazy, fun, out there or obvious use case for BAT that gets batted (!) around in this subreddit and elsewhere is on our minds.

I followed the Brave project before I joined the company, so I can relate to the feeling of looking in from the outside and wondering "Gosh, what are they working on? Are they thinking about the stuff the outside community hopes they get to?" The answer is "Yes" we're thinking about all those things, no matter how nutty they are. As a software company that wants to ship code that works, that means we have to ship slowly and thoughtfully, but there are many BAT use cases on Brave's radar.

@myusuf3: What's the largest push back you have seen from advertising partners?

Education about Brave is usually key when dealing with any pushback.

People often look at Brave through the lens of what exists already. So they ask how can targeted ads be privacy preserving? Because we bring the ad catalog to your device and your personal information never leaves the device. This is so radical that you can usually see the penny drop in real time as they realize the impact this will have on the ad tech industry.

The digital ad industry operates on top of a bunch of systems and assumptions put into place decades ago by products like Adwords (created by Google), DoubleClick (acquired by Google), Invite Media (acquired by Google), AdMob (acquired by Google) and others (probably acquired by Google if they were really good, notice the pattern?). These assumptions include things like: "You must build a detailed profile of every individual user's browsing history", "it's OK to run ads for toothpaste on a sports web site if we know the user was shopping for toothpaste somewhere else 10 minutes ago" and "you must track the user's purchasing behavior."

Brave runs against the grain on a lot of these things, which can be difficult to explain to people in the industry. What they DO get though, especially the people at the top of the ad buying decision tree at the best brands, is that consumers will respond to authentic messages presented fairly and in a respectful, timely, non-annoying manner. THAT's Brave's bread and butter!

Read the full AMA here.

Read Holli Bohren’s AMA from March 27th here.  

Follow the BAT Community’s Updates here: https://www.reddit.com/r/BATProject/

Upcoming BAT Community AMAs:

May 2019
Marshall Rose, Principal Engineer
Catherine Corre, Head of Communications

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