“Having involvement from all disciplines upfront rather than moving sequentially through functional silos really helps inform our creative process and results in a much better outcome for our clients in terms of creative/production and distribution performance.”
Kevin Allodi is the CEO and Co- Founder of Philo Media. Prior to his role at Philo Media, Kevin was corporate vice president at Portal Software, a pioneering billing and revenue management solution. He also held a vice president position at Computer Sciences Corporation for nine years. Allodi is also a board member at FNBC Bank & Trust and a managing partner at KBA Holdings LLC.
Where did the idea for Philo Media come from?
Philo was conceived by a serendipitous meeting in 2011, I was invested in another branded content startup building mobile apps for athletes, celebrities, and brands in the early days of the iPhone/smartphone era. It turned out we had great content and tech chops but zero knowledge of the app distribution game – it was a “build it and they will come” strategy. Surprisingly, no one showed up! My son A.J. had a chance meeting with Jeff Tetrault, former VP of Sales for branded entertainment company, Digital Broadcasting Group. DBG was focused in the desktop/online space and had a robust digital distribution network. I initially thought the two companies might complement one another and possibly partner in some way. Coincidentally, Jeff had been after DBG executives to expand into the mobile space with TV quality branded content but was told they were prepping the company for sale and had no interest in pursuing anything further. Jeff suggested we start a new branded content company that would bring TV quality production and storytelling to clients with a mobile-first distribution strategy because that is where people were increasingly going to be spending their online time. It took some convincing, but Jeff was persistent and finally won me over. We raised some seed capital and launched the company in January of 2013 and have since experienced both the ecstatic joy and unexpected horror of the entrepreneurial start-up life. However, we have experienced mostly joy. It has been a fun ride so far and only getting better as the market is now embracing our value proposition.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am up around 7A.M. I then do a quick scan of industry news headlines on the train to our Chicago office. Once there I split my time between bigger picture activities, such as direction, strategy, and being as helpful as I can to my team, which mainly means staying out of their way. Lately, I have been focusing a lot of my time on fundraising for our B round and due diligence on a potential acquisition.
How do you bring ideas to life?
In our business, there are many people that touch on ideas and bring them to life! Since we are a small team we have encouraged an “all hands on deck” culture that ensures we get as much brainpower and creative input as possible. Having involvement from all disciplines upfront rather than moving sequentially through functional silos really helps inform our creative process. Thus, resulting in a much better outcome for our clients in terms of creative, production and distribution performance.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I am extremely excited about the convergence of video content, social platforms and data in an Omni screen environment. I believe the boundaries between linear video (TV) and digital outlets (smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, smart TVs, etc.) have been blurred. Old models of communicating brand messages do not work in the new “information/content anywhere-on-demand” paradigm. Truly, transformational possibilities now exist where brands can use video content to inform, entertain and actively engage their target audience as opposed to interrupting them. It is a whole new ball game and, fortunately for us, brands are quickly realizing how powerful this can be. However, it takes a change in mindset and willingness to break out of formerly tried and true methods. I am fond of a phrase my friend Howard Tullman uses, “Ignorance is curable, indifference is fatal.” Companies that don’t recognize that these rules have changed and are unwilling to adapt will be left in the dust.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I like to think my habit of being brutally objective, always trying to see both sides of a situation, helps me make better decisions and as a result, be more productive. I try to avoid “paralysis by analysis”, but by simply stepping back for a moment to ensure I am seeing the problem and opportunity from all sides and not rush to judge gives me confidence that I’m making more informed decisions.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Freshman year of college, I was working in the equipment room after football practice handling everyone’s sweat-soaked uniforms as part of my partial football work scholarship. It was pretty nasty but in hindsight very instructive; I learned that sometimes you have to do things you would rather not do in order to attain certain goals.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would take advantage of learning instruction more. Of course, in my early professional life, it was a hassle to get “continuing education”. You had to travel to night classes, seminars, conferences or training classes, which took you out of the field for days and weeks at a time. I was in sales so that did not work for me. Now the world is at your fingertips, literally. There is no longer any excuse for not being a life-long learner.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
In the past, I took a quote to heart from INTEL co-founder Andy Grove’s book which was, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” Now I am not so paranoid that I do not stop to smell the roses and enjoy successes when they come, but I have found it is wise to have a healthy dose of it in your consciousness to ensure you do not rest on your laurels. That is more important today than ever. Entire industries are being turned upside down due to technology enabling completely new ways of doing things better, faster and more efficiently. Look no further than Uber, Tesla, and Airbnb. So I strongly recommend a healthy dose of inquisitiveness, if not paranoia, at all times and to regularly ask yourself how someone might “leap-frog” what you are doing.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
It is a selfish strategy but it works. I always try to surround myself with people that are much smarter than me. I know there are people with more talent or experience in areas I do not have expertise in, that are needed for our business to reach its full potential. Welcoming people with strong knowledge and different points of view challenges everyone to be better. It is a true “win-win.”
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
More of a “pivot” than outright failure has to do with a renewable energy partnership I have been involved with for ten plus years. My partners and I tried unsuccessfully to launch a green biofuels project in a Caribbean country. There were good intentions and plenty of need, but in hindsight, we faced insurmountable odds in the face of political apathy and a challenging economy. We have since overcome those obstacles by implementing a more traditional project infrastructure without including new technology, which simply de-risks the project. While the former idea had a potential for much higher returns, we learned that you couldn’t overload a deal with too many variables that can be perceived as unproven or too risky. Having repackaged the project with fewer perceived liabilities we are now positioned for success.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Seriously, I believe the best $100 I spent was for His and Hers pedicure appointments with my wife. It is a terrific one-hour getaway with no phones or distractions and a great environment for a chat the old-fashioned way. I highly recommend it.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I have found Dropbox and DocuSign to be life-savers. With Dropbox, I have access to all my documents, presentations and media/content on literally any device. DocuSign has really made my life easier as I sign and send a lot of documents to people all over the place, often times requiring several signatures. It is wonderful to be able to route a document to multiple people for review and signature without the hassle of printing, signing and faxing multiple times. Also, iTunes and Spotify are my music go-to’s.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I highly recommend, Howard Tullman’s Perspiration Principles series – the latest of which is, “Launching a Startup in the Digital Age: You Get What You Work For, Not What You Wish For.” Howard speaks from experience in a straight-forward way that is informative, easy to read and assimilate.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Phil McKinney, former CTO of Hewlett-Packard and current CEO at Cable Labs is a major influencer in my life. He writes, blogs and vlogs on how to harness the power of innovation to radically improve personal, career and business success on his Killer Innovations media platform. Phil is an award-winning innovator of technologies and products used by hundreds of millions of consumers and businesses worldwide. He has been credited with forming and leading multiple teams that Fast Company and Business Week have listed multiple times on their annual list of the “50 Most Innovative”. His recognition includes Vanity Fair naming him the “The Innovation Guru”, MSNBC and Fox Business calling him “The Gadget Guy” and the San Jose Mercury News dubbing him the “chief seer”. His work has been covered by hundreds of news, business, technology publications and broadcast organizations including Wired, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, Chicago Tribune, PBS All Things Considered, Fast Company, Inc., BusinessWeek, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stones, BBC, International Herald Tribune, USA Today and many others. He is one of the smartest guys I have ever had the pleasure of working with.
Phil McKinney — https://www.linkedin.com/in/philmckinney
Phil McKinney – Killer Innovations
radio show: killerinnovations.com
Books: Author of “Beyond the Obvious: Killer Questions That Spark Game-Changing Innovation”
Also, Howard Tullman is another great influencer. Howard is the CEO of 1871 in Chicago which includes 325 digital startups who are building their businesses every day. He is also the general managing partner of G2T3V and Chicago High Tech Investors, a member of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago NEXT Innovation Council and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s Innovate Illinois Advisory Council. He is an advisor to many technology businesses and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management. A hugely successful serial entrepreneur, Howard has founded 12 companies, including Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, CCC Information Services, Tunes.com, the Rolling Stone Network, Imagination Pilots, Experiencia and others. He has also been tapped for senior executive positions at established institutions such as Coin Inc., Worldwide Xceed and Kendall College where his expertise in turnarounds saved the school from going into bankruptcy in 2003.
Lastly, another influencer in my life is Bob Lefsetz – author of “The Lefsetz Letter.” “The Lefsetz Letter” has been publishing for over 25 years. First as a hard copy but most recently as an e-mail newsletter and now in blog form. While mainly offering observations and commentary on the music business, I often find Bob’s insights extremely pertinent in business in general and in media related business in particular.
“Famous for being beholden to no one and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself. His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to EVERYBODY who’s in the music business. Never boring, always entertaining, Bob’s insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music’s American division and consultancies to major labels.” –Rhino