Mark Trefgarne – CEO and Co-Founder of LiveRail

[quote style=”boxed”]Staying focused. In our industry, it’s really easy to get caught up in what others are doing. I make a point to focus on what I can control and try not to think about the competition.[/quote]

Mark Trefgarne is Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of LiveRail. In this role, Mark leads the strategic direction for the company; ensuring superior service for clients and a thriving work environment for employees. Mark is an active participant on industry panels and regularly provides commentary for leading publications such as Advertising Age, The AdTech Review, and AdExchanger. Prior to founding LiveRail, Mark started Cleartide, an Internet strategy and development consultancy. As founder and Managing Director, Mark provided clients web design, development, and cutting-edge online marketing strategies. Mark Trefgarne holds a B.A. in Economics and Business from University College London.

Where did the idea for LiveRail come from? What does your typical day look like?

I foresaw a paradigm shift in how media was traditionally consumed (television), with everything going to digital, I knew video was next. This meant a subsequent change in the advertising landscape. Publishers need ways to manage inventory and monetize their video content effectively. In order to make the most money, they need a) buyers (advertisers) and b) technology to manage those buyers and their inventory.

LiveRail empowers premium publishers with the technology to sell video inventory smarter and safer, across all devices. We do this this through a cloud based platform that gives video publishers access to over 100 buyers which utilize real-time bidding (RTB) which means these buyers enter to an auction every time a user hits play on the publisher’s website with the winning bidder getting to deliver their ad.

My daily activities vary, but typically I begin my morning with a spin class. I’m usually up pretty early to deal with our team located on the east coast and in our recently-opened London office. From there I’ll take a few calls from home, and then grab an Americano, (no milk or sugar), before making the 15 minute walk to our downtown San Francisco office. My day’s are pretty jam-packed and I usually work well into the evening. If I’m lucky, I’ll find the time to squeeze in a quick game on the Xbox One in our office lounge.

How do you bring ideas to life?

For me, it’s really having that strong vision and the passion and team to back it up. Hire smart people and trust them.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

My early vision has become a media revolution; the way people consume content has shifted, with majority of viewers watch online video on phones, tablets, gaming consoles and even connected TV. For many publishers mobile devices represent almost 50% of their total video traffic. Marketers are embracing programmatic, with more than 60% managing 20% or more of their digital media budget programmatically this year and that is only expected to grow. I’m excited to watch what moves major industry players will make to capitalize on consumer’s cross device consumption of content, in addition to the continuous climb of programmatic buying and the advancement of audience measurement metrics.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Staying focused. In our industry, it’s really easy to get caught up in what others are doing. I make a point to focus on what I can control and try not to think about the competition.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

To be honest, I really can’t say that I have ever had a bad job. The worst thing I’ve ever had to do at a job is fire people. That was really tough. I’ve learned you just have to make the decision and act on it quickly. That’s something that really never gets easier.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

If I could go back, I think I would change how I approached school. In retrospect, I wish I had worked harder and taken my education more seriously. I think there were certain aspects of the “college experience” that I missed out on because I was not fully engaged with school.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Check-in with people. Even if there is no specific meeting or agenda, just walking around the office and dropping by people’s desks can provide a lot of insight. I am all about communication and a big believer in not just saying I care about my employees, but making it evident. The status of your team should be every CEO’s priority.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

My strategy has, and always will be, to think big. It’s very easy to get caught thinking small, too short term and not being ambitious enough with your objectives. As an entrepreneur, it’s in your best interest to ignore fear and push any doubt you may have to the side. Growing a business is really scary, especially when you grow at a rate as rapid as LiveRail has. When you hire new people there’s a sense of responsibility. You don’t want to bring people on and not set them up for success.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I have no recollection of any failures. In my position, you can’t think about your failures. When you’re taking a risk and building a business, you are going to get a lot wrong and make mistake from a strategic standpoint. In order to keep pressing forward, you have to learn the lesson and then leave the failure in the past. One of the worst things you can do to yourself is dwell on mistakes and let them shake your confidence.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

There’s a major market opportunity right now for a virtual multiple-system operator (MSO). The premise is something like Pandora but for video. If they can cut the right deals with a content provider, they can position themselves as a competitor to Netflix. As consumers grow more accustomed to consuming entertainment on devices other than through their regular cable operator, i.e. tablets, smartphones and connected devices like Roku, MSOs have the chance to take these new viewing habits of consumers and satiate their appetites by creating new opportunities and finding a way to monetize these offerings.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I used to be a nightclub promoter in London.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

One of my favorites right now is Path, a messaging and content-sharing app. Not only is it brilliantly designed, but my whole family is on it. Path allows us all to stay in touch since we are all dispersed geographically. I’m a big fan of Rdio, an app that offers unlimited music for only $10 a month and allows users to sync music offline. I’m also a big fan of HotelTonight, an app that helps you score last-minute deals on hotels.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I highly recommend “The E Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It,” by Michael Gerber. The book discusses how entrepreneurs are too often working in their business, rather than working on it, with an emphasis on building systems. For example, when Ray Kroc started McDonalds, he didn’t spend his time as the first guy on the line flipping burgers, he spent his time on developing processes. A lot of entrepreneurs spend their time trying to make their business the best by putting themselves on the front lines when they should really be focused on establishing a business model that can scale and be repeatable.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I admire entrepreneurs that dream big, aren’t afraid to take risks and tackle huge problems. Steve Jobs is a huge one. Also, Mark Zuckerburg. His ability to think big is phenomenal. Elon Musk, Sam Walton, Warren Buffet and Larry Page are a few others who have had a major influence on my thinking from a business standpoint.


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