Ben Young | Founder of Nudge
Success leaves clues.
Finance Strategists sat down with Ben Young, founder of Nudge. He discussed the past, present, and future of the company, as well as the insight he gained from running the business.
Who is Ben Young?
Q: Who are you and what’s your background?
Ben Young, CEO at Nudge. I’m from New Zealand, a little place called Queenstown. I shifted to New York in 2013 to bring our technology to the world. Prior to Nudge, I started a digital agency, which was the 8th fastest growing business in New Zealand. We felt that New York had enough digital agencies but maybe not enough Nudges. So I arrived at 27, fresh off the boat.
Started from scratch, new market, new culture, new business, new product and no network. It truly was trial by fire, one of my first aims was to have 100 conversations in the first 3 months. Which I did – in fact at the end I hosted an event and invited people for a few drinks. We had a great turn out. That formed the foundation of where we are today.
Q: Who has been your biggest influence, and why did they have such a significant effect on you?
I grew up far far from the US. When I was a kid, Michael Jordan was the man. Even though we didn’t have basketball on tv, you knew about him, you collected basketball cards and magazines. When I was introduced to the internet, the first thing I looked up was Jordan.
It inspired me to be great at basketball, it taught me to trade cards but also to build my first website. Which of course was a Jordan website. There are many influences in my childhood but this one has a connection between what I do now, where I’ve come from, and the things that got me here.
In the US it’s less obvious as to how much of a transformative effect that the internet has had around the world. That ability to look up anything, anywhere. To converse with people all around the world. To even earn money. It was and is a game changer. And it had a big influence on me. As much as I wanted to learn, I could access, learn and give things a go.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have told yourself when you were in your twenties?
Be unashamedly you, and make the plays and the bets that you back. And I felt like I did this but maybe if it was drilled into me at a younger age, I could have gained a couple of years progress. Which is quintessential Ben, being efficient.
A few habits that have really paid dividends for me, was to be early in experimenting with investing. Try a few things and take onboard the learnings. Losing money in my teens and early 20s helped me tremendously down the path.
I also have a freedom budget each year. I’m ok to spend up to $750/year on books. So whenever I feel like getting a book, I can and do. I’m a bit more refined now in the books I buy. But that permission meant I didn’t hold back in buying books that I thought I could learn from. A few hours and $20 can deliver knowledge and learnings with hundreds of times the return.
The other is to learn to write. I started a blog quite early on, a place where I could write and share anything I thought was relevant. But really it was a sandbox, a place where there wasn’t an agenda, it could be whatever I wanted. It’s been tremendous as an outlet and a place to improve.
Q: What is Nudge?
Nudge shows marketers the impact of their content through a holistic view of content, clicks and sentiment so that they can create better experiences. It’s pretty simple.
As a company we’re focused on how we can build great products that enable marketers to perform at their best, using data and feedback. If we can make you superhuman, then we’ve done our job.
If you do marketing, you should give it a nudge.
Q: What makes your company different from its competitors?
We make the hard easy, the complex simple. Our platform gives marketers precision in understanding the impact of their content. With that intelligence they can then improve the experience for their customers. Not an easy task given the art and science of content.
One such client reduced the amount of content they produced year on year. Why? Because they found what worked and doubled down on that, removing the excess. This is typical from what we see. No longer do marketers need to throw stuff against the wall to see what sticks, just use Nudge.
How did we create Nudge and continue to innovate? Culture. We are a mix of people from all around the world, who are passionate about what we do and committed to pushing ourselves to deliver on that. Culture drives our product, services, experience and our ongoing commitment. It informs our best ideas and helps us through the good times and bad times.
We’re not afraid to start something new, be rubbish at it, and then quickly iterate. But we also know when to stop something when it’s not working. It’s this learning that enables us with the intel and capabilities to be the best at what we do.
Q: What led you to start Nudge?
Just grumbling, in a prior life I had started an agency in New Zealand, we were doing a lot of work which was either nascent or for the first time but were still accountable for our investments. So I was grumpy. We needed tools that helped us understand what was happening when we did these campaigns. If someone else had built it, we would have used that.
The most promising was this idea of viewability but it didn’t go far enough when you are working with content. Which is funny as in the early days people would go, you’re like Moat for content. You need art and science, you need multiple lenses to help you see the impact.
Q: What has the experience of building the business taught you?
I love it, I like building. Each day I come in and we get to build. As we get bigger, how or what we are building is different. The scale, length of time and investment changes, which keeps me on my toes. It’s an honest job. If you stuff something up, you know pretty quick, and you need to change. I like that. Great challenges, great people and a few adventures along the way.
Q: Where do you see things headed for you in the next 5 years?
There are 5,000 logos on the martech landscape, VC funding has dried up and the industry is very acquisitive. If you extrapolate that out, having a logo in a reducing field of logos, increases value. So we’re working on growing our brand, to be synonymous as the salesforce for content. Because content is core to all marketing.
I also recently joined the board of Rugby United New York, Rugby is a sport which predates football in the US and actually has a lot of players, they just haven’t all been connected nationally before. It’s like a startup, it’s a content and media company, who has to grow fans and build partnerships. It’s very similar to what I do at Nudge – but you might not think it at first. Our aim is to make rugby world class, here in the US.
Personally I am the father of two beautiful girls. I’ve adjusted my life to spend more quality time with them, especially before they get to school age. My wife and I love to travel, so there’s a few destinations on the list, a European summer, Iceland, back to Tahiti.