Dina Kaplan, Blip.tv, Woman Entrepreneur
At every turn, Dina has figured out how to get what she wants. We have crossed paths but never really spoke before and I so enjoyed hearing how she came to Blip.tv particularly since I watched Psuedo in the 90's that was the same thing but way before its time.
Dina grew up in Pittsburgh but in the last years of high school her father, who was the Dean of Carnegie Mellon business school was offered a job at Harvard Business School that he couldn't turn down so the entire family up and moved. She felt disconnected at the school she went to so found a school Rome to finish her studies. Although she graduated from the school in the Boston area she was going to school in Rome. It was at the school in Boston where something happened to her that has kept a carrot dangling in front of her nose for years. A woman teacher asked her not to take the AP test in European History because she would bring down the average of the school. She was so pissed off that she made a personal commitment to herself to show him differently…and I don't know if he has watched her career but there is no doubt that she has shown him.
Dina went to Wesleyan University where they gave her the flexibility to work on the Clinton campaign. On a side note, when she was 14, her family was at the Renaissance Weekend that Clinton was part of. At that time he was the Governor of Arkansas. After meeting him, Dina turned to her parents and said that guy is going to be the President one day and when he does I want to go work for him. They laughed but her instincts were right on and her instincts have been one of her greatest assets.
After graduating she attempted to get a job at MTV where she really wanted to work but they only had an internship so instead she got on a payphone the day of graduation hunting down a job. Her friend who was now working in the transistion team for the Clinton administration said there was a job available but she'd have to get there by tomorrow. She left all her stuff with her parents to bring home and headed to DC. Cleaning up in a McDonalds at Foggy Bottom before asking directions to the White House to start a new job.
Dina worked in the Clinton administration for less than two years working in the office of the White House counsel vetting people who Clinton was hoping to smoothly put through the confirmation process. She worked for a great woman there. But at the end of the day, she still wanted to go work at MTV. Dina went up to NYC and made a call to someone at MTV and said she was in town and would love to come by and talk. It was the perfect shoe in. Dina was hired.
At MTV, she worked on a show called Unfiltered which was way before its time. They would send people cameras to tell their stories. People would send the cameras back, they would edit them and then put them online. It was the early days of the Internet. It was an amazing time to be there and work with so many interesting stars and innovators. She also helped coordinate the "choose or lose" efforts of MTV where people drove a bus around the country getting young people to register to vote. It was a herculean effort. Yet she knew in her gut it was time to move on. After four years at MTV, someone said to her "you have to get out of here and do something else".
Onward to get into local news. Starting out in New England as a local news producer and then a move to Boston and eventually Louisville, Kentucky where Dina stayed for a few years to be a local reporter covering politics. Kentucky wasn't for her and in her own way she kept sending information to the NY office of NBC hoping that a job would become available. NYC NBC hired her to report on really low level stuff like reporting on bodies in dumpsters. Kentucky politics to NYC body bags. It was time again to reevaluate lifes options.
She had stayed in touch with Mike Hudack, one of her co-partners at Blip.tv. Mike was involved with a group of guys who knew each other through Geeks New York and were working on a software product. They wanted to create a product that was an information software system, a back end for large companies. It didn't sound that interesting. Mike mentioned that they could take what they built and apply it to video to create web shows. She was still freelancing at NBC and someone asked if she could go out to Cannes and cover the festival. Dina went out to cover the festival using the software product that the team had created. Spending 10 hours each day attempting to upload what she had created in an internet cafe. Those were the day of dial up. She was blown away by the reaction of the pieces and how many people tuned in. There was something very powerful here.
Mike was thrilled and so was the rest of the group. Dina joined them and went out to raise the money. That was not so easy. The first round took a year and they raised $550k.
Luck and timing are key. Blip.tv went from 100 million this past November to 300 million this past May. The top show makes $500K a year and that number will probably hit $1 million this year. What I love about Blip.tv is that there have been over 50,000 shows uploaded on their site and about 5% of them are the key performers. They sell ad space across the platform to create the revenue structure. Yet anyone can upload a show. Blip.tv is totally crowd sourced shows watched by viewers and Blip.tv primarily sells ad space in the videos to create revenues. To me, this is what makes the Internet so amazing. We aren't being fed content with fingers crossed from cable companies but we can make our choices about what to watch. Total niche audiences. Maybe I should start a show? Only kidding.
Dina is a dynamo. I love her story and her drive. She has figured out at each pivot of her career how to get her foot in the door. A lesson to be learned for anyone. If you want it, go out and get it…and Dina certainly has.