The Blog

Schedule a Consultation

Have you read our blog and still have questions? We offer no-cost consultations to portfolio firms and organizations seeking further advice or assistance in strengthening and growing their Product and Tech teams. 

Sign up now to schedule your session with one of our expert principals. 

Recent Posts
What's next?

Interna principals present at events worldwide. We send out a monthly newsletter with information on where to find us next and how to stream our talks to wherever you are. Our newsletter is filled with additional tips and tricks for executive leadership and the latest stories in global tech news.

 

Stay up-to-date by subscribing to our newsletter using the button below.  

The Sharkpreneur Podcast with Kevin Harrington and Seth Greene



David's notes:

This is a great discussion on building technology products that change markets.

Transcript:

Host:

Welcome to the Sharkpreneur Podcast with Kevin Harrington and Seth Greene. Kevin Harrington is the inventor of the infomercial, one of the original sharks from the hit TV show Shark Tank, and has generated over $5 billion in TV and digital direct response sales. Seth Greene is the world's first trusted authority on cutting-edge direct response marketing, a best-selling author, and the only three-time marketer of the year nominee. On the podcast, Kevin and Seth interview sharkpreneurs who share straight talk on what it takes to explode your business.


Seth Greene:

Welcome to the Sharkpreneur Podcast. This is your co-host, Seth Greene. Today, I have the good fortune to be joined by David Subar, managing partner of Interna, who has experience with teams greater than a hundred people in multiple locations, domestic and international in the cloud and colo environments. He's delivered internet-scale products on web, mobile, and OTT that touch large numbers of users up to 600 million page views a month and 1 million video views per day on mobile. David, thank you so much for joining us.


David Subar:

Thank you. Thanks for having me.


Seth:

Our pleasure. Let's go back in time a little bit. How did you get started?


David:

I got started doing research and development in artificial intelligence and machine learning at a military think tank in DC. Thought that's what I wanted to do for a living. I thought I wanted to develop science and what I found out was, I hated it. Here's the pivot point, was, look, I was born a nerd. I'm congenitally a nerd, but I wanted to use technology to build products that change markets.


Doing research, you wrote a paper and you presented a conference and maybe a couple hundred people listen to you... and nothing would happen. That wasn't what I was built to do. I was built to build products that did things for people, for markets. It was a valuable learning experience. From there, I went and I was an engineer at an AI tools company, then I was a manager, then I was director, then I was CTO running all the technology build, and then I started running product management too. That was, "How do you take technology, how do you take people and build those products?" That's the fundamental thing that drives me.


Seth:

You talked a little bit about the career path. How did you get to Interna?


David:

I've been doing that for a long time, and six or seven years ago, I realized what my real skill was, was building teams that built products. I jumped off on my own and I started helping companies that were building technology products but weren't doing it very well or were about to hit a scale point and didn't know how to scale. I started helping those companies, "What is your product management team doing? What is your engineering team doing? Are they working together? Are they focused on the value you're trying to create? Are they doing that effectively?" How to do that better so they could get product-market fit faster, use capital more effectively, and just be better as a company.


Seth:

That makes lot of sense. Can you give us some examples of, and you can withhold names if you need to, the types of companies that you're working with and the results you're able to help them achieve.


David:

Sure. Absolutely. Everything from small startups to big Fortune 500 companies. I helped the Walt Disney Company with the Disney ABC Television Group; with Lynda.com, before it got sold to LinkedIn for $1.5 billion; but also with small startups you've never heard of before. I'm helping an LA-based celebrity now start a company. That company's six, seven people right now. It's a variety of sizes, but always the problem of how do you build technology products more effectively?


Seth:

Obviously you've got some sexy numbers on there. Talk to us a little bit about the 600 million page views a month and a million video views in a day on mobile.


David:

Those were some different companies. One was a company that was helping with domains and internet domains. It was just getting a lot of traffic. It turned out that people were going to the wrong domains. That was about how do you take that misplaced traffic and redirect it to a place where consumers can get to where they want? That was funded by ad sales.


The video views were when I was at a company called Break Media, and I was running technology and product there. And we had a bunch of videos, something like Smosh videos that we developed ourselves, that we hosted ourselves or hosted on YouTube or hosted on mobile, some user-generated content. It was just, how do you do that at scale? How do you do that so that you are presenting the right videos to consumers and not spend the time doing it?


Seth:

Obviously a valuable proposition. What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see companies making when trying to scale their teams and their tech to deliver their technology products that you're helping them fix?


David:

Oftentimes, people think software engineer's job is to write code or a product manager's job is to write user stories or roadmaps. Those are components of their jobs, but those aren't fundamentally their job. Their job is to deliver a product. Software is something you happen to have to do, to do that well. People miss that and they say, "Engineers, we will just tell you what to do. You get it done.” The engineers are the people in the backroom you just throw bananas at, and then they get stuff done.


That doesn't scale. These engineers can get jobs anywhere, and someone can always pay them more money. Facebook or Google can pay them more money. Unless they're engaged in who you serve and how you serve them and whether you serve them well, they A, won't be as engaged in their job, but B, engineers can write code three ways. Unless they have the context, they are not likely to consistently write it the right way.


Thinking about those jobs wrong is one of the things that people fail at. Second of all is a focus on mission. Who are we here to serve? If we go build a great product and put it out in the world and have a margin on transactions, we will make money. It's the question of, do you understand your market? Do you understand what they want? Do you have metrics once you put a product out to see if you got it right or not?


All product managers are horrible at their jobs. Every one. It's not a job you can be good at. You have an idea of what you think the market wants, but until you release something, you don't know exactly what they're going to use. The question for a product manager and a question for an engineer is, "What's our goal? We believe by doing this product, we're going to have this effect on this market. And if so, we'll see this metric move."


How can I build the smallest thing, get it out in the market, get feedback, and then say, "How did we do?" In software, it's very easy to release and then get feedback and do it again. It's different than a consumer package good. We should take advantage of doing that for these technology products.


Seth:

That makes a lot of sense. You've managed multiple teams of hundreds and hundreds of folks, literally around the planet. How do you do that? How do you lead a team that isn't physically all in one place and get great results?


David:

Some of it is people understanding why they're doing it. I often have them repeat back to me, "Who do we serve? and how will we know?" Also, there's a methodology about how do you manage people? I will say, "Here's the goal set we're trying to get to. Here's why. Please argue with me." I expect them to ask me hard questions. The reason I want them to ask me hard questions is that there are some things they know that I don't know. They have some data that I don't have.


We're going to have a conversation about it. Sometimes if we disagree, it's going to be because I didn't communicate well, or it might be because they know something that I didn't know; but either way, we're going to have a conversation, we're going to agree on the goal set. Then I say, "Go away, then come back and tell me how you're going to achieve that goal."


My job then is to ask them the hard questions. I have broader context because I'm seeing many, many more projects and many, many more people than they are. I have some context, and I'm going to ask them hard questions, then we're going to conclude on, "Great. We know what the goal is. We know the method for you to get there. Go run the race. My job is to get impediments out of your way." I'm going to run the race. I'm going to check in with them. How are they doing? "Hey, we time-boxed this thing. This is going to get done in two months. Give me an update every sprint, every week, every two weeks, whatever it is," then they're going to give me updates.


My job there is really to get impediments out of the way. "You guys are working really hard and everyone's out late at night. Someone needs to order pizza, I'll do that. Your trash can is full, I will empty it. I want you guys to run the race. I want to create the environment by which you can be successful, and then we'll measure that success on product release."


Seth:

That makes a lot of sense. What do you like best about what you do?


David:

Oh, I love this. This is the best job I've had in my career by far. I get to see a lot of different business problems, a lot of different technology problems, meet a lot of people, and really have an impact on companies and on the people in the companies that therefore have an impact on other people.


We do our consultant gigs and they might last three months, they might last six months, they might last nine months. At Disney, I was there for 18 months. When you leave, people say, "Things are different because you've been here and things are better." That's great. That's great. As I said, I'm congenitally a nerd, but I'm a relatively gregarious one. I like to know that things have been made better for people.


Seth:

That's beautiful. What are some of the problems that a company would have that would let them know they need you?


David:

There's two types. One is an executive, a CEO, or a board will have a sense that they're just not getting enough output through the product development group, and they generally don't know why. By the time it becomes apparent to them, it's probably bad. It might be the product development group, it might be the engineers or product managers. It might be the CEO. They have a sense of, "We should be getting more out of it. I'm putting more into this, I'm not getting more out." That's A.


B is, "We just hit a pivot point. We are about to hit a pivot point where things are going to grow. We're hitting a new market. We just got new funding. What got us here, I don't think is going to get us there. Can you just come in and do an evaluation and see where we're at and see whether we're poised to go to the next level?" It's those two cases where they're in pain or they think they're about to grow. That's usually when I get calls.


Seth:

How do those companies find you?


David:

Usually word of mouth, people that know me. At Disney, for example, I'd done some work at the Fox Network Group and the CTO of Disney ABC Television Group called one of his buddies at Fox Network Group and said, "Do you know someone?" We have a website, www.interna.com. Some people find us there and in things like this, podcasts like this.


Seth:

Given all that you’ve accomplished and the amazing results that you've had, what's the best advice you've ever been given?


David:

That's a great question. Oh, here it is. I went to Ohio State and I was graduating. Woody Hayes, a popular-- not popular, very successful-- football coach had been fired from the university. He had hit a kid, terrible thing, shouldn't have done it, and on national TV, twice stupid. He was still speaking at the university, a motivational speaker. I was a graduating senior. There were twelve things I wanted to do before I graduated, and one was meet him.

I happened to meet a trustee of the university. I asked her, "How do I meet Woody Hayes?" She put me in contact with him, and I called him up. I said, "Woody, I’ve got twelve things I want to do before I graduate, one's meeting you." He said, "I’m free for lunch Tuesday." Sorry, that was a little bit of a long setup. I sat with Woody for two hours, talked about whatever Woody wanted to talk about.


Woody said to me, he played football at Denison. He said, "There were people that were faster than me, people that were bigger than me, people that were better equipped to play football than I was, but I knew one thing: no one could work harder than me." I thought, "Woody, that's something I could take with me." It turns out being smart is a very common commodity, lots of smart people. That’ll let you run the race, then you’ve got to work hard.


Seth:

That is great advice. We appreciate your time. We know it's incredibly valuable. For our folks watching and listening, where's the best place for them to go to learn more about you and what you do, and how you can help?


David:

Our website, interna.com. Interna is I-N-T-E-R-N-A .com. Or you can hit me up on LinkedIn, David Subar. Last name is like Subaru without the U, S-U-B-A-R. Hit me up in either of those places, glad to talk. If you just need some advice, hit me up. Glad to even jump on a phone with someone.


Seth:

All right. We greatly appreciate your time. Thank you so much, David Subar of interna.com. This has been Seth Greene with Sharkpreneur Podcast. Thanks everybody for watching or listening. We'll talk to you next time. David, thanks so much for joining us.


David:

Thank you.


[00:16:10] [END OF AUDIO]



DavidSubarHS1 (2).jpg
I'm David Subar,
Managing Partner of Interna.

 

We enable technology companies to ship better products faster, to achieve product-market fit more quickly, and to deploy capital more efficiently.

 

You might recognize some of our clients. They range in size from small, six-member startups to the Walt Disney Company. We've helped companies such as Pluto on their way to a $340MM sale to Viacom, and Lynda.com on their path to a $1.5B sale to Linkedin.