Technology is Like Building a House; Everyone Likes to Over-promise and Under-Deliver.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Evan Wayne, CEO & Founder of Key.
The foremost expert in relationship and revenue building, Evan Wayne has cataloged a successful career driving sale as well as high-growth teams accordingly. As Founder and CEO of Key, Evan Wayne oversees company financials, managing the Key P&L, investor relations, long-term partnerships, and hires. Wayne led the initial seed funding round, garnering investments from 50 investors and he continues to drive future fundraising rounds supporting Key’s rapid growth and expansion. Wayne manages the Talent Growth & Partnerships department, driving strategic partnerships for Key from individual talent, talent agencies, brand partners, marketing agencies, talent teams, and venture relations. Additionally, Wayne oversees the Product department, helping to drive overall product vision, roadmap, tech partnerships, and data integrations.
Wayne previously was a co-founder of Clearstream, where he delivered triple-digit revenue growth before and after its sale to Engine Group in 2015. Prior to Clearstream, Evan led sales at Sociomantic, which sold to Dunnhumby, and was the largest revenue contributor at InterClick, which sold to Yahoo in 2011.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Many years ago, my career began selling advertising opportunities and working with talent at a hip-hop radio station in Chicago. From there, I shifted to selling advertising technology; I was fortunate enough to work for some of the most incredible mentors in the industry. These mentors inspired me daily and pushed me to learn, grow, and challenge myself at every venture. One aspect of my job that continuously energized me was the ability to work in a field that was never stagnant, but always changing. I thrived in taking experiences from each job as I thought about new ideas and problems in-market I could solve. This concept foundationally helped drive me to start my own business, leading me to tie together my experiences across many business sectors, from talent to technology, brands to data and more. Enter Key, which is truly an intersection of all of my ventures along the way. I have the unique opportunity to tap into my experiences and create a company that delivers opportunities for Talent, Fans & Brands leveraging my advertising technology and data expertise.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
When selling at B96 “Hits and Hip Hop” radio station, I vividly remember one defining moment during my tenure there that helped shape my future. Wearing a suit and tie, I walked into a Toyota Scion dealership to pitch our talent to a potential customer. The GM quickly told me that we were not the right fit for his customers. With trepidation, I asked him if we could make a bet…the bet would be that we would head to their car service center and we would sit in 3 cars. If all 3 cars had B96 on the radio presets, then he would buy from us. All 3 cars had B96 programmed. While it felt great to “win”, I had a moment of self-realization that one of my characteristics I would always come to value is my appetite for risk-taking, my personal grit and desire to continue to bring unique solutions to problems at hand. This may seem like a small moment in the scheme of things, but this experience, this opportunity, helped drive me to never stop at no and continue to push to build, create and inspire in the businesses I would start.
Can you tell us about the Cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
On a daily basis, we are innovating, delivering and building technology that offers better ways for Talent to take back control of their data and content monetization. Not only is this beneficial for Talent but will also allow for more relevant content experiences for their loyal Fans. The technology stack we are creating is rooted in driving a frictionless experience (no app download is necessary), is agnostic and accessible to all (works on all screens) and offers features and functionalities that bring rich live content experiences to life. One of the greatest parts is that our tech has emerged as a way to give back and drive social impact in real-time.
How do you think this might change the world?
During this global pandemic, where life has changed for many people, we feel empowered that Key can create connectivity. Furthermore, meaningful and authentic connections that everyone has access to. There is something incredibly powerful in finding that connection point during a time of need.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
In general, many people are dependent and incredibly influenced by content, specifically social content. Currently, fans and consumers are beholden to the large social media platforms and how they control the experience for these individuals. Think of #ad and sponsored posts, platform algorithms and more. The Key technology and platform experience hope to connect Talent and Fans in a more organic and genuine way; free of big box platform semantics.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
After over a decade working with brands, I realized how much information these brands have at their fingertips. They have the resources to obtain the data and access to deep analytics and insights. With our belief that Talent is the new Brand, we saw an opportunity gap in that Talent has little to no access to robust data around who their fans really are. It was an “aha” moment for us and we realized that Key could help provide that same value and data access for Talent.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
Achieving success and mass adoption/scale for Key is contingent on continuing to create and drive larger partnerships and success stories across a multitude of verticals including sports, music, culinary, wellness, fitness and more.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
We have a unique and innovative marketing strategy at Key where we support and empower Talent to be their own marketing engine. They have worked hard to build loyal communities across existing platforms like Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, so, we tell them to meet their Fans where they already are engaged. For upcoming livestream events, they promote to their existing fan base. Promoting organically and in Talent’s own tone and voice is something we have seen great success with versus Key pushing out paid media or less authentic marketing.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have been incredibly lucky in my career to have worked with inspiring people who supported and drove me to start my own business. During my first exit, I was working for Michael Katz, who instilled a message in me, that the ride is better than the exit. That is, we are never going to have more fun than where we are now; building a team and growing a business. That has stuck with me every step of the way on my journey.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
This is of course a work in progress, but I make sure to maintain and foster my network and connections, continue to drive mentorship wherever possible, and always pay it forward. As mentioned, I am entirely grateful for the inspiring people and the experiences I have been surrounded by. I like to create job opportunities, often bringing individuals from my past teams with me as I build. I always commit to a fun, productive cultural environment. Lastly, we are lucky at Key to have built a platform that brings goodness to the world daily by raising direct funds for important causes from the livestreams.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Work Smarter Not Harder
Technology is Like Building a House; Everyone Likes to Over-promise and Under-Deliver.
Not All Lunch Meetings are Created Equal; Sometimes Lunch is Just a Meal; Sometimes You are Doing Business.
If You Ask for Advice, You Will Get Money. If You Ask for Money, You Will Get Advice.
I Wish Someone Told Me Before We Started…That a Global Pandemic Was Looming 🙂 One Can Wish Right?
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Well on a funny note, would really enjoy if every morning we start our days with a 5-minute dance party. In reality, I would love if everyone tried to pay it forward at least once a week. Take one thing you learned from someone else and pay it forward to the next person!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The ride is better than the exit; I have been part of 3 acquisitions, so this is entirely relevant in my life. You will never have more fun than building and developing the business and culture (the ride). I am enjoying every moment of building Key!
Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
We had a thesis that Talent is the new Brand; however, Talent doesn’t have control of the same things that Brands do such as data, content monetization, and attribution. So, we set out to build products under Key that unlock those abilities for Talent. Through live streaming, data orchestration of their CRM and through connecting Brands, Talent and Fans in one singular place.
How can our readers follow you on social media?