Even if it feels like you’re not moving forward, having deep tenacity and determination will help your vision come to fruition.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Moricca.
David Moricca is the founder and CEO of Socialive, the self-service video content creation platform for the enterprise. With 15 years of leadership and innovation in digital media, David’s experience and tenacity have shaped the company into the fast-growing innovation leader that it is today. Before Socialive, David developed and launched Scholastic’s first digital learning platform and worked as a strategy consultant at McKinsey & Company.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
My professional background is more traditionally corporate, but I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I was in college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I founded a non-profit called Schoolchildren of the World with one of my good friends. We produced educational videos for students to give them a better understanding of how other children from various countries such as Zimbabwe and Malaysia grow up — filming, producing and editing the videos ourselves. As an alternative to textbook learning, we brought compelling stories to life through VHS tapes (yes, VHS!) to create a more engaging way to learn and bring those stories to life.
On the advice of my mentors and my excitement at the thought of continuing my education, I decided to go to Harvard Law School. Rather than going the law firm route, I took the opportunity to join McKinsey as a strategy consultant — an experience that taught me how to be data-driven and become a corporate storyteller.
After my time at McKinsey, I joined Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of children’s books, to build out its strategic planning and business development group. While there, I also developed and launched the company’s first digital learning platform, allowing me to exercise my entrepreneurial skills within a corporate environment.
At this point in my career, I knew it was time to start my own business. I had an early vision for a company that would one day become Socialive, but we went through many iterations before landing on where we are today. I initially began the company as an online music creation platform for kids, which then evolved into an audio streaming platform for musical artists, particularly in the electronic dance music (EDM) scene. This transformed into helping EDM artists stream exclusive sets into venues around the world through two-way video and audio.
After experiencing great traction with video, the business pivoted once again. Leveraging our foundational technology for streaming, we became one of the first companies to enable live streaming to Facebook Live. Today, Socialive has fully embraced my roots in the business world — it’s become the self-service video content creation platform used by enterprises worldwide. We make it easy for business users and video pros alike to create, broadcast and distribute unlimited live and on-demand videos at studio-quality, without the physical studio.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Historically, video creation at the enterprise level has been very challenging because it typically is a complex process, requiring specific expertise, lofty hardware, and a well-known footprint. At Socialive, we are democratizing video content creation and providing a powerful platform that enables not only professional video producers, but also teams in marketing and communications, sales, customer success, learning and development, recruitment, and even engineering to produce studio-quality videos at scale.
With an integrated solution that allows businesses to consolidate the number of disparate technologies required for video production, we’re disrupting how content is being created, broadcast and distributed within the enterprise for customer, employee and partner engagement. Essentially, we are an all-in-one solution for video content creation, and we work with Fortune 500 and high-growth companies across the globe.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m not sure if I’ve made any funny mistakes — we just laugh about them now because they’re no longer painful — but one story that comes to mind was from when I was getting the business started. To get the company off the ground, I leveraged my network to find initial investors in the business, raising 400K dollars from a close friend from law school. Even with the 400K dollars, I didn’t pay myself anything for the first two and a half years. Instead, I allocated about 125K dollars to an agency that helped build out the prototype of our first technology platform.
I quickly learned that it’s extremely difficult to outsource your vision or the execution of a product to a third-party agency. From there, I used the remaining 275K dollars to build a team and bring technology expertise in-house. We built a much more solid foundation for the platform and attracted our first set of angel investors to help us get the product to market.
The reality of an early-stage company is that you have to keep inching the ball forward. From doing this, you learn how to really think about culture, talent acquisition and what is really going to work for your business. We didn’t know how to do that in the beginning, but we now have the talent and the culture we need to take our business to the next level.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Two of the most influential mentors in my life were my political science professors at UNC Chapel Hill: Dr. Richard Richardson, whom I took an “Introduction to Political Science” class with during my first semester freshman year, and Dr. Joel Schwartz, whom I learned from in my second semester in his “Introduction to the Soviet Union” course.
Dr. Richardson was a brilliant professor who was committed to his students rather than research. He really helped me navigate the university and introduced me to Dr. Schwartz, whose family became my family away from home. I spent Jewish holidays including Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with him and his wife.
Both professors paved the way for me to start Schoolchildren of the World by connecting me to folks who helped fund this non-profit. After graduation, I spent a year on payroll at the university to build out the organization. Then, when it came time to decide what to do for graduate school, I sat down with both of them and they helped guide my decision to go to law school.
I was lucky enough to have both of these professors take me under their wing. They helped me through my journey at university, encouraged me to get involved in an extracurricular opportunity that changed my life, and ultimately, provided me with the guidance I needed to succeed.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
A few examples come to mind that can be both extremely positive and have potential negative consequences when taken too far: social media, education and automation and AI.
Social media has had a powerful impact from a community perspective. It enables us to connect and stay engaged with relationships over disparate locations and allows brands to more easily share their story with customers and prospects. However, it can have negative ramifications in terms of how we perceive ourselves. For example, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison and feel like we’re falling behind both professionally and personally.
In the education space, there’s a clear need for a more innovative curriculum, but that doesn’t mean all learning needs to transition to being purely technology-based. Technology is a source of learning, but it shouldn’t be the primary one — a tech-based curriculum simply can’t compare to the in-person experience between a teacher and a student.
The technology industry has been pushing hard on the use of automation and AI to increase efficiency. This drive towards efficiency to work faster, smarter, and in a way that cuts costs can have detrimental effects. Therefore, we have to be careful not to rely on these technologies so much that we leave behind the workforce, which could result in even greater socioeconomic disparities across the country. For example, the income gap between the wealthiest Americans versus the rest of the country is continuing to grow at an alarming rate. Moving too fast in using this tech can accelerate this disparity. It may make us more efficient as an economy, but it’s going to lead to problems in the long-term that will leave people behind.
To ensure that Socialive is creating a positive disruption, we’ve focused on not just empowering non-traditional video creators, but also learning about how we can support video professionals with years of experience. These professionals make up a large segment of our customer base. By facilitating ongoing feedback sessions and reviews of the platform we’ve built, we have been able to take the product in a direction that also supports their needs — allowing them to reshape how they look at the future of video creation.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Many entrepreneurs have told me to be prepared to spend around a decade of your professional life dedicated to your business. If you’re one of the lucky ones, your business will scale really quickly, you’ll identify the right product-market fit and potentially see success in three to five years. Although, most companies actually flame out in those first few years; the vast majority that are successful typically see that success in years seven through twelve.
To fully embrace the grind, you have to have the mindset of the long game. It’s also important to remove your ego as early in the process as possible because you will feel like a failure along the way and insecure about not becoming successful quickly. Even if it feels like you’re not moving forward, having deep tenacity and determination will help your vision come to fruition.
Another piece of advice I would give is to be cautious around taking too much investment capital until you have truly identified the product you’re building and the market you’ll be serving. It’s helpful to think about whether the market is large enough and if you are solving the problem in a unique way that can scale to justify when it’s time to take on additional investment.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
While I can’t give everything away, we have several significant milestones on the horizon related to our company and our platform. At the core of these innovations is the need to empower more individuals across the enterprise to participate in the creation of video for new and emerging use cases. Video is now the gold-standard for business communication, from company town halls to virtual events and even eCommerce. We’ll continue prioritizing advancements that will make self-service video content creation a reality for any business user — regardless of their video expertise.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
In college, I read a book written by Jonathan Kozol called “Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools” that had a tremendous impact on me. This book explores the American public educational system and discusses the disparities in education between schools of different classes and races.
It made me reflect on the fact that no one starts from the exact same place in this marathon of life. For example, Kozol looks at two cities in New Jersey: Camden, which had the fourth lowest income school in the district at the time, compared to a very well-funded school in Cherry Hill (my childhood hometown). The juxtaposition of these two neighboring areas made it clear that the educational systems for the rich and poor are unequal.
It made me think about how kids who are attending severely underfunded schools relative to their peers are already at a massive disadvantage that, in a lot of cases, can be insurmountable. This disparity affects people’s access to jobs, healthcare, food, and various other areas of life. The core themes of Kozol’s book — equality and access — have continued to shape my experience and decisions to this day.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Thomas Jefferson’s quote, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it,” was something that resonated with me, especially when I was getting Socialive off the ground. Although I believe that there’s an element of luck in everything we do, you can create more luck and open yourself up to more opportunities by having tenacity and persevering through challenging circumstances. If you continue to put yourself out there, opportunities will find you.
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. 🙂
I wholeheartedly believe that universal and equal access to education is a human right. This goes back to the experience I had in Zimbabwe when I was creating videos for the non-profit. Some of the young people I met through this were so inspiring — I saw how driven and dedicated they were to learning, despite all of the obstacles they had to overcome. As an example of this incredible dedication, one of the children I met during my time in Zimbabwe ended up going to Harvard and now works for Facebook in South Africa. Giving everyone a chance to learn is fundamentally important because it will provide more equal access to opportunities.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow me on LinkedIn.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!