Jay Samit is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO of SocialVibe, a company that focuses on monetizing Internet traffic by allowing users to select charitable donations for viewed advertisements. He began his career by founding Jasmine Multimedia, one of the first companies to develop video multimedia on computer platforms. He has also served as a senior executive at Universal Studios, EMI and Sony. He has a BS with honors from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Sramana: Jay, to begin let’s learn a little bit about you and the back-story leading up to SocialVibe.
Jay Samit: I grew up in Philadelphia. My father was a math teacher and my mother was an English teacher. My dad eventually left teaching and started a restaurant. As a kid, I was always starting businesses and doing things. When I got out of college I had a belief that computers would be in people’s homes. There were not a lot of companies that believed that so I started my own company, Jasmine Multimedia, to create the intersection of video and PCs in 1982.
I was about as far off the main highway as you could be. Fortunately, I was right and we grew to be one of the largest companies at making video possible. We created videos for Microsoft and produced 300 CDROMs. Eventually I went on to run all of new media for Universal Studios. I built up their games division and their Internet presence.
I also built one of the first online social communities for college kids a decade before Facebook. It had one out of five college kids join. It was extremely popular, profitable, and Universal did not know what to do with it. This was in the late 1990s. By then, the Internet had become the focal point of my life.
The first content to fit extremely well on the Internet was music so I jumped in on the music side of the business. I became a global president of EMI, which is the home of Capital and Virgin. I did the first ringtone deals, the first song downloads and the first album downloads. Each one of those firsts translated into hundreds of millions and eventually billions of dollars in revenues.
I was asked to start up a division for Sony and was part of the BMG–Sony merger. I brought on their ecommerce store which was one of the largest ever created at the time. As I tend to do I wanted to give up the big company and go do something entrepreneurial again which brings us to SocialVibe.
My guiding principal has always been to be the best at what you do or be the only one doing it. If you are the only one doing it, then you are the best by definition. When graphics were on computers, video seemed to be the next step. We produced titles that had top rock ‘n’ roll bands. We did a deal with the Vatican.
Sramana: Are you the founder of SocialVibe?
Jay Samit: I was not the founder; I was brought in by the board. I saw they had a brilliant business model and felt that it should change advertising as we know it.
Sramana: What was the premise under which SocialVibe was founded?
Jay Samit: Its original premise was, ‘Would people look at advertising if in exchange for looking at the ad a donation were made to charity?’ Sure enough, there were people on the Internet who were willing to do that. There are 60 million Americans who volunteer at a cause each month.