MP recently sat down with Eric Dahan (Forbes 30 Under 30), Founder and CEO of Open Influence. Open Influence is a demand-side influencer solution with a network of over one million influencers worldwide. Its focus is on helping brands facilitate meaningful partnerships that drive value for both their businesses and customers. Having been a pioneer in the influencer marketing space for more than eight years, Open Influence has established a successful track record working with some of the top brands across many industries, including fashion, lifestyle, automotive, entertainment, technology, CPG, pharmaceuticals, and others.
Let’s jump right in…
MP:When did you first want to follow an entrepreneurial path?
ED:Growing up as a first-generation American and the son of an entrepreneur, entrepreneurship didn’t seem like a choice but more of a given. I always had projects, ideas, and small ventures that I would work on, but it wasn’t until college that I started to take those projects and ventures seriously. After that, I really treated college as a way of preparing for entrepreneurship in the real world.
What’s your typical day like?
No day is the same. Early on, it felt like I spent most of my time drinking from a firehose and just reacting to whatever situation came up. I now spend a lot of my time planning for what’s next with my business, working to anticipate the needs and challenges to come.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
I used to struggle with disconnecting from work. It was impossible not to feel consumed by my work constantly, both mentally and emotionally. As a result, I try to plan social engagements and treat the weekends as a time to disconnect and unwind.
What characteristics or skills are most important for startup leaders?
The most important things are risk tolerance, risk management, and the ability to adapt. The world is a very uncertain place, and you need to learn how to become very comfortable confronting risk and the emotions that come with it. But having the emotional strength to handle risk is only the first step. Your ability to manage risk will help you assess choices while navigating your environment. Finally, your capacity to adapt and change your behavior will ensure that you continue to do so successfully.
Do you have any systems for decision-making, learning, and execution?
When I find it challenging to make a minor decision, that usually means that I have failed to make the more profound underlying decision first. Therefore, I like to focus on what I want my guiding principles to be, which determine my decision-making framework. Every experience that challenges or creates friction within my framework is an opportunity to reassess and improve it.
Entrepreneurship can be a tough road. How do you stay focused on moving forward and making progress when things get difficult?
You have to love it. You can’t just be focused on the pot of gold at the end. You have to love the grind, the challenge, the feeling you get from forging a new path. Focus on the experience and make sure that you are operating incrementally better each day than the day before. I believe that every challenge is a learning opportunity to make myself that much better.
What questions should would-be entrepreneurs ask themselves before starting a new venture?
What problem am I solving? What is the opportunity for solving it? Why hasn’t anyone else solved it before? How can I position myself as the best person to solve this problem?
Open Influence has raised $2M. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who think they need outside funding?
I don’t believe that funding is an achievement in itself, and it’s also often not cheap money. However, there will always be money if you focus on building a great business and business model. Treat venture capital as an accelerant for your business, not a panacea.
Why is it crucial for businesses to create an influencer marketing strategy?
We live in a social-first world, driven by people talking to people, which is essentially all influencer marketing. Social permeates every aspect of our lives, from what we watch, buy, eat, go, and do, and individuals, not the brand, tell two-thirds of a brand’s story.
What statistics can you share about influencer marketing?
From $1.7 billion in 2016, influencer marketing is estimated to have grown to have a market size of $9.7 billion in 2020. That’s expected to reach $13.8 billion in 2021.
According to Influencer Marketing Hub, nearly 63% of businesses that budget for influencer marketing intend to increase their spending over the next twelve months, with 17% expecting their influencer marketing spend to remain the same.
How can entrepreneurs successfully pick which influencers are right for their business?
It’s essential to understand who your audience is, who they follow, and why they follow them. Influencer marketing works because of trust and relevance, so it’s essential to make sure that you pick influencers that your audience trusts and influencers relevant to your brand or value proposition.
What’s the road ahead look like for Open Influence?
Influencer marketing is continuing to grow as social media permeates more aspects of our digital and physical experiences. As a company, we are making a big bet that all commerce will evolve into social commerce.
What would you like people to know about Open Influence?
We are a customer-obsessed company while also believing firmly in the power of the human element. It permeates every aspect of our business.