Tony Chen, 29
Title: Chief executive and co-founder, Channel Factory
Company: Beverly Hills-based Channel Factory helps advertisers and content creators on YouTube and other social networks optimize their views and data.
Financials: Declined to disclose.
What led you to start this business?
In 2010, I was in the middle of completing my education at Rice University. … I wanted to figure out how to get myself viewership online and discovered the world of paid media. I dropped out of school in 2011 to start Yellow Thunder Media … and in 2014 founded Channel Factory to help both advertisers and content creators advertise on YouTube and across social video platforms.
How did you fund it, and how are you funding it going forward?
Channel Factory was fully self-funded out the gate. As the business is scaling rapidly, we’re exploring strategic partnerships.
Are there advantages/disadvantages to starting a business so young, and if so, what are they?
The advantage of starting a business when I was 19 was that I had nothing to lose. I was also ignorant and fearless. The disadvantage? There’s no substitute for experience. I made a lot of costly mistakes; learning from them has made for a very expensive MBA program!
Where do you go for advice regarding your business?
I’ve been lucky to have my father and co-founder by my side every step of the way. I also have built a solid team around me here at Channel Factory. … I typically seek advice internally first and if needed seek advice externally from people who have deep knowledge on what I am trying to accomplish.
How much time/money do you spend on social media for your business?
We use social media to keep our clients and followers apprised of key events and developments in the digital video advertising ecosystem, which means we’re sharing insights almost daily across social channels.
Does social responsibility play a role in your business?
Absolutely. Channel Factory actively works with charities and nonprofits, and has previously partnered with charities like Model Citizen, who distribute life-sustaining backpacks to the homeless and disaster victims. We are also developing our technology to help advertisers avoid inappropriate content, which will ultimately decrease the motive of bad actors and cut off their revenue streams.
Do you encounter skepticism from investors because of your age, and if so, how do you handle it?
Silicon Valley did a great job of breaking down any negative perception around youth. In my experience my age has only served as a motivational factor in my network building, and frankly, when I focus on the business, age plays a secondary role to mission and results.
What do you do for fun?
Running this business is fun for me. I love building things, and it gives me a bigger purpose. With that said, I live a good life outside of the office, taking care of my health and fitness and feeding my imagination with a steady diet of meditation, eating and spending time with friends and family.
Do you feel that your business is particularly tailored to the Los Angeles market, or do you feel you could have launched it in another location?
Los Angeles is very special to me, and the unique media landscape here has played a pivotal role in the business, but our core mission is universal in scope, and our business drive doesn’t recognize borders.
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