In this episode of the Birthing of Giants podcast I interview Digital Trends co-founder and CTO, Dan Gaul, a passionate entrepreneur with a story to tell that’ll take you from the mean streets of Tacoma to a $30 million company in the City of Roses and back again.
Setting the Trend for Digital Tech News
Founded in 2006 by Dan and his partner, Digital Trends is a Portland, Oregon based news, review, and lifestyle website for people who have an interest in tech and new gadgets, but are less concerned with techie details and just want to know how well a product is designed and how best to integrate it into their modern lifestyle. With their friendly and easy to understand approach to bringing tech news to their readers, Digital Trends is a breed apart from other tech news sites.
“When we started Digital Trends, we wanted to have a unique voice for the way we created content and presented it that was different than everybody else.”
Their method paid off handsomely. Digital Trends attracted a unique audience to match their unique voice – a group known as millennial HENRYs. These are “High Earning, Not Rich Yet” millennials with a desire for life-enriching experiences, and tech gadgets that enhance their lifestyle. With enough disposable income to shift industries, millennial HENRYs are a highly sought after group that has proven difficult for some companies to market to. Digital Trends already had the audience. Advertising revenue poured in.
Fast forward to 2018, $30 million in revenue, three Inc 5000 accolades, and over 130 employees producing 60-90 pieces of new content every day, and Digital Trends was ready for their next big step. Dan arrived at a Birthing of Giants Fellowship in September with that step in mind, along with another big dream that he hoped to build into the project. To better conceptualize his plan, we brought out our tried and true One Year From Today plan.
The One Year Plan – More Challenging Than You Think
Dan’s One Year From Today plan involved expanding his commercial affiliate revenue by building an automated platform that could also have mileage as a licensable product. Sounds straightforward enough, but Dan struggled a lot that week to flesh out his plan and convey it to his peers in a detailed, yet meaningful way. He blames his love of details.
“I’m the type of guy that I have big ideas, but I focus on details… almost too much. I have a hard time sometimes articulating what that big picture is.”
It’s easy to see how a detail-oriented person can struggle with this concept. Dan is naturally gifted at seeing every detail, but admits he’s more challenged by having to conceptualize and describe his company’s goals as a unified organization first, before diving deep into how to accomplish those goals. You have to be able to communicate your goals as a story before you can successfully pull the people and the parts together to bring those goals to life.
After I advised Dan to think of his One Year From Today as a story, the penny dropped. What’s more, he really started to visualize how he could integrate into his plan his dream to bring much-needed educational opportunities into disadvantaged areas.
For more on creating a One Year From Today plan, you might like:
- How Darragh Fitzpatrick Weathers a Storm Front of Success
- Building the Playbook – A Strategic Plan for Insane Growth
Bringing DT University From Dream to Reality
Dan calls his dream DT University. The idea was born from his own background growing up in Tacoma, Washington, at the time one of the most violent cities in America. Dan was able to keep out of trouble by pursuing his love of technology from an early age, but he lacked a mentor to help him learn about all of the possibilities available in the technology industry. Recognizing that this is a big problem for under-served neighborhoods, Dan thought up DT University as a platform to bring education about new technologies and career opportunities to cities across the country. Instead of benefiting just one or even tens of disadvantaged kids, Dan envisions DT University benefiting thousands.
The plan is to partially fund this initiative from revenue garnered from the affiliate program build-out, but Dan wants to expand it out to include some of their partners, nonprofits, and even their viewership.
“How do employees get involved? They can help plan. How do we let clients get involved? They can donate, or they can buy into it through a line item. We… let them know we’re going to donate a percentage… to this initiative. But the other thing is, hey, if it’s happening in [your city], why don’t you come participate?”
Bringing both of these goals into reality is no small feat, but in just two months, Dan has brought even more precision thinking to his One Year From Today than he had when he left at the end of the Fellowship week. And his clear communication of those goals have already brought his team fully on board. I’m positive that this passionate, dedicated entrepreneur’s story is going to include great success.