Shahrzad Rafati: True Success Is in How We Can Impact the World Through Our Business, and Business Is a Platform for Positive Change

Shahrzad Rafati

Shahrzad Rafati of BBTV Holdings Inc.

Tell us about yourself?

I’m Shahrzad Rafati, Chairperson and CEO of BBTV, the leading creator monetization company with a mission to help creators become more successful, and a successful quadruple bottom line business that measures success across financial, people, social, and environmental KPIs. I’m also a champion for equality in all forms, and passionate about job creation, climate action, education, and advancing opportunities for women and girls. And I find myself fortunate to support a number of influential Boards and Associations including as Vice-Chair of Invest in Canada, Board Director for Bjarke Ingels Group, and Co-Chair of G20 EMPOWER.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

That it’s no longer enough for many startup founders to just build a financially successful and stable company. They are becoming more and more aware of the impact businesses have on the world and are looking to build companies that create a significant and positive impact. Also, the startup world isn’t as glamorous as people make it out to be. It takes a lot of grit, long hours, perseverance and tenacity, and it’s not for everyone. It’s even more so the case for entrepreneurs. I always give these pieces of advice to any new entrepreneur: ONE: Go after large pools of opportunity, don’t solve a small problem if you can solve a larger one. TWO: Follow your passion. You won’t succeed if you don’t have a passion for what you do. THREE: Hard work and perseverance are an absolute given FOUR: You need to keep your eye on the long term vision and stay committed to what you are ultimately trying to achieve. FIVE: And of course, surround yourself with amazing people that will support you.

If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

I wish I knew better at the time I was just starting out that, when you do things for the first time, you need to be open to failure, but you need to fail fast and you need to learn from your mistakes quickly. That’s why our mantra at BBTV has been quick failures.

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Even now, 17 years later, the space has so much room to grow and it’s still evolving very quickly. Quick failures are such a core part of our DNA, have helped us to achieve market leadership and so many amazing milestones.

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

I love being an entrepreneur. It’s a challenge worth every ounce of effort. What keeps me going is that I believe that true success is in how we can impact the world through our business, and that business is a platform for positive change. BBTV is about so much more than financial success. This is why I am so passionate about our quadruple bottom line.

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

I absolutely try to maintain a good work/life balance. I work many hours of the day and also travel quite a bit so I am a big advocate for healthy lifestyles and I train a lot and eat well. To unwind I run, workout, and do pilates and yoga…I also watch both fun and educational videos!

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

BBTV is a global media and technology company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada with a mission to help content creators become more successful. With creators ranging from individuals to global media brands, BBTV provides comprehensive, end-to-end Solutions to increase viewership and drive revenue powered by its innovative technology, while allowing creators to focus on their core competency – content creation. The model for BBTV came to me when I first visited CES, observing the applications of digital audio which was pioneered by Steve Jobs through the invention of the iPod. I wanted to play a pivotal role in the democratization of content given my background. And that’s part of the reason why I started BBTV. From that idea, BBTV has now grown from a small startup into a leader in the creator economy, operating in 12 languages and in 30 countries. Our mission is to advance the world by helping content creators become more successful, and today we house some of the most influential creators in the world that are defining the culture of today and tomorrow.

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We reach more than 600 million viewers around the world who are consuming tens of billions of hours of video content every month. It’s amazing to look back sometimes and see how far my vision for BBTV has been realized over the past 17 years. Not only are we a leader in our space, but we’re breaking new ground in so many ways. I’m proud to say that BBTV reached an incredible milestone in October of 2020 when BBTV launched an initial public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The IPO made history on the TSX as one of the Top 10 Tech listings of all time, as well as the largest across all sectors with a sole female founder & CEO and the first in the technology sector.

Where do you see your business in five years?

I’m really proud to have founded and built BBTV in Canada, especially at a time when there is much disruptive thinking around the creator economy. The future is going to be big for us, not only because there’s so much ahead for us, but because it’s set to be transformative for the way people interact and engage in the digital world.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

We’ve built one of the largest audiences in the world, we’re at the center of the creator economy, and with our scale and our incredible team, we’re uniquely positioned to capture the massive opportunity in the space. The groundwork has been laid over the last 17 years for us to be a driving force in the new digital era, and the biggest challenge to getting there is ensuring that the rest of the world is more aware of the opportunity the creator economy represents.

Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

My goal has always been to build a quadruple bottom line business, in which the company measures success not just based on financial performance but also through people, social, and environmental KPIs. I’m incredibly proud that BBTV is exactly that. As an example, we’ve had a 0% pay gap over the past 5 years, we have 40% female-identifying employees and managers across the business, and we operate a fully carbon neutral business. Not enough companies in our space can say that.

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How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

Just like solving a problem in a university paper, you need to cater your product to whoever is checking the answers. The most successful companies in nearly every industry proactively seek out market feedback. This accomplishes a number of things: 1. Building Brand Affinity Customers who feel their needs are being heard are more likely to stick with a product, even if some of those needs aren’t being immediately addressed. 2. Identifying Ambassadors In a world where social marketing is so effective for building awareness, identifying the users that love your products has become an important practice for any business. Once you’ve found them, you can engage with them to amplify your marketing efforts down the road. 3. Nimbleness Some aspects of your product may not resonate with your consumers. Listening to what they have to say helps you determine what’s working, what’s worth working to improve, what shouldn’t be a focus for the future, and what you’re missing entirely. These are all key aspects to a successful product down the road.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

I’ve received a lot of advice over the years, and I think you also need to be selective about the advice you take onboard. One piece of advice that stands out to me is: “Always do the right thing – personally and professionally, it may not be easy, but you will never regret it.” I use that at all levels of the business, and it’s helped guide many of my decisions over the years.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

We are really at the onset of something monumental in regards to the creator economy and BBTV is uniquely positioned to drive the creator economy forward, from creators themselves to the fans they captivate. The future is incredibly exciting!

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