Jason Dobrzykowski:
Welcome to Ad Ops All Stars. I'm your host, Jason Dobrzykowski, and my guest today is Dan Rua, Founder, CEO of Admiral. Welcome, Dan. Awesome. Awesome. Well, welcome to the Ad Ops All Stars Podcast. I'm your host, Jason Dobrzykowski, and my guest today is Dan Rua, Founder and CEO of Admiral. Welcome to the podcast, Dan.

Dan Rua:
Thanks, Jason. It's great to be here.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Awesome. How's your Friday going?

Dan Rua:
Friday is going amazing. I guess on the podcast folks can't see, but Friday for us is Hawaiian shirt Fridays and we've done for a couple years, all of our customers ask about it and we kept getting asked, do we have Admiral Hawaiian shirts? And so hot off the presses, I've got the Admiral Hawaiian shirt on that you'll be seeing more of around the circuit.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
That's great. I see the logo in there too. That's cool.

Dan Rua:
Yeah, we kind of like got that in the mix, but I didn't want that to be overpowering. It's more about the Hawaiian shirt feel.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Love that.

Dan Rua:
Really good.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
So one of the things that we start off is by kind of going through and asking, if you were talking to a young kid or a family member, how would you describe not only your company, but what you do, kind of at it's base form.

Dan Rua:
Okay. That's a good one. So our mission is saving the free internet one publisher at a time. And so for a kid, I'd probably start with something simple like that so they get like, wow, you guys are doing some big stuff. And then I might talk about, well, what are we saving it from? Is there something happening? Something going on? And then basically there's this massive wave of kind of privacy and user empowerment that is working its way through the internet and it's like breaking the way content is funded. And so we're trying to help publishers with that develop direct relationships with their visitors and ultimately kind of a sustainable model to create great content for our kids and grandkids.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yeah. That makes sense. You've been in this space for a while now and you founded Admiral about seven years ago. It would be great to know and understand a little bit about your journey before Admiral and then what sparked coming off of your journey, to what you said, thinking that Admiral is needed and kind of then the understanding the journey from start of Admiral and what that's been like.

Dan Rua:
Sure. So I guess I'll start a little bit on myself and then we'll kind of go into the broader Admiral story. So for myself, computer engineer by training, I was kind of one of the Apple Two kids, back in the stone ages and went to IBM in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina in the nineties, and worked on early internet stuff like the early protocol stack for IBM products to get on the internet. And then I got really enamored with the startup scene in Research Triangle, North Carolina, and went to grad school at UNC Chapel Hill, focused on startups. MBA, JD there on the law side, focused on intellectual property and the business side focused on startups and venture capital.

Dan Rua:
And then coming out I actually did two things. One was founded a software company with my brother that eventually got funded and sold. And in parallel started having discussions with some Silicon Valley venture capital funds, and one in particular called Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and a guy named Tim Draper, very successful, had backed Hotmail, Skype, Badu, and eventually many others, including Tesla and SpaceX. Tim wanted to launch the first east coast Draper fund, and so asked if I would join on that, and I said it sounds great. So moved to Northern Virginia, started two venture funds investing up and down the east coast US, all early stage media and software companies. We did about 30 companies and I was the guy responsible for the Southeast. Really lucked into some great deals, sold a couple companies very quickly for high multiples and allowed me to launch a third fund focused just on the Southeast US. So with that moved down to Florida as my investing base and did another 10 companies, again, all media and software.

Dan Rua:
And one of the last companies I backed was in the music streaming space, a company called Grooveshark, and Grooveshark was really kind of the bookend of the music revolution. There was Napster, which coincidentally I put the first money into Napster, which was moving from CD tracks to downloading and sharing of tracks. And then that disrupted the music industry and then kind of on the book end of that is Grooveshark, which pioneered streaming, and ultimately led to Spotify.

Dan Rua:
Well, anyway, the labels hated the Grooveshark model. Grooveshark was trying to be the YouTube of music. It grew very big, touched a hundred million users, 120 employees, and eventually the labels wanted to close that off. And so we ended up cutting a deal with the labels to exit the category and product team, we spun them out to tackle something to create Admiral focused on something we were seeing happening around ad blocking and monetization. So music enthusiasts were some of the earliest ad block adopters. And so we were an ad supported and subscription supported publisher, and so we saw the impact to ourselves and we also saw that it was growing and coming for the rest of the internet. And so we spun out first with an MVP product, just the size and saw of ad block losses. But then-

Jason Dobrzykowski:
So this was some core crew from Grooveshark.

Dan Rua:
Exactly.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
That you moved into this MVP kind of proof of concept for what you saw coming that effectively became Admiral.

Dan Rua:
Correct. Correct. Yep. So kind of the MVP product, it was easy to explain to investors for our seed round of investment. This tip of the iceberg about ad block, which was kind of size and solve ad block. But then we started doing some root cause analysis on why was ad block growing and what's going on here, and we get to this idea that for the first couple decades of the internet, it was sufficient to just kind of pump out content and attach ads and attract people and shoot ads, and if your content was good enough, that was sufficient. But as people start to peel off the ads, then cracks start to show in the model. And in particular, what we saw was that there was no relationship between the publisher and the visitor, and that leads to problems.

Dan Rua:
It leads to publishers abusing the relationship, maybe with bad ads or what have you, and it leads to potentially users abusing the relationship to where they don't really care if the publisher lives or dies. And so we had this idea of like, it really starts with relationship. You need a relationship. If you want sustainable model into the future, then both sides need to care whether this sustains or not. And so that got us into what we call visitor relationship management, we can talk more about, but that was the impetus, kind of starting with ad block as tip the iceberg, but then leading into this bigger realization about the relationship between publisher and visitor is critical as we get into post cookie world and everything.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Do you remember your first partner or your first customer and kind of the story that you walked them through?

Dan Rua:
First customer, that's a good one. It was a big European gaming network, kind of like casual games.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yeah.

Dan Rua:
And gaming is just getting crushed with block rates. In general, US is anywhere 20, 30% block rates and then EU is 30, 40%, but you get into gaming, and we had gaming sites coming in with 60 plus percent block rates. And so, so yeah, I mean, it was that very simple, one of the nice things about what we did in our launch which worked well was we start with a free measure tag, and to this day we still have that. So anyone can just throw this tag on their page and they measure the losses or the revenue opportunity because from an ad ops or rev ops standpoint, your normal dashboards actually get screwed up by blockers. Whether it's Google getting blocked or Adobe getting blocked or what have you, and so step one is just size it. Even if you don't do anything else, at least get a feel for what phantom revenue is under the radar.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yep.

Dan Rua:
And so we started that with that gaming network, if I remember correctly, and then they saw the number and to be honest they didn't believe the numbers. It is just like, again, because their tools were telling them something different.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yeah. They're like no way, no way.

Dan Rua:
And so anyway, so then we started recovering for them and it worked out really well. They rolled us out across the network. That was a really good early win for us.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
So maybe describe a little bit about like the user experience. So the whole goal that you set out was to create this relationship management between the user using the site and, and ultimately the publisher, to create this trust between the two. So how did you get from vision into tactical execution in terms of what you thought needed to happen in order to basically bridge that trust gap and maybe even describe a little bit of the user experience for folks, just in terms of what that is.

Dan Rua:
Yep. Yep. Sure. So I would say there's kind of the strategic or softer side of this, and there's the tactical, and I'll kind of talk about both of them. So the strategic or softer side is all this touchy, feely stuff I talk about around relationship, right? You can apply this to dating, right? You can't ask someone to marry you on the first date. You need to start by introducing yourself and then maybe a week later you ask for a date and then maybe a month later you asked to go take a weekend trip. And then maybe a year later you're talking about marriage, and yet a lot of things that were going on was trying to like rush to marriage versus grow a relationship.

Dan Rua:
And so that's kind of the softer side. The tactical side, let me step back to ad block for a second. One of the things we saw was that when you could attach ads to content with no blocking, you didn't actually need any sort of access control system, right? It's like you just throw out the content and anyone can access the content, and that's fine, because I'm getting paid with ads whenever they do that. As soon as the consumer can kind of take the content without the ads, take the product without paying. You actually need an access control system. Now it's not every obvious to everyone that this is an access control system, but that is really at the heart of it, which is how do you set up the terms of access in a way so that you can really offer multiple different options as far as what the value exchange is going to be, and then verify the value exchange happens and, and allow access to content. And so tactically or mechanically at heart, this is about an access control system. But back to the soft side, you can't do it in a mechanistic way, right? It has to be human. And so we had to build in-

Jason Dobrzykowski:
It's got to feel right too, right? For both parties, it's got to feel fluid to your point, human to your point.

Dan Rua:
Yeah. So we spent a lot of time and effort on how do you talk to people again in a human, respectful way, and actually in the early days, we learned very quickly on this because the first couple times publishers would go live with this. And by the way, the UX for the ad block piece, and we'll talk about the rest, we do email and subscriptions and donations and bunch of stuff. But the first time someone used it for ad block, it was a very accusatory message. It was kind of like, hey, we caught you, you've got an ad blocker. You got to turn that thing off.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yeah.

Dan Rua:
And we learned very quickly, going back to relationships, this is not about gotchas. This is not about, I caught you. This is about support us in what we're doing. Do you like what we're doing? Do you like either providing you with games or we're doing investigative reporting. And so this ability to kind of talk in the right way about building a relationship into the future became really important with which means we had to invest in a really easy to use, easy to configure, very targetable, plus frequencies and all these sorts of things so that you can kind of have a paced conversation that isn't just like a big lockdown, if that makes sense.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
No, it makes sense. Obviously there's a lot of thought, there's a lot of work that goes into that from a strategy and engineering or product side. What's the makeup of team? I'm sure you've got client success, you've got product, and what's kind of the makeup of your overall org, because one of the things that I think would be great to talk about is understanding how the teams that are maybe working with your partners day in day out are ultimately taking that feedback and following it through to better create that more human experience between both user and publisher and continue to kind of advance the product overall.

Dan Rua:
Yep. Yep. So on the team makeup standpoint, very roughly speaking, we're about a third product, a third sales marketing, or go to market, and then a third what we call customer love. Customer love, we're a little heavier on customer love than most other companies and it's because it is really kind of a defining piece about Admiral. If you talk to any of our customers, customer love would probably come up. It's kind of a core value. So anyway, about a third, a third, a third. To your point about help making it easy, that takes investment in a very robust platform that's super configurable. So we, like I said before, we do ad block, we do email, registration, which leads to identity, we do subscriptions, donations, privacy consent, all of those things are steps along a visitor journey, which means we had to build a journey builder, right?

Dan Rua:
So it's kind of like, what's the first thing might you want to chat about? Okay. Maybe it's privacy consent choices. And then maybe a couple days later it's about getting an ad blocker off. And then a couple days later, maybe it's about an email address. And so we had to build out this pretty sophisticated journey builder that didn't exist before. Typically, publishers that were trying this stuff had adopted, creating kind of a Frankenstein of like five different vendors. They've got their subscriptions vendor and their ad block vendor and their privacy consent vendor, and when you do that, that's like six tags on page, six vendor relationships to manage, and from a user experience standpoint, each of those vendors don't know the state of the visitor journey. And so sometimes you'll show up on a website and you get asked like three questions all at once, and it's because the different decision engines don't know the state. Whereas we said, make this a horizontal journey. And we got this whole builder to just make sure that stuff doesn't happen. We know the state of it.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Actually, that makes a lot of sense. Looking at kind of the team component to start, and shifting kind of into the people aspect of Admiral, there's many ways to measure success, right? There's very explicit ways, when you talk about goals and hitting numbers and renewal and turn and product roadmap and all that, and I think most folks in the space can relate to those things because we all deal with them, but what are some of the non explicit goals, or kind of measurements for success that you look at for the team as a whole, but also as you're looking to grow talent in those, kind of some of the more intrinsic stuff that helps you grow, but that's not like, hey, you didn't hit at this goal or that goal or this that we're trying to hit. How do you look at measuring some of that or what do you think of as success in those realms for the team?

Dan Rua:
Yep. So you probably would like me to just jump right to the metrics, and-

Jason Dobrzykowski:
No.

Dan Rua:
I hesitate on the metrics. We really start, we are a very mission driven company.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yeah.

Dan Rua:
And so when I say we're saving the free internet, one publisher at a time, we actually just had a big team summit, and I did a whole kind of Admiral deconstructed presentation about what does that actually mean? Right. And so saving the free internet, what are we saving it from? Again, this privacy, user empowerment way with ad blockers, privacy blockers, death of the cookie, GDPR CCPA, that's changing the business model for the internet, we're in there to help save publishers there. And then one publisher at a time, why did we talk about one publisher at a time? Well, that goes to the idea that we're going to treat each publisher, it goes back to customer love, right? It's about one at a time. It's not about mass scale. It is about how do we treat each of our publishers the right way. So we start admission at our mission. Then we go into kind of our tagline, which is kind of like how we do what I just described. And I promise I'm going to get to metrics in a second.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yeah. For the record, you don't have to share metrics. It's always good to understand the different philosophies and different approaches.

Dan Rua:
So we move from our mission, very mission driven company to help kind of guide us, then into tagline, which is the visitor relationship management company, which we've talked about visitor relationship management, which is journeys and it's about building relationships, and I feel really lucky that relationships somehow has become just the anchor for everything we do. So relationships, number one, between publisher and visitor, that's what we help make happen. That's pretty natural from how I've described all this. But relationships then between us and their visitors matters, because we are giving that publisher something which shows up on their website and engages with their visitors. And so we have to write things that don't just care about the publisher, but care about that visitor as well, and gives them the tools and ease of use.

Dan Rua:
Then relationships matter between us and the publisher, and so that, again, coming back to customer love is kind of a defining piece. And then lastly, relationships matter between Admiral as a company and our employees and between our employees. And so we have this massive, four ring Venn diagram with relationships sitting right in the center that really helps the whole company stay grounded on what we're trying to do. And so before we get to numbers, if we're doing a great job of helping publishers build visitor relationships, we're doing a great job of delivering on the relationship with the visitor as well between Admiral, our UX and everything, and a great job of our relationship between us and publisher. And lastly, our relationship between our company and our employees, then we're going to do all right.

Dan Rua:
Then when you get into metrics, we got all the usual metrics. We're trying to drive annual occurring revenue, which is kind of in some ways, a lagging indicator. Before that you need demos, right? How many demos are we doing? And before that you need leads and prospects. So how many leads and prospects are we driving? So kind of on sales and marketing we've got that. On product side, we've been talking a lot about metrics and doing things around release velocity and things that we can assign or at least measure at an FTE level so that as we grow as a company, we can understand for each FTE we hire, how much additional productivity or performance are we going to get? So it allows for projecting very well. And then lastly-

Jason Dobrzykowski:
And also, I want to get into it at some point, but also the model you just described there too, is I would imagine also a barometer for making sure that you don't of burnout on an individual level and understanding the expectation of what one human can actually do, right?

Dan Rua:
Absolutely.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Sorry, I think it's good to talk about that at some point, but keep going on the metrics.

Dan Rua:
Well, you nailed it, that that goes hand in hand, right?

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yeah.

Dan Rua:
You want to get to a certain AR place. Well, what is your AR per FTE?

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yep.

Dan Rua:
Right? And so, so how many FTS do you need to, you can't just throw a dart and think that you're going to hit that number. Those two things go together with team. And then lastly, on the customer love front, a lot of metrics around that, whether that's net NPS, net promoter score, one of the biggest one that I think is for the whole company is around net revenue retention. And I don't know how much time you spent in kind of capital markets and what's going on with venture capital and public markets and such, but it used to be people would talk about churn rates and how low can you get your churn rate? And the whole discussion is actually flipped, which is how high can you get your net revenue retention?

Dan Rua:
Which is essentially taking a cohort. If you said 12 months ago, this cohort versus today, this cohort, how much revenue were they driving 12 months ago? How much revenue are they driving now? That encompasses not new deals, because it's the same cohort.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Right.

Dan Rua:
But it encompasses expansion revenue, contraction, and churn. So it folds all those together, and to the degree you can push NRR up, you've got an engine that will keep on growing into the future and capital markets will give you the benefit of that. So anyway, so we spend a lot of time thinking about net revenue retention, which is why we invest so heavily in customer love, because CL for us is the number one driver of net revenue detention, right? Happy customers with optimized journeys that are rolling us out to more of their networks, rolling out more of our modules across VRM, ultimately that leads to net revenue retention for us.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
No, I love that. That's that's actually such a great way to look at it. I mean, to your point, there can be such a microscopic view on churn and what that number means, but taking a step back and looking at it like you kind of outlined, the net revenue retention kind of folds all of that in, but it looks at some other key indicators, which I think is great.

Dan Rua:
Also, I would add just, I just described a bunch of things which are more about kind of SAS business models than maybe media publisher business models.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Sure.

Dan Rua:
But one of the things we're trying to do with VRM is help publishers think in an ARPU, average revenue per visitor way, which then allows you to focus on all these same sorts of things, of kind of net revenue retention or what, it's not about the silos of what my CPMs are versus what my subscription rates are versus how big my email list is. It is all of that into an ARPU or average revenue per visitor number and continually pushing that number up and to the degree the whole industry can get to the same place that the SAS industry has gotten to, because the SAS industry has developed about five to 10 key metrics, everyone's transparent about them and so we all get better at what we do.

Dan Rua:
To the extent media publishing can arrive at those same sort of core metrics and everyone learn from each other and hone that, in particular for recurring revenue. Then, again, I think capital markets money will flow to publishers and therefore they'll be able to hire more and produce more. So a lot of what we're doing is taking SAS lessons over to media publishing, because we want people thinking about average revenue per visitor, lifetime value, when you know lifetime value, then you know, how much CAC or customer acquisition cost you can spend, how much you can spend to acquire a user. Anyway.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
No, I mean, to keep going on that, it sounds like you're having some of those conversations, how do you find that's resonating with your publisher partners?

Dan Rua:
So when we first started saying it, to be honest, to be honest, we would just kind of get blank stares. We would ask, what is your ARPU? And they'd say, I don't know and we'd say let's start there. Let's get you a baseline on what ARPU is, and so our platform can help you do that. I would say I'm hearing a lot more about it. So we first started talking about this ARPU probably three, maybe three years ago. And like I said, blank stares. There's a lot more discussion of it now. I think one thing that's happening is that subscriptions have come into their own, which then sets up a bit of a dynamic in an organization so that there needs to be kind of a CRO who is caring about ads and subscriptions and kind of all parts of the puzzle that helps knock down some of the silos and gets back to this question.

Dan Rua:
Because one thing that's been happening is you have to make kind of trade offs. If you're going to do some sort of content metering for a subscription, well now the ad team is going to wave their hand and say, hey, wait a minute, you're cutting off page views.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yeah.

Dan Rua:
And so that's going to hit us on ads. Well, you can't really make those decisions until you start to think holistically about ARPU and are you pushing up overall ARPU. So yeah, I think much more recognition of the importance. Still missing tools for this, and so we're trying to do our part in bringing the tools for the publishers. And I think this is going to happen just more and more. Again, back to everything that's going on with-

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yeah.

Dan Rua:
Yeah. The cookie is now bringing the ad ops person over into the data and registration side, whereas registration, used to maybe not be as relevant to the ad ops team.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Right.

Dan Rua:
All of a sudden registration is now much more relevant. So you're just getting this blending of responsibility that ultimately makes sense to start thinking about ARPU.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
No, that makes a lot of sense. And while you were talking through some of those things, a few things kind of resonated with me and some of the things that I've seen, the first is you talk a lot about customer love, and actually I love that. Every company, every organization, every publisher, everyone has a kind of a tone and approach in terms of dealing with their customers and their partners. And we do something very similar where when we think about tone and the way we talk, both everything, from email to blog posts to calls. The way we formulated that is think about you're talking to someone, your tone, how you write, how you talk should be like you're sitting down at the dinner table, having a conversation with this person.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
So making sure that everyone understands that customers are partners, that philosophy, I think, I don't know, just as you were describing it, it just resonated with me as well, because we, and I know many others do as well, but firmly believe just in forging that partnership, because I think in today's world, there's just so much coming at you, right? And sometimes it's how do you cut through that? And I think in all honesty, a lot of people just want to be treated as humans, you know? And I tell my kids, the golden rule, it's a real thing. Treat others how you would want to be treated and having that philosophy with everything, I feel like, one, I think it makes the world go around, it makes the world a better place, but also when you talk about customer love and you talk about that, it deepens those relationships because I think it takes things to a playing field where you can have a conversation and you can actually grow with each other as partners in the business, you know?

Dan Rua:
Absolutely. And, and I think for kind of ad ops, rev op it's even more important. So again, we were a publisher before, so we had vendors coming to us and I can't tell you how many vendors would say, they promise you a certain CPM and then you put them on the site and all they're really doing is they're only filling like 1% at that CPM, they can't fill 100% at that CPM, or they're just moving revenue from one vendor to another vendor, not really providing lift, the category is just rife with smoke and mirrors and not real trusted relationships. And so we made a conscious decision when we came into this, because we were on the buy side before, to say no, we got to set a different tone and it's worked really well for us.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
And honestly, what's so interesting, kind of getting more into the philosophical bit, but what's so interesting about Admiral is that your team, your ad ops team, your customer love team, everyone, product engineering, sales marketing, you're working with the publishers, and so that can be face to face, that can be email, but there are interactions there. But at the same time, the premise of what Admiral is doing is also creating a relationship through technology with a user that they might be a feedback through the publisher, they might have an opportunity to give you feedback in a forum or through other means to give you feedback on your methods. But it's just so interesting that part of what you guys are doing is also creating this relationship through a portal, through window, like on a site that by doing it in a way that creates a relationship as well without actually talking to that end user, right? I mean, you are through words, but it's super interesting, the dynamic that it sounds like you guys have to straddle in order to manage both.

Dan Rua:
Definitely. And I think even going to what you said about clean and kind of tone, again, our customer love team helps publishers with that, because again, the tone really matters. You are trying to talk to them, hopefully in a conversational way, you're trying to say, hey, help us out here, or what do you like? How can we serve you better? And it's just very different than, say the typical, I don't know, push notifications or compliance popups or what have you, which is a very strict I need you to do X.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yeah.

Dan Rua:
We're doing something different, right? This is about a relationship that again is multifaceted. It's not any one of the asks. It is about the totality of the relationships. You need tools to do it well, and mentally you need to think, one reason when we pound relationships is actually to force that kind of thinking on the publisher side. It is not about how many impressions and the CPM, like there's a person on the other side and so think about that.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
No, that makes sense. You know, one of the things you mentioned earlier was that you had an off site, you had a summit, you had a team summit.

Dan Rua:
Yeah.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
I feel like folks would be super interested to understand what was your thought process or what were the methods you went through to prepare for that? To sit down and think through, okay, it's the beginning of '22, what was the method you went through to figure out, okay, here are the focus points, here are the topics, and here's what I want to get out of it, here are the goals that we wanted to get out of this meeting. Because I mean, listen, we all do those type of meetings, and I'm sure we've all been a part of ones that probably don't go as planned or you end it and you're like, man, what just happened? I want to get more out of that. But obviously, as someone who's done this in multiple different facets, in different parts of the industry, I feel it'd be awesome to know what your process is for kind of gearing up in and doing that type of summit with the team.

Dan Rua:
So first thing I would say, I don't think I'm any pro at it. Like every time it feels like a scramble, so let's just be clear.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
I feel like we're all procrastinators at heart.

Dan Rua:
Yeah. So I don't know, probably some guiding principles, so number one, I have an amazing team that helps me, so I've got my department leads and I think about the summit really kind of based around that. So each department is going to have time with the entire company, and so how do we want to use that time? And then each department is also going to have just kind of inter department time to kind of go off and separate team discussions. And so I kind of start there and I've got amazing department heads across customer love, product, sales marketing.

Dan Rua:
So number one, couldn't do it without them helping me on agenda. Number two, I try to make sure that we have some opening time starting at that mission driven, even though it can feel redundant and repetitious, whatever, same conversation. We did it at our prior summit as well, Admiral deconstructed, what does our mission mean? What does relationships mean? Why do we talk about relationships? So we start on purpose there and then it leads into everything else.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Reinforcing kind of core values of what Admiral's all about just to set the tone.

Dan Rua:
Yes. Reinforcing plus we have new people since the last summit. And so making sure that they're hearing that consistent, why we do what we do. Then coming off of that, we had, I'm sure you've heard like a BHAG, right? A big hairy audacious goal.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yeah.

Dan Rua:
Like going to the moon was Kennedy's BHAG. I wanted to, because we're in January, I wanted to put forth the BHAG for us for 2022, which was kind of an ARR goal for us and it's very aggressive. I mean, we had a very strong last couple years, but we want to grow even faster. And so coming out of our mission, who we are, why we do what we do, I then wanted to say, okay and by the way, we're trying to get it here, and getting here, the next few days is figuring out how we're going to get there because to be honest, it's not business as usual, right? It's not just about work harder and what have you. What in our product can we unlock to get there? What in our sales marketing process can we unlock to get there? What in customer love can we unlock to get there? So that set the stage to then roll into kind of the departmental days. And then each lunch period, we had kind of lunch and learns, which, to be honest, I got some feedback that I think people just wanted some free time for lunch and so I think the next time we summit, we'll just give some free time.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
They want to go off in a corner and relax for a minute.

Dan Rua:
But the lunch and learns, we had customers and partners call in. And so Kevin Cooper from Boone called in, he's phenomenal. So you get like an audience with our entire company to just share whatever they care about. And we had Capital Broadcasting, we had Viacom CBS, Derek Nicol was fantastic there. We had Investing Channel. So anyway, those lunch and learns, very valuable to hear directly from the customer. Every single person in the company hearing directly from the customer, it's not a game of telephone. And then each night we either had dinners or we had activities. We did Top Golf one night, which was a blast. And then Saturday, I have to rave about this because it was phenomenal. I don't know if you know about Gasparilla parade in Tampa, but it's where the Pirates-

Jason Dobrzykowski:
I do.

Dan Rua:
Take over Tampa. And I grew up in Tampa, so I've been going to Gasparilla since I could walk, but I've always been on the curb elbowing to try to get my beads, and this Saturday I was able to arrange for Admiral to walk in the parade. And so we were in the parade.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
That's awesome.

Dan Rua:
Throwing beads, throwing coin.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
That's awesome.

Dan Rua:
So it was an amazing team event.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
I know, so I've been to Gasparilla once, for anyone that has not been, that is listening to this, it is basically it's a gigantic party where I think isn't it supposed to symbolize handing over the key to the city or something like that where-

Dan Rua:
Yeah, like a pirate invasion.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Yeah.

Dan Rua:
Like a real huge pirate ship comes floating in with cannons a blazing and takes over the city.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
We had tickets to where they get off that pirate ship and just like they come down and we saw them, and then to your point the parade, it is incredible. So you mentioned a little bit about hiring or sorry, excuse me, a little about new folks that like come in that have been brought on board. What are some of the key components of your hiring process that you have kind of created or formulated, or are go to methods for you?

Dan Rua:
So we've actually got kind of more departmental processes, and so product team runs a really solid process, including coding exercises and full team interviews and such that has worked very well for them. We've got great retention across the whole company and then customer love and sales and marketing a little more similar. Our department leads are typically kind of leading the charge, but then bringing others into the interview process. And then not too much magic in there, like it is a multi interview process, often a project in there, maybe pitch us on one of our modules or something like that. And then-

Jason Dobrzykowski:
So basically explain to me how you understand our business.

Dan Rua:
Yes. Exactly. And because our VRM system does so many things, sometimes we can just say maybe take one of the modules. Talk to us about the ad block module or talk to us about the subscriptions module or something. And then references, and then for someone who makes it through the gauntlet, then we're kind of talking about terms. And I would say one thing about Admiral, this isn't going to lead to a whole bunch of resumes flying our way, but we will-

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Never a bad thing.

Dan Rua:
Yeah. We will never try to kind of win a bidding war. Like we are looking for people, we talk a lot about our mission, we talk a lot about saving the ... like, we are looking for people who are moved by that, that is what they want, and then we want to make sure that they're well compensated and excited and they don't have to stress working daily. But if someone is just kind of like playing off our mission to a price tag, and there's another guy offering a better price tag, that's not who we're looking for. So to date, we've been pretty lucky with that. It's given us amazing retention and a team, a culture, every time someone comes in, they say it's kind of a breath of fresh air on culture. So, so far so good. I mean, we'll see, right? When we get to be 10 XR sized, then there's no telling how you got to run a process, but at least right now we've got the luxury of making sure everybody is just in the same head space.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
No, that makes a lot of sense. And that sounds like a great process you guys have set in place. So last question here before we wind down, which is who are you seeing in the space that is doing outstanding work, and is someone that we can bring on the show here and talk more with?

Dan Rua:
So I'm biased here because I just came off of that team summit with, and I mentioned Kevin Cooper at Boone, that guy is a kind of a hidden rockstar. He doesn't necessarily get the national platform from blue newspapers, but super smart guy and kind of running a network and thinking about that relationship, kind of the multistage of relationship, he was pushing us when he first started using the platform. We had people probably doing three to five step journeys and he was laying out 10 to 12 step journeys that he wanted to do. So anyway, yeah, Kevin Cooper at Boone is phenomenal. Derek Nicol at Viacom CBS, amazing strategic thinker, but like we're excited about, we think VRM is strategic and a lot of publishers aren't there yet and thinking about overall ARPU, and Derek is right there and beyond us with kind of where he's trying to take Viacom CBS, and he says many times, he's never chasing the quick buck. He's always thinking about where is the world headed? He's battling big boys, right? He's up against Facebook and others, so strategically, where is he taking his property? So brilliant guy.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Awesome. Well, thank you for very much for that. And Dan, I can't thank you enough for taking the time today to catch up. It was a delight for sure.

Dan Rua:
Yeah. This was a blast. I really enjoyed it.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
Awesome. Well, you take care and we'll catch up soon.

Dan Rua:
All right. Sounds great.

Jason Dobrzykowski:
All right. Thanks, Dan. I'll see you.

Dan Rua:
Bye bye.