Interview with Dan Gill - Huddler CEO

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The Sandman

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The Sandman submitted a new Article:

Interview with Dan Gill - Huddler CEO

Dan Gill is the CEO of Huddler, which he co-founded with his brother Ted, the CTO.

What is Huddler? According to thier website, Huddler is the next step in the evolution of online communities. Huddler works with existing online discussion forum sites to integrate product reviews, wiki articles, image galleries, and blogs to help increase community engagement and create a unified platform that's better for users and more attractive to advertisers.

That sounds pretty impressive, so let's find out more....

================================================

Can you give us a brief bio?

I was born in Belleville, ON in Canada and moved all around the US growing up, though I spent the majority of my time in Fairfax, VA. Now I’ve been in the Bay Area for the better part of the last decade and definitely think of it as home.


What is your educational and professional background?

I did my undergraduate degree at Stanford University and had every intention of becoming a doctor, so I studied Biology there. After graduation, I didn’t feel ready to head back for more education, so I got sucked in to Silicon Valley and never looked back.

I was very early at a bootstrapped enterprise software company and got experience under several great mentors across roles in Sales, Marketing, Business Development, and general Operations. That company gave me access to FAR more responsibility than I deserved given my experience, and that’s how I fell in love with start-ups – if you’re willing to work hard, it’s a meritocracy, so you can get access to truly challenging work well ahead of a conventional schedule.


Tell us about your gymnastics career.

I got started in gymnastics somewhat predictably – I was an overwhelmingly hyperactive, dare-devil kid, so my family needed an outlet for my energy. I developed a real love for the sport over time, and hit my stride competitively while I was at Stanford. My best events were High Bar, Vault, Floor, and Pommel Horse, though I competed on all 6 events back then. I competed and was a 9 time All-American at Stanford, and also got to compete for the US team at the Pan American Games, World Cup events, and some other international opportunities, but unfortunately never achieved my dream of going to the Olympics or World Championships because of serious shoulder injuries after the Olympic Trials.

Gymnastics instilled a strong work ethic in me that I think has been hugely helpful...
Read more about this article here...
 
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TheChiro

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These guys are a great group of guys. I've gotten to speak with Ted and one of their reps on the phone. They are definitely a very enthusiastic bunch. They all seem very down to earth people. I've considered moving to their platform after speaking with them but am waiting for everything mature a bit. We'll see what the future really holds for them.

I'm glad you got to interview them. I told them to contact you when I spoke with them on the phone. :)
 

AF

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Nice interview ...

Any numbers on how much money some of these forums are making with Huddler ? :)
 

TheChiro

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Nice interview ...

Any numbers on how much money some of these forums are making with Huddler ? :)
I think they ski site is making over 100k, which it wasn't making anything close to that prior to huddler.
 

TheChiro

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Profit or gross revenues ? :)
I really don't know. I think it was ad revenue that shot up like that but really not sure as there is a store on the site now and I believe they use affiliate links for it.
 

HUDDLER

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Hey everyone - it's Dan Gill. Thanks for the opportunity to hang out here for a bit.

TheChiro - glad to hear you had a good chat with our team...happy to pick up at a time that makes sense.

As you can likely guess, I can't go into the details of specific site's revenues, but I'm happy to keep the thread going with any clarification or additional questions. Thanks all!
 

2kau

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Dan, kudos on the great speech you gave at Forum Con. Motivating to see others branching out from the forum core.
 

OrangeCrush

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Wow never knew Dan was a gymnast, pretty cool! Good job on the interview was a good read.
 

vanhireunitedk

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Nice interview. There is lot to be learnt from it. Huddler has done many contributions in online communities & all marketers have to be learnt a lot from this. thanks for this post.
 

Jeep37

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Do you retain ownership of your forum with the migration?

What happens if they would go bankrupt or ?

Can you roll-out your own revenue sources?
 

HUDDLER

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Just wanted to give you a quick response here, but it would be great to chat further as I'm sure you've got a few more questions. I'll send you a PM.

Do you retain ownership of your forum with the migration?
Yes, you retain full ownership of the forum and all related data with the migration.

What happens if they would go bankrupt or ?
We're a sustainable business. The risk at Huddler is no different than any other 3rd party SaaS solution. Huddler is a fast growing company with solid financials. That being said, in every decision one makes and 3rd party solution you use, there is always some risk and Huddler can not eliminate that.

Can you roll-out your own revenue sources?
You can't roll out the revenue sources yourself, but our partners work closely with the direct sales team to roll out custom campaigns tailored around each advertiser. We've been especially successful at retaining and building on existing relationships with brands.
 

TheChiro

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What happens when you want to sell your site and you are on the Huddler system?

If you do happen to go bankrupt, do the owners get their data back and migrate to their own server?

Is there a way to convert off of Huddler to another platform if it doesn't work out?
 

friscogal

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Hi TAZ,

I am a partner on the huddler platform and have been with Huddler for over a year. For the most part the transition has been a success and my traffic and revenue has grown quite substantially.

There are of course bumps along the way but nothing major.

The transition was actually pretty smooth with ALOT of hand holding by the Huddler Team (thank you cristina!).

The sales team has been stellar and has closed some big ad campaigns. campaigns that they worked on for months. They are diligent and hard working.

Dan has been quite pleasant to work with and always has time to listen to my ideas no matter how annoying i get ;)
 

rngrdanny22

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Congrats on your recent conversion!


Huddler, do you guys look for sites in different niches, or do you only choose one site from a certain niche? For instance, you stated that you now have epicski.com under your umbrella. Would you possibly add another ski-type site?

Just wondering as I have a few sites that are in the same niches as some of the sites in your network. Wondering if there was any future hope...

Thanks!
 

TheChiro

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Why is your IE8 and lower performance SUBPAR? I believe you are working on this but...why is your platform the only one that has this problem when it comes to handling those that still use a crappy browser? We can't just leave them be and tell them "Well you chose to use an older browser, tough luck!"...
 
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HUDDLER

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Congrats on your recent conversion!


Huddler, do you guys look for sites in different niches, or do you only choose one site from a certain niche? For instance, you stated that you now have epicski.com under your umbrella. Would you possibly add another ski-type site?

Just wondering as I have a few sites that are in the same niches as some of the sites in your network. Wondering if there was any future hope...

Thanks!
I wish there was a universal answer here, but it's dependent on lots of different factors. Have you spoken with Alejandro or Nick from our team? They're alejandro AT huddler-inc.com and nick AT huddler-inc.com - definitely start a conversation with them and we'll see what we can do. Thanks!
 

HUDDLER

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Why is your IE8 and lower performance SUBPAR? I believe you are working on this but...why is your platform the only one that has this problem when it comes to handling those that still use a crappy browser? We can't just leave them be and tell them "Well you chose to use an older browser, tough luck!"...
We try to push the Huddler Platform to handle the most modern, cutting edge functionality that is enabled online. We have enormous amounts happening in the background of our sites that are additions to traditional forum software - image rich related content, quite a lot of complex javascript, sophisticated caching, etc. From an architecture perspective, we're much more modern which is why our sites presently play best with the most modern browsers. That said, we are not blind to the fact that LOTS of our users aren't (or can't) regularly updating their browsers, so we put tremendous amounts of resources behind making the sites as fast as they can be without compromising our vision of pushing communities forward.

I've reposted some content from our engineering organization about browser speed and benchmarking. The other (shorter) answer is that page performance is an extremely high priority for our team, and a lot of resources are being poured into continued improvement. Since this interview, the team has grown to 50 people now, and our product/engineering organization alone is 28 - improvements to the Platform are only accelerating.

Here are some thoughts from my team on speed benchmarking:

It's challenging to analyze how fast the site is for real users because, in the real world, there are many variables

  • What is the user's computer configuration and speed (OS, RAM, CPU etc.)?
  • Where is the user located and what is their connection speed?
  • Is the user logged in or viewing anonymously?
  • Is the user an admin or mod with access to additional tools and UI?
  • What web browser version is being used?
  • What browser plug-ins, add-ons, toolbars, etc. are installed?
  • Does the user have security software that may impact performance (anti-virus, firewall, etc.)?
  • Many, many more...

The web offers a variety of tools and services for site speed measurement, but there is no single authoritative, all-encompassing method or tool that makes all of these factors completely transparent.

Of course, we can benchmark where we are and use analytics to improve. It's just very important to understand the factors involved and be consistent in our approach. A few spot checks using a variety of tools will not produce reliable data. A concerted testing effort using one set of tools and methods will be much more helpful for all of us in measuring site speed and improving it.

To discuss how fast a site is performing, we need to understand the milestones that define a page load:

Initial request: your browser sends a request to the server
Page generation: the server interprets the request, and builds the desired page.
Response: that page is transferred over the internet to the browser.
DOMContentLoaded / DOMReady: at this point the entire framework of the "page" is ready in the browser, but some assets (like images and javascript) may still be downloading. However the browser is now able to render and the user will begin to see a usable page.
Onload: the entire asset payload, including images and scripts, has now loaded and the page can finish rendering completely.
"Page complete" / Total page load time: Any independent, asynchronous requests (iframes, ads, additional scripts, etc.) that were triggered by the page have now also completed loading and the page is "finished" (although user actions within the page may trigger more async requests).

In order to discuss, share and analyze browser performance, there are quite a few free, easy to use tools available for many different browsers.

Chrome

Chrome is an excellent option since it's free, available on all major platforms, and the tools are built right in. Many of your users already have Chrome, which makes it hugely attractive as a measuring tool because we'll be able to collect data from real users without asking them to install any new software or register for any new services.

All the great data in Chrome is available in the Developer Tools (CTRL+SHIFT+I on Windows / Cmd+Alt+I on Mac). Once that's open, click on the 'Network' tab:

Simply load up any page and you'll start to see the stats being collected:

Scroll to the bottom of the tool to see the bottom-line numbers we're most concerned with:

acdn.huddler.com_2_24_1000x500px_LL_2468ce1b_chrome.png


Number of requests, total amount transferred, and the three milestones noted above: 1. DOMContentLoaded 2. onload 3. total time.

This data is a great place to start a conversation about a particular page's load time. All of the information on each of the individual requests can be extremely helpful when trying to determine where a problem is occurring. Click on any individual row to see the Headers, Content, Timing, etc.

Firefox
Firefox doesn't have a great measurement tool built-in, but it's easy to add Firebug. Simply install the add-on (follow the instructions on their site or search for it on the official add-on site).

Once it's installed, simply hit F12 to open up the Firebug console (Command+F12 or Fn+F12 on a Mac, depending on how you have things setup) or simply click on the icon in the toolbar. Similar to Chrome, there is a 'Net' tab. Click on it and you may have to also click on an 'Enable' link to turn on the functionality. Once that's done, reload the page you're interested in and you'll get the performance results you're looking for. Make sure you scroll down to the bottom:


This tool only shows the onload and total times, but is still useful.

IE9
Similar to Chrome, IE9 has a solid tool built-in to the browser called Developer Tools. To open up the console or window, hit F12. Again, there is a 'Network" tab. The odd thing here is that you have to click on the 'Start capturing' button, load your page...wait for it to complete, then click on 'Stop capturing.' Then, in order to get the numbers we're looking for, you'll need to click on 'Go to detailed view' and then from that section, click on the 'Timings' tab:



There you'll see two of the numbers we're concerned with: DOMContentLoaded and Load. In order to get the 'total' time, you have to scroll down the list in Summary View to the final file and open up the Timings and look at the last entry, 'Gap.' That shows how much time elapsed from the initial request until that file was fully loaded.


You will get very different results if you're visiting a site for the first time (or cleared your browser cache) or if it's a subsequent page load. Many assets can be cached locally by the browser, causing the page to make fewer requests and perform much faster.

Also, please keep in mind that running these tools adds additional overhead to the browser so times recorded are slower than normal page loads.
 

Jay76

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What happens when you want to sell your site and you are on the Huddler system?

If you do happen to go bankrupt, do the owners get their data back and migrate to their own server?

Is there a way to convert off of Huddler to another platform if it doesn't work out?
Dan , can you answer this one?
 
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