Interview with Oliver Roup - VigLink Founder and CEO

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The Sandman

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Interview with Oliver Roup - VigLink Founder and CEO

Oliver Roup is the Founder and CEO of VigLink, a content monetization technology for forums and blogs. He is also the Co-Founder of ForumCon, an annual Conference for forum owners and administrators. VigLink and ForumCon are familiar to many of you, so I thought it would be interesting to do an interview with Oliver so we could find out more about him and his work.

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Can you give us a brief biography?

I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1975 and my parents and my sister and I moved to Canada when I was a year old. I grew up and went to High School in Toronto splitting time as a dorky computer guy and a very competitive rower. In 1994, I moved to Boston to go to College and I've lived in the US ever since.


I know from your bio on VigLink that you obtained bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science from MIT and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. Those are very impressive credentials to say the least! What are your areas of specialization and how has your stellar educational background helped you prepare for doing business online in the real world?

Thank you! At MIT I spent a lot of time around the Media Lab and worked on some very cool projects, including wiring up athletes with telemetry much as you see today with the FitBit and Nike+. I think the part I enjoyed the most was "systems" - the composition of lots of simple seeming parts together into a larger whole with unexpected capabilities. Making cool and unexpected things happen was addictive and has fed my work right through to where I am today.


What was your work experience prior to VigLink.

In 1999 I moved to San Francisco and spent time as an engineer and product manager at Echo Networks which was sort of the Pandora of its day. Sadly we could not make audio ads work and that business failed so I moved to Seattle where I spent some time working for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen at Vulcan and then 4 years at Microsoft. I did some fun stuff there, including founding the group that does TV and Movie downloads for the XBOX. That was sort of a proto-CEO experience for me. J Allard gave me 20 heads [permission to hire 20 people] and said, "I don't know what you're building but it ships in November." I was hooked.


How did VigLink come into being?

I was in business school thinking about a business to start. Someone turned me on to affiliate marketing and as I investigated...
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Excellent interview! :)
Do VigLink links affect SEO?

Running VigLink does not affect a publisher’s Google PageRank. VigLink is backed by Google Ventures which makes it very likely that if we ran afoul of their guidelines we would hear about it quickly.

It’s also worth noting that Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land has reported on a conversation he had with Matt Cutts, head of Search Quality for Google, who reassured him we’re not doing anything inappropriate -- and my conversations with internal Google staffers support this. In addition, we haven’t ever had a customer complaint relating to a drop in PageRank as a result of installing VigLink.
Funny, this was the first thing I asked at ForumCon 2012! :)
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?

I think I've pulled two magic tricks in my life so far - the first was convincing Josh Kopleman of First Round Capital to invest in me with no product, no customers and no team. The second was to convince the Driving Revenue guys that they'd be better off on our team than alone. Both those events were about getting people to invest in me beyond what was really justified by the facts. I like to think that both have been good bets, but there are a lot more cards that need to turn over before we really know. Delivering on the faith those guys showed in me is what keeps me up at night.
Wow. Quite the story there, Oliver! This sounds like me right now. I have customers, but I don't have a "product" per se, and I don't really have a team.
Do you have any pet peeves?

People who don't make the most of their situation. I was born into a pretty lucky situation and I feel compelled to try and make the most of my luck. People who take things for granted or don't try their hardest sadden me.
Not everyone is lucky to be "born into a lucky situation." My family is pretty poor; we were in the middle class for a while until the economy hit us hard. I left my job in 2005 around the time the economy was well in to mid-recession.
 
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