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30 Best Leaders To Watch 2019

Creating High Quality and High Ranking Content through the Use of A.I: Aki Balogh, CEO, and Co-Founder of MarketMuse

thesiliconreview-aki-balogh-ceo-marketmuse-19Helping Grow the Audience with Better Content

MarketMuse accelerates content creation, reinventing how marketers improve organic search rankings, drive expertise in their industry and impact revenue. MarketMuse Suite, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform, analyzes millions of articles on demand, uncovering gaps and opportunities to empower marketers to craft high-quality content their audience loves and search engines reward.

“There are so many unknowns with content. Marketers grapple with the content formula: what to include or exclude, how long should it be, what type, what topics, what sources, etc. At the cost of days or weeks of research, infrequent audits, and retrospective analyses, there is still a lack of confidence that every piece will outperform competitive content. And worse yet, there’s often no clear path to measuring ROI or impact on revenue,” says MarketMuse.

Over 120 brands use MarketMuse to realize 2X-6X search traffic improvements within 6 months. Aki Balogh, the CEO, and Co-Founder of the company has accomplished much during a short time frame, including several search awards such as the Red Herring Award two years in a row, US Search Awards shortlist, Content Marketing Institute Fan Favorite, G2 Crowd high performer, EContent 100 two years in a row, and Interactive Marketing Awards shortlist.

We had a conversation with him and there is an excerpt from the interview:

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful IT leader?

Open-mindedness: In 2011, I was an investor at OpenView Venture Partners and interviewed over 700 CEOs within a year. The single most predictive trait that led to success was how open-minded a CEO and the founding team were about their markets. Founders who thought that they “knew it all” tended to underperform over the long-term. Founders who stayed humble and open to new possibilities, new technologies, and new ideas were more likely to take advantage of new market opportunities.

Action-orientation, i.e. “hustle”: Companies that move fast and out-execute their competition tend to win. Any feature or “IP moat” can be copied or replicated over time. Speed is a sustainable competitive advantage.

Long-term thinking: Founders must take care of their mental and physical health. They must demonstrate empathy towards their customers, their employees, and the broader ecosystem that they exist in. It’s truly a marathon and executives need to have extra energy reserves to go the extra mile.

What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?

The first 1-2 years, I had an idea in my head but it was very hard to articulate the concepts to others. The words that I used didn’t easily map to existing concepts in the industry, and my words came across as technical jargon so our customer base didn’t understand me.

After 2 to 3 years we ran into a major challenge in fundraising in Boston. In my and others’ experience, the Boston fundraising environment is quite unsupportive of first-time founders at the seed-stage, and we ran into many issues in raising initial funding. I worked through this by getting help from my peers -- also first-time entrepreneurs in Boston -- and eventually moved my fundraising efforts to NYC and the Bay Area.

From the 4th year onward, our challenges have been more typical of an operating company: fundraising, making capital allocation decisions, making successful hiring decisions, and driving and enforcing our values companywide.

What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business’ success?

We could not have been successful without an active and vibrant community of entrepreneurs and early-stage investors who have coached, guided, and encouraged me. They’ve taught me new approaches and have held me accountable to the performance standard that I’ve committed to. They’ve believed in the overall vision and have shared in a view of the future of the company, even in our darkest days.

‘It is difficult to start a venture. But far more difficult to maintain it’ - How would you and your team interpret this saying?

In our case, I have not seen this to be the case. The early years were much more difficult -- getting to Product-Market fit for the first time, raising our first angel funding, closing our first VC round, building our sales team for the same time, building a top-tier management team for the first time -- these all felt fairly difficult. Now that the engine is running, I find that maintaining it and growing has been more predictable, less chaotic and less emotionally draining.

What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?

“Every eighteen months, the minimum IQ necessary to destroy the world drops by one point.”

I follow about a dozen standard anxiety management techniques from standard mental health practices, e.g. building quality relationships with quality people, regular exercise (cardio and weights), eating healthy (ideally low FODMAP, caloric restriction), transcendental meditation, belief in a spiritual world beyond what we can immediately perceive, etc.

What other leaders do you look up to, and why?

Allan Tear at RevUp, our Board Member, has been a true leader and an inspiration to me. He is a wise investor, a great operator, and has been a partner along for the journey in every way.

In terms of thought leaders, I follow Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He describes key concepts (eg. antifragility, black swan events, and others) that have really helped shape my thinking.

What are your future focus areas and what do you hope to accomplish in the long run?

We are building more products and features that help our customers achieve their goals: building quality content, at scale, to drive lead generation in an efficient and predictable manner. We’re also seeing massive inbound demand (driven by our content marketing efforts), so we’re also strengthening our sales team, both direct and channel, to be able to service the existing demand.

I’m continually motivated by the power that AI has to help solve problems in the world and the extraordinary ability of a small group of people, given the right conditions, to build scalable software that makes an outsize impact.

About Aki

Aki Balogh, Co-founder and CEO:

Prior to MarketMuse, he worked with the CEO of InfiniDB, a Series B startup that made an analytic database for Big Data engagements. Before joining InfiniDB, he was the first Associate at OpenView Venture Partners to look at investments in Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. Prior to that, Aki was a software developer and a management consultant where he helped found the Data Science practice of Diamond Management & Technology Consultants (now PwC Diamond Advisory).

“Our mission is to automate and accelerate content creation in order to further unleash human creativity.”