CEO Q&A: Garrett Camp, StumbleUpon (Extended)

StumbleUpon CEO Garrett Camp speaks with Danielle Drolet about expanding outside the US and his company's recent hiring of an AOR.

Garrett Camp, CEO and founder of StumbleUpon, a discovery engine that helps consumers share and find content based on personal preferences, talks with Danielle Drolet about plans to expand outside the US and roll out its services to other devices and platforms.

Since its start in 2001, StumbleUpon has amassed more than 15 million registered users. Where is the company today and what are priorities in the next 12 months?
The main focus right now is to bring the experience to a lot more users. The most recent focus has been mobile, having recently relaunched our iPad app 2.0. We also did a Paid Discovery launch, a refined ad system, earlier in the year. We've done a new wave of mobile improvements.

Every time we make a quality improvement, we notice that usage will spike, and we keep hitting records every weekend by making optimizations.

In terms of the next 12 months, the main focus is to get on as many devices as possible and to expand internationally. Our eventual goal is to be on any interactive device in every country.

Why is it important for StumbleUpon to establish itself now as a global discovery engine?
Right now, you can only stumble in English. Because of that, 85% of our usage and users are in the US. If you look at companies such as Facebook and Twitter, the majority of their growth is that more than 70% of their user base is outside of the States.

Right now, we are emailing users, but that's just in the States and mostly just on desktops. If you look at the trends in mobile and in international, by the time we are available on the top 10 devices in 10 to 20 countries, we could be three to four times as big as our existing growth. In terms of getting toward 100 million to 200 million users as quickly as possible, we need to focus internationally on mobile, set-top boxes, and televisions.

How will the expansion initiative roll out for StumbleUpon?
We're still doing research right now. We have one person at StumbleUpon whose full-time focus is doing all the research and prep for this.

We're looking at all the international markets – and not just the number of people in the country, but how many people are online, how fast is the Internet, how much it's going to cost, how much people search, and how much people hang out on social networks.

We've developed criteria and now we are coming up with a plan to do a multistage rollout over the course of a year or two. You can't just go into any country at once. Really concentrating on quality and mobile is our current focus. Then next year, when that is pretty solid, we'll start trying to take all of our devices – we currently have about seven devices supported – and build those into different languages.

You recently hired Shift Communications as your AOR. What are you hoping to accomplish with them on board?
We really just wanted to change it up and get a new perspective. We want to get more mainstream coverage. We have 15 million people, all in the States, and they are using it through their iPhone, iPad, or browser.

We're still not quite mainstream. If there's someone in media, technology, or business, they tend to know StumbleUpon, but if they're not in those fields it's kind of half and half. We're on the verge of going mainstream right now, and things like the iPad and iPhone are definitely helping.

With Shift, we're looking for an aggressive perspective to get us through that mainstream process. To start, they're going to be helping with product launches, but they will also be targeting consumer publications.

In 2009, you and cofounder Geoff Smith bought back StumbleUpon from eBay. Why was it important for you to have the company gain back its independence?
The two largest advantages are flexibility and employee incentives. When you work with a bigger company, things happen a little more slowly and there's more process. When you're part of a small startup and you're one of two guys, you're directly involved with the company's own destiny.

Basically, we got that flexibility back. In addition, our employees all have equity now in a small entity, which they can continue to build and make more valuable.

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