30 Under 30: Pirouz Nilforoush
August 29, 2012 | David Brown | Comments
The future of Canada’s marketing industry will be shaped by its youngest talent—the super-worldly, plugged-in, brilliant and creative youth who are already making a name for themselves. Marketing put out the call to the industry to find the top 30 standouts under the age of 30 who have already made their mark on the industry.
From PR to advertising to media and beyond, our 30 Under 30 showcases the smartest, bravest and most creative ones to watch in the business.
Pirouz Nilforoush, 27
President, Netshelter Technology Media
Pirouz Nilforoush has today’s audiences right where he wants them. As president of technology media company NetShelter, he has the keys to today’s advertising gold: authoritative, sought-out content about a dream consumer vertical: technology.
Along with his brother Peyman, Nilforoush lauched NetShelter in Toronto in 1999 (yes, at age 15—eat it, Zuck) as a way for publishers to access the same online ad tools available to bigger media companies. Over the past dozen years, he’s built the company into a network of 4,500 tech bloggers including MacRumours and Slashgear that comScore certifies reach more than 150 million viewers, with 40 million in the U.S. alone.
“We’re the largest technology media company in the world,” he says, on the line from his office in San Francisco, the other office is in Toronto.
But it’s what he has cooked up earlier this year that has him—and his investors—very excited.
“Our core business focus on monetization through display ads led us to realize a key consumer dynamic in the tech category. It is a considered purchase in which people’s brand perception and buying behaviour is a direct result of what they’ve read about a particular brand or product,” he says. “Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey stated that ‘more than 92% of consumers trust earned media’ or ‘word of mouth’ above all other forms of advertising.”
Not one to let online consumer insight get away, Nilforoush used the sentiment to launch his own ad unit based on his business and unique market advantages. InPowered Stories is “an earned media ad product backed by a cloud-based data platform,” he says. Essentially, a minimal brand ad appears in a complementary story about a product in NetShelter’s blogger network, surrounded by other additional glowing stories about it, written by expert bloggers who receive no kickbacks or benefits for their kudos. In fact, bloggers don’t have to do a thing related to advertising. InPowered Stories either places the ad in the right context, or lets clients do so manually.
Despite an initially high cost per click of $5 (the company calls it a “cost per person of influence”), Nilforoush has signed several tech companies and plans to expand into other “considered purchase” verticals like travel.
“We’re disrupting the media and advertising landscape in helping shift advertising from a world driven by brand messages to a world where brands are simply informing consumers through trusted earned media—the most impactful form of media—in order to reach and influence.”
His meteoric rise has been noted in Silicon Valley. “Pirouz is a thought leader in the marketing and advertising industry. He is one of the smartest and most strategic thinkers I have ever met, and it’s been exciting to see NetShelter push the boundaries of innovation under his leadership,” says Gokul Rajaram, product director of ads at Facebook. “He has accomplished at his age what the vast majority of successful people have not accomplished in their entire careers.”
Since he’s built his business on empowering others to succeed, it’s small wonder the Iranian-born dynamo (he came to Canada at age 11) is big on giving back. His extensive work with Paradise Charity works with underprivileged children in Iran “and lets them have a real life,” he says. “I grew up in a country where I saw separation between the rich and poor and I wanted to do something about it.”
He’s also helping entrepreneurs from his adopted country through his work with the C-100, an organization of Canadian entrepreneurs in California helping each other make it big.
For more from the rest of the 30 Under 30, pick up the the Sept. 10 issue of Marketing magazine.