Small Business Start-Up Success Story: HealthGuru / Starting a Business / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Josh Silberstein shares his thoughts on running a successful small business startup called HealthGuru, a health video website based in...

Interested in the life of a web entrepreneur? Josh Silberstein, CEO of Health Guru Media, started his company in November 2004 in New York and has gone through the checklist of steps of everything you need to start a business and launch a successful web company: Key partnerships? Check. Venture capital funding? Check. Rapid growth? Check.

Health Guru provides health videos on a range of topics from diet and fitness to pregnancy issues to various health conditions. Read on for Josh's small business success story:

Tell us about your business.

Health Guru is the largest provider of health video on the web, with well over one billion cumulative streams.  We built our business around a simple premise -- that the only way to create an enduring media business in an information vertical like health is to effectively combine credibility, ease of understanding, and genuine engagement.  Health Guru's content has lived up to these expectations though, and we've consistently been ranked #1 in VideoMetrix (for Health) in the key engagement metrics (minutes/user per month and per session).

We have built on our initial success by expanding not just on the breadth of our library, but also on how we use video to serve our users.  We've moved beyond the standard video clips and developed a series of high-value platforms to serve a variety of use cases in the vertical.  These platforms include:

  • Video Q&A -- A clean and simple environment, focused on a particular topic (i.e. Fibromyalgia), that includes 100 to 300 video clips (25 to 45 seconds in length) each featuring a doctor directly answering a specific question that's relevant to chronic sufferers
  • Video Quiz -- A product in which the user, in addition to answering questions and seeing whether they've gotten them right, has the opportunity to get the right answer presented to them immediately, on video, by a doctor, following each question.
  • Other platforms include Video Survey, Video Slideshow, and our soon to be released interactive Video Diagnostic Tool.

Health Guru also focuses on working with partner health sites.  We've developed a syndication technology that complements our content and product offering that enables a quick and robust implementation.  Partners get access to our full library of 3,500+ videos, a full CMS to manage the implementation on their site, access to our sales dollars, and the ability to traffic their own ads and utilize their own content through the system.

Health Guru is growing rapidly -- sales nearly tripled last year and are on track to more than triple again in 2012.  We have just under 50 employees, and expect to hire another 15 people this year.  We're proud of our culture, which is both fun and effective, and attribute a significant amount of our success to having employees that are as dedicated and happy as they are talented.  In the past 18 months, we have only had one employee decide to leave the company.

We are venture backed and our investors include Village Ventures, Castile Ventures, Dace Ventures, Long River Ventures, and Granite Point Capital.  We've raised more than $12 million in equity capital to date.  In addition to our venture investors, our Board of Directors includes Thomas Harrison, the Chairman and former CEO of DAS Global (which is the largest division of Omnicom) and Donald Hackett the former CEO of (which he took public in 1999) and 1-800-Doctors.

How did you get the idea for your business?

It came from a simple observation.  Back when we started, verticals like music, sports, and entertainment were seeing incredible growth in video consumption on-line.  But when you looked at the verticals that had historically commanded the highest CPMs from advertisers -- health and finance in particular -- the opposite was true.  Viewership was growing slowly, distribution channels were immature, and few people were committing resources to developing the right content.  That observation led us to believe that if we could solve the underlying issue in the information verticals (namely, the lack of engaging content) that we could develop a franchise in one of the most valuable verticals on the web.

Why did you start this company?

There was a need in the marketplace.  Users wanted health information to be simple and accessible, but the caliber of the content available was so offensively boring that it was impossible to watch.  We believed that if we could develop a solution which was an effective source of information and fundamentally engaging that we'd have the opportunity to serve this need and win a vertical that we suspected would eventually have tremendous economic value.

What's your favorite thing about running your own business?

The ability to really do things.  When we have a big idea, it doesn't get hung up in committees or approval processes -- we go do it.  That keeps everyone excited about what is coming next.

What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced in growing your company?

We started our business early in the lifecycle of online health video.  As recently as 2010 the majority of our key clients (pharma) didn't even have pre-roll creative.  The same early start that has given us the depth of knowledge and experience needed to succeed now meant that for many of the intervening years we were operating in a market where the advertising demand had just not yet developed.

Where do you see your company in 5 years?

I believe that we'll be the central player in the health video vertical.  As the health vertical as a whole shifts to a video-centric mentality, I believe that our leadership in health video will translate into a leadership position in the online health vertical as a whole.

Final words of wisdom for anyone wondering how to get started....

Churchill said it best:  Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

However, a somewhat less than literal interpretation might be more appropriate given the fact that his quote referred to World War II...

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