Richard Raddon values the rewards of living a life true to himself. Growing up with an entrepreneurial-minded father who was the CEO of Raddon Financial Group in Chicago inspired him to explore all types of media and follow his curiosity to become a self-made media connoisseur. Today he is the successful co-CEO of ZEFR, the world’s leading VideoID technology company on social platforms like YouTube for content owners and brands.
“I love movies, television shows and media in general,” Raddon says. “I learned from my father to never stop learning. Growing up in the early computer age of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, I was always obsessed with how technology worked and how it could improve lives.”
A curious, inquisitive mind and desire to learn might have foretold that Raddon’s path to becoming a media mogul would not be linear. After earning a business degree in finance from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, he applied for and accepted a position as an assistant to the late American film director, producer and screenwriter John Hughes, Jr. who is remembered for his productions Sixteen Candles and Home Alone released in 1984 and 1990, respectively.
The Making of a Media Mogul
From 1992 through 1994, Raddon refined his business savvy and passion for media working alongside one of the film industry’s greatest. Spending time around a man who refused to conform to commonplace business systems further inspired Raddon to follow his own whims and segue from independent film to digital media.
“John was is a very interesting guy, really talented. He was a great example early in my career of someone who was passionate about being true to himself and about the way that he liked to do things – and to have the fortitude to stay the course. I just took his example about being really true to yourself and being very entrepreneurial,” Raddon says.
“I love to be a part of new systems and new things that make people’s lives better.”
In 1994 Raddon packed up and left Hughes Entertainment to start his media career in Los Angeles. On his way west, Raddon chose to volunteer at Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Soon Raddon discovered that, not only was he attracted to media, but he was even more drawn to innovation. He was also moved while observing for the first time a successful, creative community of people that lived “outside the system,” telling stories and changing lives in the process.
“It was really inspiring to watch everything that was happening there, and it took me years and years to figure out – I just love to innovate,” Raddon explains. “I love to be a part of new systems and new things that make people’s lives better. I was really just attracted to how innovative independent film was during that time, and what it represented.”
Ready for a new challenge, Raddon continued his travels west to L.A. where he enjoyed exploring and producing several of his own independent films, commercials and music videos. Naturally he was invited to join the team behind the LA Film Festival. He served as festival director of the annual affair from 2000-2008 and helped grow the gathering into the large, annual showcase of North American independent, feature, documentary, and short films as well as music videos it is today.
Raddon pursued his desire to change existing systems in the film industry and make an impact by offering consumers new choices of content to consume. Challenge met him along the way, apologetically proving just how static and resistant to change the world of media was during that time. Even as consumers were asking for innovation, Raddon saw little to no innovation among the leading film, music and television companies to bridge the gap with consumers.
He says, “I have never been a person to adhere to the general wisdom of ‘Oh, he’s got a playbook and he has to follow the playbook and the playbook always works, so we shouldn’t question the playbook.’ I’m somebody that questions a lot of things and asks, ‘Why do we do it this way?’ Or, ‘Isn’t there a better way?’”
Impetus for Innovation
While working the LA Film Festival, Raddon asked endless questions and identified opportunities to evolve the industry’s products and services. His position placed him in the right location at the right time, leading to invaluable connections with leading media festival sponsors. Soon he discovered that his compelling ideas for innovation mirrored the spirit and mission of one of the world’s leading film and television streaming operations, Netflix.
“They were absolutely fulfilling a huge consumer need,” Raddon says. “Netflix clearly had a vision for something so much greater, and they were going to be the impetus for making that come to pass. That kind of visionary evolution and innovation is what I was really yearning for.”
“I have never been a person to adhere to the general wisdom of ‘Oh, he’s got a playbook and he has to follow the playbook and the playbook always works, so we shouldn’t question the playbook.’ I’m somebody that questions a lot of things and asks, ‘Why do we do it this way?’ Or, ‘Isn’t there a better way?’”
In January of 2009 Raddon co-founded with investment banker Zach James a web startup operation called Movieclips that was eventually acquired by Comcast/Fandango in 2014. Based in Venice, the company now offers the largest, most diverse collection of movie scenes available on YouTube, and it allows consumers to interact with and share more than 25,000 streaming clips from film leaders like Paramount, Warner Bros. Pictures, and others.
While launching Movieclips, Raddon looked at innovation in terms of forging together technology and media. Despite much isolated activity in both sectors, he said that media companies were not seriously considering the idea of short movies and television shows, much less monetizing promotional items for their own credit.
Raddon prioritized learning on the job, and he often sat with engineers and technicians to better understand the inner-workings of his operations. He discovered himself naturally migrating from media to technology, and in August of 2012 with James, he unveiled ZEFR, an innovative data and technology company that empowers companies and brands to discover key content and influencers, monetize and manage content, and best target advertising against it.
Current co-CEO of the Venice-based operation, ZEFR has made two acquisitions and gone through seven rounds of funding from 13 investors totaling $64.9M. He and his business partner employ 300 plus employees that manage a collection of more data than any other YouTube partner. As the leader in video rights management and targeting technology among top Hollywood movie studios, music labels, and brands the company manages almost 300 million online videos and tracks more than 31 billion views per month. The company has additional offices in New York, Chicago, and Provo, UT.
Discovering the Tipping Point
Tipping points for growing his business came about while securing funding, connecting with institutional investors, and transitioning from Movieclips to ZEFR to optimize offerings for media companies and brands. Today Raddon remains passionate about discovering new technology and using it to create a meaningful impact for brand marketers, agencies, and media companies. He is excited about disrupting the common practice by large media companies to avoid innovation because, if they work towards only hitting quarterly goals, they are in jeopardy of long-term disruption.
As the leading technology company among top Hollywood movie studios, music labels, and brands the company manages almost 300 million online videos and tracks more than 31 billion views per month.
Just eight years ago, Raddon says that he remembers forming his own ideas on streaming content. However when he shared his thoughts with others, he was met with blank stares. It was the subsequent release of the iPhone, smartphones, and app community in general, that made younger generations demand instant access to content on-the-go. In turn, media companies were forced to wake up, and for many of them, recognized that they could not keep up.
“Technology is the ultimate enabler for innovation,” Raddon says. “The spirit of innovation is embodied in young kids, they aren’t going to settle for status quo. They are going to push the limits and change the nature of this business.”
Despite his expertise, Raddon says that he can not imagine what the media landscape will resemble in five, much less 10 years. However he is confident that varying values among generations paired with continuing advancement of technology will bring about new disruption and positive change to media. As media and brand dollars help drive the economy, he also says that new and existing social media tools like Snapchat, would likely offer companies great leverage in coming years.
He also says that the stakes are heightening for traditional media companies to meet consumer demand to have the ability to engage with content anytime, on almost any screen they choose. The concept of an all-online Super Bowl experience, from purchasing the ticket to watching the game from the front row with AI technology, is not far away, Raddon explains.
Perfecting the Balance
With a spiritual outlook on life, Raddon says that the most important relationships he has in life are with his wife and three children. He balances business with family time and watching movies like X Men and television series including The Americans, Mr. Robot and Game of Thrones. Grateful to have close family living nearby Pacific Palisades, Raddon is an example to his children of true humility. Committed to the idea that challenges and trials strengthen one’s character, he is also an example to them that success does not occur organically, rather by way of passion and hard work.
Raddon describes himself as an intense, highly-focused individual. Intently concentrated on the next business move, he has learned to also step back and appreciate the journey to living life as a successful entrepreneur. Though he feels proud to have established a sustainable, profitable operation, Raddon does not for one minute consider resting on his laurels.
ZEFR is growing 100 percent year over year. Raddon plans to continue pushing himself and his executives to grow the company into the future while making it an inspiring place where everyone wants to join together each day to offer his or her own personal best. He believes that no true entrepreneur stops evolving, or at least they should not plan to. Raddon measures business success by the quality and quantity of what a company produces for shareholders and employees.
“It kind of never ends,” Raddon says. “As a businessperson, I don’t think that if you have an appetite for growth, you ever fully arrive. I’m very proud of the success we’ve had, but we feel like it’s only the beginning.”