In this episode…
Join David Hernandez, host of There’s Always a Lyric, as he sits down with Jenna Gaudio, Co-President at Vydia, a media technology company. Jenna speaks about the importance of having a growth mindset, where her curiosity comes from, and why failure is a victory in disguise.
David Hernandez (0:45)
Welcome to another episode of There’s Always a Lyric. Today my guest is Jenna Gaudio. Truth be told, I’m a big fan of Jenna and I’ve been following you for a long time. There’s a lot to get through today. But I first want to start by just talking a little bit about Jenna – if you don’t know Jenna Gaudio, that’s Jenna G-audio, and that’ll be important later. She is Co-President at Vydia. Jenna Gaudio is a media technology executive who specializes in building, aligning, and scaling successful teams that deliver industry-leading outcomes. Gaudio who now serves as the Co-President, (previously COO and VP of Product Management at Vydia), a media technology company that has recently been acquired by former Apple music executive Larry Jackson’s gamma. She’s an active leader and supporter of many industry programs and community-driven organizations, such as Women in Music, Executive Women in Product, and Jersey Shore Women in Tech. Welcome, Jenna Gaudio, how are you?
Jenna Gaudio (1:42)
Good. Thank you so much for having me.
David Hernandez (1:44)
This is great. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while, so thanks for being able to do this. A lot has happened in your career up until 2023. But before we get into that, can we just start right now where we are in the present and the whole experience with Vydia? What led you there? And then really, this major change in position from COO to now Co-President?
Jenna Gaudio (2:14)
Yeah, I think when you talk about your career journey, I do believe that there are some universal pulls out there that are helping to kind of nudge you in the right direction. But essentially, you have free choice to kind of make your own path and make your own choices. And whoever has heard my you know, longer career story and trajectory will know that it wasn’t a straight line, I haven’t ever done one thing. And so, if you look at just my Vydia years, it’s a really good reflection of you know, me as a person overall with how I approach things with like a growth mindset and how I’m always looking to have an impact and, you know, really just work with like-minded people, and solve modern problems. And I actually met the founder of Vydia at Yashi, which is another New Jersey tech startup. And so, I was working there at the time, I had gotten in when the team was, you know, still early stage, and we were looking to really scale. And luckily, the founder of that company, you know, brought me in and allowed me to help him grow what he was building there, and we were able to get a successful acquisition. And so, the founder of Vydia, you know, was starting to build Vydia at the time. And so of course, you do your research, and he, you know, came around and was asking, you know, how do you hire developers, you know, how are you guys scaling so well in New Jersey, and hiring such good talent, and so there was some synergy there. And after the acquisition with Yashi, you know, I went on and took a fancy job in the city. And Vydia’s founder, Roy reached out and said, you know if you’re looking for a new opportunity like I have one for you, and I was like, well I took this job in the city, you know, I’m going to try the corporate thing for a while. And about just short of a year he followed up again with me, and he said, I’d really love you to meet the team, I want to tell you about my ideas and the traction that we’ve found. And you know, I really do think we could use you and I would love your opinion, and he got me to come to Bell Works when they just moved in. And it was still under construction. And we just started talking about his ideas and his vision for the future of the media industry. And I met the team, and they were just very like-minded and ready to go into the fire for, you know, whatever the mission was. And, you know, I realized that my skill set could really translate here, and it could be something so we were like, 10-15 people when I joined Vydia, and I came in as the Head of Marketing, which at that early of a stage, really what you’re trying to do is solidify the brand in a way that people actually like one, pronounces the name correctly and two, like what the heck you do because you’re nobody at that point. And, you know, Roy, obviously was working on getting funding and helping us have like the cash flow to scale to that and fulfill our true potential. And I think we both delivered on that in the early years, and we were able to scale the team up and find really good talent. And then we started launching products in the market and going to conferences. And that’s when I realized that in order for things to kind of go to market more smoothly, we needed a person inside product. And so, Roy said, you know, I know your head of marketing, but do you think you could maybe figure out how to run product and so I moved over there. And then that obviously went really well. And we launched a record number of products. And so, from there, I took over both product and marketing. And then we scaled so big that we needed to start thinking about our people operations and invest, you know, the thoughtful process around all the people that are coming in and building what we know Vydia to be today. And then we started going to market as far as acquisition goes, and you know, Roy and the rest of the executive team were really, really collaborative, and obviously very successful in that endeavor. And, you know, I was promoted to COO to kind of oversee the team during this time of scaling a business, but also, you know, working on getting an acquisition. And sure enough, we were acquired in December, and we announced it in February. In that announcement, Larry and Ike, who are the CEO, President, and co-founders of gamma, announced essentially the new era, which is we’ve acquired Vydia, and we’re starting gamma. And in that announcement, they announced that Roy is now the chief product and technology officer at gamma, and me and my Co-President Mark Gorman are taking over Vydia.
David Hernandez (6:29)
It’s an amazing journey of both evolution and revolution happening all at the same time, it seems.
Jenna Gaudio (6:36)
Oh, yeah. And the thing that kind of brought us together, there was just a shared mission of building a more equitable and modern future for this industry. And I think that is the most attractive thing to everyone that works at Vydia and gamma. And that’s what really fuels us. And so that mission is something that is part of the reason why we’re so good, I think.
David Hernandez (6:57)
And when you look back at it, you touched on it, actually at the beginning of explaining how you got to Vydia, and how the universe kind of pulls you and pulls us all along, right? And part of that is also being aware and awake to those moments and being able to see them for what they are, for that opportunity. And then taking it right and taking the risk. Where do you think that came from? You know, did you always have this sort of, I guess curiosity or, or ability to, to take these leaps from an early age? Or did you come upon it as you got older? Were there maybe people that you looked up to as your mentors that kind of ushered that? That part of you to the forefront?
Jenna Gaudio (7:49)
Absolutely. I personally am insatiably curious; I just love diving into new things. And honestly, it comes down to impact if there’s a problem that needs to be solved or an opportunity, like I’m interested, you know, and so that has definitely been a fuel for me. As far as you know, mentors and people that I’ve looked to. It’s funny, because if you look at my career, the ups and downs, and everything in between, that’s led me to this moment, I’ve taken a lot of risks. I’ve taken huge pay cuts, I’ve moved back in with my parents at points, you know, I’ve spoken up when things needed to be said, in order for my integrity to be intact, and I’ve got jobs I didn’t think I could get, and I lost jobs that I can’t believe the situation was real. And so, in order to get to this place that I’m at right now, I think those risks are necessary. But truly the people that inspire me and motivate me and have really helped me be successful on this path are founders. I think working alongside those people and having a window seat to how they think and make decisions. And the people that they work with and collaborate with have really taught me a lot and have shaped me to become more of a hybrid optimizer and builder but also more of a risk taker in business instead of you know, I’m already a risk taker in my own life, but outside and in the business world. You know, founders and visionaries are really good at dreaming and seeing the future. And I feel like I’m a good counterpart to them because I can architect and see the value in what they’re dreaming up and going to help map out how we’re going to get there and the team that we’re going to need to do it, and essentially how we’re going to iterate that and be better tomorrow than we were yesterday. And that 1% or 10% Better that we are day over day, month over month, year over year is what gets us to, you know, a win.
David Hernandez (9:38)
Especially when you’re talking about big ideas.
Jenna Gaudio (9:42)
I agree, I think the same way. Like when I was younger, I really loved music, and I joined the band even though I had really a hard time reading music and also playing music, but when I hear good music, I know what it is and I have such a deep appreciation for it. But I always wondered how do people write music and how do they play music. And how is it so easy for them? Like they just see it? And you know, later in my life working with these founders, it’s kind of the same. It’s like, how do they see this trajectory? And how do they understand where it’s going? And how do they have these big dreams that are actually tangible and doable, and believe in them so deeply?
David Hernandez (10:17)
Your love of music – I just want to touch on that a bit. Because that love of music is front and center back in your life, with what you’re doing with Vydia. You found a way to get back to something that you loved in a very, very unique way with Vydia. And I don’t know if everybody that’s going to be listening to this understands really, how innovative Vydia is in terms of this sort of a complete platform for music distribution, the audio side, the video side, can you talk a little bit about what you guys are doing, and what you’re doing now, in that space.
Jenna Gaudio (10:58)
When I joined Vydia, I came over because I have a background and a love for video, first and foremost. And what Vydia was doing was helping artists package their music video and distribute it to MTV and BET, CMT, and things like that. And they were just starting to dabble into the digital world, in, you know, YouTube videos, and I think Facebook would just have launched, you know, their video platform. And so there was also this aspect of social video and storytelling. And so, I just love that. And I was on board, you know, I was always trying to use video as a storytelling mechanism more and more, both professionally and personally. And so that’s how I really initially had an interest in Vydia. And so, Roy comes from a music background, and he saw where the industry was going. And it kind of explained how the future of the industry is going to be more independent, more entrepreneurial, and it’s going to need more resources around supporting that. And so, it was going to also become, be more digital and moving towards technology. And so, we started building out a roadmap that was going to support that. And so, we started with, you know, posting on social media, and distributing your music to YouTube, in vivo, and to television networks. But then we pivoted to music, you know, that’s the natural evolution, if you’re working on music videos on YouTube, obviously, you should start working with music, Spotify, Apple, Amazon, you know, then TikTok, you know, Instagram stories became a powerhouse like all these things started to pop up. And they were the natural progression of things that are valuable inside of a strategy of an artist. And so, we were building out for an emerging and growing artist. We started working with a target persona of labels and business entrepreneurs because that’s where the industry is going, right? So, we went from being a B2C company to a B2B2C, because if we’re working with music entrepreneurs and label owners, they still have to serve as the artists, so we still serve as the artists. So we were being thoughtful in our approach to building out these really robust capabilities, you know, royalty collection, rights protection, payments worldwide, you know, organizing your entire catalog, and being able to tag and manage it, managing artists on multiple tiers, being able to manage all of the performance analytics that is coming in from all the different platforms that you’re distributing to. Then we started building the marketing features, you know, pre-saves, things like that, that allow you to let people know when your music is coming out. Internal tools, so that people could talk to their teams inside of a label and say, “Alright, this is coming out on this date, we need to start pitching it to Spotify,” so we can get on rap caviar, you know, things like that. We just kept expanding our toolset to really be the back office for a label. And so that worked out really well because it allowed artists the freedom to, you know, choose whether they wanted to stay independent and kind of grow that way. Or if they wanted to get signed to a major label, that was an opportunity, because we work with the business managers, and they’re always going to be looking for the next level layer of talent. And we were always going to be building out tools for their growing business. And so that also allowed us to be more hands-on, instead of throwing a wide net out there and working with everyone, ever, we were working with people that were finding traction and growing businesses and needed sophisticated tools that were going to level the playing field and allow people to be more independent. And so that’s kind of where we’re at now. And then, of course, you know, gamma comes along, and they share the same mission. And now they’re just helping us do that at Larry Jackson scale, you know, working with even bigger artists, even bigger media companies that are thinking about the artists as a business, not just distribution, but what other you know, vehicles of commerce and monetization make sense for an artist and obviously we’re seeing that, you know, at every level but especially in the narrative that artists are talking about now, you know, obviously Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Chance the Rapper, I know, in talking about what they do as an artist, but also who they are as a business person.
David Hernandez (15:14)
And so along those lines and looking at sort of the scale of where Vydia has moved to, because of, obviously, because of the acquisition by gamma, how do you guys see other platforms that have emerged? There’s a lot of talk about web3, music specifically, and music artists. The whole coming wave of what content distribution can look like when you’re giving a different type of content and different levels of access, based on all different types of programs that can be created for artists that are in web3? Are you guys looking at that? Are you involved in that? Just curious.
Jenna Gaudio (15:59)
Every time we see something that’s happening, or that’s trending, or that’s being talked about, like we always have our ear to the ground on what to build next. I think it’s always about what makes sense and how it’s going to have legs and how it’s going to translate long-term. Because you don’t want to necessarily jump onto a trend and have a flash in the pan.
David Hernandez (16:20)
Agree. When we’re talking about everything that’s happened to you, it feels like just one beautiful ascending, you know, hockey stick graph of success on top of success. But we all know that we don’t get to where we are, without some learnings along the way. And have you had a failure in your life, in your career, that has ultimately been really a victory in disguise?
Jenna Gaudio (16:48)
Yeah, I mean, there are places that I desperately wanted to be and wanted to succeed, that were not meant for me that I was not welcome, that I was not appreciated that I was not valued. And, you know, those things were not meant for me. At the time it feels devastating, but you really do learn in that moment. I also think that like you said, it looks like a hockey stick, but the truth is, it definitely isn’t. And knowing that it isn’t, is something that you have to recognize and keep perspective on.
David Hernandez (17:17)
I agree. I think I think some of our best learnings happen in failure. Along the lines of everything that we’ve just been talking about; growth, ascendancy challenges, lots of learning, and staying curious. How do you find balance?
Jenna Gaudio (17:36)
Oh, balance is a tough lesson, I think we all have to learn. I hope that some of us learn it easier than I did. But I’m a chaser, you know, I was always chasing after my career, I was chasing after my passions. You know, I’ve been a marathon runner, I’ve run several marathons. You know, I just am always kind of looking for the next growth moment, but I think my friends have always kind of, you know, tried to help balance me and we do yoga together, and you know, we would schedule vacations to make sure I took one. And, you know, I thought that that was like enough. But, you know, it honestly gets to a point where your body does kind of break. And you know, a couple of years ago, I had a forced slowdown, I suddenly out of nowhere, got a blood clot and had a pulmonary embolism and was rushed to the emergency room and was taken out of the running for a little bit. And I didn’t know if that was going to be the end of my career if that was going to change my whole life and my personality if I was going to survive it. And I think having that moment and saying like, all of these things are important, but the most important thing is like your health and your happiness, and making sure that that feels stable at all times as much as it possibly can be, and just really being intentional about that. And so, I think I did make some adjustments, and put things into perspective. I think a lot of it was about emotional training on like, what is truly important, because when you’re literally on your deathbed, you know, making sure that a certain email goes out before the end of the day seems significantly less important. Even though I did call my boss on the way to the ER was like, I’m not going to make it to work tomorrow, you know, but I think you’ve put things into perspective, not from an external pressure, but from an internal pressure. I now know that balance is important. And so especially when the pandemic hit, that was another pause for everyone. I remember my days got so full because we never left the house that I like, wouldn’t leave the house and I wouldn’t eat lunch and like all this stuff. And I was setting a bad example. And so, I started putting lunch on my calendar visibly. So, people would, you know, one I block that time for myself, but two people would see it, and a lot of the team would message me and say, you know, when I started doing that I started going for a walk at lunch I started putting it on my calendar and making sure that I do that too. And I think it’s made me such a better thinker and problem solver and all these things, and I just feel better. And like that is great. Being a role model in business and you know, in careers is one thing, but being somebody that is helping a person feel healthy and productive and powerful in their own, like control of who they are, and what their output is, is also important. And honestly, it’s an ongoing journey.
David Hernandez (20:21)
I have a saying from my oldest sister, who actually isn’t with us any longer, but she used to say to me, what is it that they say, on an airplane? In case of an emergency, and the mask drops, put it on yourself first, so that then you can help someone else. And that really is kind of the golden rule there. If you’re not taking care of yourself, how can you bring the very best to those that are counting on you? How can you deliver on that promise of working as a team to do transformative work? If you can’t get to transformative work because you’re emotionally depleted, or you’re exhausted, whether mentally or physically or otherwise? It’s impossible. You need to recharge and regenerate.
Jenna Gaudio (21:12)
I’m not a mother yet, but I like obviously have a lot of friends that are and I think that if nothing else, this prepares me for that moment, because I do think it’s similar in the fact that you can’t show up for people, if you don’t physically, emotionally, mentally have the ability to do that.
David Hernandez (21:29)
One of my questions is about sharing some advice for folks that are listening today. And I see you very much in the entrepreneurial mode. I know you talk a lot about working for founders, but you yourself have shown an entrepreneurial spirit because you are also willing to make leaps to take risks, they may be calculated based on as much data as you can collect and all that. But you still take action, right? And I feel like you’re very much a sort of action-oriented, you know, lead with your forehead person, you know, like, you’re willing to kind of rush into the building and save the kid and, you know, yeah, that’s kind of your first instinct. So do you have advice that you can share, from all aspects, from coming up in an industry that maybe was a very male-heavy, male-dominated industry, and becoming not only just a leader, as a woman in the industry, but now Co-President, and having the sort of impact that you’re having on such a wide scale that obviously impacts many people within the company? And then beyond, obviously, those that you serve. Any thoughts or things that you can share that you felt would be helpful, or that were helpful for you that you can share?
Jenna Gaudio (22:56)
When I was a younger manager, there was a CTO, that was a really important mentor to me, you know, a few companies ago, and when I was thinking about how I was going to make decisions as a manager, as a rising leader, you know, he would help me get out of my head by just asking me this question over and over again, he would say, what’s the worst that could happen? And it seemed like this whimsical, you know, kind of an off-the-cuff kind of question. But it actually kind of was the beginning of me frame working, how I think about everything that I do as a senior executive now, because when I talk to, you know, my reports, and managers that I’m mentoring that are rising executives as well, I always tell them, when they bring me something that they want to do or something that they want to propose, you know, I always walk through with them, like, how to think about it from a 360 perspective, you know, what are the pros? What are the cons? Who are the stakeholders? What are they going to ask, what’s this going to cost us? What’s the opportunity? You know, thinking about all these things. And the question is always like, what if we didn’t do this thing? Like, what would we be losing? And you know, what if we did do this thing, what’s the worst that could happen? And so that question has followed me around in everything that I do, and it has helped me take leaps in my own life and my own career, it’s helped me chase down and launch, you know, big product ideas without fear. It’s helped me go toe to toe in really tough conversations about changing the workplace, for women, for people of color for, you know, a growing organization, you know, it just, you think about weighing the opportunity versus the risk. And sometimes, you know, it depends on your situation. Not everyone can take a risk. Not everyone can take a pay cut or move back in with their parents. Not everyone has that optionality. So, you have to really weigh like what you can risk. But if it’s worth it, you know if this is important, if change and being a catalyst and saying the thing that needs to be said is worth the risk, because of the upside, then let’s do it.
David Hernandez (24:59)
That is fantastic. It really is understanding and looking at something and going, “Okay, well, if this is the downside, I’m willing to risk that downside because it’s manageable for me.” The counterpoint of the risk and its upside outweigh that downside, and what’s the worst that could happen? I love that that’s just so perfect.
Jenna Gaudio (25:22)
I think that also motivates me to rise as a leader because as you have more leverage, you have more freedom, as you increase even money like you are able to start saving money, you can take risks, knowing that if you make a decision that you fully believe in, and somebody doesn’t agree with you, you know, you have the ability and the freedom to figure out a plan B. And so I’m always thinking in the back of my head of like, if I want to make a good change in the world and be the change, you know, what do I need to do personally to be a person of influence, you know?
David Hernandez (25:59)
Right, right. Because that’s where it starts. It starts with you.
Jenna Gaudio (26:02)
Yeah, absolutely. I think it always starts with you. Accountability is huge with me, I always tell the team when they come to me, and they point and say this person or that person or this department, that department, I always start with you. You know, I will say be bulletproof, like, what could you have done better? Could you have done nothing better? Did you do everything perfectly? Because if that’s the case, then we can talk about this other person, this other department, but let’s first talk about you and figure out what role you played in this.
David Hernandez (26:27)
That’s awesome. But of course, there is one question that I ask in all the podcasts, and I know that you know what it is because it’s the title of the podcast. If there’s one song title, or lyric that captures you, or your journey, what would it be Jenna?
Jenna Gaudio (26:44)
I know that I’m going to get some people rolling their eyes at me right now. But you know, Taylor Swift is having a moment right now. I mean, as she always is, but I’m actually going to the Taylor Swift concert this week, coincidentally, with a wonderful group of girls. And so, there’s one song that despite anything, I really kind of clung on to in this moment in my life ever since she released it. And it’s called Mastermind. And, of course, people that are familiar with Taylor, will know that it’s at face value written as a love song. And of course, I’m engaged, we’re about to get married. So that’s like, obviously, one piece. So of course, a big piece of it. And I, of course, I’m in this romantic moment in my life. But I also feel like she always speaks with double meaning. And so when I hear this song, of course, I hear the romantic side of it. But even more strongly, I hear the businesswoman in her and the fighter in her. There are so many lyrics inside of it, but she talks about, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail; strategy sets the scene for the tale.” And then she also talks about, “I’m the wind in our free-flowing sails.” So, the whole thing is that she’s talking about how like, she’s influenced and made decisions and put things in motion. She also said something publicly like a few years ago about how when men make choices, it’s strategic. When women do it, it’s contrived, or, you know, manipulative. And so, I think that that is changing. I think women are starting to show that their intentions are good and they’re not trying to manipulate men or anything else like that. We want to be seen as valuable partners. We want to show that we are influential and that we can have a strong impact on industries and businesses and in our own lives. And so, Mastermind is something that I feel like, although the universe has nudged me in the right direction, ultimately, the moment that I’m in right now, it was a lot of hard work. There were decisions that I made there were wins that I had, there are losses that I overcame, and I played an active role in it. And so, it’s my story.
David Hernandez (28:48)
That is awesome. That was great. Yeah, you have had quite an arc. Fantastic. Thank you so much for all of this today. Thanks for the time, and thanks for sharing so much of yourself and all these great insights I’d love to revisit this again and have a part two.
Jenna Gaudio (29:06)
This was so fun. I loved chatting with you.
David Hernandez (29:09)
You’re fantastic. Thank you so much, Jenna.
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