I've drawn much inspiration from my immigrant parents, both of whom worked from home and blazed their own independent, entrepreneurial paths in the 1980s of New York.
My mother is a savvy entrepreneur who built her own business as a solo, female founder, while my father is a life-long journalist and author, hustling for stories and pursuing knowledge. In retrospect, I was given unique insight across both sides of life's spectrum, from operations, finances, management and business hustle, to creativity, expression and the value of personal brand and authenticity.
These lessons have guided my personal and professional lives. Practically, that leads to my current focus on independent work, advising, consulting, diving in to projects for a specific time and not taking on a traditional full-time, in-house role. If you think I might be relevant for something you're working on, keep exploring this site and reach out for a friendly chat! I've also written a more in-depth page on how I work.
Given my long, entrepreneurial career within an industry that evolved as I was working within it, there isn't an easy answer to "what do you do" and, depending on my audience, there are vastly different stories, case studies, anecdotes and milestones to reference.
So, take your pick... you can learn about my current focus in the Creator Ecosystem, my corporate life, my startup/experimental life or my independent work... or take them all for a ride and then please let me know what I should do when I grow up.
Creator Ecosystem Jacob
I love creators! My first degree is in film, I married a maddingly creative woman, my friends are all creators and, throughout my life, I've been in, around and all over the creative fields, from before the buzzwords we now use existed. I see my whole career through the lens of what we now call the Creator Ecosystem and I've been on every side of it:
I've helped casting agents , TV producers and studio execs understand digital trends around content creation, social media and the march of authenticity over contrived marketing gimmicks. For examples, I did Discovery channel's first casting of an influencer into a reality show and I advised Nickelodeon on how to evolve on-air talent agreements to better reflect the rise of digital influence.
I've been in the trusted inner-circle of the world's top talent, helping them navigate multi-million-dollar deals, pivotal career choices, team-building, content strategy and much more. One of my favorite career highlights is when I actually got to be Pitbull for a brief time (seriously!)
I've negotiated large-scale cash and equity deals with huge talent, crafting long-term ambassador programs and talent networks for multiple brands. Examples include building out talent networks for Microsoft and Harper Collins and architecting the largest influencer deal in Israel's history.
I actively advise startups in the Creator space, building new brands to solve for creator pain points and connecting dots between founders, partners, talent and investors. For example, I am a founding member of Pocket.watch's advisory board.
I also love bringing these passions to the non-profit space. For examples, I led influencer recruiting and content strategy for Earth Day's COVID livestream, Global Citizen's voter-registration initiative and the Telethon for America's get-out-the-vote campaign.
From the corporate world, to startups, from being brand-side to talent-side, I've seen it all, know how it works, built extensive relationships and, hopefully, an impeccable personal brand.
I can say I've worked with the top talent across every social network, stretching from Tila Tequila (#1 on MySpace) to the Queen of Youtube, Michelle Phan, to several of the top-ten Vine stars, including the #1 female Viner, Brittany Furlan, to my mega partnership with the D'Amelios. Some of my favorite recent talent deals include Brandon Baum, MrBeast and Maye Musk.
What I enjoy most is working on behalf of talent, helping them grow, monetize and evolve. I've worked one-on-one with some amazing people... I can't mention the digital talent (because of sensitivities) but, on the traditional side, they include Pitbull, Courtney Love, Kevin Smith, Christina Tosi, Carla Gugino, Eliza Dushku and others. On this topic, I'm proud of a prescient manifesto I wrote in 2016, called "The celebrities’ guide to social media."
On the corporate side, while at WeWork, I created the entire operation of talent partnerships, securing promotional commitments from some amazing people, from Simon Sinek to Aimee Song (the "most bankable" influencer at the time). I brought in a slew of YouTubers, podcasters and other creators who used WeWork as production, event and meetup spaces.
To sum up, I love this space, it is the majority of my focus these days and I bring massive value to the table, from all sides, helping to craft thoughtful deals, build sustainable businesses and make sure all sides win.
Jacob Shwirtz is a senior business veteran, with over 20 years’ experience advancing the digital revolution by inventing and operationalizing strategies that impact bottom lines for world-class brands and wildly-clever storytellers. He has extensive experience in content marketing, talent partnerships, digital strategy and the intersection of entertainment and digital culture, with multiple leadership roles across global brands as well as the inner circle of top talent.
He most recently led the content marketing team of Lightricks, the $2B photo and video powerhouse behind Facetune and a dozen other industry-leading apps. While there, Jacob spearheaded top-tier partnerships with global talent, including the D'Amelio Family, MrBeast and Maye Musk, among many others. The D'Amelio partnership is the largest influencer deal in Israel's history. In addition, he built a world-class social media team, original content operation and extended the brand into the real world by activating at culture-defining destinations such as Vidcon and BravoCon.
Prior to Lightricks, Jacob spent three years in various leadership roles at WeWork, from starting as the Global Head of Social Media to founding the company's entire entertainment partnership practice and, eventually, transitioning into broader B2B partnerships across enterprises, venture capital firms and global business networks... all in all closing over 300 alliances that drove more than $200M into the company's sales pipeline.
Those 300+ partners were everyone from traditional celebrities to digital-native influencers, athletes to thought leaders and global enterprises. As a result of Jacob's efforts, WeWork became the home of stars like Hugh Jackman, Anna Farris, Zoe Saldana and Kevin Smith, along with a myriad of digital influencers, podcasters, authors and others. On the B2B side, highlights of Jacob's work includes the philanthropies of Jose Andres, David Ortiz and Rihanna, along with Michelle Obama's voter turn-out effort, the NBA, Delta, American Express, Stanford University, over 100 VC firms and many, many more.
Before WeWork, Jacob was the first Chief Social Media Officer for a global media company, when he co-founded Endemol's digital division. In this broad role, spanning traditional TV and digital-first projects, Jacob built and oversaw the digital/social teams blowing up Steve Harvey, Wipeout, Fear Factor, Real Housewives and many other shows, while also creating entire digital businesses with partners like Pitbull, Courtney Love and a slew of top digital influencers, such as Michelle Phan (the queen of YouTube), Brittany Furlan (the top female Vine star) and many more.
Going back further, Jacob led MTV and VH1's very first experiments with connecting digital and TV, leveraging the nascent digital influence of show stars to impact the business of The Hills, Real World, Made, Tila Tequila, Next, Yo Momma and several other top shows. After launching a dozen digital extensions across the MTV/VH1 portfolio, Jacob evolved to shepherd "future of TV" innovation across all of Viacom, bringing together ad sales, marketing, editorial and show teams to regularly meet startups and plan experiments in the new movement of "social tv," including the first use of Twitter on-air, the launch of Instagram accounts for channels and digital-native promo teams at tent-pole events, such as the Video Music Awards.
While at Viacom, Jacob was the key conduit for partnerships/coordination with the main social platforms as well as the broader startup ecosystem, earning him the distinctions of being named a top-ten "social media maven" across the media industry and regular appearances in media coverage and conference panels.
Throughout his career, Jacob has been a trusted advisor to executives, known for bridging old and new industries, small and large companies, and experiments with best practices. He knows how to drive innovation within large, matrixed organizations and balance the unique challenges of global companies.
Using the 2400 baud modem on my IBM PS/1, that I got for my bar mitzvah, I logged onto the Internet for the first time in '93, right after the launch of AOL 1.0 for Windows 3.x. Soon afterward, I was interviewed by a journalist who thought I was Jerry Seinfeld because of my screenname. I was not only an early adopter of Seinfeld but also of the web, and its myriad possibilities. I started building websites, helping small businesses get online, and nurturing newfound friendships beyond my small offline surroundings.
By 1997 I was earning decent income, thanks to a client that agreed to pay a commission on sales that would come through the website I created for him. You see, he didn't expect any online sales, which motivated me to learn the tactics of early web marketing and drive conversions... ultimately paying for my college education and much more from those royalties.
For a shy kid from Brooklyn, the Internet opened up untold possibilities for me. More than anything, the parts of the early Internet that resonated with me, where those of people sharing their stories and connecting with each other. These were days before buzzwords like social media, user-generated content and community. These were days friends and I would call each other on the phone and make a plan to "meet" on AOL so we could "instant message" because the "buddy list" wasn't invented yet so you wouldn't know when friends were online. This is almost a decade prior to MySpace's "top 8 friends."
The early passion for the digital revolution, in the fullest potential of that concept, has driven me to continually collaborate with like-minded peers, creating and joining experiments, projects, creative endeavors, side hustles and more. These endeavors weave themselves throughout my life and career.
GAZM - fitting neatly into the stereotype of a "young hotshot" during the early days of the Internet, I was able to raise a bunch of money from angel investors and launch my own interpretation of an online community (back then we didn't have the terminology yet to call it a "social network.") The site had message boards, customizable avatars, and brand deals with movie studios, Absolut Vodka and others. I got to be on CNN live, the cover of Billboard magazine and lots more.
Blufr - original trivia game I invented that went insanely viral, was named the #1 "web 2.0 app" for a while and ultimately led to MTV head-hunting me.
Definitely Something - the agency I co-founded with my best friend, based in Israel, brought in over $2M from American clients (MTV, Zagat, Dow Jones and others) before closing at the end of 2010.
NextOrNot - a unique spin on dating websites that we built at Definitely Something, which earned for MTV several million dollars and stayed online years longer than the show it was meant to promote.
TweetBookz - as another experiment at Definitely Something, we launched this fun service that would print high quality coffee table books of people's tweets. The invention went massively viral, getting coverage across all media, including NBC's Today Show, and actually sparked a long-term relationship and further collaborations with Kevin Smith.
TheSt0ry - a curated gathering I founded that brought together 30 leading voices in digital media for 3 days of confidential connection. We had published authors, Emmy winners, C-level executives, artists, social activists, high tech folks and a star chef, each sharing their stories and inspiration with the other.
UnfollowTrump - my humble protest against the election of Donald Trump, which grew into a massive resource promoted by celebrities and community leaders, giving people an alternative way to follow his content (also acted as an archive, including deleted tweets.)
TraderJoesLine - a service I started for my local Brooklyn community during the height of COVID, alerting folks about how long the line was outside of Trader Joes at any given time. More than anything, this gave people a feel-good distraction during those scary days. For me, I got to have my first time appearing on the cover of the Wall Street Journal and in the pages of the NY Times!
I continue to join projects, help people brainstorm and cheerlead my friends, so don't hesitate to hit me up with requests for feedback or anything else. I'm always open to the next crazy experiment. By the way, if you have an idea of what to do with the username UNFOLLOW, be in touch :-)
In between periods of traditional, full-time employment, I've greatly enjoyed working as an independent professional. The terminology changes from time to time, whether it's freelance, project-based, short-term, fractional CMO, advisor, mentor or something else, but the bottom line is the same... no health benefits. (kidding, but not really)
In between Viacom and Endemol, Endemol and WeWork, WeWork and Lightricks, and presently, I've been able to join startups, celebrities, enterprises, investors and others for discrete work that helps keep me fresh, applying my skills and experiences to ever-changing problem sets and opportunities, working at vastly differing scales of budget, but always focused on providing value.
What is that value? It really changes over time. Some highlights:
For Microsoft, I helped kick off the marketing strategy and influencer partnerships of the egaming studio they built in their NYC flagship.
For Discovery, I did the vest first casting of a digital influencer into their on-air programming.
For AMC, I helped build out new monetization strategies to capitalize on the super-fans of The Walking Dead universe.
For Michelle Phan, I acted as her head of innovation, crafting deals to evolve her career beyond YouTube, such as the one with Webtoon to launch her graphic novel project (debuted at ComiCon, on stage, with Stan Lee).
For Fuse Media, I built a pipeline of innovation projects, connecting them with the most interesting startups and new revenue opportunities (deals with Snap, Jellysmack, Ipsy and others)
For Global Citizen, I ran the influencer outreach strategy for their voter registration effort prior to the 2020 elections
For Earth Day 2020, right as COVID was breaking out and they had to pivot to a digital-only experience, I acted as digital showrunner for the 11-hour livestream and managed all talent integration into the programming (working across everyone from Bono to the Pope).
Beyond gigs I can talk about, I love:
Acting as an expert adviser to investors, helping with deal flow and vetting opportunities
Acting as a mentor to digital talent, helping navigate the complexities of growth and their path of professionalization
Since this is the current focus of my work efforts, visit the Services page to learn more about how I work these days with clients and reach out if you're curious to discuss further.