For my leadership series, I had the fantastic opportunity to sit down and interview Ivy Sheibar, Chief Business Officer at eko (pronounced “echo”).
Ivy has been uniquely positioned at the intersection of innovative entertainment, technology, and commerce for her entire career. Following her leadership roles at Apple, AOL, Awesomeness, and Viacom, she was named a Female Frontier in Tech by Campaign earlier this year. She holds a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from the Anderson School at UCLA.
eko (pronounced “echo”) is a technology company leading innovation in e-commerce and interactive experiences. As the patent owner of over 28 commerce-connected solutions, eko’s advanced technology offers new ways for retailers, brands, and agencies to engage with consumers through personalized, choice-driven video experiences effectively. In a year where many brands and retailers suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ivy and her team pioneered unique solutions to drive impactful user engagement through interactive video, including real estate tours, e-learning experiences, corporate training, and more.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My family moved around every couple of years. From the experience, I believed the new, the unexpected, and the unknown were only good: it meant there were always new groups of friends and new experiences.
By middle school or high school, when we stopped moving, I went to my parents saying, “okay, I’m ready. Where’s the next one? Where are we going?”
Due to this experience, I realize that I have been an opportunity junkie throughout my career. I see the fun and opportunity in what’s new, and I’m driven by seeing a company with a big opportunity that is going after it. I’ve done a lot of different things, but I always aimed to be at the outset of new technology. For example, I was working on the very early stages of video-on-demand and online videos and smartphones.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I worked in business development at Comedy Central early in my career. One of my tasks was reporting on the VHS and DVD sales numbers from a week-to-week and month-to-month basis.
My first instinct was always to find the most positive spin on the results. One week, with little good news, I highlighted a report where sales were up in Nebraska. My manager at the time pulled me aside and said that wasn’t what he was looking for: it didn’t need to be good news, it needed to be the truth.
As a result, my employees often hear me ask, “what is the goal and what is the truth, good or bad?” If we are all aligned on the facts and know where, and what, we want to happen, we can focus on the best way to get there.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
eko is a very special place. Our founding team is a band that would create innovative music videos - and happened to be fantastic technologists - setting up an incredible combination of technology, creativity, and design. Today, we are not only creating tools for interactive video experiences, we’re also making fantastic experiences using those tools. Eko is focused on creating fulfilling shopping experiences online and bringing the more human elements, the more engaging elements of a shopping experience, online.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
eko is a limitless platform for creating and publishing interactive choice-driven content across any industry. We’ve seen so much change in the last year in e-commerce due to the pandemic, and before that, due to technology disruptions. At eko, we are very focused on the ability to bring these experiences to the e-commerce world. What’s really exciting is while the internet has already figured out how to sell the easy stuff on the internet, there is a big opportunity in helping sell the hard stuff. The hard stuff are the things you want to feel, to smell, to touch before you buy, The hard stuff are the things you didn't even know you wanted.
One of my colleagues is fond of saying that there is a lot of online buying, but there isn’t great online shopping. We’re creating differentiated commerce-connected experiences online where you have agency and feel like you are interacting with humans. It’s a unique take on e-commerce to help sell the hard stuff, and we’re excited about the data we’re seeing and the impact we are having. For example, data from the beta launch of our Cookshop experience shows an 8.7% click-through rate, indicating unparalleled shopping intent from engaged users.
What are your "3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started" and why?
First, I wish I understood earlier that just because something is natural to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Early in my career, I tended to feel that if an idea was obvious to me, then everyone else had already thought of it, and already considered it. It was over time and through trial and error that I realized my points of view were a result of my unique background and I needed to bring them to the table. Monica Beletsky, a producer, and screenwriter shared something to this effect on Twitter: “Trust your obvious.” This is why a really diverse team is so valuable; because something is natural to you doesn’t mean it’s natural for anyone else.
Secondly, recognize that periods of change create tremendous opportunities. This is true across positions, companies, industries, and locations. For example, being part of a company undergoing reorganizations or layoffs can be a paralyzing experience, but it’s important to see these circumstances as an opportunity.
Lastly, the deep importance of collaboration. It’s very easy to focus on your immediate role while on a team and get the project done. However, it’s such a richer experience and opportunity to learn when you work with team members with different perspectives and backgrounds. What better way to drive a deeper understanding of whatever business you are in? I love to collaborate and prefer it to working alone.
What is your blueprint to success?
A blueprint is tough because it implies it will work for everyone. However, two things have helped me along the way.
First, I’ve intentionally followed opportunities that spoke to me - those that sounded fun and interesting. For me, it has always been less about the title or the industry, and more so what I was going to learn and ensuring I would feel fulfilled. Watching my father commute to a job he didn't love was a motivator-- I didn't want to follow that part of his footsteps.
The second thing that has helped me to succeed is building relationships. Early in my career, I focused a lot on moving the needle, but learning to do that without pissing anyone off was even more valuable. The ability to build relationships has served me well and is always needed, no matter the organization or industry.
What do you want the readers to know (any calls to action)?
Change is good. In times of great change, there is a great opportunity.
From a business perspective, today at eko, we are focused on future changes in e-commerce behaviors. It’s important to plan for and be open to, a changing future, regardless of company and industry.
What should brands be planning for in the year ahead in terms of e-commerce and entertainment?
I believe shopping will continue to evolve because consumers have proven they are craving new kinds of experiences. Through our platform, customers can uniquely interact with online videos, providing a human, interactive and engaging experience throughout their shopping journey, from inspiration to making a purchase. These interactive video experiences truly do solve needs in a new way, which is why I think we’re well on our way to the next phase of e-commerce.