Meet the Digital Hotshots

Youth is wasted on the young, except in the digital space, where you launch new media ventures, exploit bleeding-edge technologies and sometimes get bought by Google.

Unlike traditional media where young execs typically have to climb the ladder before becoming boss, young execs in digital media often start out at the top.

That’s particularly true in emerging sectors like Web video, mobile apps, location-based services and online ad-technology platforms where even grizzled media veterans are often instantly behind the curve.

AdweekMedia certainly had plenty to choose from when compiling a list of five Hotshots: media executives all under the age of 30 who are setting the pace for where digital goes next.

Billy Chasen
CEO, Stickybits

Sure, Billy Chasen has a computer science degree from the University of Michigan, but he’s as comfortable with a paintbrush as he is with code.

Chasen’s art informs his digital work inasmuch as he knows all personal projects are interconnected. After coding at trading platform FactSet, the now 29-year-old had a fast trajectory. He freelanced and dabbling in digital products and then went on to create and build Swarm, a browser extension; Downfly, an app for dead-simple content sharing; Firefly, a real-time chat program for publishers; and Chartbeat, a real-time analytics program that lets publishers know who’s on their site in the here and now.

By that point, Chasen was intrigued by augmented reality. As an art project, he dreamed up Stickybits, an app that attaches digital information to real-world objects. The idea was to “virtually paint” on surfaces with a mobile phone. Together with Seth Goldstein, a collaborator on Downfly, Chasen saw the broader potential to use bar codes to marry text, video and voice with actual objects. Stickybits, launched last March, accomplishes this through stickers and existing bar codes. Scan a can of Coca-Cola, for instance, and you’ll find 59 pieces of content. Campbell’s and Reggie Bush have used the app for scavenger hunts. Version 2.0, out soon, will offer more incentives to use the app, which Chasen says has a “small and dedicated” user base.

“You don’t really know the path of where an idea will take you,” he adds. “You have to be willing to pivot when parts work and don’t work.” —Brian Morrissey

First job: Making bagels
Biggest challenge facing digital media: How many media companies will continue making money

Soraya Darabi
Business development/marketing, Foodspotting

Soraya Darabi is a social network old-timer. A Friendster user at Georgetown University back in 2004, she got an early look at “Thefacebook” when her college became one of the first outside the Ivy League to have access to Mark Zuckerberg’s creation. While Darabi says she’s not always the earliest adopter, she knows the importance of being out in front of social media. “I believe in a beta philosophy,” Darabi says. “If you lightly understand a platform as it emerges, you’ll understand it better when everyone jumps on board.”

In September 2007, Darabi moved to The New York Times as manager of buzz marketing. She was part of a team that led the paper into social media, developing its Facebook, YouTube and Twitter strategies. The NYT today has 2.6 million Twitter followers and 777,000 Facebook fans. Darabi, now 27, became a social media A-lister herself, amassing nearly 500,000 Twitter followers.

Darabi left the NYT last December for a more entrepreneurial position at, the private file-sharing startup, where she helped launch PressLift, its product for the PR industry. Along the way, she began advising another startup, Foodspotting, a mobile app that makes restaurant discovery more social and visual by letting people share photos of their favorite dishes. She left in July to lead business development at Foodspotting full time after it secured $750,000 in seed money.

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