- The 37-year-old Indian American is the CEO Vimeo, the world’s largest professional video platform and community, which was listed on NASDAQ last week.
As a senior at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business school, Anjali Sud applied to dozens of jobs in investment banking. She didn’t get any. “I got rejected from every single big investment bank,” Sud told CNNMoney. “I remember leaving one of the interviews, and they told me that they didn’t think I had the personality to be a banker,” she recalled. “That definitely was a low point.”
But she soldiered on. The 37-year-old is the now CEO of Vimeo, the world’s largest professional video platform and community, which went public last week. Sud is credited in rescuing Vimeo from disaster to getting it listed on NASDAQ on May 25.
The New York City-based Sud took to her social media handles and the company blog to pen her thoughts on the milestone occasion. “Dreams do come true,” she wrote. “Today Vimeo was listed as a public company. This has been a 16-year labor of love: sparked by a few inspired minds, nurtured by patient investors, and kindled by over a thousand passionate humans who have built, pivoted, innovated, and scaled.”
She continued: “We’ve gone through a lot of change over the years. But what has never changed is our belief in the power of video. We put creators first, and put the power of professional-quality video in the hands of millions. We built an innovative software platform, a wildly creative community, and a strong and resilient business. I don’t think I’ll ever feel more proud of a group of people as I do today.”
She shared a smaller version of the blog on Twitter and Instagram. On her Insta handle, Sud describes herself as Vimeo CEO and Saavi’s mom. Her page includes several photos of her son and pictures of her family. Prior to going public, Sud uploaded a photo on Instagram with Saavi. “Good luck hugs before mama rings the opening bell to take @vimeo public.” The photo has over 2,900 likes.
Although Vimeo is a 16-year-old company, Sud told The Verge that they have implemented a “very different strategy,” in the past three to four years. She said she became the CEO “to pivot the company away from being a viewing destination or media platform, like Facebook or YouTube or Netflix, and really into a video SaaS or software company for businesses. Much more like a Slack or a Dropbox model, but for video.”
In a December 2020 podcast with McKinsey & Company, Sud said Vimeo is “not a competitor of YouTube. We are not a viewing destination. We are a platform that helps anyone create and distribute video anywhere on the internet. We think of ourselves as the mission control powering every professional team in the world that wants to communicate using video. As you can imagine, that has become more relevant during the pandemic.”
A Winding Career Path
Sud was born in an Indian-immigrant family residing in Detroit, Michigan in 1983. In 1997, she left Flint to study at the Phillips Andover Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. She completed her B.Sc in Finance and Management from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2005, followed by an MBA from Harvard Business School in 2011. From 2005 to 2014, she worked in roles of finance, media and e-commerce at Sagent Advisors, Amazon and Time Warner, before joining Vimeo in 2014.
“I’ve had a pretty winding career path,” she says in the McKinsey & Company podcast. “To be candid, I never thought of myself as an innovator and certainly not as an entrepreneur. I started in investment banking and spent several years at Time Warner just as technology and media companies began unbundling. I then moved to Amazon, where I got to experience many different functions and jobs,” she said.
“I came to Vimeo to run marketing — a traditional executive job. There was a clear hierarchy of folks above me, and I never thought that three years later I would be stepping in as CEO to substantially pivot the platform. While I am not a traditional innovator, I’m quite proud of the amount of innovation that Vimeo has led in the past four years.”
In November 2018, Sud was named #14 on Fortune’s 2018 ‘40 under 40’ list. In 2019, she was awarded with a Muse Award by the New York Women in Film & Television. She also is a designated Young Global leader of the World Economic Forum.
When Sud joined Vimeo, the company was around 12 years old. This was also a time when the company was busy competing with YouTube and Netflix — both tech giants who were at their peak.
In an April 20 conversation with Nilay Patel of The Verge, Sud talked about how she built a profitable video business by moving from streaming to software. Calling Vimeo “a very different business model,” Sud told The Verge that the product has always been subscription based. “And what it means is that we are not focused on eyeballs and content on Vimeo, and we actually don’t want Vimeo to be an entertainment destination where people come,” she said.
“We want to help businesses and professionals create video content and get it wherever their audience or their customers or their employees are. And that actually, most times, that means it’s off Vimeo.” She added that the company “actually builds tools to help you put your content on Facebook and YouTube, and in your secure company portal and on your website and on your blog. And that’s actually how we are successful, and then thereby how we make money,” she explained.
“So to me, our goal isn’t to entertain and to then monetize through entertainment. Our goal is to help any business or professional or organization, use video the same way that they use text or image as a powerful way to communicate.”
Prior to taking the company public, she told Forbes magazine that she wanted to do with video what Squarespace and GoDaddy did for websites — allowing smaller businesses to get into the digital world with minimal technical know-how. So she pitched this idea directly to CEO of Vimeo’s parent company Joey Levin. Levin liked the idea and in no time she assembled a small team to begin her idea.
“In no time the software solution was ready and as soon as the services went live, they saw a significant improvement in the revenue than the year before,” Forbes said. As per the magazine, in 2020, Vimeo reported sales of $84 million, “54 percent higher than the same time last year.” And currently, the platform has over 200 million users with 1.5 million paid users.
Forbes says Sud is “now building for a post-Covid hybrid work world in which she expects video’s dominance to accelerate” And to make virtual events and meetings more interactive, intimate and collaborative, Forbes says “Vimeo is also testing AI to edit raw footage into slick marketing content for industries such as restaurants and real estate.” And according to Sud, “the move will make it easier to recruit talent, make acquisitions, promote the brand and sell services to large corporations.”
And as for going from a marketing director to CEO of a publicly traded company in less than four years, she told Forbes: “As a woman, a mother and a tech CEO, I’m unique in the software world. I’m excited to bring my perspective and style to the industry. It’s going to be fun.”