LMU did a feature on one of their own, Spreeify CEO, Ruben Dua…

MBA Alumnus Ruben Dua Creates New Social Advertising Platform

As a young teen growing up in Northridge, Calif., Ruben Dua ’07 saw things differently than his peers. He was constantly coming up with new ideas and creating new products. In fact, he curated his LMU curriculum to have an emphasis on the convergence of business and technology, what was then called ‘new media’, which included taking classes in business, media studies, and even a dissertation in Spanish on Sony’s new media initiatives.

Today, Dua is keeping his creative juices flowing as CEO of Spreeify, a social advertising platform that lets brands host social media promotions to help maximize their social engagement ROI. He already has quite the following, with clients such as Adobe, Journeys, etnies and Swarovski.

“Businesses today are all about being more active on social media and increasing their fan base,” says Dua, who also has a bachelor’s degree from USC. “Social media promotions are the new and exciting marketing tool for brands. They work by incentivizing people to follow or share in exchange for perks like giveaways, discounts or specials.”

Fluent in both Spanish and Hindi, Dua has had a seasoned career as an executive at a large corporation, a consultant at a Fortune 500 company and as a startup entrepreneur. Social media is in a hyper-growth period and new niches are opening up by the minute. What makes Spreeify unique is that it’s the first performance-based social advertising platform where brands only pay per social activity (new “like”, share, post, follow, comment, etc.), compared to alternatives where brands pay for clicks or impressions that don’t guarantee social engagement.

Dua stated that he funded the business through his own personal finance and now that Spreeify is in the revenue generating phase, he has the interest of a number of Silicon Valley and Los Angeles investors who want to help take the business to the next level.

Dua and his wife recently relocated to Silicon Valley to take advantage of the area’s abundant resources and booming tech industry. They’re expecting their first child, a son, in the coming months and are busy preparing for his arrival. Despite a hectic schedule and round-the-clock work demands, Dua is enjoying life as an entrepreneur. He gave Business Matters a glimpse into how he got where he is today.

Social media was very new when you graduated from USC. How did you enter the market?

After I graduated, I started my first company called Deevana. It was really before its time and based on the idea that people could create an online public profile a la Myspace and Facebook. Back then, people weren’t ready to be as public with their personal information as they are now, but I still learned a lot from the experience.

Why did you decide to attend LMU for your MBA?

I was really interested in LMU’s entrepreneurship program and the industry connections the university would provide me. I also liked the fact that it was a part-time program so I could still work during the day and go to classes in the evening. The program allowed me to focus on a more underserved aspect of my skillset: finance. I ended up getting an emphasis in finance which helped me focus on the importance of monetization and financial sustainability of a business. It also proved to be very valuable when starting a new business.

What were some of the other valuable skills you acquired in the program?

I learned that you need to become a domain expert in your chosen field, but also have a working knowledge of all aspects of business: finance, marketing, operations, etc. There’s a great amount of convergence in today’s workforce, and a lot of jobs are becoming hybrid jobs. LMU gave me a good holistic understanding on how to approach the field from a big picture standpoint.

How did the idea for Spreeify come about?

Spreeify started from an apparel brand my wife and I ran. We were selling footwear, jewelry and accessories but I was never really passionate about the product component. I always had a bigger vision. We started hosting social promotion events online and they were really successful. This eventually pivoted our business to Spreeify. I’m happy to say business is growing. We’re currently going through a sales spurt and lots of new business pitches.

How do you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to social marketing and product innovation?

The biggest thing is to not get stuck in the norm. Get out of your comfort zone. You also need a solid understanding of what’s going on out there so do your research. And continue talking to people and industry experts.

How do you see social media evolving in the next five years?

Businesses are really struggling on how to get sales ROI on social media advertising. They’re never really sure what they’re going to get out of it. I think the next paradigm shift for social media will be a specific focus on sales ROI as it relates to social media engagement.

You’re an advisor for the Business Incubator. How did you get involved in that?

Ever since I was an MBA student, I’ve had a close relationship with Dr. Choi. He’s not only a great mentor and professor, but a great friend. He wanted me to get involved in the Incubator because I’ve gone through the whole process of starting a new business. My biggest contribution as a mentor is telling the students about the mistakes I’ve made and giving them advice on how to avoid those mistakes.

What other advice do you give young entrepreneurs?

My first piece of advice is to really understand what the pain point is for your customer. How will you offer them relief? Once you do that, you can figure out a great solution. I also tell young entrepreneurs to understand that whatever they start with, chances are they’re going to end up doing something different. It evolves as you go. I urge people to have a runway…they’re not going to get off the ground right away so be prepared for the product to morph over time.

As a serial entrepreneur, do you have other business ideas in the works?

Right now, I’m really focused on Spreeify and getting ready for my son’s birth. But the sectors that excite me most are big data, augmented reality, ad tech, wearable technology and social commerce.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love mountain biking and I’m just starting to take advantage of it again in Silicon Valley. I’ve also been a musician since I was a child. I play the drums and the guitar. I was in a couple of bands back in LA that played around the city. Those were my wild days.

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?

I would tell myself that it’s so important to take risks while you’re young. If you can handle the stress and uncertainty of taking risks it’ll always pay off in the end, either as a successful business or as an invaluable life and learning experience.