BroadbandTV CEO Shahrzad Rafati on monetizing the Internet

Oct 01, 2014


According to Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO of BroadbandTV, an entrepreneurial attitude, a tireless work ethic, and a willingness to constantly learn are more valuable assets than decades of experience – and necessary requirements to build a revolutionary business.

Rafati shared this message and more with CKNW 980 host Simi Sara in an intimate interview as part of the Fall 2014 Chief Executives series at the Segal Graduate School.

The series is part of an ongoing partnership between the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University and Vancouver radio station CKNW News Talk 980 to showcase leadership and business advice from some of Canada’s top business leaders.

At the age of 17, Sharzad Rafati moved from her home country of Iran to Vancouver to begin university. Despite speaking no English – and having never used a computer before arriving in Canada – by the time she had graduated she was the founder and CEO of an organization with multi-million dollar deals with some of the world’s largest companies, including Google and the NBA.

BroadbandTV is a media and technology company that helps content owners monetize their content on the internet. Its core business includes a multi-channel network sector – working with streaming services such as YouTube to offer assistance in areas including digital rights management and audience development – and a technology development sector.

As well, it provides content claiming and copyright management services for media companies, allowing clients to regain control of their own content as it is shared online and generate revenue through advertising. For the NBA, this enabled them to deal with the problem of clips of games broadcast on TV being posted online – without alienating fans.

It was while studying computing science at university – which Rafati opted to major in because her lack of computing experience presented a challenge she wanted to overcome – that she first envisioned that video streaming could be monetized.

“I saw the whole evolution of distribution of audio through services like iTunes, and I thought that the next evolution would revolve around video,” she said. “We became the first video provider in Canada and formed a strategic partnership with Google right after they acquired YouTube. Once we got to 100 million views I knew we had something scalable. We are now at close to three billion views.”

As a young ethnic female leading an organization in the technology industry, Rafati admitted that it had been challenging to convince organizations to buy in to her vision. Rather than starting out with smaller organizations, however, she focused on her main target from the outset.

“Going to these meetings and not knowing the jargon was a challenge, but I knew what I was talking about – if you know your stuff then you should have no fear,” she said. “My first meeting was with Netcom, and they are still our partner today. After that I went after Google. I wanted to get the biggest partner on board first. If you get the big ones, then you will get everyone else.”

Founded in 2005, BroadbandTV now has around 160 employees in Vancouver, with a further 50 based internationally. Questioned as to what she looks for in a new employee, Rafati intimated that she prioritizes culture fit, attitude and entrepreneurial spirit over experience.

“We are in a new industry where nothing is defined, so you can’t hire someone that has twenty years experience in what we do,” she said. “We want to give the individual a platform to grow. We have people from sales that end up in marketing, and we want to see more of that. We have hired senior people within the different departments, but overall I prefer culture, attitude, and potential to expertise.”

Throughout the interview, Rafati’s tireless work ethic and passion for her career was evident – indeed, her own employees have told her she has too much energy on occasion. Rafati admitted to feeling pressure to stay ahead of the curve, but rather than shy away from it, instead welcomes this pressure.

“It makes you always want to push the envelope – don’t accept the status quo, ask questions and push yourself every day,” she said. “If you are in an environment where you are dealing with people who are more senior and more experienced, you have to be able to educate them. But also be willing to educate yourself. Never stop learning.”

The next CEO to be featured on the Chief Executives series will be Kari Yuers, President and CEO of Kryton International.

To register for an upcoming CKNW Chief Executive Series, visit

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