Media mogul Barry Diller has a nontraditional approach to finding execs -- and Vimeo's 34-year-old CEO is a great example of how it can work

Sarah Jacobs/Business InsiderVimeo CEO Anjali Sud is media conglomerate IAC’s youngest CEO and also head of its most ambitious non-public growth plan of the year.
  • Vimeo CEOAnjali Sud, 34, took the job in July 2017, after being promoted internally.
  • Vimeo is part of conglomerate IAC, chaired by influential media mogul Barry Diller.
  • Diller has instilled in IAC his philosophy of developing young leadership instead of hiring outsider veterans to head his biggest projects.
  • This post is part of Business Insider’s ongoing series on Better Capitalism.

Last year, Anjali Sud was internally promoted to CEO of video company Vimeo. At 34, she’s the youngest CEO of one of the media conglomerate IAC’s companies. It’s also giving her its most ambitious goal among its private companies for the year.

It’s a deliberate use of IAC chairman Barry Diller’s philosophy: A young and inexperienced leader from within the company who rises to the challenge will always be better than a veteran executive from the outside. It’s the strategy he’s used to groom executives like former Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

“I’m the perfect example of that strategy and I’m obviously a beneficiary of it, but I also am a really big believer in it as a philosophy,” Sud told Business Insider for an episode of our podcast “Success! How I Did It.”

Sud said that it’s inspired her to do the same as the head of Vimeo. “We’re trying to build a company that also creates those kind of accelerated career paths for people that gives people an opportunity to throw themselves in the deep end of the pool, and own things that they might not normally get a chance to own. It’s a trial by fire approach, but I think it rewards results, and talent over pedigree, and that can be really powerful.”

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She joined Vimeo in 2014 as its head of marketing, later heading up its outreach to filmmakers using its platform. As it became more pressing for Vimeo to create a growth model that would differentiate it from where YouTube and Netflix were headed, Sud advocated for doubling down on ad-free offerings that would empower filmmakers and justify long-term subscriptions.

IAC’s leadership eventually decided to go forward with Sud’s approach and gave her the CEO role in July 2017. IAC CEO Joey Levin publicly announced in February that this year he wants Vimeo to reach $US100 million in revenue and 1 million paid subscribers, and that it’s the company’s biggest nonpublic opportunity. He wants Sud to figure it out.

Barry DillerMichael Seto/Business InsiderBarry Diller, IAC’s chairman, believes that a homegrown young executive who rises to a challenge will always be better than a veteran hire from the outside.

Sud told Business Insider she finds it motivating. “What I think is exciting is having IAC’s backing and knowing that if we want to be aggressive, we can make smart but big bets to capitalise on this opportunity and fulfil our mission, whether that is through investing more in the team, or in marketing, or in M&A, or improving our tool set – that we can do that.”

In an interview with LinkedIn chairman Reid Hoffman for the podcast “Masters of Scale,” Diller explained that he adopted this approach to developing talent because it worked for him. Diller was just in his early 20s when former ABC president Elton Rule put him in charge of negotiating rights to films made for television.

The approach doesn’t always yield success, but Diller said it’s worth it.

“When you drop somebody into deep water, and you see they flounder, and they really are gasping – unless that happens, development rarely happens,” Diller said. “And then slowly they get above the water line, and then they start to go.”

Sud said the other major benefit is her relationship with her employees.

“Because I’m an internal promotion, I now lead a team of people who I worked personally with in the trenches for years,” she said. “I know them really well – and I care about them. We are a team that’s together working towards this.”

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