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Michael Polanyi famously wrote that “We know more than we can tell.” By David Hammer, CEO and Founder, Emissary, I founded Emissary to serve those people and the businesses that need their help.

By David Hammer, CEO and Founder, Emissary

At the beginning of 2010, my manager at Google asked if I'd be interested in heading up a team to build out a Demand Side Platform.

“Sure,” I responded. “What's a Demand Side Platform?”

“Go figure it out,” he told me.

I knew it would be no easy task. The concept, a relatively recent one, was still evolving in the nascent programmatic advertising universe. There was nothing to find on the internet to explain it. Worse, nobody at Google seemed to know anything about it, nor did I know anyone outside the company who could help. So I went to conferences, trying to network my way to the answer. There, I was met with hand-wavey, generalist answers from others who clearly were as clueless as I was. Months after I started my research, answers remained incomplete at best.

Eventually (and luckily for me), Google acquired Invite Media, which employed some of the savviest folks I'd ever meet in the ad tech world. It was their insights that laid the foundation for our product. Still, I was left with a nagging question: Why was what I had gone through so difficult? My problem had a solution and some people knew what it was. Why hadn't I been able to find them?

Three years later, having acquired some useful knowledge and with Doubleclick Bid Manager on track to becoming a multi-billion-dollar product, I left Google to strike out on my own. But to where? Once again something nagged at me: I knew all this stuff about Google, about ad tech, about product management, but most of it wasn't germane to my day-to-day focus on starting a company. I was sure it would be useful to someone, but who?

Occasionally, of course, an opportunity to share presented itself. A venture capitalist wanted me to talk to a portfolio company about entering the DSP space. A friend of a friend picked my brain about an idea he was working on. I met with a distant cousin who wanted a job at Google. Each time I was happy to oblige, even though I had no intention of becoming a consultant or anything like one.

These conversations, however, actually taught me a few things.

First, what seemed really simple to me was totally inscrutable to others. I was continuously amazed to discover that what I had to offer was of such value—it all was so basic to me. I didn't need to give detailed breakdowns of reorgs or explain the millisecond-level mechanics of real-time bidding; even top-line explanations provided sufficient detail to help those I spoke to re-architect their strategy.

Second, it felt incredibly rewarding to be so useful. I walked away from each conversation with a sense of fulfillment that I had rarely felt in my professional life. We're all familiar with the business-world paradox in which tons of exertion has a way of yielding only incremental changes. Now, though, it was clear that I was really moving the needle. What's more, these meetings allowed me to feel a casual sense of mastery that was rare in my day-to-day at Google.

Third, I couldn't be the only one who valued these opportunities. Looking around, I was struck by the fact that I was not alone in possessing untapped, invaluable knowledge. What we have learned just from working in our jobs day to day and year to year—the way a boss automatically ignores anyone who interrupts her, or how a single engineer can derail an entire project—is hidden treasure. To the person who is looking for it, of course.

Michael Polanyi famously wrote that “We know more than we can tell.” It's not true of everyone—certain “thought leaders” seem to quite comfortable telling much more than they know. But for every consultant actively drumming up attention and business, there are ten regular people who know just as much—and would be happy to share it, if only someone would ask.

  I founded Emissary to serve those people and the businesses that need their help.Every organization hungers for access to information that lives beyond their walls, but they don't know how to get it. Likewise, millions of people have valuable knowledge that they're not doing anything with. Our mission is to connect the two. We want to transform the way the world works by empowering people to share their experience.

We started by building an amazing community of people who have deep, tacit knowledge of the organizations they've worked at. We screen these Emissaries by hand and interview them extensively; more than 5,000 have joined our platform to date.

On top of that, we've created a scaled technology platform that's able to match them to the sales organizations that demand their insight, and have built communications channels to facilitate their relationships.

We've been operating quietly for the past year and a half, working with a number of sales organizations of all sizes to ensure we've cracked the code of how to reliably deliver game-changing Emissaries to clients. We're now proud to announce we've raised more than $10 million in Series A funding from an array of spectacular investors, with G20 Ventures and Canaan Partners at the forefront, and we're excited to share what we've learned with the larger world.


1GlobalLocal,MyNewsCenterNavigator,FranceWebSharing,Entitlement, civics and civility in America (column)

«Un Etat qui n’a pas les moyens d’effectuer des changements n’a pas les moyens de se maintenir.»
[ Edmund Burke ] - Extrait des Réflexions sur la révolution française

1agld1r.gifEntitlement, civics and civility in America (column)

Gary Merica 12:10 p.m. EDT October 17, 2016


Although I have not traveled to every other country, I remain firmly convinced that we live in one of the best if not the best nation on the planet. Our form of government, the natural beauty of our land and the boundless opportunities for personal fulfillment and success are just a few of the attributes of this great nation that form my opinion.

Having said that, however, I fear that we as a people are falling prey to a sense of entitlement, which is defined as “belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.”

I was struck and informed by two columns in last week’s paper. One, written by Ismeta Jovicevic, was titled “This could never happen to us,” and describes the tragic war in her home country of Bosnia and Herzegovina that quickly changed her normal life into one of being an international refugee. The other, written by former U.S. Rep. Bill Goodling, was titled “Is US next to fall from within?" I believe his title speaks for itself.

My concern, and in some respects the concern of these two columnists, is that too many of us believe that we are entitled to the benefits and privilege of living in America, without any work required on our parts. This leads me to the topic of civics, which can be defined as “the study of the rights and duties of citizens and of how the government works.”

I think it is very telling that “rights” and “duties” are linked in this definition, implying that we are not entitled to all that our nation offers, but that we as citizens have certain duties to fulfill to ensure our rights.

I would argue that a basic duty (also a right) that we have is to participate in a government of “We the People” by voting for government officials. The statistics in this regard are not encouraging.

Data from the 2014 general election revealed that voter turnout was the lowest in over 70 years – only 36.4 percent of eligible voters voted, which was the lowest rate since 1942. A presidential election typically draws a larger turnout, and was 58 percent in 2012, which still means that more than four out of 10 of us fail to participate in this basic right and duty. It is somewhat encouraging that voters in York County participate at a higher level – 45.3 percent in the 2014 midterm, and 68.3 percent in the 2012 presidential race.

Another aspect of civics is understanding how our government works. Data from Xavier University in 2012 paints a somewhat troubling picture of this aspect of civics: 35 percent of natural born citizens failed the civics test taken by individuals born in other countries and who are applying for citizenship. One need only answer six of 10 questions correctly to pass, and over one-third of us could not.

More detail reveals that 62 percent could not name the governor of their state; 71 percent could not name the Constitution as the supreme law of the land and 75 percent did not know the function of the judicial branch. Rep. Bill Kortz has introduced a bill in Pennsylvania that would require high school students to pass this same civics test noted above. Many believe that this will better prepare the graduates to understand and participate in government.

This leads to my final topic, that of civility in political discourse. Civility is defined as “politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.” Unless you’ve been living in a cave this past year, you know that this election cycle has been filled with more vulgarity, invective and disrespectful language than any in recent memory.

We need to understand that this is not unprecedented in American history. Abraham Lincoln was called the “missing link” and the “original gorilla” by his political opponents; in 1851 senator Charles Sumner was severely beaten on the Senate floor by a rival after Sumner engaged in name calling; and in 1884, James Blaine, the Republican candidate for president was labeled a “liar and a crook” (sound familiar?).  In a 2015 editorial for the Hoover Institution, Bruce Thornton defended incivility as protected by the First Amendment (which it is) and as a bulwark against hidden agendas challenging his view of limited government. I am convinced that when leaders substitute insults, lies and vulgar diatribes for objective and respectful discussion around the important issues, we all lose.

If you are not already knowledgeable about and participatory in how we are governed, I encourage you to take steps to do so.  And when you do, please do it with dignity, courtesy and respect – our children are watching. Renowned writer, speaker and social activist Parker Palmer said it best: “Political civility is not about being polite to each other. It is about reclaiming the power of ‘We the People’ to come together, debate the common good, and call American democracy back to its highest values amid our differences.”

Gary Merica lives in Windsor Township

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