New at the top: Grab Networks’ Alvin Bowles
By — Interview with Vanessa Small,
I always knew that I wanted to be in business but I wasn’t sure which aspect of business. I’m from Michigan so conventional wisdom would have me working at one of the Big Three. Instead I wanted to move to New York and do something that would give me a transferable skill set. I spent a few years on Wall Street.
I got a great foundation in financial metrics and understanding market trends. I continued to utilize that skill set throughout my career.
Media was something I was really interested in but it wasn’t fully developed with certain companies on Wall Street at the time, so I joined Sony Music in a financial capacity and then in a business development context.
I had been working in a venture-backed division, right before the digital bubble burst so I got a front-row seat watching the music industry miss the mark on digital music by not adopting the technical advances of intellectual property. I saw inactivity from a large company that was not willing to accept that the market was moving past its core competencies.
From there I made sure I would stay on the cutting edge of technology, developing creative and innovative content for the Web. I felt I should follow where the market was going.
I eventually transitioned to Time Warner Corporate, working in an integrated marketing function that worked across all of the company’s divisions.
I worked a lot with the sales organizations as well as the creative aspect of these divisions to develop something that was creatively on brand but also generated incremental sales opportunities without really stepping on the toes of the sales organization, which was always an interesting dance that we had to do.
From there I transitioned to become a publisher of AOL Black Voices, which was the multicultural division focused on urban and African American constituency. I ran the sales and marketing division there.
This was right around the time AOL.com was launched to focus on advertising. As everyone knows, the dial-up business and proprietary product of AOL was going through a period of transition. Lots of folks were canceling subscriptions, and we were really focusing on a portal that was similar to the other portals out there to focus on a solution for clients from an ad perspective.
Eventually I became the first leader of a new group that was being developed at Viacom’s BET division, called Brand Solutions. It was an integrated marketing function that was focused on creative content both on the TV and digital side.
I did that for almost four years.
Because I spent so much time in the digital space, I’ve watched from afar the rise in digital video consumption. In my role at Viacom I could see the growth happening there, but we were not equipped for the volume and scale advertisers were looking for.
I remember I had been complaining about not having the solutions I needed to meet the digital marketplace demand. That’s when I stumbled upon Grab Networks.
The market demand around it sparked my interest and learning the opportunity and projection for growth, it was a very easy decision for me to join. The company is well-positioned for significant geometric growth.
We feel like we can do more to penetrate the market. I want to help advertisers know how best to utilize us.
— Interview with Vanessa Small
Alvin Bowles Position: Chief executive of Grab Networks, a Dulles-based media company offering online video content and advertising. Career highlights: Senior vice president, Brand Solutions, Viacom’s BET; vice president, publisher and head of sales, AOL Black Voices and Multicultural Divisions, AOL; vice president of the Global Marketing Asset Group, Time Warner; director of business development/strategic marketing, Sony Music. Age: 37 Education: BS, business administration, University of Michigan; MBA, Harvard University. Personal: Lives between Dulles and New Rochelle, N.Y. He is married with two daughters.