If you’ve spent any time in the world of social-media marketing, you’re likely familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary Vee, as he is known, is internet-famous but is flirting with being famous-famous. Most recently, he was a judge in the 2014 Miss America pageant and will soon be part of a panel for "Planet of the Apps," a "Shark Tank"-like show developed by Apple. Vaynerchuk will assess app pitches with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba.
Not bad for a guy who used to run a liquor store in New Jersey. Vaynerchuk, who was born in Belarus and came to the U.S. in 1978, always thought big, though. In 1997, he launched WineLibrary.com. Fully exploiting the potential for searches for "wine" in the early days of Google, Vaynerchuk grew the company’s revenues to $45 million by 2003. That was just the beginning. In 2006, when YouTube was still a fledgling, Vaynerchuk launched Wine Library TV, a video series in which he sampled and recommended wines. That series became a huge hit, drawing 100,000 viewers a day and transforming Vaynerchuk into an internet star. Since then, he has built on that success via Twitter, where he currently has 1.43 million followers.
Since 2009, Vaynerchuk has focused less on wine and more on helping brands be successful in social media. His firm, VaynerMedia, is now a $100 million business and boasts clients like PepsiCo, Budweiser and Toyota. Among the firm’s recent accomplishments was "Harry Caray’s Last Call," a video that interspersed scenes of the celebration outside Wrigley Field when the Cubs won the World Series with audio clips from the late Cubs announcer Caray. That ad was one of the YouTube Ads of the Year in 2016. In addition, Vaynerchuk has been a successful investor, backing Twitter in its early days and advising and investing in Snapchat, Facebook and Uber.