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This fine-arts-grad-turned-tech-guru helps big business upgrade its SEO game

Rob Bucci, BFA 05, founded his own startup — and it was so successful that a top data consulting firm snapped it up
April 3, 2019
By Richard Burnett

Rob Bucci, BFA 05 Rob Bucci says online privacy is “one of the defining problems of our generation”. | Photo: Rob Bucci

In our data-saturated world, corporations hire Rob Bucci, BFA (design art) 05, to help them navigate their way.

In the world of search and data, Bucci is so successful and widely respected, that Seattle-based data consulting firm Moz, a leader in search engine optimization technology, acquired Bucci’s Vancouver-based STAT Search Analytics last October.

Bucci is now the VP of Research and Development at Moz, and sat down for a candid Q&A about his fascinating journey from the world of fine arts to founding his own tech startup company.

How did you make the transition from fine arts to the CEO of STAT Search Analytics?

Rob Bucci: I’ve always had an interest in computers and technology. When I applied to design arts at Concordia, my portfolio was a website. So it was always part of the artistic practice I was interested in.

When I graduated, I found I drifted back to my natural passion there and over time I discovered an acumen for programming, and that’s where I took it. I’ve always seen programming as an intensely creative thing.

What are the challenges of a startup? What were those early days like?

RB: A lot of working too-long hours, not eating properly, not stretching enough or standing up and going to the gym. I started STAT on my own without any partners or investors, so it was actually a lonely endeavor for the first couple of years until it started to have traction.

In a nutshell, what does STAT Search Analytics do?

RB: We help people who have large websites, make sure they are visible to people searching for the type of things that make their business. We help online marketers get more visibility for their websites.

My favourite thing about STAT was being able to create a sense of community in our local startup scene and doing a lot of charitable giving. In the last year we gave more than $50,000. I’m very proud of that.

Moz acquired STAT in October 2018. You are now VP Research and Development at Moz.

RB: My role at Moz is being in charge of research and development of new innovations for the industry. The stuff I am working on is very forward-looking. I am looking forward to doing great stuff with Moz on predictive analytics and machine learning.

In Montreal, two local community groups, Lesbians Who Tech and Queer Tech MTL, focus on the needs and activities of LGBTQ tech-entrepreneurs in the city. As an out gay man, what do you think are some of the challenges queer people have in this business sector?

RB: First of all, I don’t think gay men suffer as many challenges as our trans brothers and sisters. We are fairly well off in comparison.

For me, personally, I’ve always seen it as about representation. If I can be out — and not make a big deal about it, like being out in public is my sole purpose — I can be a successful practicing business person respected in my field.

That has a wonderful effect for younger people in the industry who don’t think being LGBTQ is a big deal. That’s the kind of opportunity I have tried to pursue throughout my career.

You do a lot of speaking engagements around the world.

RB: I talk a lot about the research we’ve done within the Internet marketing SEO industry. I try to shine a light on what Google knows about our businesses, brands and connections, and how we can use that information to better position our web properties.

Any advice for those concerned about online privacy?

RB: In the New Year, I switched all of my browsers and software that I use to have more of a focus on privacy. I think a lot about privacy. It is one of the defining problems of our generation and epoch, and I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

I think the advent of corporate surveillance devices like Alexa and Siri in our homes is very scary. It hasn’t been abused yet to the point that it could be, and I encourage people to educate themselves about this.

What is your number one tip to protect privacy on the web?

RB:  If someone spends a lot of time on a desktop computer, I think one of the best things they can do is download a browser that is focused on privacy, such as Firefox. That will have the most broad impact.

How did your time and your studies at Concordia help shape you and your career?

RB:  In the program I was in, Design Art, you were exposed to a problem and had to design a solution. The methods of designing a solution were made across various different media, with different kinds of interventions. That practice of design thinking — here’s the problem, develop empathy for the person who has the problem and find a solution — is very related to programming. And I think that aptitude gave me a leg up.

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