A Technical Turn

Nick Cicero followed his instincts and seized the moment.

by Sally Parker

Nick Cicero in New York City

At first glance, becoming a social media entrepreneur seems like an unusual path for a trumpet-playing music major.

But for Nick Cicero ’09, vice president for strategy at Conviva, a leading streaming video intelligence company, the road he took after graduation makes sense given the historic moment he found himself in at Nazareth.

Cicero entered college the year after Facebook debuted on Ivy League campuses. Twitter launched the next semester. MySpace ruled the social networking world.

Social media was exploding, and Cicero abandoned plans to teach.

He says he came to a realization: “I don’t want to be a music teacher right now. I feel confident I could be, but I’m so much more interested in this internet thing.” He adds, “It was all changing. There were so many things happening with social media.”

Cicero had an early interest in business and the possibilities of the internet. Even in high school, he was selling book covers online and writing jingles for local companies.

“I come from a carpenter family. My dad has always been into building things,” he says. “That’s what drives me — solving problems that people haven’t been able to solve before.”

By Cicero’s senior year of college, online tools for creatives had proliferated. He learned GarageBand, recording and producing beats and selling them out of his dorm room. He taught himself basic programming to make Myspace backgrounds and websites that he sold.

After college, Cicero earned a master’s degree in advertising at Syracuse University and worked for a few startups in San Francisco. He built new social publishing and analytics tools for publishers and media companies and put the first Instagram video on TV for the Emmy-winning series Oprah’s Lifeclass. In 2014, he stepped up his founder’s game when he and partners bootstrapped Delmondo, a social media analytics company. Delmondo built the first analytics for social media platforms Snapchat, Facebook Live, and Instagram Stories. 

Conviva bought Delmondo in 2018. The merger brought together Conviva’s analytics for streaming services and Delmondo’s twin work in social media platforms — a great fit because media companies are using social media to reach consumers who are cutting cable to switch to streaming, Cicero says.

“It’s really exciting to take something you started in your apartment and be able to turn that into this company that somebody wants to buy,” he says. “I got really lucky. I had been part of companies that got acquired, and I’ve seen what has happened to other founders. When we started Delmondo, my goal for when I was done running it was to be financially free.”

At Conviva, Cicero leads the development of viewer insights products for major media companies such as Hulu, HBO, and CNN. Conviva technology helps make their streaming services hitch-free and provides analytics that help the companies to better understand and connect with their audiences.

“There’s a war going on in the media world — so many different options and platforms. There’s a lot of noise in the space today, so it’s hard to understand what marketing starts to break through,” Cicero says.

Although he doesn’t rule out starting another business (“I don’t think you ever lose the itch”), for now Cicero offers advice and invests in other founders’ ventures. He credits music professors James Douthit, Carl Wiens, and Paul Smoker with seeing the spark of innovation in him and making useful introductions in the industry.

“They always encouraged me and pushed me,” he says. “I knew I wasn’t going to have a black-and-white career path, and they saw I had this entrepreneurial knack and always encouraged me around that.”

Sally Parker is a writer in Rochester, N.Y.