Sanjay Sharma is a digital media entrepreneur and executive. He has spent his career focusing on the intersection of technology and content as both a startup founder and as a media executive. He sits on the board of and advises several early stage, venture-backed companies, teaches and speaks widely on digital media, and is particularly passionate about the potential for new media to enable new forms of premium storytelling, music, games and visual art, from traditionally marginalized voices.
Most recently, Sharma was the CEO All Def Digital, the dominant consumer brand in urban/hip hop oriented video programming, which he co-founded in 2014 alongside Russell Simmons. In 3 years, Sharma turned the company into an online video category leader, the fastest growing property on YouTube, driving 300M video views across all social platforms, with 6.5M fans and subscribers. Sharma also led the company’s premium content efforts, including a first look deal with HBO, traditional cable networks like MTV and FUSION, as well as digital platforms like YouTube Red and Facebook Watch. He executive produced many of the company’s original series, including Traffic Jams, the first ever episodic series on Spotify. Sharma remains on the board of All Def, alongside Greycroft, WPP, Universal Music Group, and Third Wave Capital. The company’s other investors include Bryant Stibel (Kobe Bryant), e-Ventures, Advancit Capital (Shari Redstone), and Andreessen Horowitz (Ben Horowitz).
Prior to All Def, Sharma was on the founding team of online video and gaming pioneer Machinima. Machinima was the first of the now many digital media brands, premised on the notion that new content companies would be delivered “over the top,” on demand, global, and social, and carried entirely through a distributed model on platforms like YouTube or Facebook. The company originated the influencer-driven content and advertising models – most notably creating all of the early content to seed interest and grow an engaged community around the independent video game, Minecraft, as well as the mega-franchise Halo. As Executive Vice President of Strategy & Business Development, Sharma oversaw all business and corporate development, strategy, content and platform partnerships, business and legal affairs, and marketing/PR and communications. Sharma was responsible for releasing the first and only premium episodic live action series based on the game Halo, in close partnership with Microsoft, at the time the most expensive series released exclusively in a first window on YouTube. The company’s investors included Google Capital, Redpoint, MK Capital and Warner Bros, who acquired the company in 2016.
Sharma began his career as an intellectual property, antitrust and technology transactions attorney, building one of the first “convergence” practices in the country, focusing on the disruptive impact of technology and the internet on the traditional film and television business. This led him to go “in house” at his largest client, Warner Bros Pictures, where he worked across the film studio as well as the newly launched games and independent film studios (WBIE and WIP). An early obsession with technology, however, led him to leave the law and studio behind, and start a new career as an internet executive. He spent 5 years in online video/television advertising startup Spot Runner, whose investors included Battery Ventures, Index, CBS, WPP, IPG, LVMH, Legg Mason and Tudor Capital.
Sharma studied film and history at Columbia University, from where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude. He served a two year term at the United States Department of Justice under Attorney General Janet Reno, after which he attended the Stanford Law School and graduated with distinction. Following law school, he served a one year term as a law clerk on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Sharma was born in India and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His first job was selling knives door to door. His second job was much better – radio station DJ and general manager (one of the youngest in the country). He hosted Baton Rouge’s highest rated Sunday morning radio show, focused on straight ahead jazz, and often interviewed jazz musicians as they toured through the South. He is an avid consumer of all varieties of film, television, music, podcasts and tech blogs (and occasionally reads a book or two).
Sharma lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons.