What I've Learnt: David Barker, Managing Director EMEA at Samba TV

Charlie Spargo's picture
by Charlie Spargo

David Barker is the European MD of Samba TV, the data and analytics company focused on a next-generation television experience.

Samba uses software embedded in smart TVs, augmented by set-top boxes and mapped to digital devices, to inform its media strategy. David is in charge of leading its rapid growth across the continent, having previously worked for a range of ambitious digital companies.

He was MD of Amobee, and before that Head of Advertising Partnerships at Nokia. He can trace his experience all the way back to one of London's first web agencies.

We sat down with David to hear about his experiences.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Snapchat! It may seem slightly off the wall for a divorced middle-aged man, but it’s the main medium of communication I use with my children - it’s good fun and you can’t go wrong with a wacky filter.

What’s been your luckiest break? 

When I was 21, I moved into a flat with Greg Grimmer, now CEO of Mediatel. The place itself left a lot to be desired, but my new flatmate gave me some of the best career advice I’ve ever had.

Greg convinced me to get into advertising sales instead of media buying, with his main argument being that you get to go on a lot more lunches as a seller than a buyer!

Lunch perks aside, I’d say it’s one of the best decisions I ever made, and it set me up on the career path I’ve been following since. 

What’s your best failure?

In 1999, when I was working at Teletext Holidays, Lastminute.com approached me with the offer of a senior position within their sales and marketing team. I swiftly turned it down believing the company would soon fail and go bust.

A year later, Lastminute.com floated on the London Stock Exchange, and it has since become one of the travel industry’s most recognisable brands.

What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?

When I was 28, I spent three years working as Sales and Marketing Director at Hyperlink, one of London’s first full-service web agencies. When we sold the company to Cable and Wireless for far too much money, I paid down my mortgage, bought a tour bus and went off travelling around Europe for a year with my wife and baby - an opportunity you can’t often take advantage of. 

How would you describe your work/life balance?


Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

‘Bridge Across My Sorrows’ by Christina Noble. 

What a resilient woman - despite unbelievable adversity she never gave up on her quest. 

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

I would say “keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t change a thing.”

I had a thoroughly enjoyable time at 21 and honestly, if I had the chance, I would do it all over again. 

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

Tim Jenner - ex-Oracle and my CEO at Hyperlink. 

He taught me that, regardless of how cool your tech is, how compelling your marketing and even how smart your staff are - if you don’t retain existing customers and regularly win new ones you will inevitably fail as a business. At Samba TV I, therefore, spend at least some part of every day talking to both new and existing clients.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I’m a remarkably good water skier. I have always been good at mono-skiing, and when I was younger I could even bare-foot waterski pretty well. 

What does success look like to you?

For me, there are three key criteria to achieving success: - one, working within a challenging environment; two, the opportunity to be financially stable; and three, finding a good work-life balance.