Tina Sharkey, the founder and former CEO of the recently closed D2C brand Brandless, has today been appointed to the board of directors of PBS. Sharkey is an independent board member.
Before her time at Brandless, Sharkey spent years in the media world. She scaled Johnson & Johnson’s platform for new and expecting moms, called Baby Center, oversaw AOL’s transition from a closed network to the open web and co-founded iVillage. She also served as president of the Sesame Street Digital Group, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street with a mission of making educational storytelling available to anyone.
PBS, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has more than 300 partner stations and a presence on most digital platforms.
“PBS is so committed to universal access to the arts and educational storytelling,” said Sharkey in an interview with TechCrunch. “You may not know that they invented closed captioning. They still maintain the Public Emergency Broadcast System. They have all kinds of streaming services with distribution on Amazon, Roku, YouTube. They have their own app. But most importantly, they are able to quickly adapt in this moment of COVID-19 to become one of the world’s largest classrooms.”
Sharkey joins a 27-person board that includes Professional Directors (station leaders), General Directors (lay members of the board) and the PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger.
Sharkey is best known in the tech world for her time at Brandless, a D2C brand that sold household supplies, grocery items and pet products for $3/item. The company controlled most of the full stack, from manufacturing through to sales, and delivered an interesting alternative to Amazon. Also garnering attention from the tech world: Brandless raised nearly $300 million in funding, including $240 million from SoftBank’s Vision Fund.
Brandless shuttered in February of this year, but Sharkey says there are lessons that can be carried over from her experience at the D2C startup.
“Brandless tapped into something very powerful around democratizing access to better things,” said Sharkey. “Better should be available to everyone. With Brandless, it was about better stuff. For PBS, it’s about better access and better educational tools and better stories. So it’s a different product, but it’s the same belief system, and that’s that communities want to be convened and be seen and everyone has a story to tell.”
Sharkey added that some of her favorite PBS programming includes FrontLine, News Hour and the shows that offer more democratized access to the arts, such as live performances and Broadway shows.