Tell us about your journey? I've been an entrepreneur since I left college in 1994. The year I left I created the first Santa Claus website on the Internet called Claus.com. The website generated around $1M a year in sponsorship. This catapulted me into a kids entertainment business where I launched a content, animation and gaming studio called Spunky in San Francisco. Spunky became the largest producer of animated shorts in the 90's supporting companies such as Disney, Nick, Cartoon Network, Shockwave and Atom Films. I sold the company in 2000.
Spunky was my first start-up and one of the best learning experiences. It was the equivalent of an MBA X10.
From Spunky I went on to do three more start-ups including an online gaming company, a digital marketing agency and a search engine marketing technology company. Along the way, I had a few more successes and one bad bust. After the bust, I took some time off and worked with Digitas and Edelman in global roles.
After six years rejuvenating, I left to start Stripe Reputation, an analytics company focused on brand reputation and monitoring. Stripe Reputation has been my first start-up that was profitable almost immediately. The combination of a low-cost center and deep digital expertise in Prague and Manilla, has allowed me to quickly scale a highly profitable business. The model allows for fast-paced, low-cost digital measurement, 24/7 online monitoring and analytics, global coverage across multiple languages, social platforms, news media outlets and search engines.
Every move I've made I have tried to challenge myself with a new opportunity. Each step I've tried to take my learnings from previous years and reapply. Early in the process, I try to be hands-on as much as possible so I can understand and learn. Once I have a model, I scale it around an all-star team. The journey is never perfect but always gratifying. Every day I'm learning. Every day I'm challenged.
From Santa Claus to big data, it has all been an exciting journey.
What what's your favorite part of your day? Morning. I'm most motivated and focused in the morning. I like an early start. It gets me ahead of everything early before everyone gets started.
When do you feel most successful? Success is always tied to the outcome. I feel successful when I solved a client issue or found something in the data that provides a critical insight to our clients. I feel successful when one of my team members feels confident, focused, learning and empowered.
What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained? I recharge by spending time with my family, dabbing into new creative outlets and being outdoors.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur? Where do I start? I have a checklist that I created that has become my personal bible for starting up a new company. It includes a lot of rules including staying focused. Stay small until you get figured out. Innovate every day. Listen a lot. Cut out the noise and people that don't matter. Build a business that can be done anywhere in the world. For me, I need a business that allows me to make my family my priority. If you can't make $500,000 in your first year don't do it. Don't give up your equity....never. This is a small sample from a very long list.
How do you optimize your day? Keep in mind we do a lot of crisis work...typically 3-4 new projects a week with hourly turnarounds. First, everything comes down to the people around me. It always starts with ensuring each team member feels confident, focused and able to succeed.
Second... I could lie to you but I'm not. I have an eclectic approach to my organization. I don't like to take one thing and bang it out unless it's a basic task or an administrative task. Yes, this may sound crazy but I like to leave and revisit things a few times before I'm ready. I feel like I get a better product that way. So, I prioritize 5-10 things. I start working on all of them. Throughout the day and I will go back to them several times throughout the day. Next, I like to send my work to several people. I like to add contributions to the work and take in another POV.
Oddly enough the process works and I get feedback quickly. Is it a good approach, probably not? Is it unproductive for my team, probably? Do I get a good output from it....YES.
Call it ADD or just trying to be a good team player.
Who is the person/people who allowed you to imagine more? My wife. Look...this is my 5th start-up. I have had two successful exits, one huge bust, one that is still rolling and now my newest venture. Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of innovation and creativity but none of it works if you don't have a good team behind you. My engine is my wife. She is the one that builds my confidence and empowers me to imagine more.
What does imagining more mean to you and your story? My story is cemented by imagination. I started a Santa Claus website when I was 23 when nobody knew what the Internet was going to be. I made online animated cartoons for people like Stan Lee and Disney before they existed online. I turned virtual gaming on its side by doing something good with online games. I redefined how search engines generate revenue. I offshored the development of a fortune 100 companies website and made 80% profit margin on it. I rewrote the method for how we look at online data during a crisis. I even tried to launch a cable channel dedicated to watching people gaming online. In every case, I took a risk and often failed. Every time it took a lot of imagination and passion to make it work.
Without imagination, you simply cannot succeed. It takes imagination to see what others cannot. It takes imagination to take risks and have the confidence to believe.
If you could do more of one thing every day what would it be? Spend even more time with my family. Nothing is better and nothing is more important. Professionally it would be more one on one time with my team members.
Favorite social media platform? The social platform I can’t live without right now is LinkedIn because I use it a lot for business purposes. However, I wouldn't say I have a favorite social media platform. Although, I do think it's funny looking at what people exchange money for on Venmo.