Success is Not a Straight Line, But The Lessons Can be Repeated
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Founders Series where we get insights and analysis from founders of various different companies in the tech industry. Jonah Goodhart is a serial entrepreneur who is currently the CEO and Co-Founder at Moat. Moat is a startup that focuses on assisting companies with their digital advertising by offering Ad Search and Brand Analytics tools. Prior to Moat he co-founded Right Media (acquired by Yahoo) and Colonize.
When I was an undergraduate at Cornell University my brother Noah and I started a company called Colonize. Colonize grew from a small idea hatched in our campus apartment – to help companies acquire customers using the Internet – to an enterprise generating over $30 million in revenue before I graduated. We even had offers to acquire the company for what would have been a very significant financial outcome.
We were growing and profitable and it seemed liked the good times would never end. Then 2001 happened. The world changed in a lot of ways but for our business the impact of many digital companies shutting down during the “dot com bust” led to a significant slowdown in our ability to drive revenue. Even though we were profitable, our revenue fell dramatically. We had gone from a great initial success to a place where we weren’t sure of the path forward.
We paused for a moment to take stock in what had happened. Things had gone a bit sideways with our venture and the future was now unclear. We had become too dependent on companies that were taking a short-term approach to building their businesses. There were plenty of things we felt good about though – the power of the Internet and the ability for people to connect and transact was like nothing that had ever been seen before. We knew that advertising would continue to find its way online as long as people did and we felt really good that that would continue to happen. What we didn’t know yet was how to build a long-term business in this new world.
The next year, we decided to partner with someone we had met while running Colonize – Mike Walrath. Mike was in sales at DoubleClick (now part of Google) at the time and had become one of the top sellers in the company. Mike shared our optimism about the future of the Internet and digital advertising. We decided to work together to launch a new company called Right Media. We used our self-taught background in digital advertising and the profits from our first business, to help launch the company.
Our goal was to create a business that had a long-term enterprise value – one that wouldn’t be impacted by short-term swings in the market. It worked. Right Media started small but quickly grew to become the first and largest digital advertising marketplace at the time. Years later the company would be responsible for facilitating over $1 billion worth of transactions! We sold the company to Yahoo! in 2007.
Realizing that you can create light at the end of the tunnel is really important to being successful as an entrepreneur. The path will often not be well lit. You have to push your way through and figure out a way to make things work. You have to make decisions and be willing to adjust as you go.
After Right Media, Noah, Mike, and I decided to partner again to start an angel investing company we call WGI. In the last 7 years we’ve invested in around 90 companies. Some of them are phenomenally successful with huge exits and some of them are still on their way. The key we’ve found though is to bet on people. The ideas will change. The businesses will change. The person or team at the helm is really the only somewhat knowable thing in early stage investing.
Today I am the CEO of Moat, a company the three of us founded in 2010. Moat is a SaaS analytics company focused on understanding how consumers pay attention. With $500 billion spent annually on advertising to get people’s attention, we are excited to build new ways of understanding how to reach people. Our path to success will not always be a straight line for Moat, but we will always push forward and we will always ensure that we create light at the end of the tunnel.
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