Welcome to Venture Voice, a podcast that explores how entrepreneurs build their businesses and live their lives. We're posting audio shows of our conversations on this site, along with notes on each interview. Enjoy!

VV Show #60 - Larry Kramer of MarketWatch

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Larry Kramer


Today's media executives plotting to charge for their content would do well to hear how Larry Kramer beat Jim Cramer's TheStreet.com by resisting pressure to put most content behind a pay wall while not relying entirely on advertising. To the average consumer, MarketWatch.com seemed to have come out of nowhere during the late 1990s to quickly establish itself as one of the leading sources of online financial information. For MarketWatch founder Larry Kramer, it represented the last chapter of his 15 year journey as a first-time entrepreneur. Larry started his career as a journalist, going from reporter to the top editor of the San Francisco Examiner in just 10 years with stops at the Washington Post and Trenton Times along the way. Larry founded DataSport Inc. (the company that would eventually morph into MarketWatch though a series of mergers and partnerships) with $500,000 from friends and family. He almost ran out of money early on. After a wild ride on the public market, Larry sold MarketWatch to Dow Jones for over $500 million in 2004 and went on to become the president of CBS Digital Media until 2006. Hear how Larry lived though two different careers and what he's planning next.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Sep 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | View blog reactions

VV Show #59 - Barry Silbert of SecondMarket

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Barry Silbert


Any shareholder in a startup can tell you there's a big difference between paper wealth and cash. Short of an IPO or outright acquisition, there are few options to cash out for the shareholders of even the most thriving private companies. Barry Silbert is determined to change that with his company SecondMarket -- an exchange like the NASDAQ for private stock and other illiquid assets. He founded the company in 2004 focused on restricted stock, and quickly reached profitability with only $350,000 in angel funding. The road to this point was not without challenges; Barry's business partner was diagnosed with cancer and passed away as they were establishing the company. In 2008, SecondMarket made $20 million in revenue. Barry's success has not tempered his ambition as he's spent 2009 aggressively moving into new asset classes such as private companies (Facebook stock is already being traded on his platform), limited partner interest in venture capital firms and even California IOUs. Hear how this former bankruptcy banker did it and why he believes "The sky's the limit" for his business.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Aug 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | View blog reactions

VV Show #58 - Siamak Taghaddos and David Hauser of Grasshopper

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Siamak Taghaddos and David Hauser

"Dial 1 for sales, dial 2 for support..." Ten years ago it cost over $10,000 to get a phone system with the advanced options we're used to hearing when we call big companies. Having a professional-sounding phone system was a surprisingly big challenge for small businesses short on cash. Enter Siamak Taghaddos and David Hauser who launched GotVMail to offer that service at rates starting at only $10 per month in 2003 as they were graduating college. They launched their business with under $200,000 in capital and never raised any more money. They bootstrapped their way to profitability quickly, and are now driving over $10 million in annual revenue. Despite their success, Siamak and David don't believe what's gotten them this far will take them to the next level. So they've just rebranded their company Grasshopper and are getting ready to launch some new products.

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Posted by Greg Galant on May 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | View blog reactions

VV Show #57 - Fabrice Grinda of OLX

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Graham Hill

Craigslist seems unbeatable. It's often blamed (or celebrated) for destroying the classifieds business that helped keep American newspapers afloat. Now second-time Venture Voice guest Fabrice Grinda is seeking to dominate online classifieds with OLX, his latest venture. Unlike Craigslist, OLX is translated into many languages and has a global focus. OLX is completely ad supported so there are no fees for job or real estate listings as there are on Craigslist. Still, it sounds crazy to compete with Craigslist. If anyone can do it, it may be Fabrice. When we interviewed him in December, 2005, it was on his last day working as CEO at Zingy, a ring tone provider that he founded and sold for $80 million against all odds. OLX already has 125 employees and 60 million unique visitors per month, but with $28.5 million is venture capital it has a lot of growth ahead of it before it's a success. Hear how Fabrice plans on getting there.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Apr 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6) | View blog reactions

VV Show #56 - Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software

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Joel Spolsky

Joel Spolsky first came on Venture Voice over three years ago to discuss his company which he launched in a very different way from most entrepreneurs. Rather than start with the big idea and pay lip service to building a great team, Joel focused on getting great programmers first. The ideas came second. Good thing because his big idea, a content management system called City Desk, never took off. Instead it was his small idea, software to track bugs in other software called FogBugz, that became a cash cow for his company Fog Creek Software. This small idea has provided the funding for his company to expand into three other product lines, all with just $50,000 in seed capital from Joel's savings account invested when Fog Creek was started. Since we last caught up with Joel, he's moved into a new office in Lower Manhattan that sports closed offices for all of his programmers and a large area where free lunch is served every day (eat your heart out Google). Listen to how Joel's expanded his business.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Apr 13, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | View blog reactions

VV Show #55 - Graham Hill of TreeHugger

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Graham Hill

Graham Hill started the blog TreeHugger to cover green issues in 2003. After a steady climb in traffic and advertising, Graham sold the company to Discovery Communications in 2007 for $10 million. Since launch and even after the acquisition, Graham ran his business virtually. Graham lived in different cities from New York to Barcelona while working many hours to grow his company. His team of writers, ad sales people and developers chatted over Skype, got paid through PayPal and used Google documents to collaborate. Simultaneously, Graham launched a ceramic version of the iconic New York paper coffee cup (video below). Listen to how Graham built his businesses without an office or home town.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Mar 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3) | View blog reactions

VV Show #54 - Tim Westergren of Pandora

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Tim Westergren

It takes only a few seconds to customize a radio station on Pandora. Its founder Tim Westergren has been struggling for almost a decade to make it that way. Pandora was five years in the making before it streamed a single song to a user. For over two of those years the company was completely broke. While Tim convinced employees to defer over $1 million in salaries, Pandora underwent several changes in name, product and revenue models. Now Pandora is a leading online radio destination that’s starting to bring in sizable ad revenue. Tim is still battling with the record industry for its survival.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Mar 9, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (7) | View blog reactions

VV Show #53 - David Cohen of TechStars

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David Cohen

The title financier conjures images of mahogany desks and million dollar checks for most. But for anyone pitching to David Cohen's TechStars, the outcome is getting accepted to what's essentially a summer camp for entrepreneurs in Colorado and being offered a check of $18,000 or less in exchange for 6% of the startup. This two year old program is part of a new trend in structured angel investing and mentoring that was started by Paul Graham's Y Combinator. Two companies founded at TechStars have already been acquired: socialthing! was sold to AOL and Intense Debate was sold to Automattic (the makers of WordPress). David tells his own stories of success and failure as an entrepreneur, and his transiton to becoming an angel investor.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Jan 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4) | View blog reactions

VV Show #52 - Sam Wyly of Maverick Capital, Green Mountain Energy, Michaels Stores and Sterling Software

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Sam Wyly

Not to be called a one trick pony, Sam Wyly's turned himself into a billionaire by starting and growing companies in technology, oil, retail and even in the restaurant industry. Coming from a modest upbringing, Sam worked in sales at IBM and Honeywell before founding University Computing in 1963 at age 29 with just "$1,000 and an idea" as he puts it in his book of that title. The company IPOed and grew to over 5,000 people. Sam hired CEOs and stayed an entrepreneur. He's founded and acquired numerous companies including Bonanza Steakhouse (grew to 600 restaurants), Earth Resources Company, Sterling Software (sold for $3.3 billion), Sterling Commerce (sold for $4 billion), arts-and-crafts chain Michaels (sold for $6 billion), Maverick Capital (a hedge fund with over $10 billion under management) and clean-energy producer Green Mountain Energy. Despite being soft-spoken, Sam's fought and won several high profile proxy fights. Sam's been undeterred as several of his ventures have had visible failures over the years and he's lost audacious bids to take over Western Union and Computer Associates. On the whole, Sam's created a huge amount of value that's put him on the Forbes list of the 400 richest people. Hear how he does it.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Dec 3, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | View blog reactions

VV Show #51 - Jeff Stewart of Mimeo, Monitor110 and Urgent Career

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Jeff Stewart

Jeff Stewart needed that done yesterday. Jeff became an entrepreneur when he founded the web consultancy Square Earth in 1995. Only three years later he became a serial entrepreneur by starting Mimeo, a service that lets you send a file directly from your computer to be printed, bound and shipped overnight. Mimeo struggled in the dot com crash of 2000-2001 just as it was getting off the ground. Jeff was able to pull Mimeo though the downturn despite almost running out of cash, which has allowed the company to flourish and make $55.4 million in 2007 revenues. Ironically, Jeff didn't have the same success in good economic times with ample cash after he raised $20 million for Monitor110. He discusses the company's shutdown and lessons learned. Now Jeff's focused on allowing businesses to hire good salespeople faster with Urgent Career. He announces on this show for the first time that he's just raised a six-figure angel round to speed up Urgent Career's success.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Nov 10, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | View blog reactions

VV Show #50 - Derek Sivers of CD Baby and Muckwork

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Derek Sivers

Last time Derek Sivers was on Venture Voice three years ago he told us he had to "whack 'em [investors] off with a stick". Now we know why. Derek announces on our show for the first time the amount he sold his company for this past summer: $22 million. Derek owned 100% of the equity. Though he might have made more money than most of his fellow music entrepreneurs, Derek's no Gordon Gekko. In this interview, Derek tells us how he put all of his money from the sale into a charitable trust, that he didn't even visit CD Baby's office once during the last year he owned it, and what he's up to next.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Oct 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9) | View blog reactions

VV Show #49 - Rafat Ali of paidContent and contentNext

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Rafat Ali

Attention entrepreneurs dealing with the current economic downturn: This interview is for you. After working as a journalist for Jason Calacanis at Silicon Alley Reporter, Rafat Ali ended up broke in a market with a dearth of employment opportunities. To try to find a new job, Rafat created paidContent.org as an "interactive resume." Luckily, no one hired him. From these humble beginnings, Rafat bootstrapped his blog holding company, ContentNext Media, for four years before taking a small investment from famed media investor Alan Patricof in June 2006. From its inception paidContent has doubled revenues each year and was recently acquired by UK-based Guardian Media Group for a rumored $30 million. Listen in as Rafat outlines the past, present, and future of online media, while sharing his war stories from another uncertain economic time.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Jul 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | View blog reactions

VV Show #48 - Frank Addante of The Rubicon Project

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Frank Addante

Whether working with market trends or against them, Frank Addante has found entrepreneurial success. Before he was 29 years old, one of Frank's companies went public and two were acquired. At his worse, he returned capital to investors. Suffering from serial entrepreneurship, Frank left the Illinois Institute of Technology just four classes shy of his degree. His companies range from an early search engine to a Sequoia Capital-backed enterprise email solution. Now Frank aspires to be a web publisher’s best friend with his new ad network optimization service that he says is boosting their clients' revenues by 30-300%. Listen in as Frank details his ongoing entrepreneurial journey.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Apr 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9) | View blog reactions

VV Show #47 - Tom Perkins of Kleiner Perkins

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Tom Perkins

The name Tom Perkins is now almost synonymous with venture capital, but it's clear that he cut his teeth as an entrepreneur. Educated at MIT and Harvard, Perkins first made his mark by managing the initial growth of Hewlett-Packard’s computer business while simultaneously inventing the first cheap and reliable laser. The company he built around the laser, University Laboratories, made him independently wealthy and allowed for the creation of Kleiner Perkins, one of the most successful venture capital firms in existence. Kleiner Perkins (now Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) has funded a wide range of well known and wildly successful companies including Google, AOL, Genentech, Sun Microsystems, Compaq, and Tandem Computers. Though Tom's wowed the business press for much of his career, later in life he's gained national attention for having a key role in 2006 Hewlett-Packard board controversy, briefly marrying Danielle Steel, and building the world's largest privately owned sailing yacht. Tom has recently stepped back into the media spotlight by publishing a memoir called Valley Boy: The Education of Tom Perkins. Listen in as he discusses his journey from New York to Boston to Silicon Valley, the creation of Kleiner Perkins, and his advice for the entrepreneurs of the future.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Dec 12, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (10) | View blog reactions

VV Show #46 - Jeremy Stoppelman of Yelp

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Jeremy Stoppelman

Jeremy Stoppelman is the co-founder and CEO of Yelp, a site where users can write and share reviews of local businesses. Everyone's now a restaurant critic. However, local reviews were not the original focus, but just one of several features in the earlier versions of the site. Noticing the growth of this buried feature, Yelp re-tooled the site around reviews and hasn't looked back since. Does this story sound familiar? Jeremy's the former VP of Engineering at PayPal, which also had to drastically alter its business early in its life. Listen in to hear Jeremy's thoughts on growing a local enterprise, giving users and identity, and how to recognize and act upon the need for change.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Jun 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (8) | View blog reactions

VV Show #45 - Kevin Ryan of Panther Express, ShopWiki and Music Nation

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kevin_ryan.jpg

Not many entrepreneurs have a motor like Kevin Ryan's. Kevin is best known for his work as CEO at the on-line advertising firm DoubleClick, which he grew from a 20 person start-up to the largest Internet company in New York at the height of the dot-com boom. After escaping the ensuing bust in an arguably improved strategic position, the company has since changed hands twice. In June 2005, the company was sold to the private equity firm of Hellman and Friedman for $1.1 billion and has made headlines yet again with its recent acquisition by Google for an astonishing $3.1 billion. Yet, this success has not slowed Kevin one bit. Since departing DoubleClick, he has already launched three start-ups, with plans for a fourth this summer. Listen in, as Kevin describes his DoubleClick experiences in both boom and bust, outlines his new start-ups, and explains why now is as good a time as ever to start a company, especially in the Big Apple.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Apr 27, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (6) | View blog reactions

VV Show #44 - Venture Voice Startup Workshop Coverage (part 2)

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Venture Voice Startup Workshop Coverage

Marketing a startup is tricky business. Every entrepreneur faces the dilemma between allocating time to improving the product and marketing the product. If the two can be mixed just right, then perhaps sterile marketing can go viral. We tackle that issue in part 2 of 3 of our very own Venture Voice Startup Workshop coverage in New York City. David Hornik of August Capital leads the session, but he doesn’t finish uninterrupted as the entrepreneurs on the panel jump in.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Mar 9, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | View blog reactions

VV Show #43 - Fred Seibert of Frederator Studios and Next New Networks

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Before the rise of the Internet, cable TV was the new form of distribution remaking the entertainment business. Life-long entrepreneur and former jazz producer Fred Seibert pioneered that field, and is known in the industry for branding MTV (remember their ever-changing animated logo) and Nickelodeon (remember Nick-at-Nite). While he was figuring out what to do next, Ted Turner hired him to be president of the then-struggling Hanna-Barbera cartoon studio. Fred turned the famous studio around and kept his hand in the cable business until some friends dragged him into the Internet business. He now runs Frederator Studios which produces several cable and Internet TV shows. He also just launched a new well-funded startup called Next New Networks to create Internet TV networks.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Jan 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (9) | View blog reactions

VV Show #42 - Simon Daniel of USBcell

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Simon Daniel

The battery is an afterthought for most inventors. All the fun seems to be in developing a device, not in powering it. But when was the last time you cursed your phone, camera or podcast player because it ran out of batteries? Simon Daniel got fed up with his batteries, and decided to do something about it. He invented the USBcell, a standard sized battery (yes, it comes in AA) that can recharge using any USB port. This isn’t his first invention. Previously, he invented the folding keyboard and licensed the technology. This time he’s bringing the USBcell to market himself through the company he founded called Moixa (axiom spelled backwards). Though this might force you to think differently, don’t worry, we won’t play the podcast backwards.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Jan 12, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (4) | View blog reactions

VV Show #41 - Premal Shah of Kiva

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Premal Shah

Premal Shah believes your last name doesn't need to be Gates or Rockefeller in order to make a real dent in global poverty. After leaving his job as a Principal Product Manager at PayPal, it has taken Premal less then a year to make good on Kiva's pledge that all it takes to become a micro lender is a credit card and access to a computer. Raising money "Howard Dean Style" from over 13,000 online lenders, Kiva has provided more than a million dollars in low-cost working capital to small-scale entrepreneurs in less developed countries from Bulgaria to Uganda. The site boasts high repayments rates and soon hopes to offer lenders interest. We talk to Premal about how working in Silicon Valley has shaped his approach to combating poverty, how he believes the market "bakes in psychic and emotional returns," and how the power of online communities can strengthen the world of micro credit.

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Posted by Greg Galant on Nov 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (8) | View blog reactions