Sunday, July 12, 2009

Laurel Touby, MediaBistro Founder, Shares Insights on Entrepreneurship

Last week, I had the good fortune to attend a Q&A with Laurel Touby, Founder of MediaBistro, courtesy of the Columbia Business School Women’s Entrepreneurship Network.  Laurel is a total powerhouse, having grown her company from 1994 when she started hosting cocktail parties to meet people, to selling it for $23 mm to Jupiter Media in 2007).  So many great tidbits about entrepreneurship were shared.  Below is a sampling:
  • On how to grow a business through networking: You can get someone who would normally not open an email to open an invitation
  • On product: listen to your customers – they have the BEST ideas
  • On funding: build an audience and a revenue stream before approaching investors
  • On the CEO being the brand: if you’re too integral to your business, you can never sell it.  You can set the culture but the biz should live without you.
  • On growing from local to national: let your customers do your advertising for you
  • On hiring: Hire slowly.  Fire fast.
  • On being a female CEO: A female CEO will always be the “mean mommy”.  You can’t please everyone all of the time, so don’t sweat it.
  • On accepting who you are: There are 2 types of CEOs: inward-facing and outward-facing.  The former knows the numbers, the operations, the metrics.  The latter talks to press, customers etc.  Hire for whatever you’re not.
  • On technology: don’t be afraid to ASK your tech people to explain in laymen’s terms how things work and demand that they come up with creative ways to solve problems.  There’s always a way. [ed. note: when I worked at IAC, the Expedia guys, who were really the Microsoft guys, would always say “it’s just software.” So true.]
  • On surviving the recession: conserve cash. Show up at your customers’ doors to get paid. Come up with new products.
  • On competition: once you get a foothold in your space, it’s harder than you think to knock you down.
Comments welcome!


1 comment:

  1. Great tips on starting a business. I have long admired Laurel and have seen Media Bistro as a potential model for Ultra Light Startups. Too bad I missed this talk, it sounds like it was a great one!