Ted Rheingold: ‘You have great days and then crushing days.’
Ted Rheingold opened Big Omaha 2012 sharing stories from his experiences as founder of SAY Media.
Ted Rheingold, founder and general manager at SAY Media, has ridden the entrepreneurial roller coaster. As founder of popular pet-networking sites Dogster and Catster, Rheingold saw tremendous revenue in the early 2000s, survived the recession of 2008 and came out on top. He opened Big Omaha 2012 and shared his story with a buzzing crowd at KANEKO.
The roller coaster
It's one wild ride, and Rheingold said there are times when you're simultaneously going up and down the ride, holding on for life. "Probably all of you in your businesses find you have great days and then crushing days," Rheingold said. "You are putting so much emotion on the line doing what you’re doing. It’s awesome. It is spectacular. You are going to feel it in every way, and there’s no one there to feel it along with you the same way that you do." Whether that's good or bad.
Network in the good times and bad
Even when you don't feel great about your business, networking can lead to big opportunities. "Have coffee or lunch or beer with anyone," Rheingold said. Offer favors, talk to people about business, get exposed to new businesses. He met a man who became his lead angel investor through a chain of networking events that started a simple request on a web forum: Does anyone want to get lunch? "Right here, this is your mafia, so to speak," Rheingold says. "There is totally a Big Omaha club, and you guys are all moving up together in parallel."
"I watched so many people destroy themselves because they raised too much money," Rheingold said. When money starts rolling in, Rheingold says the trick is to use resources wisely to control growth (and stay profitable). Rheingold started with help from friends and family. Then he got sponsors. Then advertising revenue. All the time, he made decisions to get the most out of what he had until he was sure he could afford new hires. "This became our mantra: Let's always stay in the black. Let's always grow in a sustainable manner."
Even with the best business strategies, you can't plan for everything — like a recession. Rheingold compares it to being a ship at sea, not knowing where the port was and when he'd get there. "Sometimes it's about survival," he said. "When the recession of 2008 hit ... holy f----- s---. We were literally planning to do a fund raise in the fall of 2008. No effing way was that going to happen. No one could help us."
Make the tough decisions — and come out on top
Rheingold's strategy after the recession was to cut the 'B' players in his company and keep only the 'A+' team. It was hard, but it worked. "It absolutely saved the company and it was absolutely the hardest thing I've ever done," Rheingold said. "The amazing thing was 2009 was the best of year of Dogster, Inc. The most total revenue, the most profit, the most efficient production. We were able to produce product faster, with less communication — and the advertisers came back to us because we were now an existing media property where they could still put their budgets."
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