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Horror Stories from a Serial Entrepreneur


Rejection is the tip of the iceberg.

Contrary to the ultra-happy stories that most entrepreneurs share about the experience of launching a new startup, the job isn't always a piece of cake.

“Funding is a strange beast,” Bassel Ojjeh, the former Senior VP of the Strategic Data Solutions division at Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) and the founder of several companies, told Benzinga. “It's organized chaos that sometimes produces an outcome. And only time can tell if it's the desired outcome.”

Ojjeh, who most recently founded nPario, said that as a startup guy, “you really find yourself thinking of all avenues to get your startup idea funded.”

“What I would probably say is that someone's reputation and social network (and I don't mean Twitter followers) is what helps the most,” he said.

“A story I can share: I was at the tail end of raising a round of funding and was walking into an investor office to accept a term sheet for funding. After I had parked my car and was walking to the office, I checked my phone and found a message from a former colleague asking if my e-mail is still valid, which I confirmed. A few seconds later I got another e-mail from him telling me that he is about to do an intro and that it would be advisable for me to follow up on it.

“Within a few seconds my phone rang and it was the person to whom I was just introduced. It turned out he was an investor and was in the Bay area and wanted to invest in my startup. I told him that I was about to accept a term sheet, and he suggested I hold off until we meet and that he would delay his flight out and wait for me at a coffee shop by the airport. So I decided to hold off accepting the term sheet until I met him, which was a wise decision, as this is my investor now.”

While this proved to be a positive experience, that hasn't always been the case. “The funding process involves handling rejections and dealing with people who know less about your space and find you somewhere between extremely brilliant or terribly boring, so there's not much to like,” Ojjeh explained.

“One of the vivid horror stories I have about funding occurred when I was delivering a presentation to a group of prospective investors. All were seated in front of their laptops. About 10 minutes into the presentation, I realized I could have walked out of the room, and they wouldn't have noticed because they were focused on their screens.”

Industry Changes

In addition to startup horrors, Ojjeh took a moment to tell Benzinga about the changes that have been occurring in the tech and data solutions industries.

“The pace of change in the data world has really accelerated over the past couple of years,” said Ojjeh. “In fact, I've seen as much innovation in the last two years [as] I did in the previous 20 years in the data space. The key driver of this change is the sheer volume of data generated by the number of connected devices people carry and the desire to increase relevancy of content to users. This demand was the catalyst to such innovations as Big Data, cloud computing and software as a service.”

Ojjeh's experience encompasses both startups and major technology players, he said. “I call it the boomerang effect. I started out as a developer in a database company out of Ohio called Fox Software, then moved on to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), then started Audience Science (digiMine), then started DMX Group, which was purchased by Yahoo!, and now [I founded] nPario.”

Ojjeh said that he's most excited about nPario because it's the “culmination of my learning through good and bad decisions I have made.”

With regard to his former employer, Ojjeh said that Yahoo! is a “great company made of great people.”

“This is evident by the number of successful executives or entrepreneurs who worked there at one point or another,” he said. “I believe Yahoo! still has a chance to reinvent itself if it focuses on its core values versus following the leads of others.”

Follow me @LouisBedigian

Posted-In: Audience Science Bassel Ojjeh digiMineEntrepreneurship Success Stories Startups Tech General Best of Benzinga


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