Jamie Tedford/LinkedInJamie Tedford, CEO of Brand NetworksIn 2006 an advertising executive for Arnold Worldwide, Jamie Tedford, left his high-paying job to found a company. It was an inopportune time to become an entrepreneur.
“Three kids, a mortgage and a recession seemed like a good time to start a company,” Tedford jokes.
Despite the questionable timing, Tedford’s hard work paid off. After six years of scaling the now-profitable 135-person company, Tedford is accepting his first round of venture capital: $68 million from private equity firm, AEA Investors.
Brand Networks is similar to Buddy Media, a company that was acquired by Salesforce for ~ $680 million. It’s one of Facebook’s dozen preferred marketing partners. “We deliver disproportionate success for their advertisers,” Tedford explains. It’s both an agency and a software solution for big-name advertisers looking to ramp up their social media efforts.
How did the first-time entrepreneur survive six years of bootstrapping? Tedford tells Business Insider how he grew Brand Networks into a massive company all on his own.
Tedford saw an opportunity in his industry and jumped on it. “I always thought I’d be an entrepreneur but I always had great interesting jobs,” he says. “Then I saw the collision of Word of Mouth advertising and that social media was going to be an enabler for it,” he says. Word of Mouth advertising couldn’t be quantified or measured before Twitter and Facebook. As the social media platforms were taking off, Tedford decided to capitalise on them.
He was already well-connected in the advertising world. Tedford leveraged relationships from his Arnold days. He had been the agency’s SVP of Marketing and Media Relationships and those connections secured initial clients (and revenue) for Brand Networks.
He didn’t try to launch with everything. He started with a small idea and expanded as revenue grew. At first, Brand Networks merely managed social media accounts for clients. But Tedford didn’t want to be just another ad agency. He wanted to add a software layer too, but he’d need a lot of money to do that and he was bootstrapping. “So we were strategically a hybrid of both,” he says. “You only get to be bootstrapped as long as you’re profitable.”
He surrounded himself with smart people who strengthened his areas of weakness. Tedford says he’s been able to create a successful company through trial and error, and through hiring great people. When he had scaling issues, he brought on a COO. “My COO took on a burden that could sink a lot of entrepreneurs,” Tedford says. “He was able to take things like rent and payroll off my plate.” In addition, Tedford hired a Chief Growth Officer “just in time.” He helped expand Brand Networks to 20 offices globally. “You surround yourself by really smart people and there’s pretty good quid pro quo,” Tedford says.
He didn’t seek out funding and he only raised this round because it was strategic. Although Brand Networks is self-sustaining, Tedford realised strategic partners could further his business. “The funding came to us because we were in this really interesting space, and we’re swimming with sharks in terms of our competitive set,” he says. “We’re by no means ready to sell this company and our partners showed us what expertise they could bring that would accelerate growth, open doors to new relationships, and mentor us. Being a bootstrapped entrepreneur is about the loneliest job there is. One of most exciting things for me is to have a real Board of Directors, advice and councel.”
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