Silicon Valley startup isocket recently announced the closing of a US$2 million early stage funding round from a group of investors led by Tim Draper at Draper Fisher Jurvetson. I took the opportunity to talk to isocket founder and CEO John Ramey about the first commission-free, open platform for multiple forms of advertising that has already secured popular technology blog Techcrunch as its first customer.
isocket currently consists of only two people – other than John, there’s co-founder and CTO Zak Hassanein. “I founded isocket back in August, 2007 and Zak joined me shortly thereafter,” John says. “Both of us are successful repeat entrepreneurs, having started multiple businesses since we were 12 years old.”
In John’s last business (Maven Ventures, which he co-founded in 2005), he worked with alternative marketing for the real estate industry, employing tactics such as direct response marketing. Most of the marketing, he says, was “old media” that was very tedious and repetitive. “We started working on ways to make that process smoother, because frankly it was a pain.” As they started to solve that problem, they realized the “solution” they were working on was bigger than they thought it would be. “We decided to run with it full time, so we sold off our assets from the last business and ran with this one,” John recalls.
According to its website, isocket is an application that makes it easier to sell any kind of advertising, such as a website banner, mobile video or out-of-home digital sign. It claims to not keep a percentage of advertising sold, nor does it charge hidden fees or steep commissions. John says that isocket‘s first private beta targets “mid-tail web publishers”, websites who want to sell such advertising. They can be any site ranked from #200 to #100,000, he says. Techcrunch, their first user, is a perfect example.
Opportunities and Challenges
A key challenge isocket faced early on was basically the lack of resources to accomplish as much as they knew they could. “It was a struggle with no money or support for almost two years,” he says. “Some of the concepts we started talking about in 2007 are starting to be done by other people, so it was frustrating we didn’t have what we needed to execute them.”
John has grand plans for isocket and is glad to be working on a product that is generating a lot of public interest. “We love solving a real problem for real customers with a valuable product. At this stage, only three things matter: building the best team possible, taking care of our customers, and learning.”
Views on Entrepreneurship
John believes that entrepreneurship is a lifestyle choice, not a career choice. “There are days when it really sucks,” he elaborates. “Then there are moments that make it all worthwhile.”
“But for me, it’s not a choice – this is who I am and I can’t stop it. That doesn’t make me any better or smarter than anyone else, it just makes me different (perhaps even crazy).”
“In my mind, entrepreneurship is about self-actualization. Most people never learn who they are or where their limits lie. By biting off way more than I can chew and shooting for something huge, I’ll know what I’m capable of and who I am. It’s not an ego thing, it’s just my way of discovering.”
An important lesson John points out is this: to recognize the limits people have built into themselves. “Then get rid of them. Think different, go big, be genuine.”